Free SOLIDWORKS from Performance Constraints (FSWPC-13-#7b)

(Hardware Testing – Graphics Cards- Hardware Comparison)

Continuing with our discussion on graphics performance with SolidWorks; in this article we will explore our analysis and findings related to comparing different levels of graphics cards.

The cards tested and compared were from NVIDIA Corporation:

From the Quadro series we tested the 600, 2000, 4000, and the k5000. Finally, we tested an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650Ti that Adrian picked up at Best Buy.


Adrian and I tested graphics cards differently than our other hardware so that we could isolate specific graphic intense functions. We also tested against three different model types; a large assembly, small assembly and a single part file with a reasonable number of features.

The following graphics intensive functions were each tested individually across all 5 NVIDIA cards:

  • 5 different display states
  • Shadows
  • RealView
  • Transparency
  • Lightweight and Large Assembly Mode
  • 5 different level of detail settings
  • 3 different Anti-Aliasing settings
  • 5 Different Image Quality Settings
  • A comparison of all of the above items set to the best possible setting vs. everything being set to the worst possible settings

This testing yielded some pretty interesting result. In this article we are going to focus on a comparison of the different levels of graphics cards and their effect on SOLIDWORKS performance.

Many people purchasing a graphics card go in with the same assumption; more is better. The results of our efforts showed that this is not necessarily true. When running our 5 cards through 20 functionality tests each, we were able to isolate conditions where more expensive and powerful cards were effective and where they would be considered overkill.

When comparing the cards against each other and ignoring model size the only functional areas that showed significant improvement as we climbed up the chain to more and more powerful cards were Lightweight and Large Assembly Mode as well as Image Quality (when Image Quality was cranked to a level we would recommend avoiding in the first place). Every other tested function showed small improvements but not improvement to the level of most expectations.

As I said previously, taken on the whole, there seems to be no compelling reason to buy graphics cards beyond the NVIDIA Quadro 2000 and that is the card we chose put into our Practical machine. On the other hand when we delve a little deeper and look at the results comparing the different cards as they relate to different model sets we start seeing potential justification for the more powerful cards. That is the subject of our next article.


It is very important to realize that when discussing performance of graphics cards speed can be a misleading term. Our testing measured the cards’ speed in painting a certain number of frames in a simulation of spinning our test models from one location to another. The faster it paints the frames the faster it reaches the final position of rotation and finishes the test. In everyday modeling life the final rotation position would be reached at the same time by every card. The performance difference would manifest itself in slower tests painting fewer frames in the given time and thus producing a “choppier” visualization of the spin.

Also, SOLIDWORKS has some built in tools to work around slower performing cards to still allow the user to experience a smooth spin. This usually involves removal of visualization detail to allow the card to paint faster than would be possible if all of the detail remained in the model.

Please check back to the CATI blog as we will continue posting our series of articles that goes further into the details of each of our tests. All of these articles will be stored in the category of Free SOLIDWORKS from Performance Constraints and links to each with their release date are listed below:


Josh Altergott, CATI Support Manager
Adrian Fanjoy, CATI Technical Services Director

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