Engineering PC Graphics Card

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So I’m working on putting together my first custom PC to replace my current setup. Turns out both Dells are actually from 2011 and despite serving me well for nearly 10 years I’d like to consolidate into one more powerful computer.

I have most of the parts picked out for a ~$850 build, but the one part I’m not really sure about is the graphics card. The biggest requirement I have is that it needs to be able to handle at least 3 monitors at once, ideally more. I don’t do any gaming, so this computer will be mainly used for CAD (currently Solidworks) and programming, as well as web browsing and watching movies. Looking at a budget around $100, but that’s somewhat flexible.

I’ve been asking around on various forums and I’m getting a lot of mixed answers. I trust the opinions of the people here a lot more than people from random forums, so I was hoping to get some advice even though this isn’t strictly FRC related. Most of the information out there is oriented towards gamers not engineers, so I’ve heard conflicting rumors about running CAD packages on consumer graphics cards. Some people say it’s just the clock speed that matters, and others say even the cheapest workstation card will do better than a high end consumer card. Is it better to get a basic workstation card or a mid-range consumer card?

My selection is kind of limited having to buy my parts in Israel, so right now I’m choosing between:

  • PNY Quadro P400 2GB – 3 monitors – $105
  • PNY Quadro P620 2GB – 4 monitors – $175
  • Sapphire RX 550 4GB – 3 monitors – $90
  • Asus RX 560 4GB – 3 monitors – $135
  • Palit GTX 1060 3GB – 4 monitors – $175

I was thinking to go with the P400 because it technically meets all of my requirements, but the benchmarks for anything other than CAD seem pretty bad (on par with integrated graphics).* I’d appreciate any wisdom and advice the community can share. Thanks :)

 
*edit: Not that I really plan on doing anything other than CAD that would need more than integrated graphics, but I’d love for this pc to last me another 5-10 years and who knows what I’ll be doing then

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I’d immediately axe the non-Nvidia cards. Every time I’ve tried work them into a setup one program or another has an issue (not playing well with drivers, refusing to optimize or even recognize, etc). This was across the last 3 years or so, and a whole host of programs up and down the accessibility range, mostly CAD and CAM software. None of them were officially supported at the time, and that may have changed, but the industry doesn’t seem like they exactly want to make the jump.

The 1060 is very likely best bang for the buck, low end workstation cards (below the P/RTX4000 or so) really don’t make sense for a “normal” consumer system. You can also find used 1060s and other gaming cards below MSRP more often, a quick search says somewhere around $140 used for a 6gb 1060 on US eBay, and any kind of hardware swap forum or subreddit should be around $120 or less.

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I personally use a pair of Quadro P400s in my computer (6 monitors), and I have no complaints about how they perform with Solidworks. I can see how CAD would have a different set of requirements compared to gaming, but I’m not sure how different the hardware is. Upgrading from a GeForce 9800 GTX to a P400 was like night and day, but that’s also a huge generational jump (the 9800 GTX was released in 2008).

In my experience, apart from rendering, CAD doesn’t tend to be hugely GPU-intensive. You’ll definitely see some improvement from on-chip graphics to a dedicated GPU, but you probably don’t need top-of-the-line.

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I have a 1660xc which does a great job running solid works and I think some of the ti variants have more outputs for running more than 2 displays also looking at the rest of your build and I would recommend spending $20 extra to get a Ryzen 7 2700x you get two more cores and you wouldn’t be using the gen 4 PCIe lanes that the 3600x has with the graphics cards or the storage you’re looking at

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The 3gb version of the 1060 sucks in general, doesnt matter what task. Would not bother at all with it, esp given the prices for everything else on your list.

If you can find a 6gb version, ive used that in Inventor, Blender, and the Adobe Suite (premiere/PS specifically) with no issue for the last 3 years.

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Any independent test I’ve seen on Solidworks viewport performance shows Quadros massively outperforming GeForce cards. I think what throws people off is that, at least on the surface, there isn’t an immediately obvious technical reasons why it’s the case, so it’s pretty reasonable to assume before seeing independent benchmarks that their shouldn’t be a large difference.

The other challenging part about this is that this sort of testing is not common and anything I’ve been able to find is several years out of date. Solidworks completely rewrote the graphics engine on a much more modern version of OpenGL very recently (beta option in 2019), so tests on older versions of SW may not even be relevant.

All of this is also only relevant when working with pretty large models, as almost any GPU is going to push acceptable performance in small and medium sized models, as anything >30fps is honestly fine for CAD.

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Thanks for the advice. Being from Israel and especially with COVID, I’d much rather buy new from a trusted retailer than chance it on buying second hand, even if it means paying a bit extra or getting a slightly worse product. And even though the 1060 might be the best bang for the buck over a low-end workstation card, I don’t know that I need the extra power because I’m not gaming and I’d rather have the peace of mind of using a “supported” card.

Thanks for the info. It’s definitely good to know that Solidworks runs well on a P400. I had been trying to find firsthand reviews for that, but until now I had come up short. It seems to have terrible specs and benchmark scores though. I’m thinking that the P400 will probably be fine for my needs, but if I’m already spending the money I might as well spend the extra $70 to get the P620 for the extra output and more than double the benchmark scores. It’s probably not necessary now, but might come in handy a few years down the line.

Good to know about the 1060 3GB. I could also get a GTX 1050Ti 4GB or GTX 1650 4GB (both 3 monitors) for the same price as the 1060, but picked the 1060 because it has the extra monitor and the benchmarks said it was better. In any case, I’m leaning towards the workstation cards over consumer ones.

This is the big problem I’ve found when researching which card to get. In the few benchmark tests that are actually available, the workstation cards seem to do better at Solidworks even though their specs are terrible compared to the consumer ones. That’s part of the reason why I’m starting to lean towards the P620: it can run SW better than the consumer cards and it doesn’t have the abysmal specs of the P400.

Quadros will out perform their equivalent GeForce card in most CAD applications due to driver optimization. Drivers for gaming GPUs are optimized for DirectX and pushing framerates as high as possible. Drivers for workstation GPUs will be more optimized for OpenGL and accuracy of image generation. I expect you will be happy with either the P400 or P620 for any FRC CAD. Where you may run into issues is when your model size is too large for the 2GB of VRAM, but I doubt you will run into this in FRC modeling.

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Would you rather have the power even if you don’t need it (having paid more), or regret not having the power if it turns out you do need it? What’s your tolerance for having to buy something else if your initial decision is not correct? Will you be forced to simply put up with it? If so, perhaps consider that risk in relation to your preference for peace of mind.

One additional option that has existed in the past, is tricking the system into believing that a GeForce with the same core is the equivalent Quadro, and installing Quadro drivers. I’ve managed to do that on an older GeForce to attempt to resolve a graphical issue. I didn’t notice a speed difference in any software, but my use case was not strenuous, and my testing was anything but systematic.

I suspect this would not provide the requisite peace of mind (because it is an unsupported use case), but there’s a decent chance it would provide the requisite CAD-optimized performance.

In any event, nowadays I use a GeForce GTX 1060 with 6 GB of RAM, with ordinary GeForce drivers, and it works completely fine for CAD (mostly SolidWorks at present). (Once again, though, apart from large models and a personal preference for very fast UI response, my needs aren’t especially demanding.)

Are you concerned about being infected by the packaging or surface of the video card? This doesn’t seem like a reasonable fear, given the most likely modes of transmission. Even if you don’t agree with that, you can take simple measures to protect yourself. (For example, consider the time it spent in the mail, and let it sit unopened for some additional arbitrary period that satisfies you, and which is consistent with trusted public health guidance.)

Concerns with getting a defective product are reasonable, though perhaps the right answer to that conundrum is also related to your risk tolerance (i.e. the question I posed above).

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Honestly, any GPU is going to be fine. Will you be gaming at all? Get a Geforce. It will handle your CAD no problem. You might be overthinking this. I was using a Radeon HD 6850 for the longest time and it handled any CAD I threw at it.

Go for a used 1060 or 1070. That way you can play some games for some R&R

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I’d rather spend an extra $70 now if it means I’m more certain that I won’t have to spend another $200 if I find out my original solution doesn’t work right. And I’d rather spend a bit more to have unneeded extra power rather than regretting my decision and having to spend even more later to upgrade. I’d like this computer to work for at least the next 5 years if not 10, so I’d rather put a bit of extra money in up front.

Is the only difference between a workstation and gaming graphics card the drivers? Do they use the same/equivalent hardware? (Serious question, not rhetorical)

My concern isn’t about getting infected, it’s about getting a defective product. If I want the computer to work for another 10 years, it doesn’t really make sense to me to be buying parts that are already a few years old. In normal times I might be able to shop around for deals, maybe meet with a secondhand seller to see the product before purchasing. Now I’m pretty much restricting myself to two reputable brick-and-mortar stores that have decent prices and I know I can return to if I get something defective.

Oh I’m definitely overthinking this. That knowledge doesn’t really help me make a decision though :upside_down_face:

Drivers, extra validation, and stricter quality control are the big differences. They both use the same chips. This video is a bit old, but is a good overview.


This more recent video goes a bit more in depth.

FWIW, my old laptop with a GT650M ran Inventor just fine, and my work laptop with Intel integrated UHD 630 lets me view large assemblies in Teamcenter Visualization. If all you are doing is CAD, then just get the best Quadro you can afford. Maybe in a few years, you can upgrade to a better card if needed.
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Those are great videos, exactly what I was looking for. Since I’m not planning on gaming and CAD is the most graphics-intensive thing I’ll be doing, I think I’ll stick with the Quadro P620 (they recommended the Quadro P4000 but that’s a few levels above my price range). Thanks :)

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