Graphics Cards for CAD?

Hello, everyone. I have a new computer that I am currently building specifically to run Autodesk Inventor Professional, and am trying to decide on which graphics card to buy. I have set aside $300 specifically for a graphics card and will be buying one on Cyber Monday.

I will gladly appreciate your help.

It really depends on how far you’re going to go with it, the type of work you plan to do, and how many pixels you plan to drive. I would argue for simple parts and small to medium assemblies in Inventor, you don’t need any graphics card at all. Once you get into moderately complex assemblies, or if you plan to do any CAM simulation in Inventor HSM, then a graphics card is a good idea.

We run Quadro K620s with a single monitor at 2560x1440 and we’re pretty happy with the performance there. Only slight hiccups in HSM CAM simulation of advanced paths, but buttery smooth in the CAD environment. You may want to go to a slightly higher spec if you plan on running 4K.

I run a Quadro K2200 across three displays at 1920x1080 and again, buttery smooth, and a bit more smooth in HSM CAM simulations than the Quadro K620.

The Quadro K1200 and M2000 are also out now, with the M2000 being about the best card within your budget, by my guess is that’s pretty overkill for whatever you’re going to be doing. Most people who do this for a living are not even running that high spec of a card. But hey, I don’t know, maybe you have a need to do CAD on four 4k monitors at the same time…

My advice, save a little on the graphics card, and use whatever you save to go for a nicer monitor. Working at 2560x1440 on a 27 inch is nice. I run a Dell U2715H that I’m happy with except for the issue where it doesn’t wake on a mouse jiggle with Windows 7. The HP Z27 series monitors are also nice.

You may even consider a 34" 3440x1440 Ultrawide. The prices are down to about $500.

Finally, Inventor does work well with gaming-oriented cards, but the drivers are not tested/certified, and I have no first-hand knowledge of it. Here is a list of certified graphics hardware for Autodesk Inventor Professional 2017. AMD FirePro cards are certified and recommended as well and can be more affordable. They worked well when we used to use them, though nVidia is probably a bit more industry standard.


To answer some of your questions, I will definitely be using CAM software, as my team recently bought a 3-axis CNC router. I am currently looking at 1080p resolution. The CAD drawings that I plan to draw will be of medium complexity (at least a couple hundred parts), and I will be using the software on a regular or daily basis.

Thanks for your help, good sir! Your advice is duly noted.

Make sure you have enough RAM. 16 gigs is probably where the sweet spots start for medium sized assemblies. Check out some of the specs in the Dell Precision desktop workstation series, those are the most commonly used in industry.

Joseph, I know this isn’t the point of this thread. But have you chosen a CPU yet? Sometimes if you are on a budget, spending more on the CPU may be more beneficial than spending more on the GPU for CAD.

This is true. Also, since most CAD software will not make assembly/part calculations in parallel, hyperthreading doesn’t really help. However, rendering will benefit from good GPU performance.

I’d also check out this article:

Just a heads up. That article is suggesting using a intel i7-6700k on a z97 motherboard… A 6700k will not run on a z97. It a different socket type. You need a z170 motherboard.

To be honest it doesn’t take much to run CAD/CAM comfortably. I personally am using an nVidia GTX 970 on my desktop at home to run Inventor, but I have also run it on a GTX 760 and 480 in the past with no significant issues. I also run Inventor on my laptop which has a Radeon HD 8650G + 8670M Dual graphics setup on it and, while not quite as smooth as my desktop, runs just fine with only minimal performance loss.

By in large, while graphics are important to CAD, it seems that most programs are more CPU and RAM dependent then they are graphics. That said, I do always recommend people watch these two videos when shopping for a graphics card for any purpose:

Just get the cheapest Quadro you can find. It’ll work great. Any current Quadro>>$1,000 Titan X gaming card.

Thank you all for your help! I appreciate all your advice.

I have a Skylake i7 installed.

I’m curious as to how so. I’ve been told that a recent GTX card would run CAD just fine.

Gaming graphics are (essentially) no better than integrated graphics for CAD. If you’re spending money on a graphics card for CAD, you want a workstation graphics card that will actually improve the CAD software’s performance.

You’re not wrong. Any recent one would be fine. It’s just that the cheapest quadro card is way better.

A $160 Quadro K620 will beat the pants off of every GTX card on the market when running Solidworks in shaded with edges mode (which is my preferred mode and I assume the preferred mode of most).

At 1080p a $1000 12 GB Titan X is 33% worse than the $160 K620.

You can see a more detailed breakdown here

[edit]: I didn’t read that Inventor was the choice here. Dave’s comments below are probably pretty relevant, especially if it will be a computer for mixed use (CAD/gaming). I’m sure you can find similar comparisons to the one I linked above for Inventor performance.

As a note, Inventor will likely perform substantially better with gaming-oriented cards than Solidworks will. It is my understanding that Solidworks uses OpenGL graphics which runs better on workstation-class cards (Quadro, Firepro) and not as well on gamind cards (Geforce, Radeon).

Inventor is built to run on DirectX graphics, which can run well on gaming cards as well as workstation cards.

However, I suspect that any CAD program will run better on a workstation card than on a gaming card. Whether or not you as the user will directly notice it? That’s another story.

Disclaimer: Do your own research. I do not have first-hand recent knowledge with SolidWorks nor Geforce cards.

I know this thread is mainly about Inventor, but after seeing Cory’s post I thought I’d share a bit of experience I have.

We did a little comparison between our CAD workstation with a Quadro 600 (released in 2010), and my home desktop with a Radeon R9 380X (released in 2015). Both systems are identical with the only difference being the GPU. Running the Solidworks built-in performance benchmark, the system with the Quadro can beat my system with the gaming GPU every time in terms of GPU performance.

Goes to show that the system with the 6 year old Quadro can easily eclipse a modern and fairly current gaming card.

You read my mind. I will be using my computer as a multi-use computer.

After doing some more research (Autodesk forums, etc.), it seems as if a GTX 1060 6GB may be able to suffice.

I would personally recommend saving a bit longer and going for a GTX 1070

Honestly, I doubt he’ll see much of a difference for CAD between the two. Gaming on the other hand…

Ya, I was talking about gaming :D.

Yeah, I was sure hoping to save a bit more for a 1070, but I’m on a time crunch.

Why is this the case? CAD software probably isn’t going to be more graphically taxing than high-end games. Is it in how the software uses the hardware?