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Solidworks/Gaming PC

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April 16, 2009 5:06:58 AM

So I'm planning a computer build within the next few months (this summer hopefully), and I had a question concerning GPUs. This PC is going to be used primarily for school work with an emphasis on gaming. Since I'm also an engineering student, I want something that can handle Solidworks, AutoCAD, etc. From what I've read, the card I was considering, the ATI HD4850, isn't recommended for Solidowrks or other Modeling software. So if I choose to get the Radeon, will I still be able to run Solidworks effectively and play kick-ass games on the same PC? Any help/recommendations will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

More about : solidworks gaming

April 16, 2009 8:51:55 AM

You need a workstation graphics card and not a desktop one.

That would be Nvidia Quadro or Ati FireGL cards. You can play games on it, but it won't perform on the levels of a desktop one.
April 16, 2009 9:32:12 AM

That's what I figured. I don't necessarily need Solidworks to perform at extreme levels, all I really want is a PC that can play games very well but that's also capable of adequately running 3D Modleing software under normal loads (light to medium use). In that case, can an ATI HD4850 offer what I need? Also, CPU-wise, would you guys recommend getting a faster Core2Duo or slower Quad Core (3.0 vs 2.5 GHz)? Thanks a lot for the help so far!
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April 16, 2009 9:36:50 AM

Quad cores are the future..very much so when it comes to gaming albeit a oc'd c2d eats most everything atm...

If you wanted a powerful system that would last awhile cpu wise your best off finding a quad that can overclock well...you should be able to handle your 3d modeling apps at the stock speed no problem on the quad core but gaming will love a higher clock speed so you would want to make sure the cpu has head room....

So you could upgrade from that 4850 and not worry about going from 2 to 4 cores because you thought ahead...soon more games will start utilizing the 4 cores and the 2 core c2ds will start to slack off...
April 16, 2009 11:17:27 AM

gtN1 said:
That's what I figured. I don't necessarily need Solidworks to perform at extreme levels, all I really want is a PC that can play games very well but that's also capable of adequately running 3D Modleing software under normal loads (light to medium use). In that case, can an ATI HD4850 offer what I need? Also, CPU-wise, would you guys recommend getting a faster Core2Duo or slower Quad Core (3.0 vs 2.5 GHz)? Thanks a lot for the help so far!


Honestly, the difference between CAD based system and game based system is quite huge with regards to the graphics card. Sure, you might run CAD programs on a conventional gpu but it will be light years away from the workstation gpu. They both have OpenGL support but for the workstation one it's highly optimized for the engineering field.

We use FireGL setups running control systems on our plants and there's no way we can do that with a normal card.

It's up to you. As for the CPU: quad cores are generally clocked lower than a dual core but are more efficient at doing their tasks with software that supports it. So even though it's clocked lower, it doesn't mean it's inferior to the higher clocked dual core looking a frequency. It's capable of much more and clock for clock I recon is a better buy based on your situation. Also, if you can afford the quad then I don't see any reasons why not to.
April 16, 2009 11:42:26 AM

As a side note, most of my CAD work is in the 2D plane (MFD's/Loop Diagrams/Wiring Diagrams). As such I can use a normal desktop PC with normal graphics card.

Looking at system works, I assume you'll be doing 3D modeling. In this case, you can run it off a normal graphics card but there will be a point where intense modeling will require a workstation gpu.

So it boils down to your use of the CAD software.
April 27, 2009 2:44:45 PM

Ive been a solidworks power user since release 97, im both certified and spend approx 6 hours of billable time on it per day. Ive used both high end nvidia gaming cards and nvidia workstation class cards and can assure you that both will work. there are some features that are intentionally crippled in the gaming card graphics driver (like realview) but aside from that - a good gaming card does everything quite well. For anyone who chooses to use a gaming with Solidworks, remember that you have a failsafe built into the software called "use software OpenGL". Its located in the options --> performance tab.


A decent gaming card has more then enough horsepower to power even heavy assemblies, games like crysis are far more demanding on hardware then your solidworks model.
On the flip side, most workstation cards run games terribly; in fact I have yet to experience an exception.
a b U Graphics card
April 27, 2009 2:52:57 PM

Well it all boils down to driver support. FireGL (or whatever ATI cals the new ones)/quadro cards simply have driver supoprt far above and beyond the gaming cards. They have features that the gaming cards don't have and your solidworks experience would be orders of magnitude higher with a high end work statio card.

But lets be realistic here.. If you are not buying thsi computer for work, with their money, a workstation card of similar horsepower as a 4850 would cost as much as an entire i7 system with crossfired 4890's... An amount of money generally totaly unrealistic if you are spending out of pocket.

Will a 4850 work CAD? Yes

Will it work well enough for you? I guess that depends what you do

Will it work as well as a workstation card? Absolutely not.. but they cost 1-2grand for jsut a single card, and you wouldnt be able to play games on them
May 24, 2009 5:48:11 PM


I've been running NVIDIA quadro graphics cards for years and have always been unhappy with the video performance. Would definitely like to switch to a graphics card that can run SolidWorks 2009 but will also give excellent video performance. I do very little gaming, so that is not really a requirement. Can you suggest specific graphics cards that I should consider? Thanks.
May 25, 2009 4:55:25 AM

Regarding mid-range CAD software (such as SolidWorks) and video cards, it is not a matter of performance (as in fast or slow), it is a matter of whether the software will even function.

A few years back I started at a company that was switching to SolidWorks, and hired specifically for that. When I accepted the offer, I told my new boss that if he wanted me to be productive he needed to provide a certified workstation sufficient to the task, or at least a computer built from certified components (I had a job in the past where I was hired to do work in Pro/E and was given a pathetic excuse of a computer that couldn't even open Pro/E let alone work in it--that box even had problems with Autocad--and I didn't want to be in that situation again).

My boss told me he would let me order what I wanted.

Well, when I actually started, he had let IT convince him that he really didn't need to spend $4000 on a workstation and there was this sub-$700 office computer on my desk instead, with an AMD processor and an ATI radeon video card. IT said they would upgrade the machine as needed.

3 months later, they caved and let me buy the certified workstation of my choice--dual core XEON (box had 2 cpu sockets, but I only opted for 1 cpu at the time since Solidworks didn't multi-thread that well back then) with a Quadro FX 1500 video card and dual monitors--the entire box was a SolidWorks certified workstation, and what a night-and-day difference comparing it to the disaster they first gave me. IT caved because they, as a department, were spending more time trying to get my box running than they did with the rest of the company combined--when they called for tech support the response they got was "call us back when your running on approved hardware and drivers."

Some of the problems I ran into included crashing every ten minutes, placed dimensions either not being displayed correctly or not being displayed at all (how can you pick a dimension to edit it if you can't even see it? Lots of guessing...), typing notes on drawings, going to get a cup of coffee, and coming back to a computer still updating the note on the screen o n e l e t t e r a t a t i m e . . . , incorrect display of shaded solids and hidden lines--parts would gradually corrupt with incorrect z-plane data until you could no longer tell what it was you were trying to model, and you had to reboot to correct the issue... It was a mess.

If you want to do real work in SolidWorks (or Inventor or Pro/E), make sure you are running with a tested/certified video card and the tested version of drivers. You will be able to play just about all older games, and newer games with some of the eye candy turned down a notch, but your CAD will be rock solid. When Half-life two came out, I played it at 1920x1200 on a Dell M70 laptop (SolidWorks certified mobile workstation with a quadro 1400m video card (similar to a 5xxx geforce card) with all the settings set to high, and I ran Solidworks with no issues or crashes.

If you want to play alot of games and do occasional CAD work plagued with all sorts of crashes, odd errors and corrupt models, get whatever gaming card you want--who knows, you might get lucky and find a card that does sort of okay with CAD modelling.

Not a fanboy here--I've had ATI and Nvidia cards that I've really liked, but when it comes to CAD, nvidia quadro all the way...

May 25, 2009 5:31:03 AM

That's good to know. I enjoy 3D modeling such as Solidworks and CAD programs such as AutoCAD. I have an i7 that should work well, but according to anyone with real experience, a supported GPU will help.

I have tried some basic 3D modeling with AutoCAD, which was much to slow on my Athlon X2 3800+ @ 2.0GHz. It took forever to render and I was forced to type "REGEN" every other minute to get my drawing back. Needless to say, a supported GPU will most likely be a night and day difference.
a c 376 U Graphics card
May 25, 2009 9:34:42 AM

Last time I looked into it some Nvidia gaming cards could be easily softmodded into much more expensive workstation cards. Is this not the case any more?
June 22, 2009 7:18:42 AM

Does anyone know if a Quadro FX card will work with an HP Elite m9600t (Intel i7) or m9500z (this comes with an AMD chip)?

Honestly I don't know why the Workstations are so expensive other than because they come with the expensive video cards. In every other way, they are inferior to gaming systems in terms of memory, etc.

Any ideas? Suggestions? Comments?
October 29, 2010 5:59:07 AM

Check the pci slots to be sure that they patch the type such as the pci 2.0, pci 2.0x2, x16, and ect. I added one to the old dell optiplex at my work one time and it worked great. The workstation cards are really just for work and some of the hardware with in the card has to do with details and features. Gaming cards also have the open GL interface however they will run CAD but some features may not show up. Some of the problems that I had with a gaming card or normal card with CAD is some times text will not show up and dimensions are messed up using degrees for inches ect. If you are looking to game more I would suggest using the gaming cards more than the Quadro FX due to its built for CAD and 3D modeling. I have a system with the Quadro FX 580 inside. its a great card. It does game only certain games however like Call of duty will run on it. GTA will run but have a lot of errors crysis would not run at all on the system it would have very terrible frame rates even on low. I heard some people run graphics on two diff cards in one system one being workstation and both gaming but I would not risk that. It all depends on what you are going to use it for and how much CAD or what ever work you will be doing. I have been using cad for 5 years now and used them all on at least 20 different system builds let me know if you need more information.
October 29, 2010 7:02:22 AM

As a recently graduated engineering student, I feel compelled to offer my experiences. I built my current computer just before my sophomore year of college, and upon returning to school, ran Pro/E Wildfire 4 just fine. I do respect the professional opinions given; however, the assignments given to the average engineering student should be easily completed with a mainstream gaming card.

I found that my computer handled basic modeling, GD&T, and even solid member Finite Element Analysis quite well. For basic assignments done on your own, you should be fine. And yes, it can run Crysis (albeit, not on particularly high settings) .
My Specs:
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3.0
4GB Ram
Corsair 450W PSU
HIS HD 4850 512mb (mildly overclocked)
Gigabyte GA-EP35-DS3R mobo


October 29, 2010 1:02:19 PM

This thread is old, but I'll chime in anyways. I am currently co-oping at a place that uses SolidWorks, I do modeling and FEA. My workstation is quite old, having a P4 @ 3.00GHz and an old Quadro FX 1000. The lab's workstation has a Q6600 and a new Quadro FX 3800, both have 4GB RAM. Both of these machines destroy the CAD capability of my home PC, but that is expected. I only use my home PC for CAD when I'm not at school or at work, like when I need to make quick changes to a model. It is amazing how different they run, even with the old P4 and FX 1000.
a c 271 U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
October 30, 2010 1:09:38 AM

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