Graphics Card for CAD workstation, but still want to game


I'm building up a new CAD station for myself, but I still want to play games on it occasionally and not be punished too severely for having a workstation video card.

This is for Solidworks, which is where I make my money. :)

Tentative system specs will be:

Intel i7 950
Intel 160GB SSD
WD 1T SATA3 drive
12GB ram
Probably ASUS MB like the PT6 or something similar

OS: Windows 7 64bit Professional

CAD files are stored remotely on a file server.

Of course the big decision is the graphics card. I've used consumer graphics cards before and while they work OK, there are issues with Solidworks, so I have made the decision to move to a workstation card. However, Solidworks' performance is generally driven by processor and ram, not so much GPU dependent, so I don't need a multi-thousand dollar card here...

My question of course is which NVidia Quadro card? I've narrowed it down to a couple of choices and am looking for any ideas here to ensure that I can still game on the machine when I'm not working. Typical games would be FPSs (L4D2 and ME2) and the occasional RPGs like DA-O and SC2. While I'm not an NVidia phanboi, I'm not interested in ATI cards. I simply feel that Nvidia has better driver support.

I will not be overclocking: stability is my prime concern.

I'm thinking perhaps the Quadro 600 or 2000 w/ 1GB ram or maybe even two SLI Quaro 600s? I have a budget for up to a grand for the video cards, but like I said, I definitely won't need that for Solidworks and obviously would prefer to spend less cash than more!

Oh - I should add my monitor setup: one 20" (1600x1200) and one 27" (2560x1440). Obviously the 27" is where I do my work but it will also be the monitor on which I'm gaming, so i have the ability to push a few pixels if the cards are capable :)

Any help would be hugely appreciated - thanks!
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  1. Gaming put all the old CAD Workstation box builders outta business years ago. The nVidia gaming cards simply smoke in 2D AutoCAD. Not so much for ATI tho the later drivers for the 58xx series have picked this up quite a bit.

    OTOH, for 3D rendering workstations, that's where the Quadro comes in ... which works best for you will depend on how you spend ya day. My suggestion would be to visit ya local CAD vendor's office and bring a couple of your typical files and get some 1st hand impressions..
  2. Thanks!

    I'm not using apps which are heavily dependent on powerhouse workstation cards: Solidworks (and CAD in general) is fine with even gaming cards speed wise. The issue is reliability, accuracy and avoiding weird little errors which pop up with gaming cards (and I know, because I currently have a 7900GTX running my current CAD station). So, really for Solidworks, I could get away with a $200 Quadro 600 card for the most part, especially with the i7 processor and the amount of ram that i'll have. However, I'm sure that that is going to SUCK in gaming...

    So, the question is: "is it worth getting a Quadro 2000 over the Quadro 600 so that my games won't suck too badly?" Or what about SLI Quadro 600s (and I know that SLI capabilities are game dependent). Basically, For the $500 - $600 cost of the Quadro 2000, i could pick up a seriously kick ass game card, but it would affect my work adversely. So, I'm stuck with trying to figure out what to do for a workstation card...
  3. You know, I have a FireGL V3600 in a video editing system that also games (I play UT3 on it fairly often to blow off steam) very nicely. Don't count out the ATI offerings.

    The real question is, what is your budget? Also, you need to make sure you spec a sufficient PSU to meet whatever GPU you do go with.

    Good luck!
  4. Did you ever get this question answered? I'd like to get a quadro 600 or 2000 for cad/sketchup/open GL but also would like something that can be used for gaming.

    Thanks, Philip
  5. The problem with ATI isn't cost nor performance but drivers. There is a reason why Nvidia has a lead in the professional and workstation market for a reason. You can go with a normal consumer card like a GTX 570 but don't expect the best performance n 3D apps. Its not the raw power of the card but it is in the driver scripts that hinder performance in such app. That is why crippled quadros are selling for high mark ups.
  6. Sorry for resurfacing this thread, but didn't want to open a new one.

    I had a similar dilemma, and it seems like the Quadro 600 is better for the money than the 2000.

    However, I am having trouble following the last post by nforce4max.. you are saying that Quadros are not worth it? Why is that?
  7. selas said:
    Sorry for resurfacing this thread, but didn't want to open a new one.

    I had a similar dilemma, and it seems like the Quadro 600 is better for the money than the 2000.

    However, I am having trouble following the last post by nforce4max.. you are saying that Quadros are not worth it? Why is that?

    For gaming they are not worth it. For light use for workstation apps normal cards can manage just not all that well. If you want to game on a quadro it better be an older game or a very high end card due to performance reasons.
  8. The problem with gaming cards is that they are unsuited for serious CAD work: not because of speed but because of other more annoying issues.

    Things like z buffer issues will start to pop up under high levels of zoom and edges / lines won't line up properly. Try selecting vertices and it will be a frustrating game of attempting to pick the right line. this is even worse when you have perspective turned on.

    So, gaming cards can be good for a casual CAD user, but for those of us who make our living this way, the current crop of gaming cards are simply not a workable solution. That leaves expensive "certified" work station cards as the only choice...
  9. What about AVID media composer 5.x? I have the exact same dilema xD, I may be buying a Quadro 600 but I still want to game once in a while...

    The other cards i´ve seen are:

    GTS450 1024mb DDR5
    GTX550 1024mb DDR5
    GTX550 Ti 1024mb DDR5
    GTX550 1024mb DDR5
    GTX460 1024mb DDR5
  10. could you SLI Quadro 600?
  11. I thought that I should provide an update that might be of interest to some of the people who replied to my original post.

    So, in the end, I didn't buy a desk top - I actually ended up purchasing a Lenovo W520 workstation notebook, with an Nvidia 2000M graphics card.

    Overalll, I'm super happy with the setup: the 2000M is WAY faster than any graphics card that i've used before for CAD work and of course, being a supported card, everything works perfectly. Fast gaming cards are OK if you're just dabling in CAD (and trust me - i've used lots of them), but they simply are not at all suitable for professional CAD use.

    As far as games go, the system is not the most powerful out there, but it definitely is more than adequate. I'm able to play Crysis 2 at 1366x768 with max settings absolutely no problem. Games like SC2 run in FHD at max settings fine. Of course, games based on older tech (i.e. L4D2) are fine as well.

    I have the notebook set up with an i7 2720, 16GB of 1600 ram, FHD display, two SSDs and of course the nvidia 2000M.

    Hope this is of interest!
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