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June 18, 2010 11:40 AM   Subscribe

GraphicsCardCADFilter: Can someone give me a crash course in Graphics cards vs. RAM?

As they relate to speed improvements when 3D modeling specifically. Currently have a relatively new workstation that meets all the basic system requirements for 3D modeling in AutoCAD 2011. Problem is it’s slow as f*ck and I’m getting crashes once there are multiple large 3D objects in a drawing . After cruising the CAD forums and updating drivers left and right it looks like my graphics card meets minimum requirements, but has not been certified with this current version of AutoCAD. I’m not really sure what that means. Would switching to an “approved card” definitely fix my problems? 2D currently has no problems. AMD Radeon 1300/1550 on dual monitors if it’s relevant. I’m really just trying to do my homework before bringing this up to the higher ups.

tl:dr; Is a faster graphics card a guarantee of better performance or do I need to be looking at my RAM as well?
posted by edbles to Technology (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
How much ram do you have in your system ? One sure fire way to tell if you need more memory is to look at how much drive activity there is under load. If the drive is running constantly, then you're probably hitting the swap file for everything.

If it's not, then more memory probably won't help you much.

I would bet that a better video card would solve your problem. The Radeon 1300 is pretty underpowered compared to say a 1900 (which is the same generation, but much faster). It's about 5-6 years old at this point.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:47 AM on June 18, 2010


Gaming cards and workstation cards are geared towards different purposes. While each can be used in the other's role to a degree, they are best suited towards their intended purpose. ATI's Radeon line, and nVidia's GeForce line are gaming cards. For workstation (CAD / 3D modeling, etc) cards, ATI has their Fire line, and nVidia has the Quadro line.

I'm not an expert on either, but I would expect that you would be better served selecting a card purpose-built for your application. Having said that, when I upgraded the cards in my gaming rig, I brought my old card, a GeForce 7950, to work (I run a print-for-pay shop) and noticed a significant increase in performance vs. my computer's Intel onboard graphics, when working with AutoCAD DWF files, especially files with many layers, that would have taken forever to the screen to re-draw with my Intel onboard graphics chipset.

So I think it's safe to say you'd see a performance boost by installing a gaming card, but I would still think that ATI and nVidia's distinction between "workstation cards" and "gaming cards" is there for a reason.
posted by xedrik at 12:03 PM on June 18, 2010


RAM on a graphics card (VRAM) serves as a cache for the geometry you want rendered. If the whole thing fits within VRAM more won't help much. If it doesn't, then you're going to be be plastered -- your graphics driver will have to keep transfering data in and out of VRAM and the speed difference between GDDR3 and the PCIe bus is high enough to make that unpleasant. Even if you have all the "pixel pipelines" and shader paths and other parallel cpu processing units you need, if they're stalled on VRAM then you're not using them fully.

I'm not a fan of "autocad certified" but if your box doesn't cut it and Autocad says it won't, then you've got a case to bring up to the boss. A new card should be cheap enough to justify -- I mean, how many times does it have to crash before you've wasted enough manhours to pay for a new computer? The only reason I can imagine for management to stonewall this is if they're billing your time hourly.
posted by pwnguin at 2:41 PM on June 18, 2010


I would bet that a better video card would solve your problem. The Radeon 1300 is pretty underpowered compared to say a 1900 (which is the same generation, but much faster). It's about 5-6 years old at this point.

RAM on a graphics card (VRAM) serves as a cache for the geometry you want rendered. If the whole thing fits within VRAM more won't help much. If it doesn't, then you're going to be be plastered -- your graphics driver will have to keep transfering data in and out of VRAM and the speed difference between GDDR3 and the PCIe bus is high enough to make that unpleasant. Even if you have all the "pixel pipelines" and shader paths and other parallel cpu processing units you need, if they're stalled on VRAM then you're not using them fully.

Thanks, peoples. Follow-up in case someone has this insanely specific problem in the future: I sort of posted too soon IT had sent me back a quick response e-mail saying maybe, so I thought they were washing their hands. They got back after looking into it more with more details and were very helpful. Basically the decision was to upgrade the whole tower because the graphics card costs half of what a new tower would and my workstation's four years old and 2011 was designed for a more modern architecture. Bosses have been cool about the extra expense. If anyone is having this problem in the future, small-company type bosses love new 3D marketing materials.
posted by edbles at 10:50 AM on June 19, 2010


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