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Best Graphics Card For CAD
Taking A Closer Look At 5 Graphics Cards That Will Improve Your CAD Work
Despite being a heavily visual computational task, CAD relies more on a powerful CPU than an all-singing-all-dancing graphics card; however, you will still need a relatively proficient GPU if you want to optimize your design work.
Without this core bit of gear, you’ll experience laggy transitions as you tweak or rotate your design, disrupting your workflow and limiting your productivity.
What’s more, if your chosen graphics card is not listed by your chosen CAD program as a suitable device, the company may refuse to offer any support.
Don’t worry, though, CAD-ers; we’ve spent the last few weeks researching the best graphics cards for CAD you can buy, and today, we’re happy to introduce you to our shortlist.
Table Of Contents:
Best Graphics Card For CAD
- NVIDIA Quadro P4000
- XFX Radeon RX 580 GTS XXX Edition
- NVIDIA Quadro P6000
- AMD Radeon Vega Frontier
- NVIDIA Quadro P2000
- Ask The Software Developer
- Work Intensity
- Display Resolution
- GPU Manufacturer VS Graphics Card Manufacturer
- Nvidia VS AMD
- GPU VRAM
- GPU Memory Bandwidth
- GPU Clock Speed
- GPU Cores
- Graphics Card Dimensions
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can You Use A Gaming GPU For CAD?
- Is The Nvidia Quadro Good For Gaming?
- What Is The Best Graphics Card For CAD?
- What Graphics Card Will I Need For CAD In 4K?
- Is Nvidia GeForce Good For CAD?
- Is A Graphics Card Important For CAD?
NVIDIA Quadro P4000
The Quadro P4000 has a superb memory configuration that can handle most large CAD projects without breaking a sweat.
The 8GB RAM is suitable for 60Hz, 4K resolutions, so you can imbue your work with all the intricate details you desire.
243GBps memory bandwidth supplements the stacked VRAM, ensuring your CAD software runs in a buttery smooth manner, even as your model breaks the 500 component mark.
Perhaps best of all, the P4000 is Nvidia’s first foray into single-slot VR-ready GPUs, meaning you can actually examine your model as if it were physically in front of you, and depending on the project, take it for a virtual test run.
We know Nvidia has pumped out more impressive professional workstation GPUs than the P4000, but we feel it arrives at a suitable intersection between price and performance, giving it the widest appeal of all our featured cards.
- 8GB RAM – Keeps up with a 60Hz 4K monitor.
- 243GBps Bandwidth – Low latency performance.
- VR-Ready – Virtually engage with your models before creation.
- Price – Great value for money.
- 105-Watt Draw – Energy efficient.
- Power – Not as powerful as the P5000 or P6000.
XFX Radeon RX 580 GTS XXX Edition
Our views on CAD and gaming stations follow church and state rules: they should always be separate.
However, if you’re a gamer only dipping your toes into the CAD world as a novice enthusiast, the RX 580 can help you cobble together a multipurpose system.
The 8GB memory configuration allows it to shoulder pretty intensive models, and with a 256GBps bandwidth, it’s technically slightly faster than the P4000 in our top spot.
It can handle 4K at a push, but you may not be able to pull a full 60fps at all times, especially if you’re running your software with all guns blazing.
That said, the 40fps it will be able to push will only amount to a lag of a few milliseconds, so it’s no biggie.
With a total of 2304 cores, it cuts rendering time down significantly, especially if you’re used to integrated GPU speeds, and the price tag is incredibly reasonable…like less than half the P4000 reasonable.
- Price – Can’t be beat.
- 8GB VRAM – Just about handles 4K.
- 256GBps Bandwidth – low latency device communication.
- 2304 Cores – Minimizes rendering time.
- 185-Watt Draw – Power hungry.
- Power – Not suitable for professional workflows.
NVIDIA Quadro P6000
The P6000 from camp Nvidia is the best GPU for CAD across all platforms — period! Boasting a 24GB GDDR5X VRAM bank, with a 432GBps bandwidth, it’s capable of supporting intensive, multifaceted designs in 4K without dropping a frame.
By multifaceted design, we quite literally mean anything, so go ahead, load up on contours, shaded edges, and separate components…it can take it!
Hell, if your CPU’s up for the challenge, why not even load up multiple complex projects and work on them simultaneously.
Featuring a whopping 3840 cores (shaders, for the uninitiated), it’s capable of producing some truly exquisite gradients, and the DirectX 12 support amounts to a more efficient performance overall.
At 10.5 inches long, it’s not the smallest card in the world, but it should fit in most mid-tower cases. The only real issue is the price tag, which is not for the faint of heart or light of wallet.
This unit is strictly for the high-flying CAD professionals out there, as they’re – along with Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and other space-bound bazillionaires – the only ones with salaries beefy enough to afford one.
- 24GB GDDR5X – Supports complex projects in 5K.
- DirectX 12 – 20% bolstered performance all-round.
- 432GBps Bandwidth – Zero lag.
- 3840 Cores – Lightning-fast rendering.
- Price – Premium price for a premium product.
AMD Radeon Vega Frontier
With an insane 4096 cores, the Vega Frontier is the perfect graphics card for rendering models efficiently, a definite boon if you’ve got a large workload consisting of multiple projects.
The epic 14GB VRAM doesn’t go amiss either, giving you full 4K support at 60Hz, meaning you’ll be able to view your model with great clarity and work fine details into the project with ease.
It has a 483.8GBps memory bandwidth, which translates to an extremely low latency performance as you rotate and pan your complex designs, improving your productivity.
Putting the icing on the CAD cake, it boasts DirectX 12 support, leading to improved performance across the board, making the Vega Frontier without a doubt the best AMD GPU for computer-aided design on the market.
- 4096 Cores – Renders in a flash.
- 14GB VRAM – Supports large projects in 4K.
- 483.8GBps Bandwidth – Silky smooth model rotation.
- DirectX 12 – 20% more efficient than X 11.
- Price – Get more performance per dollar with a Quadro GPU.
NVIDIA Quadro P2000
Despite costing roughly a third of the price of the Vega Frontier, the Quadro P2000 is actually a higher-performing GPU within a CAD hardware ecosystem.
In fact, its performance falls just shy of the $5000 Nvidia Titan V, which is the most advanced GPU ever created.
What’s astounding is that it manages to beat all these dauntless heavyweights, with reasonably light specs.
There are 1024 cores under the hood, but it renders incredibly quickly, it has a 5GB VRAM, yet it can support up to 5K resolutions, and the 140GBps memory bandwidth makes for some seamless transitions as you manipulate your model.
Built from the ground up to augment a creative design station, it cuts out all the unnecessary bloat aimed at gamers and focuses on what truly counts.
- 1024 Cores – Speedy rendering.
- 5GB VRAM – Supports 4K.
- 140GBps Bandwidth – Minimal lag.
- Price – It’ll shock you (in a good way)
- Project Size – Won’t handle the really gargantuan stuff.
If only choosing a GPU for CAD was as simple as buying the latest and greatest card on the market. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, but as these little gizmos can run extremely expensive, it’s actually a godsend.
Just follow this brief yet informative buyer’s guide, and you’ll find what you’re looking for in no time.
Ask The Software Developer
Before you start to worry about graphics card specs and price tags, it’s a good idea to start your search by consulting the developer of your software about which cards are the most suitable for their program.
They should provide you with a shortlist complete with both budget and premium options to choose from.
Do remember, though, that you’ll need to ask about system requirements for the specific software version you plan on using.
Why? Well, it’s common for newer renditions of CAD software to work well with a slightly different selection of GPUs to its predecessor.
So, you’ve sourced your software developer’s GPU shortlist, fantastic! Now you need to decide which is suitable for the work you intend to do.
For very basic 2-D designs, single parts, and small assemblies, you’ll be perfectly fine choosing the more affordable units. These aren’t such taxing jobs, so the program should run smoothly.
But once you get into the heavy stuff, you’re going to need something with a little more oomph!
So, if you plan on crafting something on your chosen CAD program that has, say, more than 10 pieces, or has multiple 3-dimensional aspects, it’s time to allocate a little more money to your GPU budget.
People often forget that they have to match up the performance of their graphics card, not just to their CAD software, but their other hardware too, especially their monitor.
A high-resolution monitor with great color depth makes the CAD process way easier on the eyes, and ultimately, leads to a more accurate final product, but the higher the resolution, the more frames your GPU needs to be capable of pushing out.
Otherwise, you’ll end up with the same laggy and stuttered behavior you’d expect from a cheap and cheerful card.
GPU Manufacturer VS Graphics Card Manufacturer
If you’ve never had to deal with graphics cards before, you may be confused by the dual brand names listed in nearly every product.
Don’t worry, though, it’s simply because the chip is made by one company (usually Nvidia or AMD), and the card that holds the chip is made by a 3rd-party company.
Nvidia VS AMD
Generally speaking, Nvidia sits atop the GPU throne, but surprisingly, a lot of their up-market consumer-grade gaming GPUs don’t fare well in the CAD arena, especially when compared to AMD’s RX and Vega lineup.
This means that even though the Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti is technically a lot better and more expensive than AMD’s Vega 64, the 64 is by far the best option for a standalone CAD system.
However, the plot thickens when we introduce Nvidia’s Quadro series into the equation, as even the bottom end Quadro just about matches the 64’s performance.
What’s more, the very next Quadro in line, the P2000, goes toe-to-toe with the Titan V, widely considered the most powerful GPU on the planet.
VRAM is a graphics card’s random access memory. It’s used to hold short-term data pertaining to visual information.
It then offers fast access to these visual cues to your monitor, facilitating smooth graphics execution.
Although you can technically run certain software with less, 4GB is widely considered the minimum VRAM capacity for CAD software, although 8GB or beyond is preferable for intensive projects.
GPU Memory Bandwidth
The bandwidth of your GPU memory system refers to the amount of information that can be communicated at any one time.
Along with clock speed, it’s the bandwidth that really irons out the kinks in graphical performance.
For basic CAD work, you can scrape by with 29GBps bandwidth, but if you really need to optimize your desktop for professional use, we’d recommend aiming for something with a bandwidth upward of 106MBps.
GPU Clock Speed
The clock speed of a GPU is essentially just the speed at which it can execute commands, so the faster, the better when it comes to CAD, as you’ll want to get a decent workflow going.
Unless you’re working on very basic projects, we wouldn’t settle for anything less than 1300MHz.
GPU cores (also known as shaders or stream processors) are responsible for processing all the data passing through the device.
Cores aren’t particularly important to general CAD applications, but any software developed over the last half-decade or so will usually root out commands to as many cores as possible when it comes to rendering, thereby speeding up the process.
Graphics Card Dimensions
I know we’ve bogged you down in a lot of technical stuff up until now, but don’t forget to pay attention to the practical aspects of a graphics card as well.
The last thing you want to do is fork out for an expensive card only to find out upon its arrival that it doesn’t even fit in your case.
Always take accurate measurements of your card clearance space and cross-reference them with the dimensions of prospective graphics units.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we go our separate ways, let’s wrap things up with a quick CAD graphics card FAQ segment.
Can You Use A Gaming GPU For CAD?
You can use gaming GPUs for CAD, but it’s not really a yes or no sort of question.
Some consumer-grade graphics cards will work wonderfully with programs such as SolidWorks and AutoCAD, but others don’t play well with the CAD software at all.
Take the Nvidia GeForce GTX 10-Series, for example. There are some great cards for gaming in that lineup, but they just can’t handle the complexity of advanced CAD designs.
We’d always recommend using separate stations for CAD work and gaming, but if you’re looking to build a desktop that can handle both activities with gusto, aim for something along the lines of the Vega 64 or a very powerful Nvidia RTX unit such as the 2070 or 2080.
Is The Nvidia Quadro Good For Gaming?
The Quadro series from Nvidia may be the best of the bunch for professional design work, but they’re not actually great for games, like…at all.
Sure, it can handle the odd AAA title, but the superior driver pathways are really only optimized for things like CAD.
Therefore, the price-to-performance ratio of the Quadro in a gaming context just doesn’t add up.
What Is The Best Graphics Card For CAD?
Objectively speaking, the Nvidia Quadro P6000 is absolutely the best graphics card for CAD across all design software — no exceptions.
With one of these beasts at the helm of your graphical operations, you’ll experience seamless functionality at all times.
What Graphics Card Will I Need For CAD In 4K?
As 4K imparts a more pixel-dense workload on your graphics facilities, you’ll need a very strong card to keep your frame rates at a decent level – we’re talking tons of cores, 8GB VRAM, and a clock speed of around 1500MHz.
Is Nvidia GeForce Good For CAD?
The more powerful Nvidia GeForce RTX cards aren’t bad for CAD, but you can get a high-performing design card for a much better price.
GeForce GTX cards are fantastic for gaming, but for whatever reason, they lag a little when it comes to CAD.
Is A Graphics Card Important For CAD?
As programs like Photoshop aren’t that reliant on a powerful GPU, you’d be forgiven for thinking the same for CAD software, but sadly, that’s not the case.
For anything more than very basic CAD projects, you’ll need a capable GPU.
That’s your lot from us, folks. Now, if those ain’t the five most spectacular CAD GPUs you ever laid eyes on, you must have access to some sort of alien technology far superior to ours.
From the ultra-premium Quadro P6000, right through to our budget P2000 and RX 580 picks, we feel there’s something here for just about everyone, whether you’re a fully-fledged CAD pro or an intrigued hobbyist.
Pick whichever feels right for your design work and get ready to bring your creativity to life!