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6 Best Graphics Cards For CAD: Reviews For Improving Design

CAD, or "Computer Aided Design," is where computers are utilized to help the design process in an array of different industries. However, we're specifically talking about designing a product and documenting this design's process. It can help create detailed, accurate diagrams of the product's materials, dimensions, and much more.

You'll find CAD software used by architects, engineers, drafters, artists, and others. This software comes with many 2D and 3D software, though if you don't have a good graphics card, you're going to miss out on some incredibly realistic renderings.

Image

Model

Base/Boost Clock

Memory

Bandwidth

GPU Cores

Connectors

Check Price

NVIDIA VCQP2000-PB Quadro P2000

667 MHz

5GB

Up to 140 GB/s

1024

4 DisplayPorts

AMD Radeon Pro WX 7100 100-505826 8GB 256-bit...

1188 MHz/ 1243 MHz

8GB

Up to 224 GB/s

2304

4 DisplayPorts

PNY NVIDIA Quadro K1200 - ( VCQK1200DP-PB)

954 MHz/ 1033 MHz

4GB

Up to 80 GB/s

512

4 DisplayPorts

ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8GB ROG Strix Graphics...

1784 MHZ/ 1936 MHz

8GB

Up to 320 GB/s

2560

2x DisplayPorts, 2x HDMI

NVIDIA Titan RTX Graphics Card

1350 MHZ/ 1770 MHz

24GB

Up to 672 GB/s

4608

3x DisplayPorts, 1x HDMI, 1x USB Type-C

PNY Video Card Graphics Cards VCQK620-PB

1350 MHZ/ 1770 MHz

4GB

Up to 29 GB/s

384

1x DisplayPorts, 1x Dvi-I DL


Why CAD Requires Quality Video Cards

Ultimately, if you want the most from your CAD program(s), you need a high-quality GPU. What happens if your graphics card isn’t up to par?

  • May render much slower
  • General slowed-down operation
  • Less efficient performance
  • Less realistic results
  • Lagging zooming and rotating

Installing a quality graphics card will significantly widen your CAD programs' capabilities, no matter whether you're rendering 2D or 3D designs.


Buying Guide: Choosing Quality GPU for CAD

At this point, you may be asking yourself: "What specs do I need for CAD?" This can be the confusing part, so we've broken it down into easy-to-digest points to run through for the best results possible.

CAD Software Compatibility

Usually, the easiest way to go about choosing the best GPU for CAD is to go off of your software. Ensure you check the system requirements for the application(s) you're using and use it as a base.

If you can get better specs than that, that's even better. Also, consider the design of said software. For example, a multi-threaded program would do well with multiple cores. Make sure the memory capacity is large enough to run the latest features of your software program(s) as well.

Workstation Monitor

You should also ensure that the connections available on your new graphics come with those compatible with your workstation monitor. Even think about possible assemblies or redesigns at a future point in time.

CAD Project Size

What is the average size of the projects you're working on? This will also have a considerable influence on the specs you should aim for with your new graphics card. Try to opt for at least 8GB of RAM, but if you can get it a bit higher, you'll probably find you can handle larger or more complex projects.

CPU and GPU Balance

Both are crucial to optimum performance, though when it comes to 3D work and graphics-related tasks in general, the GPU takes the lead. Processing speed, however, is much more likely to bottleneck than memory.

Graphics Card Features

Brand (Nvidia vs. AMD)

These are both excellent products, though when we really begin to compare graphics and versatility, Nvidia wins. They place more of a focus on GPU tech, offering the ideal GPU-CPU balance. However, when it comes to CAD, we can't go all out and say Nvidia is the best through-and-through as AMD offers some great solutions as well.

GPU Cores

Thousands of cores can be built into a single chip, which is necessary for all necessary computations to even render the graphics and design projects you have. In this case, the more, the better your graphics are going to be – however, you don't need to go for the maximum cores to get great results. 

GPU Clock Speed

Measured in Megahertz (MHz), this will be the graphics card’s speed in non-stress testing uses. The higher the rate, the higher the number of pixels that can be processed per second by the graphics processor.

Memory & Bandwidth

The memory bandwidth is essentially the speed of video RAM, measured in GB/s. The more bandwidth you have, the higher the quality and speed of the images produced will be.

Thermal Design Power

The cards we use today often cannot be powered by the system alone. Instead, they'll usually require 6-pin connectors, and the higher the configuration of the card is, the more power it demands. However, it's important to note that mid-range alternatives can typically be powered just fine solely by the system.

The need to dissipate heat efficiently is crucial to the health and performance of these cards. Coolers are effective in keeping them from overheating, slowing down, and even GPU failure.

Design

Consider the ports available as well. Most will come with DVI ports, which are versatile as you can convert them to both VGA and HDMI with basic adapters if you'd like to connect to additional monitors. If you're using more modern monitors, make sure the card also has a DisplayPort (DP) connection.

You may be wondering about aftermarket vs. reference coolers, as well. The former is known to be the quieter and cooler alternative. However, reference coolers move all heated exhaust air out of the back of the case, which is also beneficial.

Form Factor

None of the other specs matter if your card doesn't work with your motherboard and case! Make sure the slot size is compatible with your PC build and that you have enough free expansion slots and physical PCIe slots on the motherboard.

Price & Warranty

Chances are you're probably not here to spend as much money as possible. Instead, you want the best balance of affordability and quality. To get there, you first need to come up with a budget for yourself. Once you have that guideline down, you can narrow down your options based on the specs above. 

It's also important to look at the warranty that comes with your new graphics card. A good warranty can save you quite a bit of cash, so if it comes down between two similarly priced items, it's always a wise move to go for the pricier one with longer coverage.


6 Best Graphics Cards For CAD Reviewed

1. NVIDIA VCQP2000-PB Quadro P2000

NVIDIA VCQP2000-PB Quadro P2000
  • Chipset: NVIDIA Quadro P2000
  • Video Memory: 5GB GDDR5
  • Memory interface: 160 Bit
  • Max. Resolution: 5120 x 2880, support 4x...

Best Graphics Card for CAD

Base Clock/Boost Clock

667 MHz

Memory

5GB

Memory Bandwidth

Up to 140 GB/s

GPU Cores

1024

Chipset

NVIDIA Quadro 2000

Connectors

4 DisplayPorts

To start things off, we have the VCQP2000-PB Quadro P2000 Nvidia graphics card for CAD. Remember when we mentioned looking for a nice balance of features and performance? Well, you have that right here, with this card offering the “sweet spot” for 3D CAD.

It comes “equipped with advanced visualization and simulation capabilities to meet the needs of the most demanding professional workflows,” says Insight.

With 75W, you don’t have to worry about any more power required than what the PCIe bus can provide. Based on the Pascal GPU architecture, it’s incredibly efficient as well. With 1024 CUDA cores, you can expect lightning-fast rendering and very detailed designs, for even the most complex projects.

If you compare it to other good graphics cards for CAD, you may notice that it comes with slightly less memory: 5GB. However, that didn't have a huge effect on performance, and we found it quite powerful.

While it's also not as small as some other cards in the Quadro line, it still has a low-profile form factor that makes excellent use of its footprint and does well with more compact workstations. The four DisplayPorts make it possible to connect up to four 4K monitors at 60Hz, making it very versatile.

Adding to that, you can connect two Pascal-based Quadro Gp100's with the brand's NVLink technology to further scale performance with a solid 32GB of HBM2 bandwidth memory.

Good
  • Relatively compact footprint
  • 4x DisplayPorts
  • 32% more peak memory bandwidth than previous Quadro model
  • Pascal architecture
Bad
  • Doesn’t come with the most memory out there

2. AMD Radeon Pro WX 7100

AMD Radeon Pro WX 7100 100-505826 8GB 256-bit...
  • ​Performance redefined
  • Features for a truly immersive experience
  • Bus Type: PCI Express 3.0 x16

Best Graphics Card for CAD

Base Clock/Boost Clock

1188 MHz/ 1243 MHz

Memory

8GB

Memory Bandwidth

Up to 224 GB/s

GPU Cores

2304

Chipset

AMD Radeon 7100

Connectors

4 DisplayPorts

Nvidia may be the leader in GPU sales currently, but we highly recommend you take a look at the AMD Radeon Pro WX 7100. When tested with SolidWorks, it hit the ball out of the park in visualization and simulation.

The single-slot form factor it comes with means it has a small footprint perfect for compact workstations and if you need to install another PCI add-in card in the future.

If you're also trying to get a VR-capable CAD workstation on a budget, the 7100 could be a nice solution. However, it works with just about any CAD tools you may need or want for years to come. Thanks to supreme build quality and powerful heat sinks, it’s one of the most long-lasting cards. Backed with a generous 10-year warranty, AMD makes sure of that.

We found very similar GPU performance to the Nvidia cards, even when RealView and Ambient Occlusion effects were turned on, helped out by the speedy 1188 MHz base clock speed, and 8GB of memory.  However, when graphic detail was significantly increased, we did notice a bit of slowing down.

Good
  • Compact design
  • 4x DisplayPorts
  • 130W thermal design power
  • Eyefinity Multi-display Technology
  • Very fast and durable
Bad
  • More expensive

3. PNY NVIDIA Quadro K1200

PNY NVIDIA Quadro K1200 - ( VCQK1200DP-PB)
  • Compatibility with system enclosures ranging...
  • Up to 2x the graphics performance of...
  • Large 4GB GDDR5 GPU memory capacity and...
  • Supports AutoCAD and SOLIDWORKS advanced...

Best Graphics Card for CAD Rendering

Base Clock/Boost Clock

954 MHz/1033 MHz

Memory

4GB

Memory Bandwidth

Up to 80 GB/s

GPU Cores

512

Chipset

NVIDIA Quadro

Connectors

4 DisplayPorts

Next up is the PNY NVIDIA Quadro K1200, which is great for 2D applications, rendering, and if you’re into gaming, it’s good for that too. Also made for working with smaller workstations, it’s still quite powerful and is compatible with system enclosures from compact SFF desktops to ATX towers.

With up to twice the graphics capabilities as competitor options, the Nvidia graphics card for CAD supports AutoCAD and SolidWorks rendering. It's actually known to be the most powerful GPU currently available in a low-profile form factor. 

The 4GB GPU memory capacity and 128-bit memory interface is more than sufficient for design, even though it's considered a budget product. With 4 DisplayPorts, you also get support for up to 4 monitors – even 4K displays.

The only real downside is that if you're working predominantly in 3D, you may see some slight performance issues. Other than that, it's an excellent balance of quality and price.

Good
  • Very powerful for its size
  • 4x DisplayPorts
  • Affordable
  • 2x graphics performance of competitors
  • Supports AutoCAD and SolidWorks
Bad
  • Not ideal for those working predominantly with 3D

4. ASUS GeForce GTX 1080

ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8GB ROG Strix Graphics...
  • Brand ASUS, Series ROG, Model STRIX GTX1080...
  • Interface PCI Express 3.0, Chipset...
  • Retail goods are with default Gaming Mode, OC...
  • OpenGL OpenGL 4.5, HDMI 2 x Native HDMI 2.0,...

Best Graphics Card for CAD and Gaming

Base Clock/Boost Clock

1784 MHZ/1936 MHz

Memory

8GB

Memory Bandwidth

Up to 320 GB/s

GPU Cores

2560

Chipset

NVIDIA

Connectors

2x DisplayPorts, 2x HDMI

The GeForce GTX 1080 is undoubtedly one of the best GPUs on the market today, “produced using Auto-Extreme Technology, an industry-exclusive, 100% automated production process that incorporates premium materials to set a new standard of quality,” says Asus, themselves.

The brand has repeatedly demonstrated that they know how to create a high-quality video card, and this one is exemplary of all the best they have to offer.

At first glance, you'll notice its top-notch looks, with a gray-and-black color scheme and angular outcroppings, which make it look like something from the future. Contrasting perfectly are the RGB LEDs that come built into the cooler shroud.

The full-spectrum lights are sure to turn some heads, and you can even coordinate them with other LEDs in your workstation if you'd like.

The DirectCU cooler complete with 5 copper heat pipes is extremely useful in moving heat away from the chip, so even with large projects, you can count on it staying cool and working at optimum temperatures.

With the 8GB memory and 2560 CUDA cores, you can expect incredible graphics and detail, even in 3D applications. If you’re a gamer, then this is the best around, with intuitive performance tweaking and instant gameplay streaming. With dual HDMI 2.0 ports, you can easily connect a headset and monitor for 4K and VR use.

Good
  • Very power efficient
  • Customizable RGB LEDs
  • Fans turn off in idle
  • Sturdy/durable
  • Overclocks well
Bad
  • Expensive
  • Memory isn’t overclocked

5. NVIDIA Titan RTX

NVIDIA Titan RTX Graphics Card
  • OS Certification : Windows 7 (64 bit),...
  • 4608 NVIDIA CUDA cores running at 1770...
  • New 72 RT cores for acceleration of ray...
  • 576 Tensor Cores for AI acceleration;...

Top of The Range

Base Clock/Boost Clock

1350 MHZ/1770 MHz

Memory

24GB

Memory Bandwidth

Up to 672 GB/s

GPU Cores

4608

Chipset

NVIDIA

Connectors

3x DisplayPorts, 1x HDMI, 1x USB Type-C

Nearing the end of our list, we have an incredibly powerful Nvidia graphics card for CAD.

The NVIDIA Titan RTX helps you “get through projects without screen lag or stutter” and comes complete with “24GB of GDDR6 memory to deliver blazing speeds,” says Best Buy.

The card seems to be gold in both performance and appearance, with a gilded color scheme that is sure to attract all the right attention. Visual aesthetics are enhanced by the sleek and smooth build, despite having a dual-slot form factor.

While it may sound like an exaggeration, this model is a jack-of-all-trades, making it an excellent option for those who will be rendering and designing 3D scenes and much more.

Doubling the memory and offering higher peak memory bandwidth than previous generations, the Titan RTX is the one to go to if you don't mind spending more cash. On top of that, you get cutting-edge Tensor Core and RT Core technology ideal for AI and ray tracing.

To keep everything operating in ideal conditions, you have dual 13-blade fans, which allow for high airflow while remaining incredibly quiet, along with a large vapor chamber. All in all, if you want the best graphics card for 3D CAD, this is it.

Good
  • Huge amount of memory
  • Incredible frame buffer
  • Beautiful appearance/aesthetics
  • Fast and powerful performance
Bad
  • Expensive

6. PNY VCQK620-PB

PNY Video Card Graphics Cards VCQK620-PB
  • DisplayPort 1.2 connector
  • DisplayPort with Audio
  • DVI-I dual-link connector
  • VGA support

Best Budget Option for CAD

Base Clock/Boost Clock

1350 MHZ/1770 MHz

Memory

4GB

Memory Bandwidth

Up to 29 GB/s

GPU Cores

384

Chipset

NVIDIA

Connectors

1x DisplayPorts, 1x Dvi-I DL

Last but not least, we have the PNY Quadro K620 from NVIDIA. If you're on the hunt for CAD on a budget for the best graphics card, then this model absolutely cannot be beaten. It may not be the most robust out there in terms of performance, but it will still get the job done and even let you create large 3D models.

With a low-profile, single-slot form factor, it is great for smaller/compact workstations. However, you’ll still be able to take advantage of 384 CUDA cores and 4GB of memory. The power-efficient card comes with DisplayPort 1.2 support as well to work with super-high resolutions of up to 60H and 30-bit color.

While it may be easy on the budget, it’s definitely not cheap. The NVIDIA Quadro construction is supreme in durability and shows time and time again why it’s one of the best professional CAD options out there today.

Good
  • Very affordable
  • Low profile form factor great for compact workstations
  • Power-efficient
  • Display Port 1.2 support for very high resolutions
Bad
  • Not the most powerful/fastest

CAD Software Applications That Require Good GPU

CAD software is a huge help when designing something, particularly when used in industrial design, mechanical design, architecture, and much more. Each CAD model contains vital information like the dimensions, tolerance, manufacturing process, and so on. There are even some programs that let you process advanced rendering and animation!

The most popular CAD software programs are:

  • SolidWorks:
    Used widely by professional 3D designers, it comes with a large array of tools for design validation or reverse engineering and is perfect for industrial design. Expect incredible detail, particularly with curvatures. Check out our article on Best Laptops for Solidworks for more information.
  • ArchiCAD:
    Made for architects in the architecture/engineering/construction fields, it is wonderful for designing buildings.
  • AutoCAD:
    Produced by Autodesk, it was the first CAD software to be let out onto the market! It's been able to retain its popularity, especially in 2D drafting, though we don't recommend it for 3D applications. 
  • Revit:
    Revit is another piece of software perfect for industrial design/construction. It’s relatively affordable and overall takes less time to create 3D models.
  • TinkerCAD:
    This 3D design app is perfect if you’re just starting out or moving over from AutoCAD. Why? Because it’s so intuitive and relatively user-friendly, allowing you to create models from basic shapes.

There are also certain software developers who support certain GPUs. For example, ANSYS works close together with NVIDIA for incredibly fast performance, and Autodesk recommends NVIDIA products as well. Graphisoft, on the other hand, likes working with NVIDIA and AMD.


Gaming Cards Vs. Professional Graphics Cards

There is quite often some confusion as to which of the two a CAD designer should use. While it's not always a rule, gaming cards are typically not the best-suited for CAD. They instead focus on quick loading and smooth frame rates for beautiful graphics as you're playing.

However, this comes at the expense of detail and speed, which is vital in CAD. On the other hand, workstation-class cards offer quicker performance, computing power, and GPU acceleration technology.

If you want the best of both worlds, check out the ASUS GeForce GTX 1080.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

What does GPU benchmark mean?

This is a test that compares the speed, efficiency, and overall performance of the chipset. There are different benchmarking tools, though 3DMark is the most popular.

What do the model numbers mean on GPUs?

Generally speaking, higher numbers offer better performance. However, each differs slightly, and some may have the same model number but be from different manufacturers. These will very rarely have a big difference between them, and if they do, they're usually things like new fans or lights that won't affect performance much.

Will my graphics card for CAD be future proof?

It's hard to give a definitive answer here, as it's a little of both. We can't predict the future, so we can't say "yes" or "no" with 100% certainty. However, if you want to make the most out of its use, we recommend getting a card with the highest specs you can realistically afford.

What are the differences between integrated vs. dedicated graphics?

Integrated graphics do not come with their own CPU, while dedicated graphics cards do.

Are gaming PCs good for CAD programs?

Actually, yes! Most gaming computers will easily be able to install and run software like SolidWorks and AutoCAD due to their robust power and performance.

Where is the best place to buy these graphic cards for CAD?

Amazon is the best choice for most, as they offer quick shipping, great prices, and offer real customer reviews, so you know what you're getting.


Conclusion

Now that you have learned just about everything you could ever want to about the best graphics cards for CAD, which one will you be incorporating into your workstation? If you're still undecided, allow us to recommend the NVIDIA VCQP2000-PB Quadro P2000.

It offers the best price-performance balance on the market currently, and is incredibly powerful and reliable. However, what's most important is that you choose the model which works best for your individual needs and purposes. We hope that this guide has helped you do exactly that.