Benchmarks of Quadro vs Softquadro and 2003 2004 (very long post)

Preface: I own an engineering business and we build and maintain all our own systems. Performance is an issue that's close to me and the following
may be of some use to those contemplating different video hardware. All of the tests were run using the typical software that runs in the background at our office, like antivirus, motherboard monitor, trillian, etc. to fully emulate our user environment. This means the benchmarks are as "real" as they can be. Following the benchmark results are some observations from me, someone who has used Solidworks faithfully day in and day out since the beginning.
All benchmarks run from same machine: AMD Athlon XP 2400+, 1Gb ram, 40Gb HD, WinXP Pro. All benchmarks used dataset "Standard General Test"
Procedure for swapping video hardware: Nvidia drivers uninstalled, cards swapped, specific drivers installed, multiple reboots, opengl settings and Solidworks functionality verified, then benchmarks run.
Resolution/color: 1280x1024x32bit OpenGL vertical sync: always off Use unified back/depth buffer: checked - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - SW2003 SP3.0 Geforce2-Ti 64mb (softquadro'd to "Quadro2Pro") Nvidia driver: 23.11 Softquadro Test Averages for 5 test(s). Test Total = 216 Graphics = 34 CPU = 115 I/O = 66
SW2003 SP3.0 Geforce4-Ti4200 128mb (softquadro'd to "Quadro4-750XGL") Nvidia driver: 41.03 Softquadro 4 Test Averages for 5 test(s). Test Total = 209 Graphics = 30 CPU = 114 I/O = 64
SW2003 SP3.0 Quadro4-980XGL 128mb (true PNY Quadro4 board) Nvidia driver: latest 45.23 (43.51 was marginally slower) Test Averages for 5 test(s). Test Total = 208 Graphics = 30 CPU = 114 I/O = 64
SW2004 SP0.0 Geforce2-Ti 64mb (softquadro'd to "Quadro2Pro") Nvidia driver: 23.11 Softquadro Test Averages for 5 test(s). Test Total = 230 Graphics = 38 CPU = 115 I/O = 77
SW2004 SP0.0 Geforce4-Ti4200 128mb (softquadro'd to "Quadro4-750XGL") Nvidia driver: 41.03 Softquadro 4 Test Averages for 5 test(s). Test Total = 224 Graphics = 35 CPU = 114 I/O = 75
SW2004 SP0.0 Quadro4-980XGL 128mb (true PNY Quadro4 board) Nvidia driver: latest 45.23 (43.51 was marginally slower) Test Averages for 5 test(s). Test Total = 212 Graphics = 34 CPU = 114 I/O = 64 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I did much research into Nvidia Geforce boards using softquadro from "Unwinder" - see www.nvworld.ru and www.guru3d.com. I also wanted to compare my softquadro boards against a true top-of-the-line Quadro board like the 980XGL. This information is readily available in numerous places but this is my lone attempt to shove it into one place, using my own test results on my own hardware.
I used the Solidworks benchmark downloaded from spec's website http://www.spec.org/gpc/apc.static/sw2003.html and ran it using Solidworks 2003 SP3.0. Then I uninstalled 2003 and installed 2004 SP0.0, mass converted all the benchmark files and ran the benchmarks again. This seems a reasonable way to compare 2003 and 2004 because this is exactly how you would approach the upgrade and conversion in a working environment. Somewhat surprising results but not really; 2004 is marginally slower than 2003 in both graphics and IO. By my calculations using a Softquadro2Pro, it's about 12% slower in graphics and about 7% slower overall - factorally less with faster hardware. Not as large a difference as there was between 2001+ and 2003 but still noticeable.
Before any Solidworks zealots chime in let me say that I used to be and could again become a Solidworks zealot but allow me to vent for a second... new features and glossy brochure "improvements" do nothing for my business's billable time. If I needed Cosmos I would buy it and if I did need it, the included version would do nothing for me. It has already done nothing for me even though I would have liked it to. If normal day-to-day functions take more time then there is a problem, as there was/is with 2003 and now 2004. It took me a few weeks to realize it with 2003 but when projects began to take more time, normal rebuilds became 3 min ordeals, Solidworks shutting down by itself, etc. it was easy to see that something evil was happening. There are enough postings to prove my opinion so let's not rehash. I can prove it to any app-engineer that visits our office and I can equally prove it to them with a visit to their office. I'd like to know how I can justify to a client that their project is going to have to have additional days quoted due to software "improvements". I can't; therefore, Solidworks has cheated me out of billable time by making their software take longer than it used to and I can't bill for the difference. The last time this happened was about 1998 or so with a company called Autodesk. Vent off.
My findings can be compared in terms of what this or that board can do by visiting a nice benchmark chart at (cad.de?) http://solidworks.cad.de/int_swxbench11.htm .
My two year old GF2-Ti board (with Softquadro) was an admittedly fast board for its day but I never expected it to perform at nearly the same level as the new Quadro4 boards. This really blew me away but I suspect what's really happening here is that not only is Solidworks becoming incrementally slower with each release (proven) but nearly completely fails to take advantage of newer hardware capability. This makes perfect sense when you consider how much slower the video got between 2001+ and 2003 and now again with 2004. Also, consider the last really fast version of Solidworks was 2001+ and you realize that with respect to OpenGL performance Solidworks has frozen themselves in time at about year 2001. You could argue that Realview negates this logic but Realview is not a measure of speed within the modeler. It is merely a specific set of calls to new hardware. Hardly an optimization, which we desparately need.
The GF4-Ti4200 board, when using "Softquadro 4" drivers appears to offer the same speed **for Solidworks** as the true Quadro4-980XGL. The only caveat is that to enable Realview you must also use Rivatuner's NVstrap utility to convince your system at boot-time that the board is a "Quadro4". Without NVstrap you achieve the same speeds but no Realview. The tradeoff to using NVStrap is that your system is unable to gracefully return from a power management event like Standby-Resume or Hibernate-Restore. If you never use these power management functions then no problem, you'll achieve full speed and Realview capability of the Quadro4-980XGL for about a fourth the price. If those power management functions are important to you then you have two other options; live without Realview and just use "Softquadro 4" drivers or pay for the real Quadro4 board. Since I have yet to see any "real" benefit to Realview, other than it's "cool" factor, the choice is acceptable to me, either way.
- Eddy Hicks www.solidlogicdesign.com snipped-for-privacy@solidlogicdesign.com
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Eddy,
Thanks for this!
In my test I use my own prt's/asm's that I'm very familar with and I concur, the video is slower. But, I've measured ~3% increase in rebuild speed with SW2004 sp0.
Now, as you know that's not much of a help from the slowness SW2003 gave all of us which was about 10-20% slower over SW2001! So, yes with the added video slowness, SW2004 overall is actually slower than SW2003.
You are right, for a lot of people (independent consultants) it becomes a billable question especially if they are not using any of the new features in SW2003 or SW2004.
(note the new features do not entirely offset the performance loss from older workarounds, for instance, if you are using some of the newer split part or insert part management on small assemblies, you may benefit but if you are using them on larger assemblies or complex geometry, you loose time!)
I think SW is going down hill fast, it's becoming bloatware.
Now, what is left,... marketing SW will be faster on 64 bit systems?? I doubt this very much but I'm sure they will spin it to make some sales.
They have fallen back on hardware vendors too often. They are going to have to focus on tighter integration and file management, with an emphasis on data speed, video speed, saving speed, speed, speed, speed....
Otherwise, I think they will continue to push data simplification/representation or enhancing lightweights to reduce overhead (i.e., priority is most of the customers are going to be making larger assemblies and nearly all the competition continue to market they have better large assy performance = sales).
..
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<clipped benchmark blah, blah, blah>
<clipped video cards yada, yada, yada>

seems
Somewhat
about
What's all the fuss about benchmark times? Yes, you've "proven" that SolidWorks 2004 is slower using a sterile, controlled, single point of reference. But benchmarks don't tell the whole story. New features and commands are there to increase productivity, and they do. Even the "glossy brochure improvments" can be of value. I'll use the much-bashed "custom skins" as an example. Try creating a skin using the logo of your favorite football team (Hook'em Horns), or put a picture of your wife/kids on there for you to look at while you work. Doesn't do anything to increase the speed at which SolidWorks rebuilds, but it can make the work experience that much better (happy worker = more productive worker). We used to make drawings three views at a time automatically - now with "pre-defined views" we can make them as-many-views-as-we-want-at-a-time. Depending on your requirements, that can certainly wash out the 7% (proven) slowdown.
Multi-bodies, eDrawings, handles, folders, rollback improvements, 3D content central, 3D Instant website, contour selection, mirror parts in assemblies, I could go on and on. These are all features and improvements added to SolidWorks since the 2001+ - the fastest SolidWorks ever (proven?). While some of these features still could use improvements, they are all capable of increasing your productivity as a designer, drafter, or engineer.
Until I landed a my present job, I was using a Dell 866Mhz desktop with 1GB RAM. Now I have the pleasure of running on a 2.6G machine and yep, SolidWorks runs way faster. Should I complain about the software now? How much lost productivity did I have at the last job? Who's fault would it be?
I know that some people have many issues with SolidWorks. I also know that one man's crap is another man's gold. You point to "enough posts to prove your point", but in the world outside of this newsgroup I know for a fact that there are many of people that would disagree with some of the assessments here. Even some of the recent "2004 sucks" posts have had responses that were quite the opposite.
I responded to this post knowing full well that I will get hammered. Go ahead - but for me, SolidWorks is the finest tool I've used in 23 years of design. It's fun to use, productive beyond anything else I've used, and I welcome each and every new release with excitement.
Richard
<more clipped chatter>
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I am merely posting benchmarks primarily for the purpose of comparing Nvidia graphics cards and Softquadro performance. The 2003 vs 2004 comparison came as an afterthought. I thought maybe 2004 was going to utilize the Quadro4-980XGL better than 2003 did, in fact I was counting on it, but I was wrong. As for user experience benefits, etc... would you rather get your work done faster and get home to your kids sooner or take longer and look at them withing the Solidworks window. Frankly, that's rhetoric we can all live without. You draw your own conclusions but when you add 2.8hrs to your next 40hr job think about who's paying for it.
- Eddy

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be?
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message

Nvidia
came
was
at
your
You missed my point. I am saying that benchmarks aside, and all things considered, SolidWorks and getting my work done with SolidWorks is faster than it was before. That's not rhetoric or marketing speak, it's what I believe - and I think the facts bear me out.
The reference to the "skins" was to make another point. Just because SolidWorks chooses to spend some time on something that is purely cosmetic doesn't make it bad. If something makes my work experience better through a little personal customization I'm all for it. Merely having this feature available costs me nothing.
And before anyone shouts out - but if they weren't working on "skins" they could be working on <fill in the blank>, let me say that I could retort that if they weren't working on features and functionality that I don't use - they could focus more on <fill in the blank>. It's give and take, and I trust SolidWorks to provide the tool that gets my work done.
And they have.
Richard
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Hi Eddy, That's good info for anybody wondering if it's worth spending extra for a higher number XGL card.
What I've been struggling with lately is if it's worth going to a Quadro simply for piece of mind. Whenever SolidWorks crashes on me, I always sit and wonder if it's because of SoftQuadro. I can say with certainty that it has been the cause of crashes in the past because it got so bad, I had to use older drivers just to be able to use SolidWorks at all.
Strangly enough, SW 2004 (SP0) hasn't crashed once on me and I haven't changed my video at all!
Have you experience a higher number of crashes with SoftQuadro?
Thanks! Mike Wilson
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Hmm... I've CTD'd a handful of times.
What it does easily 10X plus so far are graphical hangs, as if it goes out of sync, it never recovers and I terminate SW2004 in the taskmanager.
With the numerous feature failures from files I created in SW2003 sp3.1, like most sp0 releases, SW2004 sp0 is not a very productive release.
..

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Mike, I've had the same thought because you never know. That's one of the reasons I decided to test a real Quadro4 board, to keep me and the results honest. I figured if it fixed the crashes the price tag would be worth the piece of mind. I was hoping and half expected that 2004 was going to scream with the Quadro4-980 and not crash. Problem is... it's not the hardware or softquadro. Using the real Quadro4 both SW2003 and 2004 have managed to bomb when used outside of the benchmarks, and the Quadro did anything but scream with 2004. I'm serious man, someone better get it together at SW or it's gonna be Autodesk all over again. I've been around this stuff since the beginning, starting with Autocad in 1986. People are deathly loyal. That's good to a point. I used to be loyal to Autocad until 3d became a requirement. Then I was an SDRC Ideas fan until my fellow engineers at the time couldn't pick it up easily. I remember the Autocad exodus in 1999 when Solidworks showed everyone a better way, and a better company. There's also an analogy to Pro/E and their 3d dominance back in 1999, but this isn't about price. This is about corporate arrogance. SW shouldn't be resting on their laurels. Users simply should not accept new features in the face of deficiencies. Loyalty only extends as far as one of two points; either until someone feels screwed, or until something else looks better. Either one and the dollars start flowing in a new direction. The season is ripe for a new contender. Not sure who or what but it could happen. Too bad though. If SW were to fix the real software issues, make the bloat optional at install, and start offering real performance gains instead of marketing lightweight assys I would gladly start waving their flag high again. Until then, buyer beware?
- Eddy

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Hello Eddie-
You bring up some valid points.
I especially agree with you when you discuss the point about SolidWorks becoming slower and slower with every release. The file sizes also continue to increase in size. To me this equals less productivity, which you point out. To me, I want SolidWorks to be faster and faster with every release and yes, take advantage of hardware improvements.
ComosExpress is the answer to the question no one asked. Of the 10 companies I work with, not one of them uses CosmosExpress and have no interest in using it in the future. Then, when they inquire about the real Cosmos(Cosmos Flo, etc) they are totally turned off when the outrageous price of over $10,000.00 plus $3,000.00 per year in maintenance is revealed.
Thanks for posting your test results.
Best Regards, Devon T. Sowell www.3-ddesignsolutions.com
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Hello Eddie-
You bring up some valid points.
I especially agree with you when you discuss the point about SolidWorks becoming slower and slower with every release. The file sizes also continue to increase in size. To me this equals less productivity, which you point out. To me, I want SolidWorks to be faster and faster with every release and yes, take advantage of hardware improvements.
ComosExpress is the answer to the question no one asked. Of the 10 companies I work with, not one of them uses CosmosExpress and have no interest in using it in the future. Then, when they inquire about the real Cosmos(Cosmos Flo, etc) they are totally turned off when the outrageous price of over $10,000.00 plus $3,000.00 per year in maintenance is revealed.
Thanks for posting your test results.
Best Regards, Devon T. Sowell www.3-ddesignsolutions.com
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