Upgrading (or Not) from MSI nVidia 5600 to ATI X800XT

I bought it. I installed it. I took it out and put the old one in -
because the old one was faster.
In 2002, the MSI card won an award from Tom's Hardware. I waited for
the price to come down, and bought it.
It works good, but slows down with large geometries (e.g. Solidworks
part bigger than 15 MB).
I bought the ATI card, the "All-in-Wonder" thing with the TV tuner on
the card.
Strangely, the ATI card scores much higher than the older MSI card on a
game benchmark (Aquamark 3, 60,000 for the ATI, 20,000 for the MSI).
But - so what ? In practice, the ATI card is dramatically slower.
I went to the Solidworks website to see if there was a
Solidworks-specific driver or something.
The installation procedure on the new ATI card was glitch-free, that
is, "plain vanilla".
In the short term, it's back to the nVidia 5600 card.
The rest of the system - Pentium 4 3 GHz, Seagate Serial ATA 120 GB
drive, 4 x 512 Mushkin low-latency (2-2-2-5) memory.
Questions -
* Is there a trick to installing the ATI card, where you deviate from
the default procedure, to make it work for Solidworks ?
What other recent-vintage video cards are Solidworks users using ?
Thanks !
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Aquamark is a synthetic benchmark that has almost no relevance to CAD. Almost all CAD systems use the OpenGL API, which Aquamark doesn't (fairly sure, could be wrong). So you need to look at OpenGL benchmarks. ATI is traditionally weak in OpenGL applications, even though the hardware should theoretically be capable of more.
To further complicate matters, OpenGL game benchmarks (Quake 3, for example) may not correlate with performance in CAD systems, because games use a different part of the OpenGL API. So, to have a meaningful benchmark for a SW user, you need to test the card on a CAD application that is similar to what you use. AutoCAD is no good to a SW user as a benchmark tool, because 2d vector graphics is very different from solid models. (AutoCAD can do solids, but the benchmarks are pretty obviously not factoring that into the scores.) Now then, there is a SPECapc benchmark specifically for SW, but reviewers don't use it often. The Pro/E benchmark is much more common, and probably your best bet where real SW data is not available.
Now then, the cards you have are not CAD workstation cards, so you probably won't find them benchmarked for any CAD system. The nVidia Quadro cards are recommended over ATI for good reason: they're faster and more stable in CAD (SW anyway). Frequently, an ATI CAD card will benchmark better than an nVidia, but not necessarily in any benchmark a SW user would care about.
Another issue: the highest-end cards are not significanlty faster to most SW users than mid-range cards. This is because the higher-end cards are mostly better at handling texture data, which is not a big deal to SW (unless you're really into RealView on complex parts or assemblies).
To sum up: low- to mid-range nVidia is what you need, The FX 500 or 1100 for AGP, or the 530 (I think) or 1400 for PCIe. I'd think you could probably find some good deals on the 1100, if you can use it.
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Dale Dunn

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