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CADspeed -- Optimizing Hardware for CAD Software

Finding the Best Video Card for Vectorworks 2011

Posted by cadhardware

Apr 5, 2011 4:31:21 PM

Before you get started with Vectorworks CAD software, you need to make sure you have the right hardware. Basic system recommendations can be found on the Nemetschek Vectorworks website, but you can optimize your desktop or workstation and get the most out of your experience. For example, video card performance plays a significant role in the overall speed and performance of Vectorworks. I recommend getting the best video card you can afford—in general, the more powerful your video card is, the better your Vectorworks experience will be. Here are some specific factors to consider:


The requirement for using Video RAM depends largely on the size of the display being used and the complexity of the Vectorworks document you create. Medium sized displays with a native resolution of 1600x1200 or less should be drivable by a graphics card with at least 128MB of VRAM. Larger displays should use a card with at least 256MB of VRAM, with 512MB or more recommended.


The most common debilitating problems that users have with Vectorworks are redraw issues and redraw sluggishness due to out-of-date video drivers. Drivers should be kept up-to-date to get the maximum performance out of the graphics hardware. On Windows, it’s important to get the latest drivers directly from the manufacturer’s website rather than through the Microsoft driver update tools. Here are links to the driver updates from two primary manufacturers:

On the Mac you cannot update the video driver directly, as hardware drivers are integrated with operating system updates.

Extended Functionality

The Vectorworks OpenGL rendering mode utilizes several rendering techniques that require hardware-specific functionality. To determine if your hardware supports the rendering effects, go to the OpenGL Rendering Options Dialog and verify that the following checkboxes are not grayed out: “Use Anti-Aliasing,” “Draw Edges,” and “Use Shadows.” If your video card does not support these rendering effects, I recommend that you install a more modern video card in order to take advantage of all of the features available with Vectorworks OpenGL rendering.

Integrated Graphics Accelerators

Integrated Graphics Accelerators are available on some laptop and motherboard combinations. These types of media accelerators should be avoided, as they are acceptable for basic window drawing but often provide poor results when used with a graphics intensive applications like Vectorworks.

Desktop and Workstation Video Cards

Most video card manufacturers provide one line of video cards for desktop computers and another for higher-end workstation computers. In general, desktop cards are geared towards providing good results for low vertex count models and are often acceptable for gaming applications where speed is required over detail. Workstation video cards, on the other hand, are generally designed to provide high quality and speed with detailed graphical models and are usually the best option when used with applications like Vectorworks.

By going beyond the basics when choosing hardware, you’ll be on your way to maximizing the capabilities of your design tools.

Author: Mark Farnan, Director of Software Development, Nemetschek Vectorworks, Inc.

Topics: Workstations, Hardware, Video Cards, Vectorworks, CAD

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