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Affordable high-performance graphics hardware for AutoCAD 3D

01 June 2008

Just as graphics hardware has evolved, so has AutoCAD. With its latest 2007 and 2008 versions, Autodesk has introduced a host of CAD-tailored 3D features, placing substantially higher demands on a system’s graphics capabilities. A glance at today’s professional-class graphics cards reveals hardware resources specifically dedicated to the types of graphics rendering and display that today’s AutoCAD environments demand.

Games don’t paint many lines. So when building a graphics card optimised for games, there’s little reason to be concerned with how fast or how clearly lines get drawn. Consequently, while almost any card can render a generic line, it is not going to produce the smooth, high-quality lines required by AutoCAD. And that leads to one of two choices: sacrifice line quality for the sake of performance or fall back to software rendering and live with the inevitable drop in frame rate. By contrast, professional-class cards like NVIDIA Quadro FX boards, integrate a fast hardware engine specifically designed to draw AutoCAD-style smooth lines without the performance penalty.

High-performance PC gaming has been a boon to professional graphics hardware, and while consumer-class cards don’t wholly serve the specific demands of the AutoCAD professional, the sheer growth in 3D volume across the markets have driven prices down for all types of products, including professional cards.
With prices extending down to around $150 (NVIDIA’s Quadro FX 370, for example), the cost of today’s professional cards is comparable with the latest consumer offerings, yet they deliver AutoCAD performance well beyond what the gamer’s card can offer.

NVIDIA and Autodesk together spend around 2,000 man-hours annually on the testing and certification of Quadro/AutoCAD applications. This ensures that driver-related software bugs are kept to an absolute minimum. Autodesk both certifies and recommends Quadro for use with AutoCAD; indeed, some of the software’s most advanced features cannot be properly realised without a professional-class graphics processing platform like Quadro.

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