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Graphics CAD graphics cards for 3DS Max?

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by boiled_elephant, 23 Jul 2015.

  1. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Merom Celeron 4 lyfe

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    [​IMG]

    I know this is a bit niche, but I'm struggling to Google it. A customer is building a workstation for modelling and rendering in 3DS Max 2015 and I'm trying to work out what graphics card would best suit it.

    The problem is that information on CAD applications and the graphics cards they require is really muddled and contradictory:

    - Some use OpenGL, some use DirectX.
    - Some use CPU and some are entirely GPGPU.
    - Some seem to work fine for certain people with certain gaming cards, others will only work properly with proper workstation cards.

    In addition, there are loads of different benchmarks and tests for CAD and different cards perform better or worse depending on the test (SpecViewPerf 12, for instance, has like a million different tests and cards all rank differently from test to test) - and I can't find any clear information on which tests are similar to 3DS Max's demands.

    This Amazon review of the Kepler-based K2000 describes a massive weakness in the Kepler-based cards when it comes to 'compute' work, compared to the older Fermi cards. I don't know what 'compute' work is (the same thing as GPGPU?),I can't find any information on whether Maxwell architecture remedies this, and I don't know if this is relevant to 3DS Max.

    (The CAD vs. gaming card question is a minefield unto itself. Various other forum threads, benchmark roundups and articles suggest, alternately, that:

    1) Gaming cards can be used in some CAD applications and are much more cost-effective;

    2) High-end Maxwell gaming cards like the Titan can be used in some CAD applications, but are not cost-effective or reliable.

    I can't find any definitive information on this and the whole internet contradicts itself on the subject.
    )

    The whole CAD subject is so muddled that each CAD program has its own dedicated articles and blogs describing how to build a machine for it and how to get the best out of it; some guy wrote a whole article on what hardware to use in Solidworks, for instance. But I can't find such an article for 3DS Max. I can't even find the nuts-and-bolts information like what API it uses. I don't know if it requires a workstation card (vs. a gaming card), a particular architecture, if it's OpenGL or DirectX, if it's CPU+GPU or GPGPU, etc.

    So, this is an open appeal to anyone who uses and/or understands 3DS Max specifically. Anything you can explain about gaming cards vs. workstation cards, OpenGL/DirectX, V-Ray, Fermi/Kepler/Maxwell, etc. in relation to 3DS Max will be an absolute life-saver. Which architectures/cards work well with it? Why? :worried:

    (I considered asking on the actual Autodesk forums, but from what I've seen, most of the posters don't seem to know much about computers - they're designers and architects first, not techies, and frequently embarrass themselves when they start talking about how hardware works.)

    Oh, and if it's been covered in a previous thread somewhere, apologies. Afraid I didn't :search: before posting this...
     
  2. RedFlames

    RedFlames ...is not a Belgian football team

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    Whilst it's a while since i've done anything in that area, but typically Max [which was my 3d program of choice] favoured Quadros [or nVidia Generally] over FirePros/AMD.

    So without being able to dechipher you post fully [steaming headache] - Buy a Quadro. A geforce card will work [i use a GTX570] but if anything goes wrong autodesk will fob you off with 'it's an unsupported card...'

    EDIT - both of the default renderers [Scanline Renderer and Mental Ray] are [or were last i checked] both CPU renderers. Can't comment on v-ray [which is a popular 3rd party renderer]. The GPU is mainly for rendering the viewports in Max. Consumer cards can spaz out [rendering glitches] or bog down [fps issues] compared to the pro counterparts, but it tends to only be properly noticeable in very complex scenes...

    ...really need to reacquaint myself with max/maya et al.
     
    Last edited: 23 Jul 2015
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  3. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Merom Celeron 4 lyfe

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    Thank you for the information! It's baffling to me that the minimum specs for 3DS Max make no mention of CPU requirements at all. We weren't really sure what chip to aim for; all they say is "64-bit", which is, well, all of them now. We had a hunch that a Celeron 1.5GHz wouldn't cut it, and aimed for a Core i5, but we've no way of knowing if that'll be adequate or not.
     
  4. rainbowbridge

    rainbowbridge Minimodder

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    Offically your looking at a quadro fx 4000 or 4000k i have sold a few in the past, the series goes up in model number like 6000

    The cost of them is a lot but they are specially tuned for CAD, there is a big reason yhe quadro series exists.

    I am not an expert but the above is correct
     
  5. RedFlames

    RedFlames ...is not a Belgian football team

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    There's no minimum but more cores = better as the renderers are highly multithreaded. An i5 will work, hell a pentium will *work*, renders will simply take longer is all. I'd personally advocate an i7 as a must for 3d rendering though.

    EDIT - looking at the certified hardware list for Max 2015, any of the K-series Quadros will do, the only 'consumer' cards on the list are the 690 and TITAN. [again as i said consumer cards will work, but you'll get no joy out of Autodesk if anything goes wrong].
     
    Last edited: 23 Jul 2015
  6. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Merom Celeron 4 lyfe

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    Ah. In many applications the gap between i5 and i7 is some 15-20%, and hardly justifies the cost; would you say it's more than that in 3DS Max, and worth it?
     
  7. RedFlames

    RedFlames ...is not a Belgian football team

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    if you're rendering complex scenes, very. The renderer divvies up the image into sections and assigns a section to each CPU thread - more threads the more sections can be rendered at once and the quicker the image renders. The more cores/threads you can throw at it the better. YMMV but an 8-thread i7 should be comfortably more than 15-20% faster and a 4-thread i5.

    EDIT - Look for Cinebench benchmarks for the CPU you're looking at. Yes Cinebench is based around Cinema 4D but the renderer work similarly to the one in 3DS Max and will give you a good idea of relative performance wrt to rendering.
     
  8. Pete J

    Pete J Employed scum

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    I have never truly used 3DS Max in anger, but I have played with it in the past. As far as I can see, the GPU is simply to render the working model (i.e. allows you to do the setting up before rendering) and the CPU will then do the grunt work. A CAD card will make things smoother but a relatively decent consumer card will do just a well if the workload is fairly 'normal'.

    So, I would ask the customer if he intends to have many objects visible at any one time. If he is, I would recommend a better GPU. Either way, I'd recommend that you go for a CPU with as many threads as possible (virtual or otherwise). I don't know how cost effective you're trying to be, but it may be worth checking out the AMD 8 core offerings such as the FX 9370, though the i7 5820K may be better in the long run with it's superior TDP and performance (at ~double the price).

    Let me put it this way - I'd expect my laptop with an i7 4720HQ and a 970M to deal with 3DS Max quite happily.

    Just chipping in - if someone is more familiar with it, then please listen to them!
     
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  9. asura

    asura jack of all trades

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    Exactly that!

    The more objects in a given drawing the more memory it'll require, and the more a faster CPU & professional GPU will help.

    So, if like me, he doesn't do pretty renders, just uses CAD as a working tool not a presentation tool (my boss does beautiful ink and watercolor drawings) then get the fastest CPU you can get, but don't worry about the number of cores, as the applications tend to be bound to a single core - at this stage speed+process-per-cycle is king. Memory, both for the CPU and the GPU are also pretty important, which is why Quadro's and FireGL's tend to have considerably more memory than consumer cards usually between 25 & 100%. And despite being clock for clock slower to their GeForce/Radon brethren, they generally have a wider bandwidth which more than compensates.

    Or, if he's doing lots of renders of relatively simple drawings then the GPU becomes (more or less) redundant, it's all about the CPU and the more cores the better - big chunks of memory are still good.

    I know a few rendering applications were working on using GPU's to produce the output, but I can't remember which ones, and don't know if they've got it working yet...
     
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  10. asura

    asura jack of all trades

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    Oh, and if he's doing lots of high detailed renders, of highly complex models, then bigger, better everything.


    However, time (money) saved must equate to more than the investment on equipment or it's money down the drain.
     
  11. GuilleAcoustic

    GuilleAcoustic Ook ? Ook !

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  12. Digerati

    Digerati Minimodder

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    What is your budget? As seen here, quality workstation graphics cards can be real budget busters.
     
  13. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Merom Celeron 4 lyfe

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    Thank you all very much for the info and replies. I'm now rather irritated at Autodesk for providing so none of this information about CPU requirements and multithreaded workload on their website; working on the assumption that it was partly or mostly GPGPU, we've already got an i5 and a Quadro K4000. The latter was second-hand and pretty cheap, so I'm not too regretful about that, but I am worried that the i5 may end up slowing down his work a lot. I guess we'll see.

    Regarding his type of work: it's professional art work, rather than architectural or technical work, so the scenes are likely to be very sophisticated. I imagine he'll end up using V-Ray and other 3rd-party plugins and ticking as many filter and effect boxes as he can find, as visual quality will be the emphasis.

    Obviously, for previewing et al. he's going to benefit from the Quadro card a lot, but when it comes to rendering I'm worried that he'll struggle. He was on a budget, though, and the i7 is substantially more expensive.
     
  14. d_stilgar

    d_stilgar Old School Modder

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    I'm an architect (and computer geek) who used 3DS Max in school. Most of my friends would get Nvidia desktop gaming GPUs, and they were more than fine. I was using AMD, and it also worked much better than having no GPU, but was noticeably slower than my friend's Nvidia cards for 3DS Max.

    At the office I am now my computer is equipped with a Quadro K2000 (a $400 card).

    The thing is, if you render a lot, the Quadro series is great, since they're specifically designed to offload the CPU when rendering and hopefully render much faster. A gaming GPU isn't going to be as good at this.

    But both workstation and gaming cards will accelerate your basic workflow since both are just handling polygons and textures (like a video game). So if your client thinks they'll be rendering a lot it might be worth it to get the workstation card, but if they spend 95%+ of their time just modeling, then I don't think it's worth the cost. A $150-200 gaming card will do just fine, but still go with nVidia.
     
  15. Digerati

    Digerati Minimodder

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    Just to make sure we all are on the same page, if no GPU you have no display on your monitor.

    AMD's APU processors are simply integrated devices with billions of on-chip transistors used as the GPU. It is still a GPU, just on the same chip as the CPU. APU (accelerated processing unit) is simply a brand name used by AMD. Intel has similar CPU/GPU integrated processors. So while there is no "separate" or discrete GPU (as in graphics card or graphics integrated with the motherboard), discrete GPU functions are performed by discrete and dedicated portions within these processor (at least until a card is added).

    Agreed. While gaming graphics cards can do workstation tasks and workstation graphics cards can game, neither will do so optimally.
     
  16. d_stilgar

    d_stilgar Old School Modder

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    Sorry for the confusion. I was using an AMD gaming GPU. The onboard graphics of any modern mobo should be enough to run 3DS Max, but since I've never done it myself I'm not sure what the framerate will be.

    And the major difference between workstation cards and gaming cards is that workstation cards are optimized for calculating ray traces for rendering while gaming cards are optimized for handling large numbers of polygons.
     
  17. Digerati

    Digerati Minimodder

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    There are many factors that come into play, including amount of RAM and disk performance (including amount of free disk space). But being "able" to run and performing these tasks with satisfactory "performance" are two different things - especially when "time is money".

    For sure with stills and "CPU" based rendering. But the very purpose of good workstation graphics card is to assist the CPU in performing complex rendering calculations. The more capable the graphics solution, the more complex the tasks you can complete more quickly. And the more tasks the CPU can hand off to the graphics solution, the better the over all performance. And it takes very little "CPU" horsepower to hand off tasks. This leaves the CPU (and OS) time lots of time and system resources (primarily system RAM) to perform other tasks.

    So yeah, as long as you have enough system RAM to run the OS and your app, a graphics solution to support your resolution requirements, and enough free disk space for temp files and your page file to work in, you don't need much of anything for a GPU or a CPU - depending on how much free time you have on your hands.

    Of course, this all depends on the graphics tasks. There is a big difference in rendering blueprints for a small 3 bedroom house compared to a skyscraper or 100ft yacht.
     
  18. RedFlames

    RedFlames ...is not a Belgian football team

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    Now i'm not suffering mystery lurgy and can give a decent answer -


    The whole source of this confusion is it varies massively by app.. some are pure CPU, others use the GPU other a mix...

    3DS Max the app the OP is asking about is all about the CPU when rendering [prodicing the final image/video], the GPU is only of consequence when working on the scene, and even then only when dealing with complex scenes [poly counts in the high 100ks and into the millions].

    The K4000 is probably overkill, but you have it and you may as well keep it.
    The i5 is sufficient, as is the RAM, its 4 threads should not hold you back in any meaningful way unless you're dealing with complex rendering [particle systems, complex reflections/caustics hair/fur calcs or gazillions of polys].

    However, of the 2 things a better CPU would yield more benefit than a better GPU. Whether an i7 would be enough of an improvement to justify the extra outlay really depends on exactly what he's doing in Max, and how time-critical it is. If he's ok leaving renders going overnight or the like the i5 will be fine. If he's doing complex scenes and need the renders NOW, then pile on as many cores as you can throw at it.

    It may even be worth looking into setting up Backburner [the network rendering widget] or similar and spread the rendering workload over multiple machines, if he has them. I use backburner to queue renders so they run overnight when I'm not using the PC.
     
  19. Digerati

    Digerati Minimodder

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  20. Maki role

    Maki role Dale you're on a roll... Staff

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    TBH it depends on more than simply the modelling app.

    If they're just using 3DS Max for modelling, then it's a simple matter of a decent CPU (i5 will be fine) and a decent Quadro. Generally the Quadros have better viewport performance in Autodesk products, which would be really handy from a modelling perspective. A really beefy CPU won't help much there, unless things like baking particles and physics are involved (which is fairly common in some fields like character animation).

    However, as soon as you include rendering, things become very murky. Some packages are CPU based, others GPU based. The GPU ones will be much faster, but come with the limits of video memory on the card, rather than system memory. This means scenes have to be pretty small (<12GB basically, depends on the cards though as most will be lower than that). Some engines can use multiple GPUs, whilst others can't. If they plan on rendering their work themselves, you should ask exactly what software they intend to use as it can make a huge difference.
     

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