Vectorworks' Renderworks module is powered by the CineRender engine from Maxon. As such, it is completely 64bit and can take advantage of over 128GB of RAM and multiple processor (CPU) cores.
However, this only affects the Renderworks-based modes specifically. OpenGL, Wireframe and Hidden Line do not utilize the CineRender engine, and thus not capable of using as much memory as their Renderworks counterparts on a powerful 64bit machine with plenty of RAM and multiple CPU cores.
The chart below lists each of the types of rendering mode, as well as if it uses your Graphics card (GPU) or if it depends on your processor (CPU) to perform rendering operations:
Rendering Mode Uses Graphics Card (GPU) Uses Processor (CPU)
Wireframe Yes Yes - Single Core
OpenGL Yes No
Hidden Line No Yes - Multi Core
Final Quality Renderworks No Yes - Multi Core
Fast Renderworks No Yes - Multi Core
Custom Renderworks No Yes - Multi Core
Final / Shaded Polygon No Yes - Single Core
As you can see from the above chart, the only rendering modes that will access your video cards resources is OpenGL and the basic Wireframe mode. None of the other rendering modes are dependent on it at all, so upgrading your video card will not improve any rendering speed or quality with any rendering mode other than OpenGL and Wireframe. (Note: your video card is directly relied upon for Top/Plan view and general navigation graphics in 2D, even though that is not a rendering mode.)
Conversely, the Renderworks-based modes primarily use your CPU and are capable of utilizing multiple cores. So to increase rendering speed in those modes, a superior processor (CPU) would be beneficial.
Wireframe mode tends to benefit from both upgraded video cards as well as a more powerful CPU, however it is more heavily dependent on the graphics card.
32bit vs 64bit rendering modes:
In addition to the above information, certain rendering modes, namely OpenGL, Wireframe and Hidden Line, are still completely 32bit**. Therefore they can only use a maximum of 4GB (But more realistically, 2GB) of RAM.
If you encounter "Out of Memory" errors when rendering in OpenGL, Hidden Line or Wireframe even though you have over 4GB of RAM installed, this is often the main cause.
**NOTE: As of Vectorworks 2015, on 64bit operating systems, this is no longer an issue as Vectorworks 2015 and later are completely 64bit in those environments.
The Renderworks modes as stated earlier are completely 64bit, so in a complex drawing, you will want to use those rendering modes instead. Especially if you have a large amount of RAM (More than 4GB) installed on your machine. However, the first phase of most rendering modes (Where it states "Geometry" is being calculated in the progress bar area,) is calculated on one single core and is limited to 4GB of RAM. After the Geometry phase is completed, Renderworks can then take over and utilize the RAM allowed by 64bit architecture.
Specific graphics card recommendations:
There are a number of graphics cards that are marketed as being designed for CAD software, namely the Nvidia Quadro and the ATI FireGL series.
However in our experience, these cards tend to have more driver conflicts and incompatibilities, specifically with Vectorworks. We also strongly recommend against using Intel branded integrated cards, whether they share system memory or have their own discrete VRAM (video memory).
That being the case, the graphics cards that tend to perform the best with Vectorworks are the cards marketed more towards video gaming machines. Namely the Nvidia GeForce line and the ATI Radeon HD line of cards.
These not only perform better in Wireframe as well as OpenGL, but tend to be much cheaper than the Quadro or FireGL lines. (As a general rule and as of the writing of this article, you should not nomrally need to spend more than $150 on a video card to use with Vectorworks.)
Edited by JimW