This purpose of this document is to provide guidance for users looking to purchase a new computer or upgrade exiting video hardware.
For information on specific known video graphic cards issues, please consult the following knowledge-base article: Click here
Vectorworks 2015 and later
Vectorworks 2015 added improvements which placed higher demands on graphic hardware. The performance and quality of the graphics provided by the new Vectorworks Graphics Module depend directly on the speed, memory, and supported extensions of the graphics card.
These new features have the potential to provide a very fast and fluid experience if used on capable hardware, or a noticeably slower experience if used on older or incompatible hardware. Starting with Vectorworks 2014 graphic cards should support at a minimum OpenGL version 2.1; cards not meeting this recommendation will have limited functionality and poor performance when rendering in OpenGL mode. In summary: The more powerful your graphics card is, the better your Vectorworks experience will be.
When using multiple graphics cards it is strongly recommended that the same manufacturer, model, and generation be used for all cards. Using cards from different manufacturers will likely lead to OS and display instabilities.
We strongly recommend that all users check that their video drivers are current. The majority of display problems reported to our Technical Support department have been traced to older video drivers. On Windows, we recommend acquiring the latest drivers directly from the manufacturer's website (listed below are links to common manufactures).
If the video card you are using fits the recommendations listed in this document but Vectorworks seems slow and sluggish, updating your video cards drivers may correct the issue.
Note: On a Mac, you cannot update video drivers directly as hardware drivers are integrated with operating system updates.
The amount of Video RAM required to drive Vectorworks adequately depends largely on the size of the display being used and the complexity of the Vectorworks document. Medium sized displays with a native resolution of 1920x1080 or less should be driven by a graphics card with at least 512MB of VRAM. Larger display should use a graphics card with at least 1GB of VRAM, with 2GB or more recommended.
If you use OpenGL modeling, versions of Vectorworks 2015 and later contain significant OpenGL improvements that dramatically improve the rendering of shadows and edges. These improvements are dedicated video RAM (VRAM) intensive, however, and require at least 1GB of dedicated VRAM, with 2GB being preferable. They also require OpenGL 2.1 at a minimum. If you want to take full advantage of improved OpenGL shadows and edges in Vectorworks 2015, especially in situations where you have any combination of the following:
- many lights
- point lights
- image textures
- high shadow quality
- excessive geometry
If you have a video card with less than 1GB of dedicated VRAM, you should consider upgrading your video card.
Newer laptops often provide automatic switching between integrated graphics and discrete graphic cards; it is recommended that system settings be set to force the use of the discrete card while using Vectorworks. Windows users can access these settings through their graphic drivers settings(AMD Catalyst Control Center or NVIDIA Control Panel) and OS X users should disable Automatic Graphics Switching under Energy Saver.
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”.
Your graphics card should be compatible with the OpenGL 2.1 standard (or newer). Graphics cards produced before this version (Prior to 2007) will generally behave poorly during OpenGL modeling.
Integrated Graphics Accelerators
Integrated Graphics Accelerators are available on some laptop and motherboard combinations. These types of media accelerators (Intel HD 3000, Intel GMA, etc) should be avoided as they are acceptable for basic use but often provide poor results when used with a graphics intensive applications like Vectorworks.
Virtualized Environments and Remote Desktop
The use of Virtual Machines and Windows Remote Desktop are currently not supported in Vectorworks 2015. These systems generally use a software emulated OpenGL environment below the 2.1 standard requirement which may cause a lack of functionality and possible application instability. It is highly recommended that Vectorworks be used on a standalone computer with a discrete graphics card.
Note: Some workstation and desktop video cards have power requirements that exceed the power available from certain desktop computers. You should check with your computer's manufacturer for compatibility issues before purchasing a new video card.
Windows operating systems have a large selection of video card manufacturers, models, and driver versions available. We recommend using a video card with a chipset manufactured by either NVIDIA or AMD as these two companies are the predominant players in the video card industry and as such are the suppliers of most of the cards that we test. See the Specific Recommendations section below for more detail on recommended cards for Windows machines.
With Mac Pros we also recommend using a video card with a chipset manufactured by either NVIDIA or AMD. See the Specific Recommendations section below for more detail on recommended cards for the Mac Pro.
MacBook, iMac and Mac Mini-
On MacBooks, Mac Minis, and iMacs, the video card is usually integrated with the CPU and is not a user replaceable component. On older models of these machines, these video cards were an Intel integrated graphics accelerator and were generally not up to the task of handling some of the more advanced features of Vectorworks.
Note: the new Intel "Iris" graphics line is also integrated but "Iris Pro" provides acceptable performance with Vectorworks.
In early 2009, most MacBooks, Mac minis, and iMacs started shipping with much more capable ATI Radeon HD graphic accelerators. This card provides generally adequate speed and reliability when running Vectorworks.
Note: The other members of the Quadro family, namely the NVS series, are more geared towards driving multiple displays and less suited for complex 3D modeling. We recommend that you avoid these cards.
NVIDIA's GeForce series (Desktops) and GeForce M series (Notebooks)
The GeForce series cards will provide good results when used with Vectorworks and are usually of less cost than the higher end Quadro cards. The majority of the cards that we use and test in-house are in the GeForce families and with this extensive amount of testing we are usually able to find, diagnose, and fix issues related to these cards in a timely manner. The GeForce series provide good performance and excellent feature support when used with Vectorworks.
AMD's FireGL series (Workstation)
The FireGL series makes up AMD's high-end offering of video cards. As with other workstation type cards they are geared for large models with high vertex counts. We have found excellent performance with these cards, but have seen occasional problems with feature support, primarily in the areas of anti-aliasing and OpenGL shadows.
AMD's Radeon series (Desktop) and Mobile Radeon series (Notebooks)
AMD's Radeon series makes up AMD's mid-range offering and will provide acceptable results when used with Vectorworks. As with other desktop boards they are geared primary for gaming but cost less than AMD's FireGL cards. With the Radeon cards we have found excellent performance but occasional problems with feature support, primarily in the areas of anti-aliasing, OpenGL shadows, and general display flickering.
Edited by JimW