3D Graphics Performance Comparison – Part 13 (Inventor)

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In my initial comparison I noticed a few frame drops and a slight delay while navigating around the engine in Inventor 2011. However, when I loaded the engine in Inventor today, I could not find any of that. The response was super smooth. Earlier on, when comparing AutoCAD 2011, I had updated the NVIDIA graphics drivers. That improved the graphics performance of AutoCAD 2011 drastically. I’m not sure whether these new graphics drivers had anything to do with the improved graphics performance of Inventor. But something has definitely changed between that day and today.

Rob Cohee from Autodesk was so confident about the graphics performance of Inventor that he told me to throw the default settings to the wind. He asked me to change the overall graphic setting (Tools > Application Options > Hardware) from “Performance” to “Quality”. This turns on anti-aliasing, which is a computational expensive process. Next he asked me to change the color scheme (Tools > Application Options > Color) from the default of “Winter Night” to “Winter Day” and turn off the background gradient to make it a single color. I think I’m going to keep this color scheme. As the name itself suggests, “Winter Night” looks rather depressing.

Next he asked me to click on the View tab and turn on shadows and reflection. He didn’t specify which shadows. So I turned them all on – ground, object and ambient shadows. Ground shadows are shadows cast on the ground plane. Object shadows, also known as self shadows, are cast as well as received by objects from other objects or parts of the objects themselves. Ambient shadows are shadows cast in corners and cavities to visually enhance and highlight shape changes.

Rob also asked me to change the visual style to realistic. But that would turn off edges. So I stuck to “Shaded with Edges”. Finally he asked me to set lighting to “Old Warehouse” and turn “Display scene image” off. I think “Old Warehouse” is Rob’s favorite. Whenever I have seen him showing off Inventor, he always has that lighting effect turned on. The thing is “Old Warehouse” goes well with the “Realistic” visual style. but not with “Shaded with Edges”. I played around and found that the lighting that came with “Plain Room” went pretty well with “Shaded with Edges”.

So after tweaking Inventor to very high quality graphics setting, I took a closer look at the display quality. You simply have to click the image below to open it in full size to really appreciate what the graphics wizards at Autodesk have done to Inventor.

Click image for larger view

Notice the anti-aliased curves. Also notice the shadows, especially in the areas around the cavities in the model.  Absolutely breathtaking.

Next I fired up the video recording software to record the navigation around the model and braced myself for Inventor to grind to a halt. This is what actually happened.

I think I need to coin a new title for Inventor because I don’t think “Freaking Awesome” would do justice to it. I’m not sure if you noticed, but there was a slight time delay between the mouse movement and the corresponding frame change. But overall the navigation around the model was pretty smooth. If I turned all this flashy stuff off, this delay vanishes completely.

Here is video of Inventor from my initial comparison.

As I was playing around with these CAD systems, I was beginning to wonder whether my workstation was actually good enough for them. After seeing Inventor’s graphics performance today, all my doubts have disappeared.

Part 14 >>

  • Deelipreader

    i'd say a pentium 4 with modest graphics card is more than enough.the problem is that some CAD application are not optimized at all (your results shows this, after they did some tweaking in newer versions, you got better results).people should not need mainframes to run cad.

  • I could not agree more. This reminds me of what Michael Gibson said about running MoI on a machine with a 7 or 8 year old graphics card.

  • Inventor uses Direct X does it not? Which can take advantage of even the humblest of gaming graphics cards? I'll ask Greg to give you some pointers.

  • Yup. I'm using the Direct3D graphics driver.