Author Topic: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?  (Read 3539 times)

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Offline evb149

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Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« on: October 03, 2021, 10:24:09 am »
Hi --

I'm wondering what people's experiences have been trying to use Altium Designer for PCB & Schematic work
on PCs with CPUs including only integrated graphics processors. 

For work use I'd spec. out a CAD workstation laptop if mobile or office use was significantly needed,
but I'm just wondering if I can use it on a personal laptop now and then for basic use without specially getting a workstation / gaming laptop with a powerful add-in NVIDIA GPU?

As I recall back around AD14-AD17 time frame there was more support for using lower graphics capabilities wrt. Direct3d / etc.,
whereas in recent years there doesn't seem to be much provided settings option to use basic graphics and there's more GPU
reliance on programmable graphics processing, shaders, GPGPU or whatever they're doing

I've heard as of ~3 years ago common Intel Iris graphics processors integrated into CPUs were not considered by some to be good enough even
for either basic schematic or PCB use.

But I know there has been improvement in basic laptop CPUs and integrated graphics and memory in the past 3-4 years, so I am wondering if it is
in the realm of usable for occasional usage with a more current generation basic laptop with modern i3/i5 CPU with integrated Intel UHD or Xe graphics only?

I know AD21 runs OK for me even on an old desktop PC with a ~2008 mid-range PCIE GPU which has from 70%-200% of the SP GFLOPS as the mid-range Intel IGPUs now; the old PCIE GPU probably has twice the on-GPU memory bandwidth, though, vs. using mostly / only the slower system DDR4 memory on a modern laptop.

For a desktop PC running AD isn't so much of an concern since one can always add a PCIE GPU if needed, but I'm wondering if a general mid-range modern productivity laptop without an option for a NVIDIA GPU card is suited for even modest use of AD21 when mobile or whether one basically has to choose a
"workstation" CAD laptop with NVIDIA GPU just to do anything much at all with AD2x?

And if AD2x doesn't run at all reasonably usefully without an add-on NVIDIA GPU even on current mid-range laptops, what about AD19, 18, 17, ... would those older versions work well without an add-in NVIDIA GPU card for a laptop?

Are Ryzen laptop CPUs with AMD integrated GPUs better or worse for AD than Intel i3 / i5 type GPU+CPUs?

And if only an add-in NVIDIA GPU will do for a laptop, what's the entry level of GPU capabilities that will make it work tolerably for simple use?

Thanks!


 

Offline dunkemhigh

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2021, 07:15:09 pm »
I wouldn't recommend this but I have AD20 running on a Zoltak mini-PC:

https://www.zotac.com/us/product/mini_pcs/zbox-bi325

I use it when I need to view designs on the bench, and it is perfectly adequate for that. Indeed, a but nippier than I was expecting (which isn't to say 'fast').
 
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Offline evb149

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2021, 07:51:10 pm »
Thank you very much for that information.

When you mention viewing are you launching the actual AD20 full installation, or are you using their viewer-only installable product?

The integrated graphics on that unit you linked are probably comfortably exceeded by the laptop's I'm considering so I'm hopeful.

On the desktop I successfully run it adequately well on an ~2010 low end quad core system with 4GBy DDR2 so I'm sure in terms of RAM quantity / speed and CPU speed even low-mid-range modern PCs and laptops would exceed the needed performance. 
But since my old desktop has no suitable integrated graphics, AD21 wouldn't run at all until I added an old DX10 compatible GPU ~2008gen. 8800GT which works well enough, but even that still has significantly more VRAM BW and somewhat better GPU SP FLOPs than some current CPU integrated GPUs so I wondered if IGPUs were "there yet" in practice for AD.

But now, midrange desktop PC GPUs are hard to buy at all (chip shortage), and "mobile workstation" laptops with powerful GPU cards integrated are ~3x the cost of new mid-range CPU+IGPU laptops which can do literally everything else quite excellently except for high end AA FPS gaming and possibly AD layout.

I wouldn't recommend this but I have AD20 running on a Zoltak mini-PC:

https://www.zotac.com/us/product/mini_pcs/zbox-bi325

I use it when I need to view designs on the bench, and it is perfectly adequate for that. Indeed, a but nippier than I was expecting (which isn't to say 'fast').
 

Offline dunkemhigh

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2021, 08:00:23 pm »
It's the viewer, but so far as I can tell it's just the real thing with some options blocked. Not at all like the '09 viewer, anyway :)
 
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Offline Gerhard_dk4xp

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2021, 08:31:30 pm »
I have a Dell XPS13 as a motorcycle computer, i.e. it fits easily into a corner
of one of the 2 alu boxes. It runs under Linux Mint with VMware. The virtual
machine is a 1:1 copy of my Win10 CAD machine @ home, just the contents of
a 200G directory. Still fits nicely on the XPS13 SSD.
Everything works, even if it is not a preferred work environment, but:

While VMware complains it cannot provide DirectX 3D, Altium 20 or 21 layout
simply does nothing at all. No complaint, but the layout window simply shows
the screen background. Schematics works. Ever heard of diagnostics?

While I would not expect real time 3D performance, I expect that  I can
at least see a simple board. Just like DOS Orcad did 35 years ago on a super-VGA
on this Compaq-286-16. Or at least "SORRY, I'm too dumb" across the screen.

Gerhard
 
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Offline evb149

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #5 on: October 03, 2021, 09:19:07 pm »
Thank you very much, that's helpful to know that it'll likely work at least modestly on a typical lapton which is my goal vs. having to spec. out
a high end machine only to accommodate AD's higher requirements and not necessary to me otherwise.

It's the viewer, but so far as I can tell it's just the real thing with some options blocked. Not at all like the '09 viewer, anyway :)
 

Offline evb149

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2021, 09:41:46 pm »
Thank you vary much, I appreciate the information!

Did you try AD17, or other older AD variants in the linux / windows VMed environment you described with any more success
than the AD20/AD21 failures?

And I heartily agree with your sentiments, it should at least work as well as the cad software
of past decades did on old HW but now running on top of now a vastly more powerful machine even if it's VMed.

I tried running their SW a while back under VirtualBox with a linux host machine and windows guest.
I had similar results of it failing to show the layout at all though the schematic worked.
I didn't get around to trying vmware or a different GPU after failing a few configurations under virtualbox / linux.

At that point I just found an old low specification desktop and dedicated it to CAD though I'd have much preferred
running it in a VM under linux host on top of a single much newer / more well equipped machine.

Perhaps I'll give it a try under my current linux desktop and see if I get lucky with virtualization but
as far as I suspect I'd probably have to install a physically separate GPU and use pcie-passthrough to the VM
to dedicate a whole GPU to the VM instance to have any chance of luck, and that'd be fairly horrible in
a number of ways (one can scarcely even procure a GPU these days with the supply shortage, bad thermals, bad power,
bad airflow, bad driver issues, inflated cost,...).  And such configurations tend to be fragile and awkward anyway.

There's no good reason why AD can't play more nicely with VMs even if it means less responsive
graphics and calculations, it'd probably still be good enough to do the job in most cases just as it was
in ~2010 on even less powerful physical hardware of that day.

But my AD desktop is probably not going to keep working into the next years anyway given it's barely suited for W10,
not at all for W11, and various drivers are probably already EOLed.

I thought I'd replace it with a laptop, but now it's just the laptop vs. GPU issue that gives me pause
(and the ever present desktop VM issues for that case).

I have a Dell XPS13 as a motorcycle computer, i.e. it fits easily into a corner
of one of the 2 alu boxes. It runs under Linux Mint with VMware. The virtual
machine is a 1:1 copy of my Win10 CAD machine @ home, just the contents of
a 200G directory. Still fits nicely on the XPS13 SSD.
Everything works, even if it is not a preferred work environment, but:

While VMware complains it cannot provide DirectX 3D, Altium 20 or 21 layout
simply does nothing at all. No complaint, but the layout window simply shows
the screen background. Schematics works. Ever heard of diagnostics?

While I would not expect real time 3D performance, I expect that  I can
at least see a simple board. Just like DOS Orcad did 35 years ago on a super-VGA
on this Compaq-286-16. Or at least "SORRY, I'm too dumb" across the screen.

Gerhard
 

Offline Wilksey

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2021, 11:39:16 pm »
My work PCs are a Lenovo box with an i7 8th gen I think, with integrated graphics and I have a 10th gen i7 HP laptop with integrated graphics and AD20 works fine on both of those if that is of any use?  Both have 16G RAM and SSD.
 
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Offline evb149

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2021, 11:49:07 pm »
Thank you very much, that is very useful information indeed!
Now I'm pretty sure it'll work well enough for me on systems like those you've mentioned without restricting myself to only laptops with add-in NVIDIA auxiliary GPUs.

My work PCs are a Lenovo box with an i7 8th gen I think, with integrated graphics and I have a 10th gen i7 HP laptop with integrated graphics and AD20 works fine on both of those if that is of any use?  Both have 16G RAM and SSD.
 

Offline Wilksey

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2021, 12:53:49 am »
I will add that we do not use AD21 but are on AD20, and I do notice some lag (nothing I would say is unusable) when in 3D mode with a large amount of components and 3D parts rendered.

We did used to have 8GB 5th gen i5 boxes with a GF 750Ti 2GB card with AD17 - AD19.

Just make sure your graphics drivers are up to date for newer systems as it can help.
 
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Online Psi

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2021, 01:01:36 am »
It's pretty random. Some people have issue while others don't.
But there seems to be less issues with people who have nvidia cards vs other graphics.

Greek letter 'Psi' (not Pounds per Square Inch)
 
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Offline Wilksey

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2021, 01:09:52 am »
Well I think at the time Altium had a recommended list that worked with AD17, but were all old cards, so I contacted Altium direct and asked them what they recommended as a mid level performer for Altium, and I think they said the 730, but if I could get the 750 as it will work as a high end performer and costs only slightly more than the 750.  At the time I had a Zotac 750Ti in my home machine so I found the order code and got one for around £90 from Amazon in the UK (this was around 2016 / 2017), and the 730 was £80/£85 ad they had less available than the 750.

Some time after we had another hardware dev start and the I.T. dept got a Gigabyte 750Ti, 2gb same spec and it wasn't quite as smooth as my Zotac for whatever reason, it had the same drivers same hardware same RAM same SSD etc, we were running at the time Windows 8.1 x64 pro, the 3D mark score was lower too on the GB one.

So it does also matter what make of card you get apparently too!
 
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Offline evb149

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2021, 03:43:43 am »
Thank you very much one & all!

I'm more comfortable now looking at i5 & i7 class CPUs with integrated G7 type Iris Xe IGPUs for instance, given the success stories, I'll either look for something like that
or see if something with an actual NVIDIA built in board comes up that looks adequately persuasive.

I don't really understand the currently used intel laptop chip architecture with their integrated graphics but I'm surprised they're not (as far as I know) including some kind of higher bandwidth VRAM somehow or at least typically populating paired DDR4 slots to improve the main RAM bandwidth to help the IGPU memory bandwidth (assuming laptop sockets can even run dual channel SODIMM mode?).

I guess it works well enough for most office / business / personal applications even so.

I will add that we do not use AD21 but are on AD20, and I do notice some lag (nothing I would say is unusable) when in 3D mode with a large amount of components and 3D parts rendered.

We did used to have 8GB 5th gen i5 boxes with a GF 750Ti 2GB card with AD17 - AD19.

Just make sure your graphics drivers are up to date for newer systems as it can help.
 

Offline Wilksey

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2021, 09:09:43 am »
If you can get a computer with at least 16GB RAM that really did make a difference for me going from 8GB to 16, my personal laptop is a 10th gen i7 with a RTX2060 and 64GB RAM, that thing fly's but it was quite expensive and is/was a "gaming" laptop.
 
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Online Berni

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2021, 09:21:17 am »
Integrated GPUs are pretty capable these days so the more modern CPUs should be plenty powerful enough for most 3D CAD work. Some of the faster integrated GPUs can even run modern games at usable performance.

More of the kicker these days is indeed memory bandwidth. It has to be shared between the CPU and integrated GPU. So while getting faster RAM will usually make marginally small differences to the performance of your computer, here getting faster RAM can actually help the GPU performance significantly. So you do want fast sticks of RAM, using that dual channel, set up in BIOS to use XMP profiles...etc.

The only reason you would want to have a proper powerful discrete GPU in a laptop is if you play games, open up really huge CAD models or need some of the computational help of the GPU (Like rendering, video encoding etc..)
 
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Online tszaboo

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2021, 11:24:06 am »
If you use this software professionally, get a laptop with external graphics. The issues are not only graphical, but it can generate wrong documentation. For example, I had a Draftsman drawing where the assembly outlines were generated wrong. These are projections of the actual 3D of the PCB, and if that get messed up, then you might end up with wrong files.
Some graphics driver update fixed the issue.

A dedicated graphics card is cheap compared to the license fee of the software, so get one.
 

Offline olkipukki

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2021, 07:47:53 pm »


For a desktop PC running AD isn't so much of an concern since one can always add a PCIE GPU if needed, but I'm wondering if a general mid-range modern productivity laptop without an option for a NVIDIA GPU card is suited for even modest use of AD21 when mobile or whether one basically has to choose a
"workstation" CAD laptop with NVIDIA GPU just to do anything much at all with AD2x?



I used to run AD (up to v.21)  in VMWare Fusion on Mac book pro for a minimalistic work (add a new component, amend a bit of schematics, review layouts etc) while travel.

It's really depends what you will doing. If just occasional work and as alternative something is better than nothing - it's okay.
If I would use a laptop as the professional tool on regular assignments, better spend $$$ on a proper CAD laptop and move on. You cannot recoup time lost due to poor productivity.

Have a look new budget RTX A2000 GPU laptop option, doesn't cost up a lot.
 
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Offline free_electron

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #17 on: January 20, 2022, 01:11:44 am »
Go on ebay , find a used Zbook17 with a Quadro board in it. you can find those machines for 500 to 700$. stick in an SSD ( if it doesn't have one) and load it with 32 Gb of ram.

I am doing my day to day work on a 7 year old Zbook 17 (2nd gen) with a K4100 hooked to three 4k displays. win10 enterprise edition and intel discrete graphics turned off.
I run Altium 22 since this morning. (well, nexus 5 , the enterprise variant of altium designer )
I leave my altium session open 24/7. My last altium start was when i did the previous service pack install. I actively use the software 8 to 9 hours a day. I can't even remember the last time it crashed.

Truth to be told. the only programs i run on that machine are Google Chrome , Outlook for email word excel and powerpoint, Altium and Solidworks 2021. I rarely use other programs. (notepad++ , autohotkey and a few other utilities like zofz and saturn pcb toolkit ). no compilers ,debuggers or other heavy loads.
Professional Electron Wrangler.
Any comments, or points of view expressed, are my own and not endorsed , induced or compensated by my employer(s).
 
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Offline Pseudobyte

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #18 on: January 20, 2022, 04:32:05 pm »
...to three 4k displays....

This! I love my 4k monitors. Made a huge difference in how I work. Altium on a 4k monitor is a joy to use.
“They Don’t Think It Be Like It Is, But It Do”
 
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Offline tooki

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #19 on: January 27, 2022, 05:42:20 pm »
My work computer is some kind of Intel integrated graphics, and Altium runs absolutely fine on it. I think that 3D gaming has pushed GPUs so far that CAD is now a laughably trivial task for even the puniest GPUs.
 
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Online Berni

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #20 on: January 28, 2022, 06:23:29 am »
Yeah most CAD does not need a good GPU anymore as pretty much any modern GPU is fast enough these days.

The exceptions might be if you are using 3D CAD and are working with massive models, but at some point having too many parts in an assembly tends tend to slow down a lot of CAD tools due to CPU load, as a lot of part manipulation is done in there (often also single threaded) while the GPU is just rendering the final model to the screen. More of an excuse for a powerful GPU is if you do a lot of raytrace renders and the CAD tool you use has support for GPU acceleration.

In fact the integrated graphics has gotten so fast that it can even run slightly older games at perfectly usable performance. They also now have support for other GPU acceleration features like compute shaders or video encode/decode
 
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Online nctnico

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Re: Altium & integrated graphics (CPU+built in GPU)?
« Reply #21 on: January 28, 2022, 10:37:50 am »
The K4100 free_electron mentions is not some kind of high-end gaming GPU. Quite the opposite: it is a GPU intended for CAD workstations.
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 
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