What are the minimum hardware requirements for running big models smoothly?

I’m a mac user but I’ve been asked to recommend good windows laptops to my colleagues. I’m not sure what to recommend …

The skp models we make can be as big as 100MB and need to run smoothly for presentation to clients - including dynamic model animations and scene transitions.

What advice should I give about sensible minimum hardware requirements? Any tips on particular makes or machines that offer good value performance would also be appreciated!

Many thanks for any help.

Simon

The model filesize actually tells almost nothing about how heavy it is. What counts is the number of faces and edges that SketchUp has to process when zooming and orbiting. You can observe that in the Window>Model Info>Statistics dialog when you enable the “Show nested components” box. When the count runs into millions even the fastest computer money can buy will experience slowdowns. The greatest performance hogs are 3D entourage elements like people, cars and trees downloaded from the 3D Warehouse.

SketchUp has some limitations that make most expensive hardware upgrades useless. It is very CPU-intensive but like all 3D modellers it is single-threaded so the benefit from multiple processor cores is limited. The same goes for graphics cards - when zooming or orbiting the actual 3D geometry passes through your CPU while your graphics card is mainly processing raster-based information like textures and shadows.

So what you should be looking for is a cpu in the top range of single-thread performance and a good (but not necessarily an ultracool whizbang) graphics card (current consensus favours Nvidia-based ones).

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Hi Anssi.

Thanks for this.

So - my 100MB file is just under 2,000,000 edges, with just under 900,000 faces.

My mac processor is 2.6 GHz and it handles it fine. Could I go for less do you think? But most laptop listings don’t seem to highlight their single-thread performance. Is there an easy way to identify that?

On pcworld.com you can filter their laptops by selecting “best for gaming”. Would that be a good place to start? That might be a simple way to identify the laptops with decent graphics cards?

Thanks for your help,
Simon

As it seems cost is an overriding concern, have a look at Dell’s G Series Gaming Laptops.


Here’s a reliable place to learn about and compare hardware, both new and not so new.

CPU Benchmarks


Videocard Benchmarks

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Whilst we are on this subject, I wonder what advice would apply to new iMacs?

I have a late 2012 machine that still runs SU adequately but I am aware that it struggles with some (non-SU) things that a new machine should overcome. Macs come in so many different technical “flavours” now that it is difficult to know what is valuable and what is pointless. Multi-threading (mentioned here) is a case in point. I’m assuming that cores and threads mean the same thing but I may be wrong.

I do want a desk based machine but whether it is an iMac, a Mac Mini, or a Mac Pro, wouldn’t matter much (apart from cost).

I don’t need advice about screen size or RAM (unless it is relevant to SU performance). My models are relatively modest in terms of edges and faces so I don’t have the issue that the OP has. The most basic current model has a 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor and an Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640. It doesn’t look like nVidia cards are offered by Apple any longer but if you opt for the next model up with a Retina display, you get the Radeon Pro 555X card with 2GB of VRAM (with this model you get a 3.6GHz quad‑core Intel Core i3 processor).

All thoughts gratefully received.

Simon,

Cores are not the same as threads, but related. That’s about all I know! I have four cores and that will give me 8 threads on a MBP. I’d be sure to get a model that allows you to designate the computer higher grade graphics card ,and more graphics memory . Me, I’m sticking to the nVidia I have for now. Also–it may not apply to you–but I did buy the top of the line MBP last year and took it back. No improvement on my old machine. So you are right, some things might be pointless.

Peter

It depends on processor type. Some Intel CPU-s support “hyper-threading” and they can create two processing threads for each processor core. Others, like my newest i7, only support one thread per core.

Radeon graphics cards and Intel integrated graphics haven’t caused driver problems with Macs for a long time. Their drivers are written by Apple and are unrelated to their Windows siblings.

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Thanks to @Anssi and @pbacot for their useful input.

I see that SU’s own help pages have quite a modest technical recommendation. It consists of:

  • 2.1 Ghz processor or above
  • 8GB RAM
  • 3D class video card with at least 1MB of memory and OpenGL 3.0 compatibility

No mention of cores or threads, perhaps because they don’t matter.

So for the time being at least, even the most basic iMac would be more than adequate. Interestingly, my current machine has enough RAM, an underpowered video card (512 MB), but a 2.7 Ghz processor, which is higher than the current basic model. I have no idea if that affects SU performance much.

I’m thinking that the model above base with a 3.6Ghz processor and 2GB Radeon video card is probably the one that will best future proof me.

The Help page does mention multi-processor computers and how SU can only use one processor.
Albeit that important bit of information is thoughtlessly buried at the very bottom of the page.

Note: SketchUp will run on multiple-processor machines; however, SketchUp will only use one processor. SketchUp doesn’t support hyper-threading or multi-threading at this time.

Users need clear, concise information to make hardware buying decisions
Tacking a note to the bottom of a lengthy web page is rather inconsiderate of users’ needs.

For a non-techie, all this is very confusing. Cores, threads, and now multi-processors. Is there any correlation between these terms? I imagine the current crop of iMacs do come in various core options, but do they also come in single and multi processor options? Or is it effectively the same thing?

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I love the use of big models and minimum in the same sentence. Sorry I couldn’t resist. :joy:

I’ll try to be as non-technical as I can, though my wife tells me that even when I try to be plain I still spew “engineer talk” :wink: I can only hope this makes sense and that the other nerds out there will forgive any over-simplification.

In the old days (not that long ago!) a CPU chip contained a single processor providing all the hardware to perform any sort of calculation. The term “multi-processor” means a computer that has more than one CPU. Most “supercomputers” are multi-processor. The first-generation Mac Pros had two processors.

But as the size of the circuitry was shrunk, it became possible to fit more than one suite of processing hardware on a single CPU chip. This saves both space and power compared to a multi-processor. Some of the circuitry is shared between these suites, so each distinct, self-contained part to support calculation came to be called a “core”. Today a single CPU chip will typically have 4, 6, 8, or even more cores. An 8-core CPU has almost the same capabilities as a multi-processor with 8 separate single-core CPUs, but in a smaller more efficient package.

Every current generation Mac uses a single CPU with multiple cores.

The term “thread” refers to an ordered sequence of processing steps to be executed. It is a programming concept at heart, whereas a core is a hardware concept. Its relationship to “core” is that at the simplest level a thread is the workload that can be assigned to a single core at a time. In modern CPUs that’s an oversimplification, as engineers have invented incredibly sophisticated means to share a core across more than one thread - so called “hyper threading” - to make one core do effectively the work of two.

Threads are relevant to SketchUp because to date nobody has managed to break the heart of a 3D modeling program into threads that can run in parallel. It’s performance is therefore limited most of the time by the single-core speed of the CPU. The number of cores may matter for other purposes such as renderers, but not for SketchUp. That speed depends on both the clock speed of the CPU and the intrinsic speed of the CPU hardware. To compare two Macs you have to do some research, for example to find out whether the single-core performance of a 2.6Ghz i5 is better or worse than the single-core performance of a 2.3Ghz i7. Sometimes the difference is less or other than the raw clock speed might lead you to expect.

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Steve, I do like to have technical stuff explained, so thank you for taking the time.

However, for a non-nerd, I am wondering how you make use of the information with regard to running SU. I suspect that multiple cores, threads, or processors, will make no difference to SU but could well make a difference to a third part renderer (which I don’t use).

The advice in the Help pages seems to suggest that a processor faster than 2.1Ghz might be better but it might equally be that anything faster will work but make no difference. Similarly, it suggests that more than 1GB of video memory could also improve things. The lesson learnt by @pbacot here is salutary. He tried to upgrade but found it made no difference. I bet he wishes he had known in advance that that would be the case.

To demonstrate just how difficult it can be to get at what you need to know, I believe the Mac Mini sports an Intel UHD Graphics 630 video card. The Apple site doesn’t say anything about video memory. I think (but am not sure) that that card has no on board memory at all and uses the CPU. If that is right, it would presumably be a big mistake to try running SU on it. It’s a jungle out there!

You’ll find the Intel® website provides a plain language description of product features.
Simply click on the info ? buttons.



Here’s the tale of three CPUs

• Core2 Duo E8400 ----- 2 Cores … 1 processing thread per core — 2 Threads
• Core2 Quad Q9650 — 4 Cores … 1 processing thread per core — 4 Threads
• Core i7-6700K ---------- 4 Cores … 2 processing threads per core – 8 Threads*

*Hyper-Threading delivers two processing threads per physical core.


Notice the nearly identical Single Thread Performance of the Core2 Duo and Core2 Quad
Both run SU about the same, despite the Quad’s overall performance of nearly twice the Duo’s

The much higher Single Thread Performance of the Core i7-6700K is the result of higher clockspeed
and modern internal architecture.




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Thanks for all that.

Are those processors the ones that the current iMac use? This is what is on offer at the Apple Store:

Correct.

These days, a processor slower than 2.1Ghz is a low-end model most likely in a computer that will also have cut other corners to hold the price down and will therefore be a poor performer in general. I think the Help pages are trying to steer SketchUp users away from such models, but I don’t think they meant to imply that a faster clock speed won’t yield better performance.

The difficulty for non-techies is that there are a lot of factors that the engineers can trade off when designing a computer, and comparisons based on specs such as CPU clock speed can be misleading. For example, the 2.6Ghz i7-9750H used in the base model of the new 16" MBP benchmarks as 3% slower than the 2.3Ghz i9 used in the next configuration step up. But that’s also so small a difference that you are not likely to notice it during use. The greater difference is that the i7 is a 6-core version whereas the i9 is an 8-core version - which as we have discussed does not matter to SketchUp.

My general advice would be that unless your old computer is at least 3 years old you are not likely to notice much difference when upgrading to a new one of the same kind. If you have a top-end iMac or MBP, “upgrading” to the newest one is likely to disappoint you. The changes these days are more incremental than radical in the kinds of CPUs used in consumer computers.

This is again a uni-directional recommendation based on the fact that less than 1GB of dedicated graphics memory suggests an older or cheaper graphics system. Somewhat more (e.g. 2-4GB) is almost certain to also involve a more capable graphics processor, but going further is not likely to make much difference for SketchUp. For the same reason, high-end “gamer” graphics do not provide much advantage to SketchUp. It simply doesn’t use the features they add.

So-called “integrated graphics” (which includes all of Intel’s offerings such as the UHD 630 you mention) put the graphic circuitry on the same chip as the CPU and use the same RAM memory as the CPU. They aren’t a graphic card and don’t have RAM of their own. On Windows, these are notorious for issues with OpenGL support in their drivers. Because Apple writes their own drivers, there are usually not issues there. (Aside: contract issues with Apple writing drivers is reportedly one of the reasons Apple parted ways with Nvidia).

Yes indeed!

Wait a beat for a new iMacs

No, those are just ones @Geo chose to illustrate performance comparisons.

I think you are helping me to home in on things. My current machine is late 2012 with a video card that only has 512MB of memory. So I suspect a machine with a faster processor and especially a better video card will make a noticeable difference. I am still veering towards the 3.6 Ghz 8th gen i3 processor with 2GB Radeon Pro 555X video card. Anything above that looks like making little odds.

@josm3’s advice is interesting too.

Indeed it is, Dr. Livingstone.
That’s why it’s important to do your research before spending money.

Apple seems reluctant to state the actual model number of the CPU.
Below are the specs. for what I believe are the i3 and i5 CPUs in the image you shared.

I’d opt for the i5 system for future proofing reasons circled in green.
Of course, it’s easy to spend OPM … other peoples money.

Mac Models



Intel Core i3-8100 @ 3.60GHz



Intel Core i5-8500 @ 3.00GHz