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in order to make the most of ESRI´s 3D analyst I would like to order an appropriate graphics card. I have been recommended the AMD FirePro V5900 2 GB by someone who doesn´t know much about GIS hence my question here.

Does anyone have any experience with 3D Graphics programs and decent hardware? Would this card be suitable for 3D Analyst? What is the most important factor to consider when buying graphics cards for 3D visualization?

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How complex a scene is your typical use case? Will you be preprocessing the data to make it more performance-oriented? In my experience both ArcScene and especially ArcGlobe are a bit of a pig when it comes to performance when you throw large amounts of unoptimized data at them, regardless of the video card choice. –  blah238 May 30 '12 at 6:42
    
Thanks. It´s hard to say at this point how complex a scene will be. I am using a DEM with vector overlays. The vector data is simple stuff, but the DEM is pretty big (5000 km2) –  Robert Buckley May 30 '12 at 9:03

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Any OpenGL card should work well, whether NVidia or AMD. This quote from ArcGIS Desktop Help, gives a basic discussion of what graphics card you should buy for 3D Analyst:

Which graphics card should I buy?

A good OpenGL-compliant graphics card with at least 64 MB of texture memory is recommended. Most desktop systems come equipped with power graphics cards, but in general, if you are going to use a system for 3D visualization, you will want to make sure it is a workstation class graphics card.

Workstation class graphics cards are discrete (as opposed to integrated to the system's motherboard) graphics card available for desktop and mobile (laptop) systems.

The major graphics card manufacturers (NVIDIA and AMD (ATI)) categorize their graphics card solutions into desktop, workstation, and mobile. Experience has shown that the workstation class graphics cards have better performance and support for professional 3D applications, including 3D Analyst.

The rest of the article provides additional reference and useful information: FAQs for selecting graphics cards

To directly address the specific graphics card you mentioned, I have linked to the AMD FirePro V5900 Series Page. It lists the following specifications, which are specifically mentioned as desirable in the ArcGIS Help documentation:

  • 2GB of RAM
  • OpenGL 4.1
  • GeometryBoost Technology - Geometry Acceleration

I think in general, this is probably a very good card, but as @blah238 stated, the graphics card in some, if not many cases, will not significantly improve the performance of your system when running some ArcGIS components.

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