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Does Microsoft Excel Performance Improve with NVIDIA vGPU?

Val King
Posted by Val King on Nov 10, 2020 9:00:00 AM

Q: Does Microsoft Excel performance improve with the addition of NVIDIA vGPU or AMD Firecards in VDI?

A: Launch times, cursor movement across cells and general responsiveness do improve when adding vGPU to a Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop, Virtual Apps and Desktops or VMware Horizon environment.

Microsoft Excels computational capability does not improve with added vGPU.

The longer answer…

Yes, Microsoft Excel performance, in general, will improve with the addition of vGPU. With Windows 10, Microsoft Excel actively tries to access available vGPU resources 53% more than it did with Windows 7. Adding vGPU matters partially because, with Windows 10, Microsoft has coded Excel to look for it and take advantage of it.

However, adding vGPU does not improve Microsoft Excel universally.

Improving Excel launch times, improving cursor responsiveness and fluidity as the cursor moves across cells and tabs in the application will improve with the addition of a graphics card or vGPU.


Production 2cpu

Production 4cpu/HDX Multimedia redirection, no vGPU

NVIDIA M10 1GB vGPU Profile

NVIDIA T4 1GB vGPU Profile

Launch Excel (test spreadsheet)

16 seconds

8 sec

6 sec

2 sec

A recent 2020 side-by-side comparison of NVIDIA M10 vs. T4 performance with Citrix 7.15 LTSR on Windows 10 demonstrates the improvement vGPU can add to general Microsoft Excel performance.

However, computational performance will not directly improve purely off the addition of vGPU. There may be some indirect improvement as other GPU-capable workloads are offloaded from an already taxed CPU, freeing up cycles to chew through Excel macros faster, but not typically enough to justify the added expense of adding vGPU to a Citrix or VMware Horizon environment.

For the purposes of this discussion we are ignoring all of the improvements available through general environment performance tweaks and optimizations that have cataloged over our years of managing Citrix and VMware environments for client organizations.

Computational performance
If you are working with large Excel spreadsheets with many macros or extremely complex macros, and need computational performance improvement, CPU clock speed is the single element that matters most in improving the experience.

The 32-bit version of Microsoft Excel can access a maximum of 4GB of RAM, regardless of how much RAM is allocated. The 64-bit version of Microsoft Excel does not have this limitation, but the 64-bit version does have the plug-in support available in the 32-bit version. As a result, performance improvements available with the 64-bit version can go unrealized or are unavailable because the plug-in support that end users need is not there.

There is an opportunity here to break this limitation by working with software vendors to encourage the development of key plug-ins for the 64-bit version of Microsoft Excel.

The impact of added RAM will be most noticeable when there are large data sets that need to be constantly referenced.

The best way to improve Excel performance in a Citrix VAD or VMware Horizon environment is improve the clock rate on the server CPU.

Again, adding graphics cards, NVIDIA vGPU or AMD Firecards to the environment will not speed up computational performance.

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Topics: Application Virtualization, Virtual Desktop (VDI), VDI