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Should I go with Gaming Crossfire solution over a workstation card

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July 15, 2013 2:28:00 PM

I have been browsing the internet for some time now for my first build (which I will be starting in september when I start university) and no one seems to be able to answer my question properly. Is it better to use a single workstation card or go with a crossfire solution of two gaming cards?

I'm going to be mainly utilising Solidworks as my cad software. Currently this is the specs of the system I'm looking at getting:

CPU: AMD FX-8350/ Intel Xeon E3-1270
Mobo: ASUS Sabertooth 990FX R2.0/ ASUS Sabertooth Z77
GPU: AMD Firepro W700/ AMD Firepro V5900 Crossfire/ VTX3D Radeon HD 7870 LE Crossfire
PSU: Corsair CX600M
RAM: Kingston 16GB (2 x 8GB) 1600MHz/ Komputerbay 16GB (2 x 8GB) 1333MHz (with the option of upgrading both to 32GB if needed)
Case: NZXT Phantom 410
OS: Win 8 64 bit
HDD: 2TB Western Digital Green
Dual display monitors

*as a side note if I go with the AMD cpu I will also be getting a corsair h100i cooler to overclock it (it does fit in the case, I've checked)
**another side note, I want to be able to do a little bit of gaming on the side as well as my engineering stuff

So if anyone out there can give me some advice on what would be best for my build it would be much appreciated.
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July 15, 2013 2:33:20 PM

It all depends on what you want to do with your video card. From what I've read, workstation cards are for professional software like AutoCAD and 3D modeling software, where accuracy counts, but they are not very good at running games, certainly not as good as consumer game cards that cost half as much. However, consumer cards are not as good at CAD software as professional cards.

So you need to make a decision as to which application is more important to you: professional graphics or games. That decision will steer you towards the type of card to get. I believe Tom's has done some comparisons between workstation cards and consumer cards, but I don't feel like spending 15 minutes searching for them.
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July 15, 2013 2:35:59 PM

OK, I found something after all. Looks like I was wrong:

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/workstation-graphic...

Here's a quote from the conclusion:

Bottom Line

We often get folks wondering how desktop-oriented apps handle professional workloads, and today's experiment turned that question around. Now we know that workstation graphics cards are better for gaming than gaming cards are in professional tasks. Case in point: The FirePro W9000 nearly manages to keep up with AMD's Radeon HD 7970. The slightly lower performance of a workstation card in the latest shooter is a lot easier to live with than the massively lower performance you get from a GeForce or Radeon in a professional application.

Once again, the lesson here is that, in the workstation graphics segment, you don’t pay that massive premium for better hardware so much as you pay for the drivers and validation. This isn't something that should be held against AMD or Nvidia, even though we know they sell the same silicon into cards that cost a fraction as much. Driver development and optimization takes a lot of expensive time and work. Games are fun and all, but when you step aboard that new 787, you need to trust that the workstations responsible for every piece of it were 100% accurate.
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July 15, 2013 2:36:25 PM

Humm, with productivity workloads, the AMD Firepro V5900 will perform much better than most gaming cards, crossfiring two gaming cards to do CAD and rendering workloads would be pretty inefficient, on performance per dollar and energy (probably 3x the watts if you went with a firepro).

If work and productivity is your main concern, the firepro graphics will work much better. On the gaming side, sadly the performance will be like a upgraded radeon 6670, dial down the setting to medium low though, and your gaming will still run smoothly.

As with the cpu situation, the xeon works better, but the FX chip is just slightly behind, the xeon is a little more performance for double the cost.
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July 15, 2013 2:37:23 PM

Well if you are going to game on this rig to I would get gaming cards as long as the CAD software you are going to be using can utilize a AMD/ATI HD card you will be fine I would think. If I remember correctly the Firepro cards do not game well as there drivers are tailored for Workstations and OpenGL rather than DirectX. I do not know anything at all about CAD software so that is something I can not answer. But as I said as long as the software will work with a gaming card that is what I would get.
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July 15, 2013 2:38:48 PM

Here's a more recent analysis from Tom's:

"We put 14 professional and seven gaming graphics cards from two generations through a number of workstation, general-purpose computing, and synthetic applications. By the end of our nearly 70 charts, you should know which board is right for your workload."

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-workstation-gr...
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July 15, 2013 2:40:29 PM

Also, you will need a much better PSU for multi card setups (850W+), unless you are doing professional tasks, a GTX 760 card in SLI (Until the Crossfire fixing driver is released, SLI is the way to go). A Firepro or Quadro card is extremely expensive for what they do, but if you absolutely need one, go for it.

GTX 760: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

A good PSU for SLI: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Workstation cards vs Consumer (Gaming): http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/workstation-graphic...
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July 15, 2013 3:59:09 PM

Since I think you are just starting out, (you didn't really say) there is no need to a workstation card. Solidworks does use opengl for it's viewports so a workstation card would be ideal but gaming cards can still handle it fine. You also want to game so will be better off there as well. It's always better to go with a single gpu solution unless you have a large budget for 2 top end cards. Solidworks does not use sli/cf for the viewports and they are also single threaded. It also does not come with gpu accelerated renderers. If you aren't really rendering, I'd say to go with a e3-1230v3, which would need an 1150 mobo. Otherwise an oced 8350 will be better at rendering/simulation. I don't think you need a sabertooth mobo and then you can spend more elsewhere where it would actually affect performance. Might as well get an ssd.
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July 16, 2013 3:07:35 AM

k1114 said:
Since I think you are just starting out, (you didn't really say) there is no need to a workstation card. Solidworks does use opengl for it's viewports so a workstation card would be ideal but gaming cards can still handle it fine. You also want to game so will be better off there as well. It's always better to go with a single gpu solution unless you have a large budget for 2 top end cards. Solidworks does not use sli/cf for the viewports and they are also single threaded. It also does not come with gpu accelerated renderers. If you aren't really rendering, I'd say to go with a e3-1230v3, which would need an 1150 mobo. Otherwise an oced 8350 will be better at rendering/simulation. I don't think you need a sabertooth mobo and then you can spend more elsewhere where it would actually affect performance. Might as well get an ssd.


Which board would you recommend instead of the sabertooth?
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July 16, 2013 3:09:00 AM

bob1033 said:
Humm, with productivity workloads, the AMD Firepro V5900 will perform much better than most gaming cards, crossfiring two gaming cards to do CAD and rendering workloads would be pretty inefficient, on performance per dollar and energy (probably 3x the watts if you went with a firepro).

If work and productivity is your main concern, the firepro graphics will work much better. On the gaming side, sadly the performance will be like a upgraded radeon 6670, dial down the setting to medium low though, and your gaming will still run smoothly.

As with the cpu situation, the xeon works better, but the FX chip is just slightly behind, the xeon is a little more performance for double the cost.


I've found another Firepro card, the v7900. What kind of performance would a single v7900 have in comparison for gaming?

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July 16, 2013 8:16:12 AM

Meeplebops said:
bob1033 said:
Humm, with productivity workloads, the AMD Firepro V5900 will perform much better than most gaming cards, crossfiring two gaming cards to do CAD and rendering workloads would be pretty inefficient, on performance per dollar and energy (probably 3x the watts if you went with a firepro).

If work and productivity is your main concern, the firepro graphics will work much better. On the gaming side, sadly the performance will be like a upgraded radeon 6670, dial down the setting to medium low though, and your gaming will still run smoothly.

As with the cpu situation, the xeon works better, but the FX chip is just slightly behind, the xeon is a little more performance for double the cost.


I've found another Firepro card, the v7900. What kind of performance would a single v7900 have in comparison for gaming?



That card would be like a radeon 7770 in gaming prformance. Let me revised what I said above, while a fiepro would be much better for CAD, a high end gaming card will still run CAD very smoothly, so unless you doing very big workloads or you want to build a more "professional" workstation, a gaming card would probably fit your needs
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July 16, 2013 8:28:47 AM


"Once again, the lesson here is that, in the workstation graphics segment, you don’t pay that massive premium for better hardware so much as you pay for the drivers and validation. ... Games are fun and all, but when you step aboard that new 787, you need to trust that the workstations responsible for every piece of it were 100% accurate."

If you don't need 100% accuracy and the drivers and validation, don't spend the money for a workstation graphics card. It's that simple. Those are the ONLY reasons to buy a workstation graphics card.
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July 16, 2013 8:53:58 AM

Thanks for the help with graphics cards. Now the ultimate question AMD or Intel? thanks to k1114 for recommending the Xeon E3-1230 v3, it's between that or the FX-8350. With the AMD being about £70 cheaper ($110 ish) in total for cpu and mobo
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July 16, 2013 9:07:19 AM

Meeplebops said:
Thanks for the help with graphics cards. Now the ultimate question AMD or Intel? thanks to k1114 for recommending the Xeon E3-1230 v3, it's between that or the FX-8350. With the AMD being about £70 cheaper ($110 ish) in total for cpu and mobo

The E3 is more or less a 3350P with "server features". Both should do the job, and you cannot go wrong with either but if you can get a great motherboard with the 8350 for the same price as a Xeon-E3 with a crappy motherboard, I would take the 8350. The 8350 also does multi-threaded tasks exceptionally well and actually has overclocking headroom.
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July 16, 2013 9:10:53 AM

Meeplebops said:
Thanks for the help with graphics cards. Now the ultimate question AMD or Intel? thanks to k1114 for recommending the Xeon E3-1230 v3, it's between that or the FX-8350. With the AMD being about £70 cheaper ($110 ish) in total for cpu and mobo


AMD all the way man, the xeon has slighlty more power, but this processor is meant to take server workloads, not do CAD and rendering. The AMD 8350 with 8 cores is a beast at multithreaded apps and rendering, so amd is the way to go, i have a 8320, and i use blender seamlessly.
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July 16, 2013 9:47:30 AM

bob1033 said:
Meeplebops said:
Thanks for the help with graphics cards. Now the ultimate question AMD or Intel? thanks to k1114 for recommending the Xeon E3-1230 v3, it's between that or the FX-8350. With the AMD being about £70 cheaper ($110 ish) in total for cpu and mobo


AMD all the way man, the xeon has slighlty more power, but this processor is meant to take server workloads, not do CAD and rendering. The AMD 8350 with 8 cores is a beast at multithreaded apps and rendering, so amd is the way to go, i have a 8320, and i use blender seamlessly.


Alright, looks like I'll get an 8350, probably with a closed loop water system from corsair to keep it cool as I know amd tend to run hotter.
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July 16, 2013 9:30:52 PM

Xeons are no different in performance. They are not just for servers, they actually state workstations too though this is really about ecc than the cpus themselves. They even use the same dies as i3/i5/i7. They don't have "server features" the only benefit is the ability to use ecc ram. However, the 1230v3 is pretty much an i7 at an i5 price, and that is why many choose to get it if they are not ocing. The 1230v3 is not a 3350p as it has ht; it's also hw not ib. i5, i7, xeon, this is all just marketing, they're the same under the hood. As I have stated, the 8350 is better in multithreaded workloads like rendering.
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July 17, 2013 6:49:33 AM

k1114 said:
Xeons are no different in performance. They are not just for servers, they actually state workstations too though this is really about ecc than the cpus themselves. They even use the same dies as i3/i5/i7. They don't have "server features" the only benefit is the ability to use ecc ram. However, the 1230v3 is pretty much an i7 at an i5 price, and that is why many choose to get it if they are not ocing. The 1230v3 is not a 3350p as it has ht; it's also hw not ib. i5, i7, xeon, this is all just marketing, they're the same under the hood. As I have stated, the 8350 is better in multithreaded workloads like rendering.


Doh! I accidentally pulled up the 1220V2. The 1230V3 is ~270, so it is still in i7 price range.
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July 17, 2013 9:11:11 AM

It's 250, a 4670k is 240. The cheapest i7 is 310.
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