I haven't been here in over a year, so I'm kind of lost in terms of new hardware.
I'm building a PC for my sister who is in architecture school. She needs to be able to use intensive 3D modeling software (Rhino, Maya, CAD, etc.). She currently has a macbook, but thats no good for modeling. I'm looking at a price range under $1000. Help!
Edit: she also needs it for heavy photo and image editing (Photoshop, InDesign, etc.)
FireGL and Quadro are extra expensive because they are made for professionals.
You can still use those normal GPUs for CAD but they are not optimally made for drawings. A powerfull normal GPU card doesn't give any big advantage during drawing, in fact example : HD3600 has about the same performance to HD3850 if you use it for CAD.
On the other hand FireGL or Quadro are not made for gaming, thus they are bad for gaming needs.
Here are a few question that could help you decide which GPU to use :
1. Does your sister play games?
2. In which semester is your sister? beginner or will soon graduated?
3. What is your sister planing on this computer? learn to draw or want to get the best result?
I've personally found that my FireGL doesn't give me THAT much more performance in 3ds Max than an equivalent "regualar" card. I would say that if your sister plays ANY games or you don't want to spend $$$ on a workstation card, your sister would be fine with any current video card.
Actually those FireGL or Quadro are made to attain best results in CAD.
The card helps you in drawing CAD specially by drawing buildings. It helps really...especially if you try to zoom in and out very often in CAD.
About its performance on 3DMax..I don't know a thing about that.
If I am not mistaken, your sister use CAD very often.
It makes no difference if you are a beginner CAD user, but you'll notice the difference if you use it on complex drawings.
Indeed it is tough.
Why don't we put it this way?
Just get a cheap normal GPU this time, and let your sister buy those FireGL or Quadro if she really needs it.
Perhaps she doesn't need it that bad since she is still in uni/college.
But she'll probably need it when she got a job as an architect.
If she doesn't play games, you can save some money by buying her only HD3600. You/She can use the money to buy the needed card sometime in the future, if it is really necessary.