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Workstation- graphics card choice

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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December 31, 2012 2:02:04 PM

Hi there guys,

Normally when upgrading or building my PC's I tend to do a lot of research into specs, compatibility and value for money, I am currently in the middle of choosing my next upgrade parts as I want to make the move to a more workstation orientated PC...
However I have hit a wall when it comes to graphics cards as the general consensus is actually quite divided; Quadro? Top of the line GTX? Two older GTX's in SLi?. I'm not sure whether the nay-sayers are inexperienced armchair experts or whether the yes-men are Quadro fanboys or vice versa...

So, a little more detail... The programs I generally use:
-Autodesk Revit
-Autodesk AutoCAD Architecture
-Autodesk 3DS Max
-Autodesk Map3D
-Adobe Illustrator
-Adobe Bridge
-Adobe Photoshop
-Adobe In Design
-Adobe Premiere Pro
-MS Office
-Third party mapping and file conversion programs (most of which are in no way power hungry, but are generally multitasked)
-Google Sketchup (once in a blue moon)

My current setup runs everything fine, multitasking is a struggle when using say Illustrator, Photoshop, 3DS Max, and a few browser windows (and maybe iTunes) at the same time, large vector files are a killer in Illustrator (huge maps or a collection of smaller maps/drawings in the same document), very big scenes are a struggle in Max and rendering is a slow process especially when you up the quality.

Current setup:
-Coolermaster CM690 II case
-Hiper M670 PSU
-ASUS M4A89GTD Pro MB
-AMD Phenom II 955 quad core @3.2GHz
-8Gb Corsair XMS DDR3 1333MHz
-Nvidia GTX275 896Mb GDDR3 (+3.2GB shared)
-WD 160Gb Raptor (10,000rpm) main drive
-Plus a 150Gb WD and 1Tb Samsung, both for data
-NEC MS PA301W (2560x1600)

Sooo..... I am looking at changing a few bits:
-New MB = ASUS P9X79 Pro
-New CPU = Intel Xeon 2620 (Hex core) @2GHz
-New HD = Sandisk 480Gb SSD (might replace the 150Gb WD with the Raptor)
-New RAM = Corsair Vengence 64Gb @1600Hz (DDR3)
-New HD = smaller SSD for use as a scratch disk (undecided)
-New GPU = NVidia Quadro 4000????????

The Quadro, to me seems underspecced for the money, but has 'features' such as scaleable geometry engine, and is 'faster' at tesselating and rendering... I have read that Nvidia are just happily flogging an old card to people because of the associations people have with the Quadro sub-brand. I have also read that it is just a GTX580 (or something) with a different driver. I am finding it hard to get my head around what will serve me well, and give me the most power for the money to suit my needs...

So the question I have is, should I be looking at a Quadro 4000 or one or two gaming cards in the same price range...? Please give a proper explanation with actual experience, knowledge or figures to back it up as I have read so many peoples opinions it's unreal... :( 

Oh and if I missed a trick with any other aspects please feel free to comment :) 

Cheers Guys!!!!!
December 31, 2012 2:23:28 PM

While I don't have a lot of experience with workstation graphics cars like the Quadro 4000. I totally understand what you are saying. I've seen consumer cards that seem much faster than some workstation cards that are 3 times the price.

My only suggestion is...
Forget people's opinions, ignore what people claim...
You want to know what to expect? You have to look at benchmarks and ignore opinions.

I just bought a 7850 OC card for $179 but don't tell the people that paid a lot more for other cards that don't proform as well.

I would just pay attention to benchmarks and reviews... Ignore people's opinions...

**UPDATE**
After posting this message and just looking at the specs on paper.
The GTX cards seem like a much better deal.
The GTX 680 for example has over 1200 more CUDA cores and much more memory bandwidth.
680 GTX = 192.4 GB/s
Quadro 4000 = 89.6 GB/s

Hard numbers and benchmarks don't lie... they are just plain facts.

Also, pretty much everything intended for the corporate world is overpriced.
The office chair I'm sitting in right now... I found out they paid $250 for it. The average consumer would look at that this pathetic chair and wouldn't pay more than $50. My $100 office chair at home would cost $650 in the corporate world...
Same issue with laptops... (Same specs, different price)

But that's my opinion so you can ignore that part.
December 31, 2012 2:31:47 PM

Thanks for the reply! I have definately been looking at benchmarks but haven't found anything useful so far, the issue is that benchmarking is usually 'themed' and specific to the target audience of the card...

I.e. GTX cards will be benchmarked to hell on games and possibly, at a push premiere pro/final cut etc, and Quadros will be benchmarked on rendering a standard Maya scene or something like that...

But I don't think the two families have been compared properly on say 3DS Max rendering. The closest I have found is a 'smoothness test' which compared the framerate of a rotating model in, I think, maya, but thats a pretty useless test as, for me, that is a minor and irrelevent task...
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December 31, 2012 3:16:56 PM

Architeched said:
Thanks for the reply! I have definately been looking at benchmarks but haven't found anything useful so far, the issue is that benchmarking is usually 'themed' and specific to the target audience of the card...

I.e. GTX cards will be benchmarked to hell on games and possibly, at a push premiere pro/final cut etc, and Quadros will be benchmarked on rendering a standard Maya scene or something like that...

But I don't think the two families have been compared properly on say 3DS Max rendering. The closest I have found is a 'smoothness test' which compared the framerate of a rotating model in, I think, maya, but thats a pretty useless test as, for me, that is a minor and irrelevent task...


I'm noticing that as well...
Which obviously makes compairing benchmarks even more difficult.
a c 190 U Graphics card
December 31, 2012 3:43:44 PM

What renderer are you using? The default and mental ray are cpu based so the gpu will only handle the viewports (which can only use 1 gpu). While iray and quicksilver will use all gpus and gtx will be more performance/dollar. Autocad and revit are similarly cpu based renderers too so the cpu is more important. If you are using the cpu renderers I'd suggest going with a i7 3930k since you are going with a single cpu setup. A quadro will handle the viewports a lot better for the price but if your 275 is enough I don't think your projects will need that much.

I was sure there was a benchmark somewhere on tom's, I'll have to track it down later.
December 31, 2012 4:02:28 PM

A common misunderstanding concerning workstation cards is that they are mainly designed for faster rendering. While there are certain advantages in rendering with these cards, that is not there main advantage. Since rendering is time based, a lesser card will render well, but will simply take more time. Of course, time is money, as they say and although faster rendering is certainly a nice advantage, there is a much more important issue when creating content like 3D models. That issue is viewport redraw. If your dealing with large datasets like complex architectural models or models with lots of small fillets, game type cards will start to choke. Workstation cards are specifically designed for rotating, panning and zooming your models without having issues with slow redraw. Slow redraw can be frustrating and counter-productive.

Many issues with graphic cards are program specific. One program may work better with one brand and model of card while another program may do better with a different brand. I recommend visiting forums dedicated to your specific programs and asking their advice.
a b U Graphics card
December 31, 2012 4:03:07 PM

Note: The reason why you are paying more for workstation line of cards are for the driver support and general support when you do run into issues. One real question is are you a hobbist or do you really want maybe make money now or in the futre ?
a b U Graphics card
December 31, 2012 4:26:34 PM

I don't think a Xeon is necessary... While it's nice to have ECC buffered ram, it's not a necessity... It would probably be wiser to go with a 3930k...

December 31, 2012 4:46:53 PM

Wow thanks guys, some good information here! Ok...

K1114 - I mainly use Mental Ray, and occasionally Quicksilver, but am thinking of trying iRay as I have been told it is easier/quicker to use and still looks as good as Mr for Architectural/Photorealistic renders... I did not know about Mr using the CPU I just assumed that all Max renderers used the GPU lol! It's a steep leaning curve this! Looks like I might have to re-consider the whole spec...

Max Collodi - I do find myself limiting my models because I know adding more detail will make any future renders a pain, I feel completely limited by my hardware but as an ex gamer (as in major gamer) I find the workstation specifications an absolute minefield to navigate. I might have to visit a Max forum and maybe an Adobe forum (Illustrator is my main tool, but I have to put up with it constantly freezing, I suspect its just a ram issue but...) and get some info.

ikaz - Yes long term support would be helpful but its still a huge price gap, for me it would not be value for money if that's the only benefit. I am an Architecture student who is finishing this May. I am wanting to be as completely free from technical restrictions as possible this coming term, AND I want a system I can use for both continuing my professional work at home (when I find myself a job), and my own projects 'on the side'. So the need is completely money/qualification orientated, and Architectural work is 100% time dependant as any Architect will tell you; a project is never finished, you just run out of time...

So, would I be better off getting:
-New MB = A high end s2011 one
-New CPU = High spec i7
-New HD = Sandisk 480Gb SSD
-New RAM = Corsair Vengence 64Gb @1600Hz (DDR3)
-New HD = smaller SSD for use as a scratch disk (undecided)
-No new GPU, use my GTX275 for a bit first to see what I actually need...

Think this might be a logical way to go...?
!