I am looking at the ATI 1900 and nVidia 7900 cards and Please I do not want to start a comparison thread.
From a gaming standpoint, I beleive either of these cards will give me a very satisfying experience. But my concern is beyond the ability to play games, as I am a graphic designer and want to eventually move my workstation to the DCC environment and have the best of both worlds. To truly take advantage of programs such as 3DS max X, and AutoCAD, I have been told that I need to have a workstation level card - DO I?
Should I look at the ATI v7300 or the nVidia 4500 series cards if my primary concern is to use programs such as Abobe Photoshop, Macromedia and Corel Painter then when I move to 3DS will I suffer because I did not purchase the workstation level card?
A few years back 256MB cards were dreams, now they are a reality. I know that we had some very monumental issues with drivers - so is the real difference still drivers or will the great performance of these new cards give satisfactory performance in the high end software programs? Granted not at comparable speeds - but at least run the programs. I know to render a short animation it will require individual stills to be rendered then put together and this is a very heavy processor load requirement even in a render farm environment. SO a balance of CPU speed and adaquate RAM must be at the foundation.
I use AutoCAD and find my low end 128MB card has no problems and I can even render stills in Strata with no problem.
When is it necessary to have the workstation level cards and not advisable to try an run 3D software with the ATI or Nvidia cards?
What advantage will I get with a certified card and workstation level drivers running the above software?
Nvidia & Ati workstation cards are exactly the same hardware as their gaming counterparts, but they have a bridge fused to identify them as such and allow you to use a special professional driver - these drivers are coded by dedicated driver teams, and they are what you're paying for when you pay the premium for a professional card.
In most cases, sooner or later someone will hack the drivers, giving you professional card performance in your gaming card.
Having said that, and being a 3dsMAX user for a living, I find anything newer and faster than a ti4200 with at least 128mb of ram a GREAT card for MAX.
If you buy a 6800 or X850 based card, you'll be getting 80 to 90% the CAD performance of the pro cards at less than half the price... and when someone hacks the driver, you win again. That's the route I'd take.
The only reason I'd recommend to pay the premium for a professional card (personally) is that that premium entitles you to much better tech support from the manufacturer. In a corporate setting this might be very desirable for you. So it's up to you.
The professional cards/drivers will give you a better error free picture. Gameing cards dont necessarily worry about have some pixels out of place or wrong color. The proffesional ones dont allow these errors to be displayed giving you a more accurate picture.
Cleeve - Forgive me in advance for repeating myself, but I want to make sure that I understand.
Presently, I am a 2D artist using most of the graphics software on the PC platform (Adobe, Corel, Macromedia, etc..). I am running under Windows XP Pro and everything runs well. I have worked with 3DsMAX, but was blown away due to the extreme learning curve. I plan to climb the curve, all the way to the top, again shortly. So I should not have any issues with the present software and my plans to move into 3D except, that I should see an increase in productivity/performance when I move to the new ATI or Nvidia cards.
As I mentioned before, I beleived that some software programs were not supported by the video cards due to driver issues. You mentioned "..special professional driver - these drivers are coded by dedicated driver teams," these may be the drivers I am refering to. Sales will always try to steer us in the direction of high level hardware/software all the way to the bank...
You speek of performance levels approaching 80% to 90% in CAD with the 850 and 6800 cards are these levels achieved with the supplied drivers?
From a very personal point of view, do you think productivity in 3DsMax would suffer with the supplied drivers to the point that you feel there is a need to move to the professional level cards/drivers?
Conclusion - I truly can work and play with the cards I am looking at, provided I have the time to....
As far as I've seen, there isn't a program out there that will not work with the standard "gaming" drivers for cards like the 6800's and X800s.
The professional drivers provide more options, more stability, and more support.
Would production suffer with the standard supplied drivers VS professional cards and drivers? Honestly, that depends on the type of scenes you are working on, and how you choose to display them.
As a worst case scenario, your preview window may update at 2 frames per second instead of, say, 5 frames per second. Will this make you work slower? not much, but it'll make your work easier.
That's the worst case scenario though. Working in MAX, once you've experimented you will lower your viewport detail according to your hardware.
For example, I do alot of production work with my trusty 9700 PRO, and I don't think it hampers my productivity; in fact, I haven't bothered using the hacked professional drivers. Having said that, I usually work with medium to low poly scenes (less than 200,000 faces), so that's a factor.
That's my experience anyway. As for individual pixels not being the right color, well; I'm working in 3dsMAX, it's far from an exact science. It's a visualization tool, not a CAD designer tool... Hasn't ever been a problem for me.
I am going to finalize my system with the ATI 850LT PE video card. From what I have gleened from the various sites both the Nvidia and ATI cards are very close in the race to provide great gaming experiences and as they round the first turn there will be another even better card to WAIT for comming out of the starting gate!!!!!
My business is stable and paying the bills and my migration to the 3D environment very measured and long over due. I look to add the 3D look to my present graphic style, I will not be creating animations, in the beginning, just rendering stills. So on your advise, I should have a very rewarding experience - if I can stop playing the games.
Thanks again Cleeve and strum for the great advise so far, I look forward to continuing my education in the community...