When Uwe reviewed the FirePro V8800, he concluded that it trailed the Quadro 5000 in almost every benchmark and rightly awarded Nvidia’s board a victory.
Then AMD got its drivers into better shape. The FirePro V8800 would likely still trail the Quadro by a notable margin today. Remember that the FirePro card also sells for significantly less, though.
Today’s comparison is far less balanced from a pricing perspective. The V9800 is a $3500 card, while the Quadro is available under $2000. That premium gets you a 4 GB frame buffer (which AMD says is good for massive rendering tasks), six display outputs (which works well for professionals doing their jobs across huge desktops), and frame lock/genlock support. If none of those features sound important to you, the FirePro V8800 is a more sensible board to consider. Fortunately, the performance reported here, with the latest drivers, should be representative of that card, too. The V9800 only runs 25 MHz faster than the V8800, and we didn’t use any workloads capable of taxing that large repository of GDDR5. From that angle, we’re simply updating Uwe’s results from September with newer software, and coming to the same conclusion—generally, Nvidia’s Quadro is the faster card.
AMD and Nvidia each have their own fortes that make generalizations much less meaningful than they’d be in a desktop graphics card review.
If you’re a creative professional working with Adobe’s CS5 suite, then the Quadro is hands-down a no-brainer. The fact that Nvidia had the engineers to help develop Adobe’s Mercury Playback Engine was a huge strategic win for both Adobe and Nvidia. The former was languishing in its development, only just implementing 64-bit support, while the latter needed a more complete GPU-based acceleration solution than Elemental’s Accelerator plug-in for CS4. The extent to which hardware support speeds up the rendering of effects-heavy work simply embarrasses the FirePro lineup. And if you didn’t watch the video of the Paladin trailer we used for testing, you really owe it to yourself to check out.
At the same time, it’s possible that Nvidia’s emphasis on GPGPU computing caused it to fall behind elsewhere. AMD’s Eyefinity technology has proven to be a boon on the desktop space, and it’s now strutting its stuff in the workstation market. The FirePro V9800’s ability to drive six DisplayPort-equipped displays concurrently is unprecedented. If that’s a capability that means something to you, you’re only going to find it in one place. Even AMD’s FirePro V8800 can do four simultaneous display outputs, while Nvidia’s highest-end board is limited to a now-pedestrian two.
Clearly, this story doesn’t end with a handful of tests from SPEC. There was a period there, after the workstation graphics market consolidated down to ATI and Nvidia, that professional cards looked a lot like their desktop counterparts with some special driver sauce sprinkled on top. Now we’re looking at true differentiating features that steer professionals toward one product or the other based on their tasks.