Anyone who wants a professional graphics card for their workstation can usually get by paying less than $1,500 for a solid product. This is because AMD is really putting the pressure on pricing, which makes life difficult for Nvidia, but is great for customers.
Especially designed for CAD, DTP, and visual simulations, workstation graphics cards include optimizations for professional applications such as AutoCAD, SolidWorks, ProEngineer and the like. Nvidia and AMD realize that this is less about the hardware and more about dedicated drivers—you can hardly tell the difference between the FireGLs and Quadro FX models and their gaming counterparts. The smaller number of cards manufactured and sold, plus the need for independent driver development, certification and extensive support, makes these products expensive, and this is then reflected in the form of significantly higher prices.
To make this business concept work, the manufacturers protect themselves fairly successfully so that nobody can take a cheap gaming card like the GeForce or Radeon and turn it into a Quadro FX or FireGL. Granted, hackers repeatedly try to destroy this distinction by employing soft-mods on drivers and in the graphics cards’ BIOS files—and this is sometimes possible because in the end, the products are 99% the same.
In terms of performance, the differences are clear: if you compare a gaming graphics card with its (almost) identical workstation brother, the drivers ensure that a workstation model runs the professional applications much faster. Naturally, the gaming card thus runs those high-end app significantly slower. On the other hand, you could compare these graphics cards in gaming, though that doesn’t make much sense since nobofy buys a pricey workstation card for entertainment.
Since our last test of the AMD FireGL V7600 and Nvidia Quadro FX 4600, we also put the FireGL V8650 through the benchmark course. In this comparison, we give special attention to Nvidia’s Quadro FX 5600 and AMD’s FireGL V7700, the latter featuring DisplayPort connectivity. The Quadro FX 170, 570 and 370 from Nvidia are also examined, as are the FireGL V5600 and V3600 from AMD. For a complete list of benchmark participants, see the Test Configuration page.