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Pro Graphics: Seven Cards Compared

Introduction

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.

  • zajooo
    Hi guys,

    I was allways wondering, how it would look with comparison of these cards with gamers cards, wheather the gamer ones did not give us as we say "Lot of music, for a little money". Whould we get simmilar results in the field of geometry transformation, without using any alliasing a any of the really not necessary features ???

    Thanx
    Reply
  • Evendon
    I would also like to know how these cards handle games. Especially im interested in how mobile versions of quodro fx work with games.
    I would also like to play with my work laptop with quodro fx-chip (fx 3600m)
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    I was pretty much wondering how low a geforce 8800gt or ati 4750 would stack? given the lowest prices in denmark for a v3600 or fx570 start at 1150kr and a 8800gt256 costs only 680kr (4750 @ 1070kr), they're comparable in the budget department.

    We're only doing basic grid stuff mostly at work, but we're using intel 945 chipsets with onboard graphics for that - the pentium dualcore seems to do that okay, but it isn't happy about textures at all. However for those things we use old p4's with geforce 6600gt cards - not quadro anything, and I can't help to wonder if using gamer cards is the right or wrong choice (worked great for us so far).


    ps. we use inventor, mechanical desktop and revit from autodesk (newest and second newest versions only), so only the 3dstudio results are interesting for me.
    Reply
  • venteras
    Where's the Quadro FX 3700 and 4700?

    I don't see how you can do a review dated 13 August that seemingly cover all current main stream cards and not have 2 of NVidia's primary cards included?

    Was this paid for by ATI?
    Reply
  • sma8
    zajoooHi guys,I was allways wondering, how it would look with comparison of these cards with gamers cards, wheather the gamer ones did not give us as we say "Lot of music, for a little money". Whould we get simmilar results in the field of geometry transformation, without using any alliasing a any of the really not necessary features ???Thanx
    Pro graphic cards are different from gamers/consumer cards. Pro graphic cards are designed to be capable of handling workstations applications such as AutoCAD or 3D Studio MAX whereas gamers/consumer cards are designed for desktop pc apps or games. You can see the differences of both cards here:
    http://www.nvidia.com/object/builtforprofessionals.html
    That's a good example how both cards work in workstation application. That's why pro graphic cards cost very expensive
    Reply
  • anonymous1000
    Hello. Thank you for the interesting article. What is also interesting is the huge gap between Spec results and my day to day experiences with ATI pro cards. When the first spec results showed up, I started recommending my clients to buy FireGL 3600-8600 cards but nfortunately, they where VERY pour performers in 3DSMAX work... apart from the fact that you couldn't even use half of their strength with the first drivers, even now, comparing the FPS count on the V5600 card with that of 9600GT on 3DSMAX shows it is much more comfortable to work with the latest.. If you want to move a large project on your viewport it moves allot faster if you have a 9600GT card installed. THIS is a benchmark I would like to see here because IT REALLY MATTERS to animators. Thank you
    Reply
  • hixbot
    nobofy?
    Reply
  • bydesign
    sma8Pro graphic cardshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphics_processing_unit are different from gamers/consumer cards. Pro graphic cards are designed to be capable of handling workstations applications such as AutoCAD or 3D Studio MAX whereas gamers/consumer cards are designed for desktop pc apps or games. You can see the differences of both cards here:http://www.nvidia.com/object/built onals.htmlThat's a good example how both cards work in workstation application. That's why pro graphic cards cost very expensive
    Not true I can flash the bios on my 8800 GTX and it will run just like it's workstation cousin. They are using the same hardware but handicapping the consumer card.
    Reply
  • theLaminator
    Wish this article had been published about three days ago, it would've made my decision on which new laptop to get for school (i'm an engineering major, so i actually will use this). I finally decided on an HP with with the FireGL v5600, looks like a made the right choice based on these benchmarks. Guess we'll see when I actually get it and try it in application.
    Reply
  • "I would also like to know how these cards handle games. Especially im interested in how mobile versions of quodro fx work with games.
    I would also like to play with my work laptop with quodro fx-chip (fx 3600m)"

    I also have a Quadro 3600M in my laptop. In 3dMark06, I get a score of 8800. COD4 and UT3 run smoothly with all settings maxed out at 1900x1200. Quadro cards are as good or better at gaming as their Geforce equivalents.
    Reply