Our site writes about the new graphics solutions on a regular basis. We examine the graphics hardware in detail and test them all in the latest and most impressive 3D games, because the results of these tests are what most computer enthusiasts are expecting from us. However, we shouldn’t forget that gaming graphics accelerators are not the only types of cards available in this market. In fact, all graphics accelerators can be split into three big groups depending on their application. Besides widely spread gaming cards, the other two groups include integrated graphics and professional cards. Graphics solutions built into core logic sets are primarily intended for office use. They can’t boast high 3D performance, but are inexpensive and cope perfectly fine with the graphics interfaces of the operating system and majority of other applications. Professional graphics accelerators include elite graphics cards that speed up the interface of computer-aided design and 3D modeling applications. Solutions like that boast certain unique features that are unavailable in graphics cards from other categories.
Nevertheless, the main designers of discrete GPUs – AMD and Nvidia – do not develop special processors for the professional graphics cards. Instead, they adapt the same chips that are used for gaming accelerators. As a result, a lot of users out there do not really see any dramatic difference between professional and gaming graphics cards, which often leads to inadequate use of both of them.
Although many differences between the cards of these two types start with their PCBs, the optimizations for different applications are implemented primarily in the drivers. The gaming graphics card drivers are optimized for scenes with relatively few polygons, where bright photo-realistic image is achieved with thoroughly drawn textures and various effects, including pixel and vertex shaders. Professional applications do not strive for photo-realistic visualization. Therefore, they use completely different GPU features: they require high performance during work with numerous polygons with changing positions in wireframe mode or with primitive shading. Texturing speed becomes secondary in this case, and the shaders are hardly used at all. So, the professional graphics card drivers are optimized for maximizing the geometric GPU performance. Since the above described driver optimization is necessary for successful work in 3D modeling and CAD applications, the gaming graphics cards perform relatively slow in them, which puzzles the users most of the time. Professional graphics cards, in their turn, aren’t fast enough in 3D games.
Besides, we have to point out one more thing. Although transferring computational workload from the CPU to the GPU has become pretty popular lately, professional graphics accelerators cannot claim taking part in the final rendering process. So, you have to understand that the professional graphics accelerators have actual effect on performance in CAD/CAM and DCC systems only in viewports, but not during final rendering when processor speed matters most. The only exception to this rule is Nvidia’s brand name Gelato renderer that knows to use the GPU resources. However, its practical value is quite insignificant because the rendered is not widely spread yet.
To back up these statements with some real facts and to see what the current situation in the professional graphics card market looks like, we undertook another test session involving mid-range professional graphics solutions from AMD and Nvidia. Especially, since it’s been a while since our last roundup of professional graphics accelerators for CAD and CAM applications and both manufacturers have already released new product generations. Besides, responding to readers’ numerous questions we have also added the performance comparison against one of the top gaming cards.
So, let’s take a closer look at our today’s testing participants.