Articles: Graphics

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Nvidia has been steadily improving its standing on the market of gaming GPUs. Having struggled to put early Fermi-based graphics cards into mass production, the company found that, despite their undoubtedly high performance, they met but a lukewarm reception among users due to their noisiness, high heat dissipation and costliness. Nvidia kept on pushing its Fermi family on the gaming market, though, and today offers mainstream graphics cards with a simplified Fermi chip which is free from most of the shortcomings of the full-featured version. Nvidia is also preparing even cheaper DirectX 11 compatibles for the back-to-school season. Thus, it will have become quite competitive to AMD across the entire DirectX 11 product line-up by the end of this year but it must be noted that the troubles with the introduction of the new generation of gaming GPUs have cost Nvidia over 10 percent of its market share.

On the other hand, there is a market segment where Nvidia has been on the rise. We mean professional graphics cards that serve in 3D modeling and computer-aided design workstations. Why? Well, professional designers, modelers and engineers need high-performance graphics hardware, just like gamers, and sometimes they need even more performance than computer enthusiasts. However, a professional’s notions about graphics card performance are somewhat different from that of ordinary users.

Professional graphics cards are not required to create spectacular and picturesque visuals with eye-catching shader effects, explosions, water rendering, and dynamic tessellation. They usually don’t even need to quickly draw a scene with nice-looking textures. Instead, graphics cards for CAD and CAM workstations must deliver high performance from a different point of view. They must be able to efficiently process huge arrays of geometrical data using some basic operations. A designer, engineer or architect needs to load into his graphics card a model with a huge number of graphical objects but in most cases the model is going to be processed in wireframe mode or using simple texturing and lighting. Rotation is going to be the most popular operation to be performed over such a model.

Thus, it looks like all the new-fangled technologies of photorealistic visualization touted by the GPU developers do not matter for professionals. Therefore, the lack of DirectX 11 compatibles in Nvidia’s professional product line-up has not prevented the company from increasing its market share. Again, engineers and designers need different things than gamers. They are willing to pay a lot of money for high-quality technical support, for polished-off and problem-free drivers, and for guaranteed stability of graphics cards in their CAD/CAM systems. Nvidia’s professional products have been very good from these aspects in the last few years. Besides developing an independent driver series for such solutions, the company optimizes them for popular CAD suites, offering specialized software.

However, we don’t mean that this market segment develops at a slower rate than the market of gaming graphics cards. Using the same GPUs, professional cards change their generations at about the same rate as gaming ones, but the introduction of a new generation is somewhat delayed due to the need to optimize the drivers and certify the products with CAD and CAM suite developers.

Fermi-based professional graphics cards were sure to come out after their gaming counterparts and now the time has come. Nvidia is announcing a series of new Quadro cards based on the well-known GF100 chip. The new series includes three models belonging with different price categories: the Quadro 4000 comes to replace the Quadro FX 3800; the Quadro 5000 is a replacement for the Quadro FX 4800; and the top-end Quadro 6000 is the new-generation substitute for the Quadro FX 5800.

Nvidia has been kind to offer us a sample of the most exciting product of the new series. So we will tell you all about the new Quadro 5000 in this review.

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