Besides catering to gamers with their Radeons and GeForces, AMD and Nvidia also develop graphics cards for professional users. Although both kinds of solutions are actually based on the same hardware components, the two markets are absolutely different for a number of reasons. First and foremost, professional applications for 3D modeling or high-performance computing are quite a different kind of load compared to video games. Then, professional users expect better tech support and have stricter stability and reliability requirements. That's why graphics cards for CAD/CAM and HPC applications must be discussed separately.
The best illustration of the different nature of the professional graphics market is the fact that it is not shared in the same way as the market of gaming graphics cards. It is dominated by Nvidia which has been enjoying an 80% and higher share for the last several years. And even though the number of professional users is not large compared to the million-strong army of gamers, this market is really important for the GPU makers. Costing about the same money to make as their gaming counterparts, professional products come at much higher prices, bringing in a lot of profit, which is the reason why AMD and Nvidia are both trying to win professional users as well.
Following the release of the new graphics architectures, AMD GCN and Nvidia Kepler, in early 2012, both manufacturers updated their professional product line-ups in the second half of the year. We can note, by the way, that professional solutions come out after their components have been extensively tested in gamer-oriented products. It takes some time to polish off the drivers and additionally verify that the new GPU is compatible with CAD/CAM applications. As a result, Nvidia had only updated its Tesla series by the end of the first half-year, AMD released its new and highly promising FirePro W series in August, and then in September Nvidia came up with its new Kepler-based professional product called Quadro K5000.
Today, we’ll have a look at the latest graphics card from Nvidia designed for high-performance workstations and compare its speed with that of the previous, Fermi-based solution. Unfortunately, we cannot throw an AMD card in just because we did not have one available at the time of the review. In fact, the low popularity of the AMD FirePro series may be partially due to insufficiently aggressive marketing.