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Nvidia Quadro K5000 in Detail

The family of Kepler-based graphics cards is structured somewhat differently from others. Normally, a GPU maker focuses on producing a feature-rich top-end solution first and then releases less advanced modifications. It wasn’t so with the Kepler architecture which was first implemented as the GK104 chip, not a top-end GPU at all. The GK110 GPU, the fastest Kepler-based chip, hasn’t yet made it to any graphics card but is limited to Tesla K20 and K20X because of its low-level optimization for computations as well as to certain problems Nvidia and its manufacturing partner TSMC have with mass-producing such sophisticated chips on 28nm tech process.

Thus, today’s Kepler-based graphics cards for gamers and professionals selling under the GeForce and Quadro brands use the well-known GK104 chip. And while there are quite a lot of different GK104-based cards for gaming, there is only one professional product of that kind so far. It is called Quadro K5000.

Positioned as a replacement to the Fermi-based Quadro 5000, the Quadro K5000 comes at a recommended price of $2250 but can actually be found for about $1800. In other words, the two cards are comparable in price. The Quadro K5000 has much better specs, though:

Featuring the same GPU version as the GeForce 680, the Quadro K5000 can offer much higher performance than the previous flagship. Its fully unlocked GK104 chip incorporates 1536 CUDA cores clocked at 706 MHz and complemented with 4 GB of 5.4GHz GDDR5 memory. The clock rates are considerably lower compared to Nvidia’s modern top-end gaming cards, making the Quadro K5000 better in terms of energy efficiency. It is economical not only compared to gaming Kepler-based products but also to professional cards of previous generations.

The relatively low level of power consumption is not only due to the reduced clock rates and the lower GPU voltage limit (it’s 0.975 volts now). It is ensured by the entire Kepler architecture which is an improvement on the Fermi in terms of energy efficiency. In its basic structure the GK104 GPU is not unlike its predecessors, though. It contains a GigaThread Engine, memory controllers, an L2 cache for data and instructions, raster operators and, of course, graphics processing clusters that are responsible for computing and texture-mapping operations. The GPU version employed by the Quadro K5000 has four full-featured GPCs each of which includes a raster engine and two streaming multiprocessors (SMXs).

The SMXs are responsible for the bulk of computing done on the GPU. The computing cores are given more emphasis in the Kepler architecture and occupy a larger area of the GPU die than the rest of the logic, including control logic. Thus, the Kepler can be said to have higher computing density than the Fermi, which is good for professional graphics cards that often have to apply same-type instructions to huge arrays of data.

Each SMX contains 192 CUDA cores which is six times the number of SMs in the Fermi architecture. Even though these cores are clocked at the base (rather than double, as before) clock rate, the performance per watt is tripled. Therefore, the Quadro K5000 is not only a fast graphics card. It is also a very energy efficient solution compared to other professional products.

In fact, the low power consumption is indicated by the very exterior of the Quadro K5000. While its face side is covered by its cooler, the reverse side reveals a short PCB we know by gaming cards of the GeForce GTX 670 series.

The difference is that the Quadro K5000 is equipped with 4 gigabytes of memory and thus makes use of all available places for GDDR5 chips. The similarity with the GeForce GTX 670 means that the professional card uses a simplified 4-phase GPU power system. It doesn’t seem to need more, though, as it only has one 6-pin power connector.

In other words, the reduced clock rates and voltage of the full-featured GK104 chip make the Quadro K5000 even more economical than the GeForce GTX 670. It is an advantage indeed since the professional card not only has a lower temperature but also makes less noise, even at high loads. The peak speed of the default fan was not higher than 1700 RPM whereas the GPU was never hotter than 80°C during our tests. The cooler’s heatsink is larger than the one installed on the GeForce GTX 680, contributing to efficient cooling, too. Take note that the Quadro K5000 with reference cooler is a dual-slot card with a length of 270 millimeters.

Like its gaming Kepler-based counterparts, the Quadro K5000 is equipped with four video outputs: two DisplayPorts, one dual-link DVI-I and one dual-link DVI-D. You can connect up to four monitors concurrently to it, i.e. twice the number of monitors supported simultaneously by Nvidia’s previous-generation professional cards.

You can additionally increase that number by means of a Quadro Sync card which helps you combine the video outputs of several Quadro K5000 cards installed in the same workstation. For example, a system with four such cards can output a single image to a “wall” of 16 synchronized monitors and Nvidia’s Mosaic technology will spare you the trouble of configuring drivers and other software. The display wall will be identified by the OS as a single display with super-high resolution.

Quadro K5000 cards can also be used in tandem with Tesla K10, K20 or K20X computing cards. Nvidia’s Maximus technology will allow you to run 3D modeling and CUDA-rendering tasks in parallel on the same workstation in this case.

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