Articles: Graphics

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The market of gaming graphics cards is dynamic and rapidly developing but the market of professional graphics solutions is quite the opposite. Product generations change slowly there. In fact, the developers of professional graphics cards used to deliver only one set of products corresponding to each GPU architecture. There were no boosted versions with increased clock rates or improved specs. There were no dual-processor modifications. The market developed in a most conservative way.

That was no problem for the end users, though. Professional graphics cards are much more expensive than their gaming counterparts, so you naturally want your investment into one to be future-proof, especially as CAD/CAM applications do not develop at such a fast rate as the video game industry and do not call for a constant and rapid increase in hardware resources. Of course, faster GPUs provide certain benefits for professional applications at 4K resolutions and with complex 3D models, yet professional cards released two or three years ago are still good enough for running the latest versions of such applications.

This state of things is about to change, though. AMD and Nvidia, the two main developers of professional graphics cards, are going to get to grips in a fierce fight.

AMD used to neglect its FirePro series, viewing it as a derivative product based on the gaming Radeon series. AMD didn’t put much effort into promoting it and increasing its sales but this strategy is being reconsidered now. Traditional desktop PCs are losing their ground, leading to a decline in discrete graphics card shipments because of the onslaught of CPUs with integrated graphics, so professional graphics cards may become an important source of income. That’s why AMD has updated its FirePro series, transitioned it to the newest GPU design and reached out to CAD/CAM application developers for driver optimizations. So the new FirePro cards are not just adapted Radeons. They are full-featured professional solutions with competitive performance and functionality as we could see in our recent AMD FirePro W9100 review.

Of course, Nvidia has to react to the opponent’s actions to maintain its domineering position in this market segment. And this reaction leads to the release of new products that ensure higher performance without transitioning to new GPU designs. A couple of months ago Nvidia announced updated Quadro series models which are mostly based on the older Kepler architecture but have become faster.

The update doesn’t concern the Quadro K6000 which remains the world’s fastest professional graphics card but covers as many as five new products that replace the Quadro K5000 and simpler models. The graphics cards Nvidia released just a couple of years ago become outdated and are supposed to be substituted for those that have higher GPU performance and more onboard memory. Marketed as Quadro Kx200, they also compete with AMD’s FirePro Wx100 series that were expected to ensure a more attractive price/performance ratio than Nvidia’s solutions. Nvidia’s response has been not only quick but also decisive: the new Quadro cards are promised to ensure a 40% performance boost while staying on the same price level.

So in this review we will take a look at the three senior models of the new series, Quadro K5200, K4200 and K2200, in comparison with their predecessors as well as with AMD’s rather attractive FirePro Wx100 series.

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