Articles: Graphics

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Engineers and developers who use 3D modeling and computer-aided design systems very well remember the times when it was a real problem to buy a special graphics accelerator because of extremely high price of these solutions. Luckily, things have changed a lot since then and you absolutely don’t need to rob a bank in order to afford a professional graphics accelerator. As a result of convergence of professional and gaming 3D graphics solutions markets, the developers of gaming GPUs took over the leadership in production of graphics solutions for engineers and 3D designers.

When big guys like 3DLabs and Matrox stepped away from the development and production of high-performance graphics solutions, all contemporary professional graphics accelerators turned into analogues of the gaming cards. Long-term existence of special professional solutions was erased by overall unification: now both – gaming and professional graphics cards – use the same exact graphics processors. Crazy “armament drive” in the gaming GPU market stimulated intensive growth of the GPU performance making them capable of coping just fine with engineering and designer tasks.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that the conclusions we made in numerous gaming graphics card reviews can be simply applied to workstation products as is. Contemporary market of high-performance workstation graphics accelerators is still quite different from the gaming solutions market. Although Nvidia and AMD took over production of professional graphics solutions, there are no products from the popular GeForce and Radeon families here. Instead, Quadro FX and FirePro rule the professional segment. And it is not because gaming and professional solutions from AMD and Nvidia differ greatly in their PCB and cooling systems design as well as formal specifications.

3D modeling applications and computer-aided design systems that are the primary application field for professional graphics accelerators, create a completely different type of work load that is totally not like the gaming load. Therefore, professional graphics cards require special drivers that accelerate specific 3D functions that are used mostly for these particular applications. These special drivers are blocked from being used on gaming solutions by their manufacturers that is why the price of typical professional graphics cards is higher than that of gaming accelerators. Moreover, manufacturers offer services of completely different quality for professional graphics card users, such as faster and more user-friendly technical support, longer warranty and faster replacement of failed components.

Therefore, from time to time we pay special attention to professional graphics accelerators on our site, too. Today the time has come for a new round of tests. We are going to introduce to you a new generation of workstation graphics solutions from AMD and Nvidia that became widely spread after 65 nm and 55 nm processes had been introduced into manufacturing. So, our today’s roundup will be devoted to the latest Quadro FX and FirePro solutions and their performance in professional applications. And even if you have a good idea of the situation in the gaming graphics cards market, the results of our today’s session may be somewhat unexpected for you anyway: the software optimizations can change things dramatically.

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