Speaking of the professional graphics cards market in general, I would like to point out that even though the price of these solutions has been going down lately, it is still several times higher than the price of analogous gaming graphics accelerators with similar technical specifications. And keeping in mind that professional and gaming graphics solutions use the same exact chips, the consumers have every right to question this price difference. Therefore, we must remind you one more time that high price of ATI FirePro and Nvidia Quadro FX graphics accelerators originates not only from the price of their hardware components, but also from technical support and corresponding software.
You shouldn’t forget that professionals working in 3D modeling and design systems value not only high speed, but also high-quality and precision in drawing lines and surfaces that is performed without any simplifications. The gaming graphics card drivers, however, are optimized for maximum performance at any rate. Therefore, they are often unable to provide the precision professionals need during work in CAD and CAM applications. That is why specialists working in 3D modeling and design systems never question the need for a special professional graphics solution.
Our today’s test session showed that although there is parity between AMD and Nvidia in the gaming market today, the situation in the professional graphics accelerators market is somewhat different. Over the past few years we pointed out over and over again that Nvidia paid more attention to their Quadro FX professional graphics cards family than AMD to their FireGL and now FirePro. And these extra efforts did pay off. Today we can conclude with all certainty that Nvidia graphics solutions won the today’s marathon.
To be more exact, first of all we have to point out that Nvidia currently offers solutions that simply have no analogues in the AMD camp. The architectural and hardware features make Quadro FX 4800 and Quadro FX 5800 faster than any of the available AMD solutions in 3D modeling and computer-aided design systems. Moreover, only Nvidia offers solution equipped with unprecedented amounts of video memory that may be useful for creation and processing of higher complexity 3D models.
Secondly, Nvidia’s driver optimization made even low-cost latest-generation Quadro FX capable of running as fast as AMD solutions from the high-end price segment in a number of applications. This situation takes place, for instance, in 3ds max, AutoCAD and SolidWorks. By the way, do not forget that Nvidia also offers engineers and 3D modelers working in 3ds max and AutoCAD special performance enhancing drivers for these particular applications.
Thirdly, Nvidia pays more attention than AMD to additional hardware features of their professional solutions. Quadro FX series has recently acquired full support not only for SLI in CAD and CAM suites, but also for SLI Multi-OS that allows using different graphics accelerators for different virtual machines within a single physical system. Also Nvidia provided its Quadro FX cards with SDI daughter cards support. As for AMD, they can’t currently offer anything like that.
Overall, we get the feeling that professional graphics cards have become sort of a side product for AMD that hasn’t received due attention for a while. It comes to the point when their design is fully copied off the gaming solutions. This approach led to the unfortunate fact that FirePro cards can currently offer acceptable price-to-performance ration only in very few selected CAD and CAM applications.
P.S.: We would like to thank PNY and Alliance Group for providing us with Nvidia Quadro graphics cards for this roundup.