NVidia’s Quadro Cards: Are they Worth The Price?

Image: Filmmaker IQ

Gamer peaks under the hood, and what he found may surprise you

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

UPDATE: I spoke to NVidia’s PR rep today and she told us that there is a Quadro card that is quite affordable. The K2000, which has 2GB of DDR5 RAM, running PCI Express. And it’s priced at $425. Additionally, the Quadro K4000, which NVidia recommends for users of Adobe and Avid software, and weighs in at less than $800. So while the upper level Quadro cards for serious design and CGI may be four figures, you can still get some serious horsepower for under $1000.

NVidia’s professional grade Quadro cards cost around $5,000. By contrast, their consumer grade GeForce GTX cards are a tenth that price. Now that may not be that big a deal playing Titanfall, but does that $4500 difference provide horsepower that can come in handy for CGI and post-production rendering? One gamer decided to peak under the hood and see just what the differences are between these video card levels, and whether springing for the extra horsepower is actually worth the money.

Linus of TechQuickie compared the NVidia GEForce GTX 780 and the NVidia Quadro and found that the same graphics core is being used for both. But while the GTX 780 is $500, and the Quadro is $5000. So, if they’re using the same graphics core, why is the Quadro $4500 more? Well, Linus initially points out that the Quadro has a different customer base, one with money to burn. Professionals in the fields of game development, film making, engineering and design, where, as he put it “NVidia would be crazy not to charge more for it.”

But then he goes deeper and says there’s much more to it. First off, NVidia allows third parties to sign onto the consumer grade GEForce spec and produce cards that meet it for a license fee. They are not privy to quality control as they are with Quadro cards, which NVidia makes themselves under very tight manufacturing tolerances. The result is professional grade hardware validation, larger video memory frame buffers, software centric drivers, and more importantly, double precision floating point capability.

This means that the Quadro provides for fewer random errors, lasts longer and with greater reliability, and can calculate and render graphic design images with far greater precision than the consumer grade GEForce cards. But he complains that these features lie dormant in the consumer grade cards, so are they hobbled while the professional grade cards run free?

Well, that is an argument.¬†Linus says that while the Quadro cards are far more expensive, and this also applies to ATI and its Firepro line, this provides companies with additional capital to develop cards down the road that are far more powerful and faster, and that performance eventually trickles down to the consumer grade versions over time. And there’s no denying that whether professional or consumer grade products, Moore’s Law that a computer component becomes exponentially more powerful every two years is still at play, and if the professional realm is driving that process, than so much the better.

Meanwhile, does an indie filmmaker really need to pay $5,000 for a Quadro card? No, not really, unless you’re one of those who simply has to have the top of the line of everything. But for the rest of us, maybe saving up for that GE Force Titan Z, which fits somewhere in the middle and has some of those professional grade features, may be worth saving your pennies for, especially if you’re doing CGI work.

And likeswise for the AMD FirePro line; I’m using the Firepro W5000 right now, right in the middle and aside from some quirky issues with the drivers when the computer goes to sleep, I can’t complain on it’s performance. But if you can’t swing for even the middle of the pack, you can still use those GTX cards, you’ll be rendering a lot longer since it’s chiefly designed for first person shooters like Call of Duty, but at least you have something to do in your down time.

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Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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