By now, GPU computing should no longer be an unfamiliar term for readers. We had previously taken an introductory look at a shift towards parallel computing and what this has meant for GPUs. We had also talked about NVIDIA's CUDA as used in high-performance computing here. That's not all that one can do with CUDA however.
NVIDIA themselves has segmented the different uses of CUDA technology along the lines of high-performance, workstation and consumer graphics. Which in the parlance of NVIDIA's branding refers to its Tesla, Quadro and GeForce series. Today, we'll be looking at the workstation category, specifically, the newest members of NVIDIA's Quadro line of workstation graphics cards. These are the GPUs that are used for professional 3D and graphics applications like Maya and AutoCAD in industries from image and video editing to computer-assisted design.
While we have dabbled now and then in workstation graphics, the cost of these cards and their specialized nature mean that this doesn't happen often. Common characteristics of these specialized cards include large frame buffers with higher precision hardware, custom firmware and drivers, along with more comprehensive technical support. They are also usually based on the same GPU architecture as the consumer graphics variants, though they will cost significantly more.
The new Quadros for instance are based on NVIDIA's GTX 200 series of GPUs and have similar or close to the graphical processing power of their consumer graphics cousins (So you can play a game of Crysis after work). They are also CUDA capable, which bodes well given the increasing number of applications for CUDA in these technical fields. While we'll be assessing three different Quadro cards in this article, particular attention should be paid to the Quadro CX, which is uniquely marketing to take advantage of its CUDA capability to improve performance in Adobe Premiere Pro CS4. Before we get into the details, here's a short summary on what you can expect to find on these Quadro cards compared to a similar GTX 200 GPU, the GeForce GTX 260:-
|Model / Specs||NVIDIA Quadro FX 5800||NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800||NVIDIA Quadro CX||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260|
|SLI Frame Rendering Support||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Molex Power Connectors||6-pin, 8-pin||6-pin||6-pin||6-pin|
|Rear Outputs||2 x Dual-link DVI, 1 x DisplayPort, Stereo 3D port||1 x Dual-link DVI, 2 x DisplayPort, Stereo 3D port||1 x Dual-link DVI, 2 x DisplayPort, Stereo 3D port||2 x Dual-link DVI, 9-pin mini-DIN|