CUDA for Professionals - NVIDIA's Newest Quadro GPUs

CUDA for Professionals

CUDA for Professionals

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.

These are some of the most expensive graphics cards ever to make it to our lab, costing at least US$1999 for the Quadro FX 4800 and Quadro CX. The top model, the FX 5800 is at a whopping US$3499.

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:-

The Quadro FX and CX Specifications
Model / Specs NVIDIA Quadro FX 5800 NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 NVIDIA Quadro CX NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260
Processing Cores 240 192 192 192/216
Memory Size 4GB 1.5GB 1.5GB 896MB
Memory Interface 512-bit 384-bit 384-bit 448-bit
Memory Bandwidth 102GB/s 76.8GB/s 76.8GB/s 111.9GB/s
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
Maximum TDP 189W 150W 150W 182W
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