Mid-Range Workstation GPU Shootout : FireGL V5600 vs. QuadroFX 1700 vs. FireGL V3600

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Just a few weeks ago, we took a look at the two fastest workstation class graphics cards currently on the market, the FireGL V8650 from ATI/AMD and the QuadroFX 5600 from Nvidia. We found both products to be quite powerful and thought either one would be a solid choice for a high-end workstation.  However, the one comment which was repeated over and over again when looking at those cards was that unless you worked for a major studio or production firm, they were simply not very affordable. At nearly $3,000 a piece, the FireGL V8650 and QuadroFX 5600 require large investments. However, don’t think that just because a graphics card is targeted for workstation use that it has to be over-the-top expensive.

While workstation cards are certainly more expensive than their gaming-class brethren, it’s absolutely possible to build a budget-level system with a workstation-class graphics card to match. Both Nvidia and ATI have workstation-class cards which scale down well below $500, a fraction of the price of the high-end cards we looked at in our prior article. Today, we’ll be looking at a few products which make up this new generation of relatively inexpensive workstation cards, and we’ll see how performance compares to their high-end counterparts as well.

We’ll be looking at three cards in particular – two from ATI and one from Nvidia. From ATI, we’ve got their new FireGL V5600 512 MB card along with their low-end FireGL V3600 256 MB card. In the Nvidia camp, we’ve got our hands on the popular QuadroFX 1700 512 MB card. All three of these cards are very tolerable in terms of size, power consumption, noise, and (most of all) price . While one shouldn't expect top of the line performance from these cards, in our tests we found performance in many applications to be impressively good, proving that you don’t need to spend four digits to get solid workstation performance.
 



(Left to Right) FireGL V5600, QuadroFX 1700, and FireGL V3600 Graphics Cards



Unlike our high-end cards, which were relatively close in terms of specifications and price, these mid-range cards vary much more. These three cards have a wide range of different options, which means potential buyers should take a much closer look at the specifications before buying, rather than just looking at the benchmark charts.

ATI FireGL V5600

  • ATI RV630 GL Graphics Processor

  • 800 MHz GPU Clock Speed

  • 1100 MHz GDDR-4 Clock Speed

  • Shader Model 4.0 (DirectX 10) and OpenGL 2.1 Support

  • 512 MB of GDDR-4 Memory

  • 128-bit Memory Controller

  • 35 GB/s Memory Bandwidth

  • PCI Express x16 Connector

  • Bus Powered (No Power Connector Needed)

  • Single Slot Copper Cooling System

  • Two Dual-Link DVI Output Ports

  • No Stereo or HDTV Output

  • No Multi-GPU Support (Currently)

  • Supports Windows XP and Vista 32-bit and 64-bit, Linux 32-bit and 64-bit

  • MSRP : $599 USD

Nvidia QuadroFX 1700

  • Nvidia G84 Graphics Processor

  • 460 MHz GPU Clock Speed

  • 400 MHz DDR2 Clock Speed

  • Shader Model 4.0 (DirectX 10) and OpenGL 2.1 Support

  • 512 MB of DDR2 Memory

  • 128-bit Memory Controller

  • 12.8 GB/s Memory Bandwidth

  • PCI Express x16 Connector

  • Bus Powered (No Power Connector Needed)

  • Single Slot Aluminum Alloy Cooling System

  • Two Dual-Link DVI Output Ports

  • HDTV Output (No Stereo Output)

  • 2-Way SLI Multi-GPU Support

  • Supports Windows XP and Vista 32-bit and 64-bit, Linux 32-bit and 64-bit, Solaris

  • MSRP : $699 USD

ATI FireGL V3600

  • ATI RV630 GL Graphics Processor

  • 600 MHz GPU Clock Speed

  • 500 MHz DDR2 Clock Speed

  • Shader Model 4.0 (DirectX 10) and OpenGL 2.1 Support

  • 256 MB of DDR2 Memory

  • 128-bit Memory Controller

  • 16 GB/s Memory Bandwidth

  • PCI Express x16 Connector

  • Bus Powered (No Power Connector Needed)

  • Single Slot Copper Cooling System

  • Two Dual-Link DVI Output Ports

  • No Stereo or HDTV Output

  • No Multi-GPU Support (Currently)

  • Supports Windows XP and Vista 32-bit and 64-bit, Linux 32-bit and 64-bit

  • MSRP : $299 USD 


Looking at these three sets of specifications, side by side, we see that the FireGL V5600 and QuadroFX 1700 are the closest competitors. The MSRP’s are only $100 apart, and they’re both targeted at the mid-range workstation graphics market. The V3600 card is more for the budget workstation market with a mere 256 MB of graphics memory. All three of these cards consume less than 75W of power, and as such, can be powered by the PCI Express bus. All three also have single slot cooling systems, two dual-link DVI ports, and mid-range GPU architectures.

Strictly looking at the specifications, the FireGL V5600 looks like a better value, delivering over twice the memory bandwidth and running at a much higher GPU clock rate compared to the FX1700, while shipping at an MSRP of $100 less. The QuadroFX 1700 does have special features, such as SLI and HDTV out, although the 12 GB/s of memory bandwidth leave something to be desired. Of course, these are just specs – and performance levels in real world applications are what truly matters. Let’s take a closer look.

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Comments

Comments
tierento 6 years ago

 I was just curious if there is any advantage using these cards over a high end gaming card. Is there any chance you can post a couple of bench marks of the latest NVidia and ATI offerins?

 

 

beezlebub 6 years ago

Yes, please help us by making that comparison.

 

I have to do graphics work (rendering) for my job and I am trying to decide what way to go.  I have to justify purchasing decisions to my pointed headed bosses (plural, unfortunately), and if I say that I want to spend $600 dollars on a card, they will have a tendency to say "But I saw this really cool card Y at BestBuy for $300".  I can tell them that it would be great to play Warcraft on that card, but I need to do real processing.  And they will say 'what's the difference'?   It would be great to show them a chart that shows a workstation card taking 1/10th of the time to do it compared to the consumer card, for only twice the money.  

  

chrisconnolly 6 years ago

This honestly depends on which application you'll be running.  If you have an application which is optimized for workstation GPU hardware with a profile on the driver level, it will likely run much faster on the workstation card.

 However, if it's not a supported application, it will likely run just as fast (or faster) on a less expensive gaming card.

Dave_HH 6 years ago

I'd like to just chime in here and say that it's great to see some new blood enter our registered user base.  Welcome to HH guys.  We appreciate your input and perspectives, positive, critical or otherwise.

Thanks!

clabrown 6 years ago

 Nice Review! My main concern is 2D and 3D CAD using Autodesk's Autocad 2008. Are any of the benchmarks you ran representative of that? Any possibility you could run a few that might apply to things like hidden line removal in a 3D Cad drawing, rotation or regen speed? 

 Thanks again.

chrisconnolly 6 years ago

The best place to look for CAD-like performance comparison would be to look at the CATIA benchmarks in Spec Viewperf 10 (in the review).


Crisis Causer 6 years ago

Throwing in an 8800GT/S and a 3850(70) would be very good ideas.  I can't think of any reason why not, unless you fear they would break for some strange reason.  Why not add them?

smev 6 years ago

I'm quite surprised with the power consumption of these cards. My whole office is using 189 watts right now. And thats with 3 17" lcds, 2 pcs, and my laptop powered on.  Those video cards use just as much as my setup ? thats crazy. I log all my power usage and use no more then $9 per month. These cards would cost a extra $10 a month or so to leave on 24/7

 Kevin

designmule 6 years ago

First off, the Studio Max benchmarks indicate that the tests were performed in OpenGL. Max has been optimized for Direct X for the last two or three versions. Nvidia even offers the Maxtreme drivers for D3D rather than OpenGL. You do not want to run Max in OpenGL if you don't have to.

Second: If you do 3D work in AutoCAD there maybe some benefit to using workstation grade video cards (due to optimized drivers, again D3D being preferred) but if you do only 2D work there is no need to spend the extra money.

Lastly: Don't go and buy one of these things for games. Typically the workstation grade cards are a generation behind the equivalent gaming card that they are based on (read: identical to). For example: the 8800 GT came out a few months ago, the Quadro based on the 8800 GT will be out in two or three months but will cost 5 or 6 times what the 8800 costs and perform no better.

I run a team of 3D Max users and there used to be a time that (for Max work) it was worthwhile to buy the workstation grade cards however this is no longer the case.

wang 6 years ago

I need to buy video card for my pc which is used for trading financial futures. I am considering ATI FireMV 2250, Matrox P690 and Nvidia NVS 290. I need only 2D and able to drive dual 1920X1200 monitors. I understand that I should use a fast video card (don't know why),  and I wonder whether I should consider a more expensive 3D card like ATI FireGL V5600 instead of the 2D cards that I am considering. Please enlighten. My rig is quad core 6600 and OCed to 3.48, 2GB of Crucial Ballistix, 444-12 at 850 and currently using a Matrox P650 (PCIe X16) driving dual Dell 24 inch LCD. OS is 32 bits XP pro.

tierento 6 years ago

Wang  You don't need a more expensive 3D card if your running a normal application. FireGL cards and the like only help if you are attempting to run 3D Games and Scientific programs. How does your Matrox card run? 

Does anyone here know if there are any optimized opengl drivers for the geforce 8800 gts range? I recently got one of these for my workstation and it runs slower on some opengl apps then my older ati card. Or does nvidia just suck when it comes to OpenGL?

 

 

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