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3D modeling, is it worth it to go with a workstation card?

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I am looking to (in the next 9 months) build a computer for workstation purposes. I am looking to do 3D modeling primarily, but also play some games once in a while. The games would be of low-intensity graphically. Should I go with a workstation card like GeForce or FireGL or a traditional gaming one like GeForce or Raedon. I am looking at the $200-$250 area, which would put it between cards like: Quadro FX560, FireGL V3400, or an 8800GTS/GTX (640MB/786MB, likely to be in price range by then). I could go up possibly as high as $450 which would open up the option of an FX1500, but only if that's gonna be a HUGE improvement, which would also allow me to play Civ4 reasonably well. What do you think? Ideally, if you guys had benchmarks showing how Gaming and Workstation cards stacked up against eachother that'd be best, but I've searched and not been able to find anything. Any help? Thanks.

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At the same price point, you'll get better performance from the gaming cards. I think the 560 might be a 128-bit card, whereas the 8800s are 320 bits and up.

The "workstation cards" have, in general, three things going for them:
1) they typically do anti-aliased lines (wireframe) whereas the gaming cards don't
2) the drivers often have specific work-arounds and optimizations for specific (high-end) applications
3) certain software packages will not give you technical support unless you use a card certified for that package

Further, it used to be that the ATI FireGL OpenGL drivers were totally different from the Radeon drivers, and a lot cruftier. Many games wouldn't run on them. They have probably fixed a bunch of those problems in the later releases, but it's still something to watch out for.

So, if you're buying a software package that costs more than your machine, it may be worth it to buy a workstation card, for the support and certification. The minimum workstation card I would consider would be a FX1500. However, given your price range, I think you should go with a gaming card.

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The SPECviewperf benchmarks show that the workstation cards get vastly more FPS than the gaming ones when working with 3D applications, whether you will see such gains on what you are doing you'll have to figure out though. They do more than just anti-aliased lines.

You'll find there isn't that much easily accessible information out there on exactly how a workstation card will benefit you for various use patterns, or within various pieces of software in plain english, and the benchmarks aren't much use unless you know exactly how they will affect you. Ask on the manufacturer's forums, if they have them (Nvidia do I think), or contact the company directly and see if they can provide information based on what you will be doing.

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The main advantage of a "workstation" card over a "consumer" or "gaming" card is accuracy. Accuracy of calculation and hence display.
This is very important when using design applications, where there may also be add on softwares - for example PowerDraft, which is an add-on for AutoCAD that can be used on systems containing a Quadro card; there's also Max-treme to use with 3dsMax. Unfortunately applications of this nature (design) aren't supported in this way on the gaming/consumer cards - it's one of the things you're paying for!

Although the SpecPerf results may be slightly lower the visual results will be far higher on Workstation cards.

I have an old (now) Quadro 980XGL and some things still look better on this than a mid-range 8-series GeForce especially, as hplus0603 said, wire-frame drawings. I have no experience with the FireGL cards, only Quadro, but if any of your work involves developing in OpenGL - "Use nVidia unless you need to play back on an ATI system," is what I've been told.

In short... if you're doing chargeable design work (ie making money from it) or rendering for large-screen viewing - best to get a Quadro. If you're trying to get to grips with these design packages and only intend the output to be a demo-reel, then save your cash!

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