Nvidia is the undisputed king when it comes to graphics technology. From gaming to content development, to cloud computing and deep learning, Nvidia has a dominant foothold in nearly every industry in tech.
But all GPUs are not built the same. While gaming GPUs have come a long way there are still a lot of clear advantages to the workstation Quadro lineup. While it might seem like blasphemy to discuss GeForce and Quadro cards in the same article, we think it is worth tackling.
There are some basic misconceptions about these two categories. In this article, we hope to shed some light on the similarities, differences, and use cases for each.
So, these are the five most powerful Nvidia GPUs we feel represent the best that Nvidia has to offer for work and play.
Here are the five most powerful GPUs offered by Nvidia.
- Best GPU Overall: GeForce RTX 3090 Ti
- Most Powerful Workstation Card: Quatro RTX A6000
- Best GPU for Gaming: GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
- Best Value Workstation Card: Quatro RTX A4000
- Most Powerful Previous Gen Card: Titan RTX
Best Powerful GPU Overall: GeForce RTX 3090 Ti
We reviewed the GeForce RTX 3090 a few months ago. It is a certified beast not just in performance but in physical size as well. It was able to crunch through 8K gaming and shattered opponents in benchmark tests. With the GeForce RTX 3090 Ti, Nvidia has pushed the power even further.
The card has 10,752 Cuda Cores, 336 Tensor cores, and 24 GB of VRAM at 21 Gbps. It’s able to grind through intense calculations to produce lightning-fast render speeds and near real-time performance in Blendr and Autodesk’s Maya.
This is a powerful card that can give you pro-level performance without paying Quadro prices. However, there are some areas where GeForce still falls short of traditional workstation cards.
Check out GeForce RTX 3090 Ti on Amazon.
Best Powerful Workstation Card: Quatro RTX A6000
- Memory: 48GB, GDDR6
- PCI Express x16 4.0 interface
- Maximum resolution: 7680 x 4320 pixels
- Ports: 4 x DisplayPorts
- Backed by a 3 years manufacturers warranty
With a price tag of $5K, the Quatro RTX A6000 is certainly not for everyone. At first glance, the price difference between this and the 3090 TI might not make sense. They both have the same number of Cuda Cores, 10752, and they both utilize GDDR6 memory.
However, the 3090 Ti has 24 GB of memory, which is substantial, but the A6000 boasts double that with 48 GB. Therein lies the difference. This extra memory wouldn’t give you much of a leg up in gaming, the 3090 itself is sort of overkill. But when caching animation or video previews, this can make a huge positive impact on creative workflows.
Still, the card is a specialty item. With the lines blurring between GeForce and Quadro, how much longer will workstation cards exist?
Check out Quatro RTX A6000 on Amazon.
Best GPU for Gaming: GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
The 3090 might be capable of 8K gaming but most gamers are not. 4K and 1440p gaming still rule the market. And in that arena, the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti is king. It boasts 10,240 Cuda Cores, 320 Tensor Cores, 80 RT Cores, and 12 GB of GDDRX 6 VRAM.
This thing is a beast and can crunch through 4K gaming at high frame rates. It is a great option for high-end gaming but there is some potential for workstations as well. You’re not going to get the performance of the previous two entries, but some creators don’t really need that.
That 12 GB of VRAM isn’t nothing. If you are a YouTuber or video editor you can get some great performance out of this card. That said, there are some tradeoffs. Like the 3090, this is a power-hungry GPU and you will need at least an 800W PSU in order to run it smoothly. It is expensive as well, lower than the 3090 but still over $1K.
Check out GeForce RTX 3080 Ti on Amazon.
Best Value Workstation Card: Quatro RTX A4000
- 6144 optimized CUDA Cores, 19.2 TFLOPS
- 192 third generation Tensor Cores, 153.4 TFLOPS
- 48 second generation RT Cores, 37.4 TFLOPS
- Single-slot width, full length form factor
- 140W max power consumption
Well under the price of the A6000, the Quatro RTX A4000 is a good alternative for workstation cards. It is comparable to the 3070 in the core count but with double the memory with 16 GB of VRAM.
With VRAM that low it might seem like this is a subpar card for content creation. While it doesn’t approach the power of previous entries, the price and feature set make it a worthwhile option.
Like all Quadro cards, the A4000 features Error Correction Code or ECC. This allows the GPU to identify and correct or report errors more efficiently. Basically, it does a better job at tackling errors so professionals can keep working. Another feature of workstation cards is application-ready drivers. So, you can get started running Blendr or After Effects right away.
Check out Quatro RTX A4000 on Amazon.
Most Powerful Previous Gen Card: Titan RTX
- GPU Clock Speed: 1350 MHz
- New 72 RT cores for the acceleration of ray tracing
- 576 Tensor Cores for AI acceleration
- 24 GB of GDDR6 memory
You don’t hear much about the Titan RTX anymore, and that is probably for the best. Still, this card is worth considering even though it uses older architecture and costs an arm and a leg.
The Titan RTX has 24GB of GDDR6 memory which makes it an incredible card for deep learning or AI. Where it falls short is in gaming and workstation applications. Outside of those Deep learning, this card just isn’t practical, and the 3090 and A6000 edge it out in nearly every metric that counts for gaming and work.
The future of the Titan is unclear at this point. Once Nvidia’s prized powerhouse, the Titian has been met with less and less fan fair over the years and Nvidia doesn’t seem as interested in pushing it. Still, it deserves a spot on this list.
Check out Titan RTX on Amazon.
Workstation Vs. Gaming: Explained
If you’re looking for a new graphics card and you want something with powerful performance, you might be tempted to splurge on the workstation cards. And if you need that sort of thing, that can be a good purchase. But you shouldn’t count out GeForce cards just yet.
For a long time, creators and reviewers alike have turned their nose up at GeForce graphics cards being used professionally. Those lines blurred with the release of the RTX 3090, which approached the kind of power you would get from Quadro cards.
So, are workstation cards worth it? Well, yes, but not for everything. For one, they are prohibitively expensive. The Quadro A6000 is priced just under $5k while the 3090 is priced at $1500. This can put them out of reach for all but the most serious creators. Typically, these cards are geared toward studios and industry professionals who have the money to dish out.
That said, there are definitely situations that call for the power of the Quadro cards. In those instances, the money really doesn’t make a difference. If your business hinges on performance and render speed, workstation cards pay for themselves.
When putting these two head-to-heads the specs seem pretty similar. It might even look like the two cards will offer the same performance. And in many ways, they will. The difference is in the way these devices interact with the software and the jobs they are given.
Workstation cards, as a rule, have a very high amount of VRAM. This allows programs like Maya, Blendr, or Cinema 4D to cache preview files more easily. This means you can work closer to real-time without having to view your progress in the framework.
The last big difference is who can make these powerful Nvidia GPUs. There are tons of companies that are allowed to make GeForce cards like Gigabyte, EVGA, and Asus, just to name a few. For workstation cards, however, there are only two, PNY and Leadtek.
Nvidia designs the card from the ground up. Then it gives the design to third-party developers. For gaming, these developers then make tweaks to compete with one another. But the workstation cards are built pretty much to spec with a few differences here and there.
These design differences are subtle, but they allow Nvidia to develop cards that serve different niches.
The Best GPU for the Job: What It’s Like
For argument’s sake let’s put the two most powerful cards head-to-head, the A6000 and the 3090 Ti. If you were to use both cards for a simple 3D animation, you would most likely get similar performance, playback, and render times give or take.
Where the separation occurs is in more complex animations. In layman’s terms, if you are working on motion graphics, VFX, or light 3D you can get away with using a GeForce card. It will offer amazing playback and professional render speeds. If you are using heavy 3D or CAD, that is where the GeForce card will fall short. Studios like Pixar probably need to use workstation cards while other VFX studios do not.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©DANIEL CONSTANTE/Shutterstock.com.