Image Credit: Vernon Chan

This article will outline the difference between consumer GPUs (gaming GPUs for example) vs Workstation GPUs (precision focused GPUs).

e-GeForce 7900 GT graphics card
e-GeForce 7900 GT graphics card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s easy to see that if you want to run some kind of graphics-intensive task that you’ll need to install an add-on graphics card. It’s also pretty simple to guess that the top-of-the-line examples are going to be a little bit more on the pricey side. A couple hundred dollars is not out of the question when it comes to a brand new card that has all the bells and whistles. It’s a little bit harder to justify why you might have to pay upwards of four to five times that for the same kind of top-of-the-line professional card.

For example, there are Quadros out there that are going for thousands of dollars when you can just as easily go for a GTX that does just about the same thing for only a couple hundred dollars.

In most cases, in fact, an especially expensive GPU is not needed. It is important to note, however, that sometimes a good professional card can make your experience all that much smoother. Certain Quadro cards make a huge difference when it comes to graphics processing, but this isn’t the case with all of them.

How do I know what I need?

When are you going to be able to tell whether you should go with a consumer or a pro card? Well, that mostly depends on what the pro card is good at doing. There are some main differences between pro cards and consumer cards that you should be made aware of.

Software Features

Pro cards carry with them certain specific features related to graphics, features that are relevant to the professional industry. This is all a result of different card architecture as well as different drivers that have been installed in the card. Some of these are designed to streamline the whole graphics process. This means that it’s possible to live without this, but it’ll just take a lot longer to get done.

Others will enable processes that consumer cards are just not capable of. This is due to the different architecture of the cards as well as the fact that one card is meant to render games while the other is used to create them.

Hardware Features

Professional cards that are higher on the quality scale offer plenty of extra hardware features that require add-on cards and are for more niche markets. Since they require specialized hardware, they’re not available on just any GPU.

Support

Since the pro cards are directed toward home use and the other GPUs are for home use, the support structure is very different on each. The professional card has a greater support structure that includes looking at software issues that may have caused some kind of compatibility issue. The gaming GPUs, on the other hand, focus mostly on the support of the GPU itself.

ISV Compatibility

Pro cards are certified to with most professional applications, so these applications require that pro-grade cards will appear in the requirements list. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the consumer cards won’t work with it. It only means that the consumer cards are far more likely to have problems.

Lifetime and roadmaps

Consumer cards tend to be replaced often. They’re always seeking out the highest quality and then coming out with a new version for consumers to flock to. Pro cards, on the other hand, are built around stability. They have long developmental lives in order to save companies in the long run.

As you can see, there are a variety of differences between gaming GPUs like GTXs and pro cards like NVIDIA Quadros or AMD Firepros.

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