Workstation vs Gaming Graphics Cards Difference

Want to know the difference between Workstation and Gaming Graphics Cards? When anybody talks about graphics cards then we usually think about the gaming graphics cards. This is because most of the users don’t know that there are some other types of graphics cards too, and even if they knew it then they don’t know the exact difference between them (workstation video cards) and the regular gaming graphics cards.

Generally, there are two types of graphics cards; one is the gaming graphics cards that we all know, and other one is the Workstation Graphics Cards or Professional Graphics Cards that has completely different areas of application. Both these graphics cards are alike in some ways but they also have larger differences, especially in terms of technical aspects. So, here in this post I am going to make a clear cut comparison between workstation and gaming graphics cards taking in account of all the factors.

Must Read: Best Workstation Graphics Cards for Professional Work

Workstation vs Gaming Graphics Cards Comparison

Here is a comparison of workstation or professional graphics cards with gaming graphics cards based on different factors and technical specifications.

Manufacturer

The two biggest graphics card / GPU manufacturers, Nvidia and AMD manufactures both workstation and gaming graphics cards. For gaming graphics cards, Nvidia has several authorized board partners that includes big companies like Asus, MSI, EVGA, Gigabyte etc. but for its workstation graphics cards there is only one which is PNY. This means only PNY can make the Nvidia Workstation graphics cards. The gaming series graphics cards from Nvidia is GeForce and for Workstation Graphics Cards it is Quadro.

Check out: Nvidia’s Pascal series Quadro Graphics Cards

Similarly, AMD has various board partners for its gaming series graphics cards but very few for its workstation graphics cards. This means no other company can make AMD workstation graphics card except for AMD and its authorized partner (Sapphire) for workstation cards. The gaming series graphics cards from AMD is generally Radeon RX and for Workstation Graphics Cards it is FirePro. However, you may find some workstation graphics cards from AMD with Radeon & Vega branding e.g. AMD Radeon Pro Duo and Radeon Vega Frontier Edition.

Manufacturer Gaming Graphics Cards Workstation Graphics Cards
Nvidia GeForce Quadro
AMD Radeon / RX Vega FirePro / Vega

GPU

The GPU in workstation and gaming graphics cards may or may not be the same depending on the graphics card. For example, Nvidia Quadro P5000 / P4000 and GeForce GTX 1070 & GeForce GTX 1080 use the same GP104 GPU. Also, there is no technical difference between workstation and gaming graphics cards that are based on the same GPU architecture i.e. a Pascal based workstation graphics card and gaming graphics card will have same GPU technology, capability and manufacturing process. This also applies to the AMD workstation graphics cards.

Memory

Both Workstation and Gaming graphics cards comes with same type of memory i.e. it can be GDDR5, GDDR5X, HBM or HBM2 memory. However, there is a major difference between the memories of these two graphics cards. The memory used in the workstation or professional graphics cards are ECC (Error Correcting Code) that offers greater accuracy in results/ calculations at the cost of some speed, while Gaming grade graphics cards uses Non-ECC memory that is faster but is not that accurate compared to the ECC memory.

Firmware & Drivers

The Firmware or BIOS used in Workstation and Gaming Graphics Cards is tuned differently. The Firmware in workstation graphics cards is optimized more towards accuracy and stability while in gaming graphics cards it is optimized for speed and performance.

Also, the drivers for workstation and gaming graphics cards are different. The drivers for workstation GPUs are optimized for 3D Modelling, CAD, CAM or professional graphics softwares. On the other hand, gaming graphics card drivers are optimized for latest games for delivering high frame rates (FPS) in games, so that you can have super smooth gameplay on your PC.

Usage

Workstation graphics cards are used in scientific laboratories, high-end servers, movie studios, game development studios, professional setups and for running CAD / CAM softwares, Maya, Solidworks, AutoCAD, 3D Modelling & Animation softwares. Some workstation graphics cards can also run games at high graphics settings with playable frame rates.

On the other hand, gaming graphics cards are generally used for running latest AAA games. However, gaming graphics cards can also be used for video editing and running graphics softwares for users who cannot afford workstation graphics cards.

Performance

Workstation graphics cards are more stable, robust and they deliver great accuracy and performance in heavy graphical applications and professional graphics softwares. On the other hand, Gaming graphics cards delivers excellent performance in games for getting more performance and you can overclock them to higher frequencies. Overclocking is against the warranty and it can hinder the stability of graphics card and may produces undesirable effects and crashes during gaming or in graphics applications. There are various graphics card overclocking softwares available for overclocking Nvidia and AMD gaming graphics cards.

Features

Workstation graphics cards come with features that are targeted towards professional softwares for increasing the productivity. On the other hand, gaming graphics cards features are targeted towards gaming for increasing gaming performance and gaming experience. For example, Nvidia and AMD graphics cards comes with features like G-Sync and FreeSync respectively that reduces the stuttering and screen tearing in games.

Power Consumption

The power consumption depends on the GPU used and processing power of both these graphics cards but in general a Workstation graphics card requires more stable and heavy powerful supply compared to a gaming graphics card.

Check out: Best High-end PSU for Graphics Cards

Price

Workstation Graphics Cards are very costly and sometimes five to ten times more expensive than the gaming graphics card having the same GPU. For example, a normal GeForce GTX 1080 costs around $500 – $550 but a Nvidia Quadro P5000 (having the same GP104 GPU in GTX 1080) will cost you $2500 (approx).

Comparison / Specifications Workstation Graphics Cards Gaming Graphics Cards
Manufacturer Nvidia and AMD Nvidia and AMD
GPU Architecture Similar for Same GPUs Similar for Same GPUs
Memory ECC Memory (DDR3, GDDR5, GDDR5x, HBM, HBM2) Non-ECC Memory (DDR3, GDDR5, GDDR5x, HBM, HBM2)
Firmware / Drivers Optimized for Professional Graphics Applications and Softwares Optimized for Games
Usage Used in Labs, Servers, Studios, VR Content Creation, Weather Forecasting Mostly for Gaming, Video Editing, 4K Video Playback, Multiple Monitor Setup
Performance Stable Performance Fast performance in games, Stability is issue during overclocking
Features  Features targeted towards professional graphics softwares  Contains features for optimized gaming performance
Power Consumption Depends on the GPU Depends on the GPU
Price Very Expensive Way Cheaper than Workstation Graphics Cards

Conclusion

At the end I would say that workstation and gaming graphics cards have different areas of application. If you are on a tight budget then you can use a regular gaming graphics card for your professional work but it would be a dumb idea to buy a workstation graphics card for gaming. Workstation graphics card does offer great compute performance and accuracy in professional graphics applications and software but they come with a heavy price tag. If you still have any confusion on which graphics card to get for your work or for your requirements then you can ask me your queries by leaving a comment below.

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