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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 know 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 another 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 into account all the factors.
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.
The two biggest graphics card / GPU manufacturers, Nvidia and AMD manufacture both workstation and gaming graphics cards. For gaming graphics cards, Nvidia has several authorized board partners that include big companies like Asus, MSI, EVGA, Gigabyte, etc. but for its workstation graphics cards, it the PNY only. 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 card 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|
|AMD||Radeon / RX Vega||FirePro / Vega|
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.
Both Workstation and Gaming graphics cards come with the 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 is ECC (Error Correcting Code) that offers greater accuracy in results/ calculations at the cost of some speed, while Gaming grade graphics cards use Non-ECC memory that is faster but is not that accurate compared to the ECC memory.
P.S. – Some workstation graphics cards may not have ECC memory so check this when buying one.
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 software. On the other hand, gaming graphics card drivers are optimized for the latest games for delivering high frame rates (FPS) in games, so that you can have super-smooth gameplay on your PC.
Workstation graphics cards are used in scientific laboratories, high-end servers, movie studios, game development studios, professional setups and for running CAD / CAM software, Maya, Solidworks, AutoCAD, 3D Modelling & Animation software. 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 the latest AAA games. However, gaming graphics cards can also be used for video editing and running graphics software for users who cannot afford workstation graphics cards.
Workstation graphics cards are more stable, robust and they deliver great accuracy and performance in heavy graphical applications and professional graphics software. On the other hand, Gaming graphics cards deliver 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 the graphics card and may produce undesirable effects and crashes during gaming or in graphics applications. There are various graphics card overclocking software available for overclocking Nvidia and AMD gaming graphics cards.
Workstation graphics cards come with features that are targeted towards professional software for increasing productivity. On the other hand, gaming graphics card features are targeted towards gaming for increasing gaming performance and gaming experience. For example, Nvidia and AMD graphics cards come with features like G-Sync and FreeSync respectively that reduce the stuttering and screen tearing in games.
The power consumption depends on the GPU used and processing power of both these graphics cards but in general, a Workstation graphics card requires a more stable and powerful supply compared to a gaming graphics card.
Check out: Best High-end PSU for Graphics Cards
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 an 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 software||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|
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 cards do 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.