Logo   Banner   TopRight
NVIDIA Unleashes Quadro 6000 and 5000 Series GPUs
Date: Jul 27, 2010
Author: Mathew Miranda

Not long ago, we reviewed the entire FirePro workstation graphics card lineup from ATI. With the V8800, our testing revealed considerable performance gains over the previous generation V8750, coupled with a lower price point. Surely, that's a combination that consumers can appreciate, especially for those looking to upgrade sooner, rather than later. But, at the time, the market was not yet settled as we anxiously awaited a response to ATI's FirePro products from NVIDIA. Thankfully, the wait is over as the launch of a new series of professional graphics cards from NVIDIA based on the company's Fermi architecture has just arrived.   

Three new models arrive today to bolster the Quadro lineup and affirm NVIDIA's commitment to the professional workstation crowd. As we've mentioned, the new cards are based on NVIDIA's Fermi architecture which brings a new set of cutting edge features to the table. First, take note of the change in naming convention. These cards no longer use the FX designation, and are simply branded Quadro followed by the model number.

NVIDIA Quadro 6000 and 5000 Workstation Graphics Cards

Today, we'll be looking at the two ultra high end models from NVIDIA, the Quadro 6000 and Quadro 5000 graphics cards. Both models offer an impressive list of specifications and features, but flaunt large price tags as well. Before we go into those details, we'd like to mention the card we aren't reviewing in this article, but is launching today as well. The Quadro 4000 offers 256 CUDA cores with 2GB of GDDR5 and offers 89.6GB/s memory bandwidth through a 256-bit interface. At $1,199, the 4000 replaces the FX 3800 within NVIDIA's lineup, while offering considerably more features. Out of these three cards, the Quadro 4000 is the most affordable Fermi-based option. Now for highlights on the Quadro 6000 and 5000 models, check out the chart below to find out what they have to offer...

NVIDIA Quadro Professional Graphics
Professional Workstation Models

One thing is certain looking at their specs--these cards mean business. They were specifically designed to meet the demands of professional designers, engineers, and scientists with a strong emphasis on visual computing with certified applications such as Maya, 3D Studio Max, and SolidWorks. When compared to mainstream GF100 based gaming video cards, we find the core and memory clock speeds here are much lower. We suspect this was done to ensure stability and extend longevity of the hardware components, and to provide quieter operation. But, we also find that NVIDIA has significantly beefed up memory capacity to extreme levels. So how does this combination of lower clocks and increased memory translate to the world of professional graphics? Before we get to the performance results, let's take a closer look at these cards themselves and find out what makes them different from the previous generation of Quadro graphics cards.

The Quadro 6000 and 5000 Up Close

It's true that high-end workstation graphics cards may be based on the same core architectures as gaming-targeted graphics cards, however, their purposes are very different. While they both accomplish the same task, processing commands and rendering images on-screen, workstation cards endure a more strenuous existence than their gaming counterparts. Workstation cards are used to solve complex, mission-critical problems, like helping engineers design and build cars; helping architects to plan and construct buildings, and even help oil and gas companies to provide more effective means of production and transportation.

NVIDIA Quadro 5000

Featuring 352 CUDA parallel processing cores and 2.5GB of GDDR5 memory, the Quadro 5000 should be a strong performer. It features a smaller version of the cooling system found on the GTX 470 / 465 gaming models, underneath the silver and black plastic shroud featuring NVIDIA's Quadro emblem. The card offers four outputs: two DisplayPorts, one dual-link DVI, and one 3D stereoscopic connector. Both DisplayPort and dual-link DVI support up to 2560 x 1600 (30" monitor) resolution. Any combination of monitors can be used, but only two outputs can be active at one time. For this reason, this card only supports two monitors despite having three output connectors. 

Quadro FX 4800 vs Quadro 5000 Comparison Chart

We put together this chart for you in order to quickly show the specs and features of the Quadro 5000 compared to the card its replacing, the FX 4800. The 5000 offers 60 additional CUDA cores, and provides 2.5GB of GDDR5 memory along with a huge upgrade in memory bandwidth. 

NVIDIA Quadro 6000

The Quadro 6000 is simply a powerhouse. It offers users 448 CUDA processing cores with an incredible 6GB of GDDR5 memory onboard. The silver and black shroud is identical to the one found on the Quadro 5000, along with the same video outputs on the rear bracket. 

Quadro FX 5800 vs Quadro 6000 Comparison Chart

Looking over the specs, the Fermi-based Quadro 6000 is a massive improvement over the FX 5800. With an extra 2GB GDDR5 memory and 208 more CUDA processor cores, the Quadro 6000 packs a serious punch. Just don't expect it to come cheap, as top shelf performance is usually chaperoned by extravagant pricing, which is the case here.

NVIDIA Quadro 6000 and 5000 Power Connections

Physically, the Quadro 6000 and 5000 look almost identical. The only differences can be seen in the image above. Besides the naming labels, the Quadro 6000 sports two PCIe power connections, one 6-pin and one 8-pin, while the 5000 requires only one 6-pin power cable. Note that the top-of-the line Quadro 6000 can run off either two 6-pin connectors or a single 8-pin connector. We also tested the card with a 6-pin and an 8-pin power connector installed with no issues. 

Testbed and Cinebench R11.5

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM: In order to provide comparable results, each graphics card was installed on the same, high end X58 based test system. The components we used consisted of an EVGA Classified motherboard, Core i7 980X Extreme Edition processor, and 6GB of OCZ Blade memory. Within the BIOS, we configured the processor to an overclocked speed of 4.38GHz and memory to 1857MHz. These settings will minimize the occurrences of performance bottlenecks during benchmark runs and allow the graphics cards to show their true potential. Furthermore, our Crucial M225 solid state drive entered the testing process with a clean copy of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit installed. Once installation was complete, we fully updated the OS and installed the latest drivers and applications relevant to the review article.

HotHardware's Test System
Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7 980X Extreme Edition
Overclocked 4.38GHz

EVGA Classified 760 Motherboard
X58 Express Chipset

NVIDIA Quadro 6000
NVIDIA Quadro 5000
NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800
ATI FirePro V8800
ATI FirePro V8750
ATI FirePro V7800
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480
ATI Radeon HD 5970
ATI Radeon HD 5870

6GB OCZ Blade DDR3-1857
(3 X 2GB) 7-8-7-20 1T

Crucial M225 128GB SSD
Firmware 1916

Dell 3008WFP LCD Monitor
2560 x 1600

Relevant Software:

Windows 7 Professional 64bit
NVIDIA Quadro Driver Release 258.98
ATI Catalyst Display Driver 8.762

Benchmarks Used:
Cinebench R11.5 64-bit
SPEC Viewperf R11 64-bit
SiSoft SANDRA 2010 64-bit


Cinebench R11.5 64bit
Synthetic OpenGL Rendering Performance

Cinebench R11.5

Cinebench R11.5 is an OpenGL 3D rendering performance test based on Cinema 4D from Maxon. The benchmark goes through a series of tests that measures the performance of the graphics card under real world circumstances. Within Cinebench, graphics card testing makes use of a complex 3D scene depicting a car chase which measures the performance in OpenGL mode. Results are given in frames per second; the higher the number, the faster the graphics card. 

Cinebench OpenGL testing reveals similar performance between the Quadro 6000 and 5000 videocards. Looking at the rest of the scores, its apparent that ATI has optimized their drivers for this particular benchmark, while NVIDIA has yet to do so. As new drivers are released, we expect to see Cinebench scores of the Quardo cards increase. 

SiSoft SANDRA 2010

SiSoft SANDRA 2010
GPU Number Crunching


SiSoft SANDRA is an information and diagnostic utility. It provides useful information about your hardware, software, and other installed devices. SANDRA gives you the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low level. The SiSoftware GPGPU processing benchmark performs single- and double-precision floating point arithmetic on the GPU and the results are reported in pixels/s, i.e. how many pixels can be computed in 1 second.

GPGPU processing with NVIDIA's CUDA techology gives us an idea of the performance potential within these cards. For example, the Quadro 6000 shows a 42% performance increase from the Quadro 5000 graphics card.

The graphs above displays Compute Shader processing along with the memory bandwidth performance associated with it. Compute Shader is a new programmable shader stage introduced with DirectX 11 that expands Direct3D beyond just graphics programming. Since both NVIDIA and ATI camps support it, we ran the test on every videocard we used in this article. As you can see, the Quadro models show considerable performance separation between them, but trail the FirePro cards by a wide margin in these tests.

SPECviewperf 11: Catia and Ensight
SPECviewperf 11 is the new industry standard of workstation level, OpenGL performance benchmarking. This software suite was released June 2010 from the SPECgpc project group. It features a new GUI that accompanies the fully updated viewsets traced from newer versions of real world applications. These updates include larger models and advanced OpenGL functionality, such as shading and vertex buffer objects (VBO). SPECviewperf 11 consists of As with the previous version, all results are given in frames per second.  
SPECviewperf 11: CATIA 
Computer Aided Three-dimensional Interactive Application

CATIA and EnSight scores reveal overwhelming dominance by the new Quadro videocards. While both graphics cards easily pull away from the pack in both tests, the Quadro 6000 flaunts a 34% lead over its sibling in CATIA, and a 41% improvement during EnSight testing. Of course, the Quadro 5000 is no slouch either. In relation to the FX 4800, it holds a 75% lead in CATIA, and almost triples EnSight performance of the previous generation card. The new Quadros reign over ATI's offerings here as well.

SPECviewperf 11: Lightwave and Maya

SPECviewperf 11: Lightwave 3D and Maya
Multi-threaded 64bit Rendering

We find the new Quadros firmly in command during our Lightwave 3D benchmark. The 6000 continues to shine as it holds a 14% lead over the next best card, the Quadro 5000. Additionally, the V8800 still can't catch NVIDIA's flagship cards, as it trails the 6000 by 18%.

Maya shows a measurable separation between the Quadro models. Here, the 6000 leads the 5000 by 29%, and beats out the FirePro V8800 by 68%. On the other hand, we find a healthy 84% performance increase going from the FX 4800 to our new Quadro 5000.

SPECviewperf 11: ProEngineer and SolidWorks

SPECviewperf 11: Pro/ENGINEER and SolidWorks
Multi-threaded 64bit Rendering

Both the Quadro 6000 and 5000 turned in excellent Pro/ENGINEER scores, in relation to the comparison group. Granted, we expected to see a greater performance contrast between the Quadro cards, but it's encouraging to see the them perform well. In particular, we find the Quadro 6000 notched a 105% performance gain over the fastest FirePro result in Pro/ENGINEER.

Once again, the GF100-based Quadro videocards destroys the competition. Moreover, the 5000 graphics card showed a 30% improvement over the FX 4800.

SPECviewperf 11: Siemens Teamcenter Visualization and NX

SPECviewperf 11: Teamcenter Visualization and NX
Multi-threaded 64bit Rendering

The Quadro 6000 and 5000 videocards finish the last set of SPEC benchmarks in impressive fashion. In Teamcenter Visualization, the Quadro 6000 scores 28% faster than the 5000 card, and 95% faster than ATI's top card.

Siemens NX benchmark supports results we've seen throughout SPECviewperf testing, with the 6000 landing 38% faster than the 5000 videocard, and 106% better than the FirePro V8800. 

Power Consumption, Temps, and Noise

We'd like to cover a few final data points before bringing this article to a close. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the graphics cards alone.

Power Consumption and Operating Temperatures
How low can you go?

With the power hungry reputation of NVIDIA's Fermi architecture, it comes as no surprise to see the Quadro 6000 pulling down a significantly more juice from the wall socket. Although it was relatively tame in an idle state, the test system required 446W during load with the 6000 videocard installed, 12% more than the FirePro V8800. The Quadro 5000 proved to be more green in its ways, requiring only 385W at load, or about 14% less power than the 6000 graphics card.

Much like their gaming cousin, the GTX 480, our Quadro workstation videocards run hot. Fully loaded, both cards max out at 88 degrees Celsius. That's just three degrees shy of the GTX 480's load temperature. In comparison, the V8800 operated 14 degrees cooler at full load.

The Quadro graphics cards feature dual slot cooling solutions that that provide a peaceful working environment during normal conditions. Fortunately, we did not experience any irritating fan noise from the cards throughout most of the benchmarks. Fan noise slightly increased a few minutes during SPEC testing, but easily within our comfort range. The Quadro 6000 became noisy only during temperature testing at full load. If you plan on operating your videocard at full load for long periods of time, consider choosing the Quadro 5000, which remained relatively quiet under all conditions.


Performance Summary:  Before we go over the numbers, we would like to note the critical impact of drivers in all of this. A day before the launch of this review, ATI released a new workstation driver which promised to significantly improve performance in several key applications, specifically those used in the new SPECviewperf 11 testing suite. Although we already finished up all the testing, created graphs, and came to our conclusions based on that data, we felt it would be worth the effort to re-test the FirePro cards to see how much of a difference the new driver would make while providing you with the most up to date information possible. In short, it made a significant improvement for the FirePro cards in both Lightwave 3D and SolidWorks. It still wasn't enough to overtake the Quadros, but definitely closed the gap.

The point is to take these comparison numbers with a grain of salt, especially when comparing scores from different camps. As time goes on, expect to see increased performance in certain software programs due to driver optimization. ATI's FirePro cards have been out for months so we aren't surprised to see more mature drivers from them. And since Fermi-based hardware is new to the professional market, we fully expect to see a boost in performance as new drivers are released.

Note: After posting our review on launch day, we looked over the results and determined our Quadro scores were lower than expected in several tests. After some troubleshooting, we tracked down the issue. Although SPECviewperf 11 doesn't offer the option to toggle Vsync on or off, it was enabled in the NVIDIA control panel and we needed to disable it for the new benchmark. We re-tested the cards and have updated the article to reflect the new Quadro scores. 

With that said, let's analyze the data we have in front of us. Looking at SPECviewperf 11 results and the real world applications it makes use of, the Quadro 6000 videocard demonstrated the highest performance in all eight benchmarks that make up SPECviewperf 11. On average, we found it to be 103% faster than its ATI's flagship model, the FirePro V8800. At the same time, the Quadro 6000 came in at 26% faster than the Quadro 5000, a much closer comparison. Without a doubt, the Quadro 5000 is also a very strong high end card. Throughout SPEC testing, it averaged a remarkable 74% performance increase over the Quadro FX 4800, and a 61% boost over the V8800. Here's a scary thought. Both of these cards are extremely fast and will only improve with every new driver release.

Let's talk about pricing. We've seen our share of $2,000 workstation graphics cards across these pages through the years, but this is definitely an eye opener. Although we mentioned it on the first and second pages of this article, its worth noting again here. The Quadro 6000 retails for $4,999. That's a whole lot of cheddar, even for a workstation card. Amazingly, the 5000 model can be had for less than half of that, at $2,249. From our performance results, we can't say the 6000 model is worth twice as much as the 5000 card, but there is a considerable performance upgrade to be had. We saw an average difference of 26% separate the two cards throughout SPEC testing. Granted, we only used a single 30" monitor and could not have come close to maxing out the card's 6GB of on-board memory. And of course, those who desire a product with no compromises have the option of purchasing the 6000 model, while relying on future driver updates to provide performance enhancements. But if top end performance is the goal, it might be worth getting two Quadro 5000's and using them in SLI, at roughly the same cost of one Quadro 6000.

In conclusion, the Quadro 6000 and 5000 graphics cards represent two of the most powerful workstation products currently on the market. Both are substantially faster than ATI's top card in most of the real world applications we tested, but they have their drawbacks. The Quadros support a maximum of two displays per card, while most of the FirePro models provide ATI's triple monitor EyeFinity feature. The V8800 actually offers four video display outputs. Also, both Quadro cards produce significant heat and consume a considerable amount of power, irrefutable characteristics of the GF100 GPU. And of course, you must be willing to pay in order to make use of their features and performance. But in the world of workstation graphics, the cost of hardware can be quickly offset by the benefits and production throughput these products provide. If you can get past these limitations, what you're left with is a powerful set of videocards capable of increasing the productivity of users across many different applications. That's the bottom line folks. In the real world, the bottom line is usually the deciding factor. If you're looking for the highest level of performance possible, check out the new Quadro 6000 and 5000 workstation graphics cards from NVIDIA.  

  • Untouchable performance
  • Quiet operation
  • PhysX and CUDA support
  • Very expensive
  • Only two monitor support per card
  • Power hungry
  • Runs hot under full load


Content Property of HotHardware.com