Before we start looking at these two cards close up and in detail, take quick glance at how they stack up on paper. We were actually surprised at how these two major companies have created such similar products, at nearly the same price point. Interesting to note that the original press photo of ATI's FireGL V8650 uses a green PCB, whereas the final shipping version uses a red PCB.
|ATI FireGL V8650
|NVIDIA QuadroFX 5600
There we have it. Let’s see how each company describes their particular product or product line.
"Introducing the ATI FireGL V8650 workstation graphics accelerators from AMD with Unified Shader architecture – the markets first graphics accelerator with 2GB of memory and stereoscopic 3D display capabilities is the ultimate in performance expanding the possibilities when working with large datasets for Medical Imaging, Digital Content Creation (DCC) and simulation. The ATI FireGL V8650 delivers industry leading features and performance unparalleled in the market today." - AMD
"A revolutionary unified architecture, NVIDIA Quadro FX 5600 and 4600 graphics boards deliver optimized application performance. Combining the industry's most advanced feature set, including largest frame buffers, with a C programming environment, Quadro solutions solve the most complex problems. The reference standard for Shader Model 4.0, Quadro FX 5600 and 4600 enables next generation applications with unprecedented image quality." - NVIDIA
On paper alone, the FireGL V8650 looks like a stronger card with higher clock speeds, more memory, and more memory bandwidth. However, the efficiency of the GPU per clock cycle is far more important than raw clock speeds, so let’s not jump to any conclusions yet.
Also keep in mind, even if a specific GPU shows excellent performance in a gaming scenario, like Crysis, a title such as this is only using a specific pathway through the GPU. Workstation applications take different or varying paths, which may really show the benefits of a specific chip architecture over another. While the same component could appear to be slow in one arena, it can be very fast in another. Many sites have already shown the NVIDIA G80 and ATI R600 GPUs in gaming environments – but you shouldn't take these numbers as a guide to how these GPUs will perform in the workstation world.