Mid-Range Workstation GPU Shootout : FireGL V5600 vs. QuadroFX 1700 vs. FireGL V3600

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In our last workstation-class graphics card shootout, we compared two high-end cards to eachother and concluded that Nvidia had the performance edge at the high-end.  In the mid-range workstation market, however, the tables are turned 180 degrees.  In this space, ATI currently has a better performing product across the board with the FireGL V5600 512 MB card.   While Nvidia has a few wins here and there, overall the FireGL V5600 is simply a stronger product.

One interesting aspect to keep in mind, is that while the FireGL V5600 has a lower MSRP ($599) compared to the the QuadroFX 1700 ($699), street prices are a much different ball game.  The QuadroFX 1700 card has been on the market for much longer, and prices have dropped to much more tolerable levels.  After a quick search, it appears that QuadroFX 1700 cards can be had for about $400, whereas the FireGL V5600's street price is still at about $500.  A $400 QuadroFX 1700 is a much easier pill to swallow in comparison to the $700 MSRP, and at this lower price point, it becomes a much closer race.

Both the QuadroFX 1700 and FireGL V5600 have 512 MB of memory, quiet cooling systems, have relatively low power consumption, and support DirectX 10 and OpenGL 2.1.   Nvidia’s card has HDTV out and can support multi-GPU operation, although the FireGL card runs at higher clock frequencies which resulted in better performance nearly across the board. From a price/performance standpoint, we would still have to opt for the FireGL V5600, as its stronger performance justifies the somewhat higher street price.  Nvidia’s card works great in 3D Studio and Catia, but overall, it loses out to the ATI product.  And its GPU and memory clock speeds are surprisingly low, given how inexpensive Nvidia’s G84-based gaming cards are selling for currently, with much higher clock rates.  If Nvidia wants to better compete in the mid-range market, they’re going to have to release a new model and push those speeds up to get performance levels in line or higher than the V5600.

The FireGL V3600 is a nice card as well, and as it currently sells for about $200 online, it’s not a huge investment.  Overall performance was good, considering the price point and modest hardware configuration.  We wouldn’t recommend it for any kind of GPU intensive applications, but for light OpenGL work, it should certainly suffice.

QuadroFX 1700:

  • Solid 3D Studio Max / Catia Performance
  • Near Silent, Slim Cooling System
  • HDTV Output
  • Low Clock Speeds
  • No Stereo Output

FireGL V5600:


  • Solid All Around Performance
  • Slim, Quiet Cooling System
  • Good Maya Performance
  • Larger Card Compared To Others
  • Most Expensive at $500 Street
  • No HDTV/Stereo Output

FireGL V3600:

  • Inexpensive OpenGL Work Card
  • Quiet Little Cooling Unit
  • Decent Performance
  • 256 MB Frame Buffer
  • Low Clock Speeds
  • No HDTV/Stereo Output

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