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.