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Old 01-02-2011, 06:29 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Workstation cards vrs Video cards.

I'm going into Game Art & Design and just now realized there's a difference between the cards you use to play them, and the cards you use to create them... Oops. I'm talking about 'workstation cards' or graphics accelerators.

I noticed they can be quite a bit more expensive than video cards... What's the difference between the two, do I need both, and will they be compatible with one another? Do I need to go with a crossfire workstation card to use them both?
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Old 01-02-2011, 08:50 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Workstation cards vrs Video cards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by some random bro
Workstation cards are usually optimized for huge polygon count and overdraw. They're not meant to render at 100 FPS but rather provide a consistent performance for intensive work. A game card is optimized for relativly low polygon count and overdraw. Performance drops much more drastically.

Most games use visibility determination in software to make sure the card is not stressed too much. This is possible because most games have narrow corridors blocking most of the surroundings, and models still clearly have sharp edges. A workstation card will have it's own visibility determination system in hardware so that even gigantic city design and rounded objects can be rendered at smooth framerates. In a nutshell, a game card uses brute force while a workstation card tries to play smart.

Anyway, 3DS MAX only uses your card for the design and preview window since the final image is mostly ray-traced. So unless it becomes unmanageably slow when working with huge scenes, I think you should be fine with a high-end game card. Many workstation cards also only have good OpenGL drivers.

This is a pretty good overview of what the main differences are and why you would want one over the other.

What I would suggest to you as a beginner in game art and design is to get a good 'graphics accelerator', and use that for all your rendering stuff, cause chances are you're not gonna notice the advantages of a workstation card right away in your career. Maybe when you're out of school and have a job 4 or 5 years down the road or whenever, you'll notice that you're gpu isn't cutting it and you need a workstation card, but until then get a gaming gpu and use it for both.
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Old 01-03-2011, 06:41 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Workstation cards vrs Video cards.

Makes sense. However I was doing some research and apparently rendering graphics (designing) applies different mathematical computing than displaying graphics (viewing). That workstation cards are specifically design for the task, whereas cards used for gaming are specifically design for translation of whats already been designed and being shown on the screen. I've read reviews that even some of the higher end gaming GPU's are lacking and are slow for the task.

I was wonder if I got a smaller workstation card, perhaps a standard PCI, if that would bolster the efficiency in unison with the gaming GPU. Or help in the least amount. Granted, I could indeed use these cards in unison without crossfire support. Would this be a wise decision?

Also what kind of power supply would be expected to run something like this?
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Old 01-03-2011, 02:53 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Workstation cards vrs Video cards.

I would say in most scenario's any PSU that you would put in a highend gaming rig (650+ W) would support a workstation card without any problems. Also the kind of graphics rendering that you would specifically need a workstation card for are massive 3d CAD projects and huge game landscapes which I doubt you'll be doing for a while if the game design program at my school (champlain college) is any indicator. All the kids in the game art and animation program there were just using normal gaming graphics cards (9800gtx+ cards were common) and there weren't any problems, sure it might be slower than a workstation card, but the price difference isn't really justifiable until you really need the other features that workstation cards give you.

You can't use a workstation card with a gaming card in crossfire, they aren't compatible, especially if you're going to use a pci workstation card, and the bandwidth available and used by PCI-e and today's PCI-e cards far surpasses what you could get out of a pci workstation card.


Bottom line is if you wanna spend over a grand on a card that will be obsolete by the time you need to use it, go for it, otherwise just get a good gaming card and that will carry you through your school needs. Also chances are your school might have a lab dedicated to workstations for doing 3d rendering and all that good stuff.
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Old 01-03-2011, 03:01 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Workstation cards vrs Video cards.

Beside the fact that they don't even produce standard PCI workstation cards this would be a very ineffective help. A workstation card on a PCI port would be absolutely dominated on all fronts by even a mediocre gaming card on PCI-E, So I would suggest if you are considering going dual GPU to get a motherboard with 2 PCI-E slots.

But I'm going to have to agree with Peter.Cort.

I am in the same career path as you and I have my 2 PCs. My laptop has a midrange workstation card and my desktop a midrange gaming. The laptops card is $300 the desktops is $140. So far I have not had the ability to use the workstation to it's full potential and neither will you until several years into it. Get a Fermi gaming GPU and you will be happy all the way through school. You will be able to game and work just as hard.
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Old 01-03-2011, 08:29 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Workstation cards vrs Video cards.

Okay... Now preparing for future needs, Can I use a gaming card and workstation card together? I.e. put them both in a PC for the different tasks? If so, what would be a ballpark on a PSU I would need? I would assume as the one card idles, the other will most likely be taking the load depending on what I'm running be it a game, or 3d rendering.
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Old 01-03-2011, 10:25 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Workstation cards vrs Video cards.

I don't believe that you can use them in an on/off sort of way (like play a game and then "turn off" the gaming card and "turn on" the workstation card to render something), unless things have changed in the past two years or so you can only use a secondary card for video output, eg; more than 2 monitors.

If you were to run both simultaneously, if you were running higher end cards then a 800w PSU would work for the system.
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Old 01-04-2011, 06:31 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Workstation cards vrs Video cards.

Yeah... I wasn't really talking about having them on/off. Just having them both within the same system. They would both be running correctly right, and without interference?
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Old 01-04-2011, 09:10 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Workstation cards vrs Video cards.

yeah you can have them running in the same system, but the only advantage you'd be getting out of the second card would be extra monitor support.
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