Nvidia’s Quadro line of professional graphics cards have been the standard for professional graphics for many years. The cards run the gamut, from entry level all the way up to some of the fastest graphics hardware available. Unlike gaming cards, which are tuned for higher frame rates, professional cards are geared more for professional applications, such as CAD and digital content creation that requires the use of large models with high interactivity. The Quadro K5000 is Nvidia’s newest high-end card, and it offers some new features and a significant performance boost over the previous-generation cards.
From a physical standpoint, the K5000 looks like the typical high-powered graphics card. It takes up two slots, requires a six-pin power connector, but is a little bit shorter than a full-length card. The back of the card has four connectors – two DisplayPort and two DVI ports. The card itself, while very powerful, is rather modest in how much power it consumes (122W). This is due to Nvidia’s new Kepler architecture, which uses much lower voltage than its predecessors. This lower power requirement also means that the card needs less cooling, making it very quiet.
The card is supported under Windows, OS X, and Linux. We installed the Quadro K5000 on a Windows 7-based system with a six-core 3930K processor and 16gb of RAM. Installation did not go without a hitch, though. The BIOS of the system had to be flashed with the latest and greatest in order for the card to be recognized. Once we got past that hurdle, however, the card installed easily.
The card supports up to four monitors, with full support of DisplayPort 1.2, giving users a resolution up to 3840x2160 per DisplayPort monitor. The card also supports high-resolution 3D stereoscopic displays for motion-picture work or sophisticated virtual-reality environments. If you need more real estate, you can install up to four cards in a system to get a video wall of 16 synchronized monitors. If you need more power, the card can run along with a Tesla K10 or K20 computing card to help speed along tasks such as rendering and modeling.
We configured the card with dual monitors, and these were driven without much issue. In working with configurations, we checked out Nvidia’s Mosaic, which allows for multiple monitors to appear as one to an application. A nice feature of this is a control that allows you to account for the width of the monitor bezel, which will give a much more accurate display when creating video walls and other multiple-monitor applications.
As was mentioned before, the Quadro K5000 is the first professional card to use Nvidia’s new Kepler architecture, which is also used in Nvidia’s high-end gaming cards, such as the GeForce 680. The Quadro K5000 contains 1536 CUDA cores running at 706 mhz supported by 4gb of GDDR5 memory. While the clock rate of the Quadro K5000 is lower than Nvidia’s top-end gaming cards, this pays back in lower power requirements. This lower clock rate, however, does not seem to impact performance. This is because of Nvidia’s new SMX multiprocessor design, which is more efficient and increases the amount of work it can do on an individual clock cycle.
Another way the card increases efficiency is through the new concept of bindless tex tures, which allows the GPU to reference textures directly in memory. This effectively eliminates the limit on the number of unique textures that can be used to render a scene, and reduces the CPU overhead to deliver improved performance. You can reference over a million textures on the card, which is probably more than most will need.
As for performance, we ran the card against the standard Viewperf 11 suite, which is used to test both CAD and digital content creation (DCC) workstations. By replaying the OpenGL code used to display objects in various applications, such as Autodesk’s Maya, PTC’s Pro E, and Dassault’s Catia, the test gives a fairly accurate assessment of the card’s performance.
The results were very good: We didn’t have another card to test against this one, but the published results on the Viewperf 11 website indicate that the K5000 seems to be closer to the Quadro 6000 in terms of performance. We also ran a few more tests for the card. Maxon’s Cinebench test gave us an OpenGL score of 86.40 fps. The SPEC 3ds Max 2011 test reported a composite score of 37.21. Again, these are very good numbers; the card is a solid performer.
In terms of application performance, the card comes with special drivers for Autodesk 3ds Max to help speed up DirectX performance. Adobe applications, such as Premiere, Photoshop, and After Effects, can also utilize the power of the card to speed up the rendering of complex scenes and previews. Unfortunately, the card released after CS6 came out, so you have to add the card to Adobe’s internal configuration files. Once that happens, the card will be recognized. For complex tasks, like compositing, the card shows a huge increase in speed, often accelerating render times by a factor of five to eight and more.
Overall, this is a great card. It offers a lot of power and performance in a very power-efficient package. As for most high-end cards, there is a bit of a price premium, but the additional productivity should offset that for the kinds of professionals who use this card. For those who have a serious need for graphics power, this is a quality card that will serve you well.
George Maestri is a contributing editor for CGW and president/CEO of RubberBug animation studio. He also teaches Maya for Lynda.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.