Nvidia K5200
Issue: Volume 38 Issue 1: (Jan/Feb 2015)

Nvidia K5200

Nvidia's Quadro graphics cards are the standard for graphics professionals. Unlike gaming cards, which are tuned mostly for higher frame rates, professional cards such as the Quadro are geared for professional applications that require the use of large models, scenes, and datasets. These cards typically have more memory and are built with high-end components for 24/7 operation, making them attractive to users such as CAD professionals, digital content creators, and those wanting lots of parallel processing power. 

To meet this demand, Nvidia extended its Quadro lineage with a new family of cards. These new cards range from the entry-level K420, up to the high-performance K5200, which is reviewed here. The new hardware not only provides graphics acceleration, but it also adds significant parallel processing power to accelerate compute-intensive tasks.  

From a physical standpoint, the K5200 looks like the typical high-powered graphics card. It takes up two slots, requires a six-pin power connector, but is slightly longer than the K5000, its predecessor. The back of the card has four connectors - two Display Ports and two dual-link DVI ports, supporting up to four simultaneous displays. With full support of DisplayPort 1.2, these give you a resolution of up to 3840x2160 per monitor, which is great for those working with 4k footage.  

Multiple cards can also be configured using Nvidia's SLI technology, offering the possibilities of even more displays - up to 16 with a motherboard that supports four cards. A separate sync card can be installed to synchronize multiple monitors for applications such as stereoscopic 3D and video production. For those wanting to go beyond 4k, Nvidia's Mosaic technology can span your display space across multiple monitors and make them appear to be one single display, complete with fancy features such as bezel correction. This can be very useful for setups such as video walls and virtual-­reality spaces. Another nice software tool is Nvidia's Nview, which gives fine control over your workspace, allowing for multiple desktops and more.

Inside the card, the Quadro K5200 features the GK110 chip, which employs a more advanced version of the Kepler architecture used on the K6000. In many ways, the K5200 is much closer to the K6000 than the K5000 it replaced - it is that much more powerful. The total number of CUDA cores is 2,304, with 8gb of GDDR5 SDRAM, almost double that of the K5000. This additional memory means more stuff - bigger datasets, more textures, more geometry, and…more. This will make for a faster and more interactive experience. Compared to the K5000, memory bandwidth has gone up a bit, to 192gb/sec. Power consumption is set at a modest 150w. 

The card is supported under Windows and Linux but currently not OS X. We installed the Quadro K5200 on a Windows 7-based system with a six-core i7 processor and 32gb of RAM.  We configured the card with dual 1080p monitors to run our tests. The card was used in a digital content creation environment and tested against applications such as Autodesk's Maya, 3ds Max, and Motion Builder, open-source Blender, as well as Adobe applications, such as After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Photo­shop. The card had no issues with any of these applications.

As for performance, we ran the card against the standard Viewperf 12 suite, which is used to test both CAD and digital content creation workstations. By replaying the OpenGL code used to display objects in various applications such as Maya, Pro E, and CATIA, the test gives a fairly accurate read of the card's performance. The results were very good (see chart).

We didn't have another card to test against this one, but the published results on the Viewperf 12 website indicate that the K5200 seems to be very close to the Quadro K6000 in terms of performance, and it outperforms the Quadro K5000 by about 15 to 20 percent, depending on the application. We also ran a few more benchmark tests for the card. Maxon's Cinebench R15 test gave us an OpenGL score of 102.4 fps. The SPEC 3ds Max 2015 test reported a composite score of 44.71. Again, these are very good numbers. The card is a solid performer.

Nvidia cards, such as the Quadro K5200, also provide acceleration to many popular applications. Adobe is continuing to expand support within its graphics suite, accelerating the handling of massive HD and 4k video files. Many commercial 3D rendering applications also utilize the power of an Nvidia CUDA GPU to speed up the process.

For those who do a lot of rendering, Nvidia's Iray physically-based renderer is becoming more and more popular in the design community. The renderer utilizes the power of Nvidia CUDA processors to accelerate rendering, either within the workstation or across a network. In integrated applications, such as 3ds Max, rendering becomes part of the viewport - it can be that fast. Popular applications, such as 3ds Max and CATIA, support the renderer directly; others, such as Maya and Cinema 4D, can use it via plug-ins. And rendering is only the start: Many high-end studios are using Nvidia GPUs to accelerate all sorts of production tasks, from character deformation to physics. This will eventually filter down into commercial applications.

Overall, this is a great card. It offers a lot of power and performance in a very power-efficient package. As there is for most high-end cards, there is a bit of a price premium, but the additional productivity should offset that for the professionals who use this card. For those of you who have a serious need for graphics power, this is a quality card that will serve you well. ¢