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August 2014
Issue: April 1, 2011

Review: Nvidia's Quadro 6000

By: Tor Rolf Johansen

PRODUCT: Nvidia’s Quadro 6000

WEBSITE: www.nvidia.com

PRICE: $4,999




- Memory bandwidth of 144GB/s

- 30-bit color

- 448 CUDA parallel processing cores

- 1.3 billion triangles per second

You don’t know what you’ve been missing until you’ve had a taste of it. That’s what I recently discovered during my evaluation of Nvidia’s flagship graphics card, the Quadro 6000. It’s based on Nvidia’s Fermi architecture, which brings a new set of cutting edge features to the table. And it clearly jumps way out ahead of its little brother, the Quadro FX 5800. With an extra 2GB GDDR5 memory and 208 more CUDA processor cores, the Quadro 6000 packs a serious punch. Just don’t expect it to come cheap, as with most professional hardware, you pay for what you get.

GIRTHY GRAPHICAL BANDWIDTH

First-off, I noticed the change in naming convention. Yo! Where my FX at?! Alas, the latest series of cards no longer use the FX designation and are simply branded Quadro, followed by the model number. 

This uber high-end workstation-class card is powered by the GF100 GPU and boasts an enormous 6GB of GDDR5 memory and offers up 448 CUDA processing cores. Holy processing power Batman! It’s a beefy two-slot solution that requires a boat-load of power… as I quickly found out during installation. Eventually, I got my HP xw9300 (64-bit Windows 7) workstation running after connecting two 6-pin PCIe connectors. I did find out, after the fact, that it will run with a single 8-pin PCIe power connector as well. Of course I didn’t have one of those.

One thing is certain looking at the specs — this card means business. It was obviously designed to meet the demands of professional compositors, 3D artists, editors and software engineers with a strong emphasis on visual computing on certified applications such as Maya, LightWave and After Effects. 

Nvidia has significantly beefed up memory capacity to extreme levels. It’s true that high-end workstation graphics cards may be based on the same core architectures as gaming-targeted graphics cards, but their purposes are very different. While they both accomplish similar tasks, processing commands and rendering images on-screen, workstation cards endure a more strenuous existence than their gaming counterparts. Workstation cards are used to solve complex, mission-critical problems, like helping animators work more fluidly in 3D space, and not having to wait around for their screen to catch up with their creative flow.

The Quadro 6000 features dual-slot cooling solutions that provide a peaceful working environment during normal post production conditions. Fortunately, I did not experience any obnoxious fan noise from the card throughout most of my testing. Slight fan noise here and there, but easily within comfort range. 

DREAMY COLOR & CONNECTIVITY

With integrated support for 30-bit color (10-bit color per color channel) over DisplayPort, you get the highest levels of color fidelity. Instead of the traditional 16.7 million discrete colors, which are supported by 24-bit color monitors, the 6000 allows you to take full advantage of 30-bit monitors to display 1.7 billion colors simultaneously. Quadro graphics with DisplayPort is perfectly suited for those dreamy DreamColor monitors from HP. With 64x the available color values available, 30-bit color support eliminates banding issues and provides those of you with monitor fetishes (me) the unmatched color accuracy and tonal response you worship and desire. 

Have you noticed this 3D fad recently? The Quadro 6000 addresses the stereo needs of pro stereo apps head on. With this card, you get stereo data on a single screen or across a multi-screen display — now you can visualize images or objects in three-dimensions where detailed accuracy is not just a bonus, but a requirement. Nvidia’s class of stereo is able to display full Quad-Buffered stereo both full screen and windowed for use within an app viewport. Typically, consumer stereo is limited to displaying only full screen stereo with multi-monitor support.

The Quadro 6000 also offers uncompressed video using optional SDI output capability. With the addition of an SDI interface, you can composite live video footage onto virtual backgrounds and send the result back out to live video for TV broadcast. You can also preview the results of 3D compositing, editing and color grading in realtime on HD broadcast monitors. All this is delivered in uncompressed 8-, 10- or 12-bit SDI flavors.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I believe the Quadro 6000 graphics card represents the most powerful workstation product currently on the market. If you were to twist my arm, would I have any drawbacks to share? I’d say it only supports two displays per card, and I found that the card not only produced a significant amount of heat but also consumed a mega-load of power, which may or may not be an issue for you. Not to mention, if price is an issue for you, as it is for many of us, you might need to make a compromise here. 

However, in the world of professional post, the cost of hardware can be quickly offset by the power and cost-saving features these products provide. If you’re OK with all that then you deserve this powerful video card — a card capable of increasing your productivity across many different applications. If you’re like me, and spend all day animating, rendering and tweaking comps, and you’re looking for the highest level of performance possible, check out the Quadro 6000. But please don’t buy this card and just use it for Word and Facebook.