Best Workstation GPUs 2018: Premiere, AutoCAD, VRay, Blender, & More

By Published November 22, 2018 at 1:41 pm
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Finding the “best" workstation GPU isn't as straight-forward as finding the best case, best gaming CPU, or best gaming GPU. While games typically scale reliably from one to the next, applications can deliver wildly varying performance. Those gains and losses could be chalked up to architecture, drivers, and also whether or not we're dealing with a true workstation GPU versus a gaming GPU trying to fill-in for workstation purposes.

In this content, we're going to be taking a look at current workstation GPU performance across a range of tests to figure out if there is such thing as a champion among them all. Or, in the very least, we'll figure out how AMD differs from NVIDIA, and how the gaming cards differ from the workstation counterparts. Part of this will look at Quadro vs. RTX or GTX cards, for instance, and WX vs. RX cards for workstation applications. We have GPU benchmarks for video editing (Adobe Premiere), 3D modeling and rendering (Blender, V-Ray, 3ds Max, Maya), AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Redshift, Octane Bench, and more.

Though NVIDIA's Quadro RTX lineup has been available for a few months, review samples have been slow to escape the grasp of NVIDIA, and if we had to guess why, it's likely due to the fact that few software solutions are available that can take advantage of the features right now. That excludes deep-learning tests which can benefit from the Tensor cores, but for optimizations derived from the RT core, we're still waiting. It seems likely that Chaos Group's V-Ray is going to be one of the first plugins to hit the market that will support NVIDIA's RTX, though Redshift, Octane, Arnold, Renderman, and many others have planned support.

The great thing for those planning to go with a gaming GPU for workstation use is that where rendering is concerned, the performance between gaming and workstation cards is going to be largely equivalent. Where performance can improve on workstation cards is with viewport performance optimizations; ultimately, the smoother the viewport, the less tedious it is to manipulate a scene.

Across all of the results ahead, you'll see that there are many angles to view workstation GPUs from, and that there isn't really such thing as a one-size-fits all - not like there is on the gaming side. There is such thing as an ultimate choice though, so if you're not afraid of spending substantially above the gaming equivalents for the best performance, there are models vying for your attention.

 

Workstation GPU Benchmark Cards

3ds Max Viewport Performance Workstation GPU Benchmark

To kick things off, we'll take a look at viewport performance - also known as one of the most important performance metrics of ProViz graphics cards. It's also some of the most interesting performance, as we'll see in a moment, because not all applications are built the same, and likewise, not all optimizations are built alike.

workstation gpu bench 3ds max viewport

NVIDIA's top-end GeForce RTX 2080 Ti wasted little time to strut its stuff. It pulls comfortably ahead of last-gen's top-dog TITAN Xp, and notably every Pascal Quadro we have access to. Since the Quadro RTX 6000 and 8000 has 256 additional cores, those models would undoubtedly top the chart here.

A great fact to glean from these results is the simple one that the gaming GPUs are not being throttled in this particular instance. That helps make 3ds Max a great starting point for those who want to use a completely optimized design suite but don't want to plunk cash down on the more expensive workstation equivalents.

On the AMD side of the fence, both the RX Vega 64 and Radeon Pro WX 8200 perform close to the same, which is interesting as the WX 8200 is spec'd similarly to the Vega 56, not the 64. Despite AMD's strong performance with those GPUs, NVIDIA becomes a clear winner here, especially with its top-end GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. The Pascal-based 1080 Ti also delivers super-strong performance - even beating out the last-gen Quadro P6000.

Best GPUs for Maya – Viewport Performance

workstation gpu bench maya viewport

Big gains could be seen with GeForce RTX in the 3ds Max results, but Maya lets the Turing architecture take things to the next level. It simply dominates the top of this chart, far exceeding the performance of the TITAN Xp. Yet again, the current top-end Turing Quadros would rule this chart if we had them to test, but let's just relish the fact that GeForce RTX is not held back here in any way.

As for AMD, its Radeon Pro WX 8200 managed to swap positions with the technically faster RX Vega 64, and by a fair margin at 1080p. Meanwhile, the Quadro P5000 fails to impress against the GTX 1080 Ti, which gains handsomely at both resolutions, and delivers excellent performance for its price.

It could be worth pointing out that while the Vega-based WX 8200 outperformed the gaming-focused Vega 64, the Polaris-based WX 7100 failed to topple the RX 580 the same way. It seems Vega has some specific boosts in Maya, but Quadro and GeForce on the whole delivers similar performance between them.

Best GPUs for CATIA

workstation gpu bench catia viewport

The most interesting viewport performance results always seem to be tied to top-end CAD design suites, like CATIA. While the RTX 2080 Ti reigned at the top in the 3ds Max and Maya tests, it falls to the middle of the pack here - bested by both the Radeon Pro WX 8200 and RX Vega 64.

Radeon Pro doesn't seem to inherit much of an optimization here, although the WX 8200 did manage to best the Vega 64 at 1080p - just not at 4K. The Quadro P4000 is much more affordable than an RTX 2080 Ti, at about half the price, yet it delivers far improved performance overall.

Results like these are why it truly pays to know your workload. We're literally dealing with a situation here where NVIDIA's gaming GPUs have crippled performance, but AMD's don't. The only reason the TITAN Xp is at the top of the chart is because NVIDIA has carried over specific optimizations to the TITAN series, and CATIA is clearly one of those.

Best GPUs for SolidWorks – AMD vs. NVIDIA

workstation gpu bench solidworks viewport

CATIA had flip-flopped strengths between AMD and NVIDIA and their workstation vs. gaming graphics cards, but things get shaken up quite a bit with SolidWorks. Here, the last-gen Quadro reigns supreme, with the gaming cards on both sides of the fence taking a huge hit.

Optimizations are clearly in place for both AMD's and NVIDIA's workstation graphics cards, and in this case, that even includes the TITAN Xp. While that TITAN Xp enjoyed a performance boost with CATIA over GeForce cards, the equally-spec'd Quadro P6000 simply obliterates its performance.

AMD also delivers super-strong performance here, too, with its Radeon Pro WX 8200. From the best bang-for-the-buck standpoint, that card is the most compelling of the bunch.

Best GPUs for Siemens NX – Quadro vs. RTX vs. WX

workstation gpu bench siemens nx viewport

In most of the results seen up to this point, GPUs have scaled largely as expected, with the gaming GPUs once in a while sitting lower on the list. Siemens NX gives us our first look at some gaming GPUs getting murdered, with all four of the AMD and NVIDIA gaming cards locked to the bottom. Interestingly, AMD's gaming cards perform a lot better than NVIDIA's, but at this performance level, it unfortunately doesn't matter.

Similar to what we saw with SolidWorks, the last-gen Quadro P6000 delivers explosive performance in SNX, though the TITAN Xp doesn't lag too far behind - and it's definitely the most value-packed of the two. The Radeon Pro WX 8200 again shows strong performance, beating out NVIDIA's last-gen P4000, but falling behind the Quadro P5000, which is clearly enjoying some unparalleled levels of optimization considering it and the WX 8200 are not far apart from a theoretical performance standpoint.

While the P4000 delivers great performance for its price, the newer WX 8200 from AMD looks to offer some of the best bang for the buck here. That's nice to see, since the company has been putting in huge effort to bolster its performance in these super-important design suites. Another such suite is PTC's Creo, which we're going to look at next:

Best Workstation GPUs for Creo

workstation gpu bench ptc creo viewport

As with SolidWorks, Creo is clearly optimized on Quadro more than it is on Radeon Pro, since the Quadro P5000 was able to pull so far ahead of the WX 8200. Despite the Quadro P4000 being a fair bit weaker, it performs close to the same as the WX 8200, and meanwhile, the top-dog Vega RX 64 gaming GPU doesn't show great strengths in this test.

But speaking of strengths, NVIDIA's GeForce cards have made a return to the top of the chart here, with the RTX 2080 Ti once again gloating from above. It is worth noting that it only just beats out the TITAN Xp, which was actually priced the same as what the Founders Edition RTX 2080 Ti is now, at 1200 dollars.

Ultimately, NVIDIA proves to be the best choice with Creo, at least if you're fine sticking with a gaming GPU. The GTX 1080 Ti delivers great performance for its price, even managing to beat out the more expensive Quadro P5000 at 4K.

Best Video Cards for AutoCAD

workstation gpu benchmark autodesk autocad

If you thought Siemens NX's results were interesting, get a load of these this AutoCAD set. In this suite, there is such a strong divide between AMD and NVIDIA, that the chart is literally split in half between the vendors.

Interestingly, the RTX 2080 Ti failed to clinch the top spot, but it seems likely that the Quadro RTX 6000 would do so without issue, thanks to its higher core count. Still, there's a point when the performance only improves so much, so again, the GTX 1080 Ti looks like the most value-packed card.

When even the lowbie Quadro P2000 beats out the WX 8200, it's obvious that AMD is lacking optimization in this test, or at least enough of it to make a real difference. At the company's recent Next Horizon event, AutoCAD was name-dropped as an application that gets continual performance enhancements, so we hope that the performance outlook changes before long. It'd be nice to see a better blend among these results.

Professional Visualization GPU Rendering Benchmarks

Viewport performance is important, but so is rendering. In fact, rendering performance is where you can really feel the hurt if you're using lower-end hardware. Renders that could take 10 minutes on top-end GPUs could instead take three hours on lower-end ones. As always, you need to weigh various factors before finally deciding on your next GPU for workstation purchase.

Best Video Cards for Blender Benchmark – RTX vs. GTX vs. Quadro vs. Vega vs. WX

workstation gpu benchmark blender

We're going to start out with Blender, for a couple of reasons. First, there is no NVIDIA RTX result here, because current builds of the popular open-source design suite don't support it. We're not just talking about lack of RTX features support, but lack of Turing support on the whole. The only builds that will run on RTX right now are internal to NVIDIA and Blender, so if you notice 2080 Ti results on Blender's benchmarking website, you can feel rest-assured that they didn't come from the community.

That aside, AMD's Radeon RX Vega 64 simply kills it in this test, beating out every single other GPU, including last-gen's top-end TITAN Xp. Again, RTX would very likely beat out Vega 64, but from a price standpoint, the Vega 64 delivers truly impressive performance. It beats out the 1080 Ti by a lot, not just a little.

Because no Quadro RTX card can be found in this chart, the most impressive cards here are actually the gaming counterparts, not the official workstation equivalents.

AMD Radeon ProRender GPU Benchmark

workstation gpu benchmark amd prorender 3ds max

AMD's open-sourced Radeon ProRender is an excellent option for anyone to test out, whether you're a seasoned pro, or a newbie trying to get into the ecosystem as cheaply as possible. With ProRender, you could take a completely free tool like Blender, and the completely free ProRender plugin, and begin the learning journey to create some impressive ray traced scenes. ProRender even recently gained heterogeneous CPU and GPU rendering support, although it currently only works properly with AMD's own Radeon Pro cards.

From a strict GPU rendering standpoint, NVIDIA's relentless GeForce RTX card strikes again. I am guessing that the lack of heterogeneous support on NVIDIA GPUs ties in with the reason that the dual TITAN Xp configuration failed to leap past the single RTX 2080 Ti. That result alone, as flawed as it might be, is still downright impressive. nothing else comes close to the RTX 2080 Ti aside from those dual TITAN Xps.

Really, there's not much else to say here except for GeForce beats Radeon in Radeon ProRender – that’s weird to say. Ultimately, the more GPU horsepower you have, Radeon ProRender will take great advantage of it.

Best GPUs for Redshift

workstation gpu benchmark redshift

Unfortunately for AMD, there exist a bunch of renderers on the market that are tuned exclusively for NVIDIA's CUDA API, completely ruling out AMD's chance at having some fun. It could be that in time, these renderers will cave to growing Radeon Pro marketshare and broaden support to OpenCL, but it's going to be a real uphill battle for AMD. Because AMD cards are locked out of this and the next two tests, GeForce RTX 2080 and 2070 have been tossed in for good measure.

Redshift is going to gain proper support for NVIDIA's RT core in a future release, but even right now, RTX cards deliver very impressive performance, with the RTX 2080 surpassing TITAN Xp, and the 2080 Ti yet again sitting comfortably on top. What's interesting here is that the Quadro P6000 fails to beat out the 1080 Ti, despite having more cores to help it out. Memory bandwidth on P6000 is actually less than the GTX 1080 Ti, which might play a bit of a role here.

Best GPUs for V-Ray: RTX, GTX, WX, & Vega Benchmarks

workstation gpu benchmark chaos vray

With V-Ray, it's important to note that the renderer does support AMD's GPUs with OpenCL, but in our testing, we've never managed to get a render out of it to look good on Radeon. It could be that projects are needed to be built from the ground-up, and not simply ported over, but even the standalone V-Ray benchmark has sporadic performance with AMD GPUs, so NVIDIA is really the only choice for V-Ray right now.

As with any render worth its weight in bytes, V-Ray can take full advantage of multiple GPUs, and will deliver massive performance gains as a result. Unlike SLI or Crossfire, you don't need identical GPUs to take advantage of multi-GPU with renderers, so if you're thinking of upgrading, you don't actually have to get rid of your old card, unless your system simply couldn't support two GPUs.

NVIDIA's RTX again shines here, even though the special RT core features have yet to roll out. The RTX 2080 beats out the TITAN Xp, despite being slower in most other tests, so it seems likely that NVIDIA has some specific Turing optimizations that do a great job of eking additional performance out of this renderer.

OTOY Octane Render GPU Benchmarks

workstation gpu benchmark octanebench

OTOY's Octane is yet another renderer that's going to gain proper RTX support at some point soon, but even without it, NVIDIA's RTX cards become the obvious best choice for those looking for top-end performance. The RTX 2080 Ti beats out the TITAN Xp, while the RTX 2080 follows not too far behind that.

The 1080 Ti looks to be one of the better value propositions in this chart, beating out the new RTX 2070, though technically still costing a bit more. Meanwhile, it's fun to see how a card like the RTX 2070 performs against not just the Quadro P6000, but also the Maxwell-based M6000, which is equivalent in specs to an original TITAN X.

As many of these tests have proven, going with a lower-end GPU is not going to deliver an ideal rendering performance, kind of like how a Chevette isn't going to satisfy like a Corvette.

Professional Video Card Encoding Benchmarks

To round our tests out, we're going to finish up with encoding tests involving two popular video editors: Adobe's Premiere Pro CC, and MAGIX's Vegas Pro.

Best Video Card for Adobe Premiere Pro CC (Benchmarks)

workstation gpu benchmark adobe premiere cc 2019

Looking at these Premiere results, which involves a real 1080p project encode, and also a 4K to 1080p RED encode, there's really not too much variation at the top of the charts. It seems clear that there is a point when you can have "too much" GPU horsepower for video editing. There's barely a difference between the top card, and the one ranked five below it.

What does become clear is that while you can have too much GPU for encoding, you can also have too little, as evidenced by the bottom AMD Polaris results.

For straight-forward video encoding, AMD performs fine, but when a full-fledged project is being encoded, it seems like there's more to the picture than immediately meets the eye, giving NVIDIA the ultimate nod overall.

Best Video Cards for MAGIX Vegas (Benchmarks)

workstation gpu benchmark magix vegas

For the final test, we're looking at the popular Vegas editor from MAGIX, which enjoyed the release of version 16 a few months ago. Both of the results seen here represent simpler single-file encodes, but each have some common filters piled on top to get the GPU to actually show off what it can do.

These results seem to be all over the place, but there is some explanation to what's going on. For the most part, the AVC encode scales as expected, but we do see some interesting results such as the TITAN Xp performing pretty much identically to the GTX 1080 Ti. The Vega 64 also performs extremely well, sliding in behind only a single GPU, the RTX 2080 Ti.

Meanwhile, with the H.265 HEVC codec, NVIDIA's strengths become apparent, with even the small Quadro P2000 outperforming every single one of the Radeon GPUs. This is an extreme example of where it pays to know your workload, because while the Radeon Pro is fine for AVC here, it falls far behind with HEVC. That situation is surely going to improve over time, but as with many future performance outlooks, we have no idea when it actually will.

Conclusion: The Best Workstation GPUs for Professionals

That was quite a bit of data to pore over, and as expected, it's difficult to find a workstation graphics card that rules them all, because quite honestly, there isn't one. There were cases across our performance look where either AMD or NVIDIA took the lead, but it's safe to say that NVIDIA gets the performance nod overall, with its RTX cards dominating most of the tests they touch.

Unfortunately, there were no TITAN V or Quadro RTX results to share, but their performance wouldn't be too hard to guess. Wherever TITAN Xp performs extremely well, TITAN V is likely to perform even better. And to that end, one of the most important things to bear in mind when choosing a GPU for workstation purposes is whether or not the limited framebuffer of the gaming card will introduce roadblocks. You'd have to be building complex scenes to exceed the 12GB framebuffer of the TITAN Xp, but the need for more GPU memory is only going to improve over time.

There are other things to take into consideration as well, such as error correction memory, although use of that in the ProViz market is actually quite rare. What's not rare is required certification, which is important for enterprise environments that demand the most stable platform possible, and not to mention the best support. That, and things like 10-bit color make options like the workstation cards better than the gaming cards. But for some, losing those features to gain in performance at a given price is a fair trade-off.

And that wraps it up for this one. If you enjoy this content, you can support Gamers Nexus directly on store.gamersnexus.net and also on our Patreon page. You can also find more of my work over on the Techgage YouTube channel, should your appetite for workstation stuffs be as strong as mine.

Editorial, Testing: Rob Williams
Video: Keegan Gallick
Production: Steve Burke

Last modified on November 22, 2018 at 1:41 pm

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