The term graphics processing unit or GPU refers to a chip or electronic circuit given in most computing devices to render graphics and showcase multimedia. It’s used in embedded systems, mobile phones, PCs, workstations, and game consoles. A graphics card takes the graphics-related load from the CPU and computes it on its own. Workstations are made to handle tasks with extreme loads, so they need high-quality cards to support themselves. Such graphics cards are more expensive and are perfect if you need a powerful GPU for gaming and creating content.
Workstation cards are usually the same GPUs as desktop cards. They just have validated drivers, are better supported and are better suited for 3D work. But everyone has a question, why are workstation GPUs so expensive? Are they faster or more premium? The cost of workstation GPU cards is eye-popping compared to GPUs for gaming and general consumer use. But why would a professional workstation GPU justify charging so much money? So, in this article, we’re going to look specifically at why workstation GPUs are so expensive and see if it’s good or too risky.
Why are workstation GPUs so expensive? Possible reasons
Workstation GPUs like Nvidia Quadro or AMD FirePro cards cost eye-popping compared to GPUs for gaming and general consumer use. But why can professional workstation GPUs justify charging so much money? Some possible reasons are as follows:
One of the main differences between a workstation GPU and the ordinary GPUs is that the workstation ones are ultimately suitable for a crisis. Pro cards are made to make money since these are better options. Professional customers don’t see workstation cards as a cost but as an investment that should ultimately pay for itself and generate a profit. It’s not an exciting answer, but part of the reason these cards are selling so well is that professional users and businesses are willing to pay so much, and it’s because the cards end up costing them nothing.
Workstation cards are physically stronger and use better quality components and cooling solutions than consumer GPUs. Their power management components, capacitors, board thicknesses, and all other card components are designed to work 24/7 in harsh conditions. This robustness comes at an additional price. You might think cryptocurrency mining might be difficult on a GPU, but that’s nothing compared to render farms or high-performance computing (HPC) data centers.
Driver and Software validation
A “driver” is a piece of software that tells the computer’s operating system and software applications how to control the hardware of the device the driver is targeting. Drivers are a critical component in terms of performance and stability. Software drivers for professional workstation GPUs are painstakingly tested and proven to be very stable across the operating system and specific professional applications. In short, the workstation GPU drivers are designed for mission-critical work.
Error-correcting Technology and Precision
On GPUs, it is a feature that uses extra bits of memory to store error information, so if an error occurs in the memory subsystem, it can be detected, reported, and corrected, and believe it or not, computers can make mistakes! Errors can creep into your data in various ways, but one of the more common ways is when the value of particular bits in the GPU’s RAM changes from “1” to “0” and vice versa. If this happens in a video game, it can cause minor graphics artifacts that you never notice or random crashes that never repeat in the worst case.
But if you’re doing medical research, scientific simulations, data mining, or several specialized applications, errors can have disastrous real-world consequences if you introduce errors into the results. Like the RAM used by workstation-class CPUs, workstation GPUs have error-correcting memory to ensure your data doesn’t get corrupted. This type of memory is much more expensive than consumer-grade RAM due to the nature of its workloads, such as data mining huge datasets.
No computer system is free of bugs. So when something goes wrong with a workstation GPU, finding and fixing the problem is a priority. After all, every hour of downtime is a waste of money. GPU manufacturers offer a higher level of aftermarket support to their professional GPU customers. They know this support plays a significant role in whether or not businesses will repurchase their products, so in the rare event that something goes wrong, GPU manufacturers will provide enterprise-level support.
Are workstation cards actually faster?
One thing that might really surprise you about workstation cards is that they’re no faster than GPUs you can buy for video games and general home use. In fact, workstation cards often prioritize stability over sheer speed so that they can be slower in raw performance. The rationale is that it’s better to do work absolutely slowly than to fail repeatedly on the edge of uneven performance. You won’t find the latest GPU architectures in workstation cards until long after the new technology’s consumer-grade products are released.
All of these factors, supply and demand, extensive R&D, and hardware tolerance, contribute to the increased cost of workstation cards. The investment will pay off if you are interested in buying one and like most professional equipment. The interesting point is that the consumer market has primarily driven advances in graphics hardware development. New technologies such as HBM can be directly attributed to the vast gaming market. Product improvements in the workstation field are guaranteed through a symbiotic relationship with specialized hardware.
So, to recap, the main differences in workstation cards are higher performance for specific workloads, the highest quality components, specially developed drivers, and extra workstation features. This works with used Nvidia and AMD graphics cards. Workstation graphics cards are expensive, and if your idea of a high-end gaming build is to pick the most expensive components, you’re wasting money. Likewise, you’re likely to be very disappointed if you’re building a new workstation and cutting costs by buying a similar consumer-grade graphics card.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is workstation GPU good for gaming?
In terms of performance, yes, you can use the workstation GPU to play games. But, such a combination will end up being pricey, so it is not recommended for gaming. Therefore, purchasing an excellent gaming graphics card like Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Ti or AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT is better.
What is the difference between a workstation GPU and a desktop GPU?
A workstation GPU focuses on better stability and efficiency even under heavy-duty loads and has better build quality. But a desktop GPU isn’t made aimed to keep running all day but for excellent short-term performance and overclocking. It doesn’t mean that you can’t run a desktop GPU for long, but a workstation GPU can be used comparatively for an extended time.
Is the 3090 for gaming or a workstation?
The GeForce RTX 3090 is more likely a gaming graphics card than a workstation card. You can get an absolute gaming performance and experience with up to 4k excellent visual resolution.