The term graphics processing unit or GPU refers to a chip or electronic circuit which is 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 need a high-quality card to support themselves. Such graphics cards are more expensive and are perfect if you need a powerful GPU for content creation or gaming.
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?
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?
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.
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, workstation GPU drivers are designed for mission-critical work.
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 big role in whether or not businesses will buy their products again, so in the rare event that something goes wrong, GPU manufacturers will provide enterprise-level support for these products.
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 certain 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 any of 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.
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.
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 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. If you are interested in buying one and like most professional equipment, the investment will pay off. An interesting point is that the consumer market has largely 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, if you’re building a new workstation and cutting costs by buying a similar consumer-grade graphics card, you’re likely to be very disappointed.