You could easily get a top-tier Nvidia/AMD gaming graphics card for $1500, but top workstation cards cost almost 3X-5X of its gaming variants. If you wonder why these professional graphics cards are so expensive even though they use the same graphics processor?
Well, they aren’t exactly the same and their target audience is also different. Both segments have their own advantages and use cases. Through this article, we will explore the difference between workstations and gaming graphics card, their use case, and technical differences.
Difference Between Workstation GPU Vs Gaming GPU
The biggest noticeable difference between workstation GPU and gaming GPU is memory type. While gaming cards use regular frame buffer memory, workstation cards use ECC memory. The ECC memory ensures error correction in mission-critical application data and is more expensive to produce compared to the regular frame buffer memory. So if your project requires top-notch accuracy you should get a workstation graphics card instead of a gaming card.
While regular graphics cards have 2-24GB memory configurations, workstation cards usually have bigger memory sizes compared to their gaming variants.
For example, the latest Nvidia Geforce RTX 4090 gaming card is equipped with 24GB DDR6 memory, but the workstation variant RTX A6000 Ada Generation is loaded with a massive 48GB DDR6 memory.
Of course, there are only a few games available that can use 24GB memory, even the most demanding AAA game titles need only 10GB-16GB memory even at 4K high settings. Maybe 24GB memory will have an advantage when 8K gaming becomes mainstream.
If the RTX 4090’s 24GB memory is overkill for gaming, why do I need an expensive workstation graphics card for 48GB memory? Well, as we said earlier these workstation graphics are aimed at professional VFX, game development, and deep learning. A high-resolution frame with millions of objects in modeling will surely allocate a large sum of memory, and that’s why the top-tier workstation graphics card RTX A6000 is equipped with 48GB of memory.
Nvidia and AMD update their gaming drivers more frequently to get optimized performance in the latest AAA games. Due to the quick updates, gaming drivers often become unstable and randomly crash. On the other hand, workstation drivers get updates after a lot of testing and are much more stable than gaming drivers.
Usually, workstation drivers get updated right after the gaming drivers are deployed and become bug-free. Stability is the main concern in workstation GPU and workstation applications don’t change as gaming.
Workstation Graphics cards usually have longer warranty periods compared to gaming cards. In most cases, these cards have up to five years of warranty with constant driver release. gaming cards have shorter warranty periods and their life span is also limited. Depending on the manufacturer, these cards usually come with 1-2 years of warranty support.
Gaming cards are aimed to achieve top performance with high clock speed and workstation cards are designed to be long lasting and clock speeds are usually 10% lower than gaming GPU.
However, the best-binned chip is used for workstation GPUs and their durability is also higher. A large portion of gaming graphics cards are made by third-party AIB companies, and for obvious reasons, we see a lot of variations in the output port, clock speed, and memory frequency. The number of gaming GPU manufacturer lists is also quite big.
Workstation graphics cards are manufactured mainly by the chipmakers themself and specifications are strictly controlled. While AMD made their workstations reference cards, PNY manufacturers professional GPUs for the green team as AIB partners.
Workstation GPU Market Share
Nvidia dominates the workstation graphics industry by a large margin against AMD-based solutions. According to the latest survey, Nvidia holds an 83% market share in GPU segments. That doesn’t mean AMD’s workstation cards are bad, they also provide some excellent workstation cards with better pricing than Nvidia’s.
For a long time, Nvidia’s professional cards were known as Quado, but recently Nvidia removed the Quadro branding from their professional graphics line-up and started using the same RTX branding as gaming Geforce cards.
Do you really need a Workstation GPU?
The answer depends on the applications and uses cases. You probably won’t buy a workstation GPU if you could handle the task with a relatively cheaper gaming card. For example, we rendered a blender scene test and surprisingly got a similar result on A6000 and Geforce RTX 3090. But, that doesn’t mean you could do all of your tasks on gaming cards smoothly.
For rendering, they might result equal, but complex modeling or deep learning will make the real difference in gaming and workstation cards. If a gaming card could handle all of the workstation card’s jobs there would be no workstation graphics card in the market. Everyone just buys a cheap gaming card to deploy in production.
Another reason to get a workstation card is stability and accuracy. For industry-grade output in VFX production or deep learning, workstation GPUs are simply the best solution.
Workstation GPU for gaming?
Yes, you can play your favorite games on your workstation GPU. Due to driver optimization, you might not get the same performance in all games. But the difference is very minimal which doesn’t justify a separate graphics card for gaming. There are some specifications changes in the tensor core, RT core, clock speed, and memory size even though they use the same chip.
At the time of writing, Nvidia Geforce RTX 4000 series gaming cards are available on the market but their Ada Lovelace workstation cards are yet to be released. So we put an older Geforce RTX 3090 and A6000 gaming performance comparison chart.
Games (4K Ulltra Settings)
GeForce RTX 3090
Red Dead Redemption 2
Forza Horizon 4
Assassins Creed Valhalla
Far Cry New Dawn
Watch Dogs : Legion
Here, we got a very little 1-3FPS difference in Nvidia’s top workstation and gaming cards. Moreover, the workstation part uses around 50W less power compared to the gaming cards. For the expensive price, the best quality silicon is reserved for the workstation part. Some games might perform poorly due to driver optimization but overall gaming performance is almost equal.