Graphics Cards for gamimg vs CAD-CAM workstation
Posted on 2005-03-23
I see there is such a thing as "workstation graphics cards for 3d graphics". FireGL is an example. I'd like to understand what the difference is between those and game cards like ATI X800 / X850. In other words, if I were trying to build a PC workstation for 3d CAD-CAM / general use, what advantage does the FireGL type card have? What's different about it? Maybe better software compatability with graphics apps? The graphics demands of CAD-CAM software doesn't seem to be that big a deal anymore, given the power of decent modern game cards. At work I use a 64 mb FireGL 8800 card for Catia V5 (in a 3 yr old machine). The graphics is fine. It just doesn't strike me as demanding compared to modern games, but I suppose the tasks are different. Does it still hold true that a workstation card is better for that type of graphics? I have an ATI 9600 AIW card in a machine that I have run CATIA on, and it seems fine, as far as quality and smoothness of rotation. The spaceball quits working sometimes and I have to restart the app. I'm not sure if that's from the graphics card or what.
For high end graphics apps, they have cards that are "certified". (tested and approved). This tends to be expensive hardware. I suspect that cheaper ones might work fine in some cases, but just haven't been officially tested. And they won't support it, like trying to help you find the best driver to use, if you have problems with a non-approved card. The support is pretty poor in any case in my opinion, you're pretty much on your own.
Do cards like ATI X8xx support the same graphics as a FireGL?
Things have changed. To run CAD-CAM apps like Catia used to require a $25,000 unix workstation with a very expensive graphics card just to get smooth 3d solid rotations. Now they have versions of the software that will apparently run fine (maybe?) on a pretty cheap PC. So I think the idea that you have to spend thousands for a workstation graphics card is out of date. Of course the mega-companies involved in distributing the expensive software would also like to sell you their expensive hardware, so they are not helpful in advising which "cheap PC" would work best. They'd like you to believe you need one of theirs.