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Which video card for a Dell Precision T7500 workstation?

Posted on 2009-05-18
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Based on input I received in the CPU zone I plan to purchase a 64-bit Dell Precision T7500 Workstation. This is primarily to accommodate video (and audio) processing and working with large Excel spreadsheets. The video and audio is for videos such as narrated PowerPoint presentations or talking heads giving a talk about something. It is not fast-paced action. The spreadsheets can be 50MB files with 50,000+ rows and 40 columns. I am not a gamer.

I use a single Dell 2709W 27" digital LCD monitor. (It's excellent, although it does double duty as a space heater.) It has both DVI and DisplayPort inputs.

I am asking for your help in deciding which video card to purchase with the T7500 given the nature of my applications. Below is the list of options from dell.com including the incremental price for each. Their default is the 256MB NVIDIA® Quadro® NVS 295.

Which would you recommend for my situation? Why?  Thanks you!

4.0GB NVIDIA® Quadro® FX 5800, DUAL MON, 1DP & 2DVI [add $3,600]

1.5GB NVIDIA® Quadro® FX 4800, DUAL MON, 2DP & 1DVI [add $1,419]

1.0GB NVIDIA® Quadro® FX 3800, DUAL MON, 2 DP & 1 DVI [add $900]

768MB NVIDIA® Quadro® FX 1800, DUAL MON, 2 DP & 1 DVI [add $490]

512MB NVIDIA® Quadro® FX 580, DUAL MON, 2 DP & 1 DVI [add $120]

512MB NVIDIA® Quadro® NVS 420, Quad Monitor, 4DP [add $410]

512MB NVIDIA® Quadro® NVS 420, Quad Monitor, 4DP, 4DVI [add $410]

256MB NVIDIA® Quadro® NVS 295, DUAL MON, 2 DP [Included in Price]

1.0GB ATI FirePro" V8700, DUAL MON, 2 DP & 1 DVI [add $1,239]

512MB ATI FirePro" V5700, DUAL MON, 2 DP & 1 DVI [add $490]

256MB ATI FirePro" V3750, DUAL MON, 2 DP & 1 DVI [add $100]
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Question by:Pete2009
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by:cn_cho
cn_cho earned 25 total points
ID: 24417510
Honestly I believe anything beyond the standard 256 meg card indicated above is overkill for the types of applications you mention. That card will be able to deliver more than enough 'oomph'; even if you plan on using Windows Vista as you're operating system which is graphics intensive. However if you have any special needs from the card (ie occasional gaming, HDMI output etc etc) you must take that into consideration. Besides, upgrading video cards is easy and much less expensive than the prices indicated above would have you believe.
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by:Cuteadder
ID: 24417520
the basic cheapest one is still overkill for Excel, just go for the cheap option...
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by:garycase
ID: 24417761
As I noted in your question r.e. which CPU to buy, the base Quadro card in the Precision  has plenty of performance for your applications.   You may, however, want to upgrade to the FX580 ... it has superb performance for the price, and the $120 upgrade fee isn't too bad (you can buy the card by itself for $185).   Read the reviews on the FX580 here before you decide: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814133273&Tpk=FX%20580

If you want a higher-end card, I'd just wait until you use the system a bit before changing.   With the more expensive cards, the cost of the cards is very close to what Dell charges for the upgrades, so there's no advantage to doing so now.   For example, an NVS 420 upgrade costs $410, here's the card for $419.99:  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814133259
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by:ryanswj
ID: 24418043
256MB NVIDIA® Quadro® NVS 295, DUAL MON, 2 DP [Included in Price]

This is good enough. Actually Intel Graphics would be even better - extended battery life.

PowerPoint does not consume so much resources, it runs fine with Intel 855GM, and Windows 2k.

If you see any signs of lag, you can always bring down the resolution.
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by:Pete2009
ID: 24418144
I appreciate the points about the basic ard being sufficient, which is somewhat as I expected. garycase makes some excellent and very practical points, as usual!, about some very cost-effective "insurance". The review on newegg looks excellent and the FX580 looks like a greatchoice. I'm surprised by the low 40W power dissipation on that card.

The FX580 might help with CorelDRAW. And, who knows if in my slow business times I might actually play an RPG game.

The notes about battery life and lowering resolution don't seem to apply to this desktop workstation and 27" (1920x1200) LCD monitor.

At the moment, the FX580 is what I have in mind. I'll leave this open until Tuesday to see if more thoughts come in.
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by:garycase
ID: 24418680
Agree the FX580 is a good choice -- that's certainly what I'd get with that system (as I implied earlier).   Although the base card is almost certainly "good enough", the FX580 is, as you called it, very cost-effective "insurance" ==> I very seriously doubt you'll ever upgrade the video card beyond that :-)
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by:Callandor
ID: 24421282
If you had the option to not get a card, I would go for that and buy the card separately.  The video cards bundled with the workstations are geared towards 3D modeling and OpenGL, which means if you're not using them for that, you're paying a hefty price tag for something you're not going to use.  $125 will go a long way towards a very competent gaming card these days - a Radeon 4850 or Geforce 9800 GT, for example.  The FX580 is a good CAD card, but it doesn't perform well with games, compared to other cards in its price range.  Just another consideration, if you're interested in getting the most for your money, but I realize Dell may not offer that option and give you credit.
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by:Pete2009
ID: 24421527
Callandor is raising an interesting issue. I share your view that Dell is unlikely to allow the order with no card. They might, though, substitute a different card than is listed. (I usually order by phone and a live agent.)

I must plead ignorance to the distinctions between optimization for OpenGL and 3D modeling versus gaming (and I presume DirectX?). Can you explain a bit about that, or point me to a reference about the distinctions and relative merits?
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by:Callandor
Callandor earned 225 total points
ID: 24421948
The actual hardware difference between an OpenGL card and a gaming card is very slight - there were numerous mods posted on the web on how to convert a relatively cheap gaming card into a relatively expensive OpenGL card.  The real difference is in the drivers - OpenGL drivers are optimized for rendering, rigorously tested and have support from the vendors for anyone who purchases one.  The cost for this is passed on the the customers, and that is why they can cost thousands, while top game cards max out around $500.

See http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/245969-33-difference-gamer-workstation-video-card and http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/opengl-workstation-graphics,1269.html
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garycase earned 250 total points
ID: 24424883
The fundamental graphics "engines" are the same on workstation and desktop video cards; but the workstation cards definitely have more stable firmware, and are better suited for high-end rendering applications.   In addition, as Callandor noted, they have better support and are more rigorously tested.   You are, of course, paying for that ... but if you stay with a modest card (the FX580) it's a reasonable value.

The desktop cards are more focused on Direct-X support for gaming, but they do still support OpenGL ... they simply aren't certified and both the firmware and the drivers are optimized for Direct-X (thus better gaming support).   They also tend to push the GPU more ... thus consuming higher power and generating more heat (although workstation cards will also stress the GPU when rendering).

I agree a good card of either "flavor" would be fine for your applications ... but for a workstation class system I'd use the workstation card, and given that decision, I'd pay the small upgrade charge to go with the FX580.

... but as I noted in my original comment, you could always get the base card and simply replace the video card if you ever decide you need more performance (or decide you want to do some gaming).    If you DO decide to go with a desktop class card, the 9800GT is a superb choice:  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130435   I'm not a gamer, but that's what I used for my most recent desktop system [primarily so there's enough gaming performance for my grandkids when they visit :-) ].
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