NVIDIA Quadro K4000 in Review

May 6, 2013 11:23 pm

Tags: 3D, Autodesk, Maya, NVIDIA, Quadro



The NVIDIA Quadro K4000 is a new high performance graphics card fromNVIDIA. It retails for around $800 USD making it a freaking steal! (More on exactly why later.) For many real-world applications you get performance very close to its bigger brother the NVIDIA Quadro K5000, but for less than half the price. (Performance wise it's approximately akin to a Quadro 5000 Fermi, but sleeker and more power efficient utilizing the new Kepler core.)


The NVIDIA Quadro K4000 I received just prior to testing. Yes, it also looked like this after testing. These Kepler cards run pretty cool.


Admittedly the Quadro 4000 was slower than its bigger brother in every single test I ran however for 3D content creation software like Maya, the relative real-world performance difference for all but the densest of scenes was negligible. (CUDA intensive tasks, offline hardware rendering and extremely heavy textures are the exception.) If you're looking for a great performing Quadro card but can't drop $1800-$2000 for a Quadro K5000, the Quadro K4000is a viable option. Well, it's more than viable - it's a great option! First, a little about quadro in general.

The Quadro product lineup is targeted toward professional Workstation graphics and extremely high resolution multi-device displays. If your daily routine involves Maya, SolidWorks, CATIA, AutoCad, medical imaging, gas, etc with millions of polygons, gigabytes of textures - a Quadro card makes life easier. (And in some cases possible at all.) For Adobe users, including Photoshop CS6 and many other programs in the CS6 lineup, they can also benefit from the improved compute performance of the NVIDIA Quadro K4000 as can users of many high end compositing applications such as Nuke and Nukex by The Foundry.

Unlike its bigger brother, the Quadro K5000, the smaller Quadro K4000 is a single slot card. The video outs are 2x Display Port connectors and one DVI-I connector. The DVI-D connector, as is visible on the Quadro K5000, is now gone. On the next generation of Quadro cards I wouldn't be surprised of all DVI connectors vanished in favor of Display Port:


Quadro K4000 on top, Quadro K5000 on bottom.


Even compared to its bigger brother, the smaller K4000 still boasts some pretty impressive specs:


Quadro K4000 vs. Quadro K5000 specs
GPU Spec Quadro K4000 Quadro K5000
CUDA Cores 768 1,536
Gigaflops (single precision) 1246 2,100
Memory 3.0 GB 4.0 GB
Memory Bandwidth (GB/s) 134 GB/s 173 GB/s
Max Power Consumption 80 watts 122 watts
Max supported displays 4 4
ECC no yes
OpenGL Version 4.3 4.3
Slots Occupied 1 2


Power Efficiency

Just like its bigger brother, the Quadro K4000 also employs the new Kepler core. The payoff is greater thermal efficiency over the previous Fermi core designs. Not surprisingly the Quadro K4000 is a touch more efficient than its faster, bigger brother the Quadro K5000. Both of which are considerably more efficient than cards from the preceding Fermi generation:




The result is more number crunching awesome and less waste heat. I experienced a case temperature drop of about 10 degrees over the Fermi cores. In a well vented case, the heat sink shroud of the card itself runs at around 44 Celsius (112 Fahrenheit). This is an improvement over the Fermi core cards that regularly hit 54 Celsius (130 Fahrenheit). That's heatsink shroud temperature not core temperature!

Synthetic Benchmarks

I benchmarked the Quadro K4000 in SPECviewperf® 11:




I did an average of 3 test iterations. For those more familiar with theGeForce lineup, SPECviewperf® is the workstation analog of 3DMark. It'spretty much the industry standard benchmark for workstation graphics cards. One must keep in mind however, SPECviewperf® 11 is a synthetic benchmark. The reported performance numbers will vary from one machine to another even with identical graphics cards. This is not unexpected. The best test of performance is with a real-world data that the end-user will actually be working with.




First my SPECviewperf® 11 results:




These are somewhat lower than the official NVIDIA results (as my machine is not the same behemoth as theirs) but they are still surprisingly good. In fact, as we'll see in a moment these results are precisely why this card is such a great deal. First, the specs of the test machine I used for the results displayed above, are shown below:


My test machine specs
Spec Value
CPU AMD Phenom II x4 @ 3,200 MHz
Memory 12,288 MB DDR3 @ 800 Mhz
OS Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.
GPU NVIDIA Quadro K4000


So why are these results so good? Because look how the card stacks up (theK4000 is pink in the graph below):




So you basically get a Quadro 5000 (fermi) for half the price and much greater performance per watt. The card runs cooler but still delivers about the same performance as its previous generation bigger brother. Still, it does loose out to its current generation bigger brother the Quadro K5000 (kepler) in ever single test, as expected.

You can also see the GeForce GTX 480 (fermi) for comparison. This is why a Quadro card is so critical to high performance in engineering, medical, gas, geospatial, and digital content creation applications. Just look at theMAYA-03 result. While this doesn't directly translate to real-world performance it does provide insight.

Quadro vs. GeForce

I get asked this all the time! I always get great feedback for my Quadro reviews. (Thanks guys!) The questions are generally the same. People wonder if they really need, or could benefit from, a Quadro card. They ask questions like:

"Are they [Quadro cards] really that much faster [than GeForce]?"

"Can you also play games on a Quadro card?"

Unfortunately the real answer isn't as simple as 'yes' or 'no'. While you can play games on a Quadro card, and they do generally perform very well, that's not the whole story. I know what you're thinking though:

"Who cares, does it work?!"

Yes, but keep reading: Your wallet should care in two ways. First, for pure gaming you will get more bang-for-buck out of a GeForce card - A lot more. This can save you some significant mad-money, like $1500-2000. Add that to your Vegas jar. While saving money always sounds great, there's more to think about...

The Quadro lineup is geared toward graphics professionals, engineers, medical imaging, geospatial, or anyone who needs very heavy computational performance. By "heavy" we're not talking photographs and web graphics. Think more along the lines of a 3D model that accurately describes every thread of every bolt in your whole damn car - and all the other parts. Think programs likeAutodesk Maya, The Foundry's Nuke and Nukex, Catia, SolidWorks. For certain video encoders that don't already make use of onboard NVENC (the on-card dedicated hardware encoder for H.264 video) the added CUDA cores of a Quadro can really help. In these cases a Quadro can save you significant dough! We're talking reduced production times here where $2000 is peanuts.

I can attest that for certain programs, including Autodesk Maya, there is an immense difference in real-world performance between a Quadro and a GeForcecard. This is in-viewport performance where I can pan and dolly 1,000 square miles of detailed terrain without breaking a sweat. (The software rendering performance i.e. mentalray is identical.) When the system requirements say "Requires professional graphics card," they mean it!

So does that make Quadro cards faster at gaming? Surprisingly no. They'll be on-par with an equivalent GeForce card, sometimes a touch slower sometimes faster but by no significant margin. Remember, game engines are written with GeForce in mind. Technically, you can play games with a Quadro with pretty-settings cranked up on your workstation, but it's not nirvana.

Just for fun (and these results are not official as 3D Mark 11 is largely unaware of Quadro cards) here's the results of running 3D Mark 11 on theQuadro K4000 vs. a GeForce GTX 480 (Fermi):


Score Quadro K4000 GeForce GTX 480
graphics score 3878 5741
physics score 5879 5651
combined score 3487 5542


As you can see for gaming GeForce is the way to go. However for digital content creation and engineering apps, don't forget that embarrassing SPECviewperf®11 result I showed earlier where the Quadro sends the GeForce packing. Pick the right tool for the job!

Final Thoughts

The Quadro K4000 really is a great card and retails for around $800 USD. For the price/performance it delivers relative to its siblings, that makes it asteal. If I was a freelance artist looking to spend money out of my own pocket, this is probably be the card I'd buy.

The only negative point I could find was the paintFX brush outline in Autodesk Maya 2013 didn't follow the cursor. That, and there was a flicker when you pan the camera in a paintFX panel. Maya paintFX is pretty well known for being finicky when it comes to GPUs. I wouldn't be surprised if this gets fixed with a future driver update. Fortunately, it was only a minor annoyance and not enough to affect workflow. Still, bang-for-buck the Quadro K4000 is five stars all the way!

You can find out more about these cards at the NVIDIA website, as well as more about the performance test suite SPECviewperf® 11 at the following links:




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Kurt Foster (Modulok) falls somewhere between programmer and visual effects artist. When not sifting through technical manuals, he takes on freelance roles in both programming and visual effects, attempting to create a marriage of technical knowledge with artistic talent. He can be seen helping out on the Renderosity Maya forum, when time permits.




May 6, 2013

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