NVIDIA GPU Quadro M5000 in Review
Staff Writer By: Kurt Foster (Modulok)
NVIDIA Quadro M5000 Workstation Graphics Card
The new NVIDIA Quadro M5000 workstation-class graphics card is the spiritual successor to the NVIDIA Quadro K5200. The 'M' in the name stands for Maxwell, named after James Clerk Maxwell - you learned his equations in physics. Maxwell succeeds Kepler with a focus on power efficiency. The NVIDIA Quadro M5000 features a second generation Maxwell GM204 core.
For those not familiar with NVIDIA Quadro, what is it good for:
It's more than just graphics today, through NVIDIA CUDA and OpenCL, it's general purpose compute kernels running in parallel on thousands of cores. Quadro cads excel at these types of workloads. This is especially true with the new Maxwell GM204 as we'll see on our tests. With continued demand for richer, more immersive media delivered on shorter deadlines, the graphics industry is rapidly moving toward NVIDIA CUDA and other GPU based solutions. This trend is expected to continue. Time for some quick stats:
Almost identical, right? Not exactly. The new Quadro M5000 boasts more memory bandwidth, more display port connectors, support for DirectX 12 and of course the new second generation Maxwell core - which is the big difference due to increased efficiency per core as we'll see.
Aesthetics & Build Quality
The form factor and physical dimensions of the new NVIDIA Quadro M5000 are almost identical to the older NVIDIA Quadro K5200. The new card is If the old card fit your case, the new one will too. The newNVIDIA Quadro M5000 has some minor aesthetic differences. There's arguably better airflow through the new triangular vents in the i/o plate and the fan shroud looks slightly less blocky. The stereo connector has been moved to be closer to the SLI connector. Lots of little changes.
You'll also notice there is now a single DVI connector instead of the 2x that were on the older NVIDIA Quadro K5200. The industry is moving toward DisplayPort due to the massive increase in bandwidth necessary to drive multiple high resolution displays.
The new NVIDIA Quadro M5000 sitting atop its spiritual predecessor the NVIDIA Quadro K5200.
The build quality of the NVIDIA Quadro M5000 I evaluated was excellent. The card itself, the heat sink and the connectors were rugged. For example, all i/o plate connectors were not only soldered to the PCB, but they're also screwed to the steel i/o plate - and those screws all had thread-locking compound on them. What's more, the plate itself isn't just screwed to the edge of the PCB. It is also attached to perpendicular cast aluminum struts as part of the mono piece cast aluminum block that runs the full length of the card.
Taking off the heat sink shroud took effort! The top half of the shroud itself is ABS plastic, it screws down to a full length cast aluminum block, mortise and tenon style. For 99.99% of people this is great; The stock fan and heat sink on the NVIDIA Quadro M5000 is excellent; There is no need to replace it.
For a reviewer photographing the bare core - it was challenging. One of the screws had to much thread-locking compound which bonded one of the plastic tenons in place. I managed to accidently break off said tenon - but I won and we have pictures!
The second generation Maxwell GM204 core:
Why does it matter?
Solid build quality means there's noting on this card that will rattle, buzz or work its way loose. You can plug and unplug equipment all day long and the NVIDIA Quadro M5000 will be fine. You're highly unlikely to work loose a solder joint or break a connector. I don't recommend it, but you could probably use this card as an improvised hammer; The NVIDIA Quadro M5000 is built solid enough to withstand years of industry use.
Benchmarks and Performance
Remember, a benchmark can only be used to compare:
E.g., you can't compare an NVIDIA Quadro M5000 on one system to an NVIDIA Quadro K5200 on another system. From one system to another you'll get different results - even for the same graphics card. E.g., I can put an NVIDIA Quadro M5000 in a five year old machine and get a GPU score no better than it's predecessor. Or, I can put the NVIDIA Quadro M5000 in a new build and get a result that is significantly better. Remember: Compare these scores only to each other, not to anything else! Apples to apples.
All tests were run on the following test rig:
CINEBENCH R15 Benchmark
CINEBENCH, by MAXON, the makers of CINEMA 4D, is a standard benchmark. It provides both CPU and GPU testing. Here we'll use only the GPU scores. These scores provide a very basic OpenGL only test. It does not make use the card in its entirety.
A surprising result - maybe. The NVIDIA Quadro M5000 actually scores lower than the older NVIDIA Quadro K5200. Does this mean the Quadro M5000 is a slower card? No. It simply means its slower at running CINEBENCH on my test rig. Software written specifically with Quadro in mind will perform far better. Speaking of performing better, the new NVIDIA Quadro M5000 is about to clean up...
SPECViewperf 12 Benchmarks
SPECViewperf 12 is a set of very GPU intensive industry standard benchmarks. These benchmarks are far more resource hungry than most and are designed to provide a comparison of workstation class hardware designed to run popular software for medical, digital content creation and engineering applications.
Each test produces a single composite score that represents the overall performance for a given test. These scores do not represent frame rate. I ran each test on each Quadro card I could get my hands on, using the same hardware mentioned earlier to give a fair, apples-to-apples comparison. Below are the results comparing several NVIDIA Quadro cards, one graph for each test.
3D Mark Professional Edition - Fire Strike
3D Mark is a ubiquitous GPU and system benchmark suite by Futuremark. It's typically used to benchmark gaming systems as it represents a typical gaming workload. Be careful reading these scores. These are for a single card systems in stock configuration, using driver defaults, using stock coolers and zero overclocking. As such, compare these results only to results in this article.
The following is the standard (normal) Fire Strike benchmark.
Autodesk Mudbox Sculpting
What's the subjective Autodesk Mudbox performance? With the NVIDIA Quadro M5000 it pretty much comes down to a system main memory limited endeavor - not a GPU limited one. I saturated 32GB of DDR4 on my test machine before I could drop below a usable frame rate in Autodesk Mudbox. That's over 110 million shaded, textured polygons, multiple 8k maps, etc. If and when I acquire more memory, I'll revisit the topic. However, the Intel Core i7 Haswell-E processor I was using can only address up to 64GB of memory and my test system already had 32GB. (Anyone want to send me a Xeon - for testing of course?)
In short, the NVIDIA Quadro M5000 pretty much beat my new machine in this regard. How's that for subjective performance? Sculpt whatever you want, cake on the high frequency details - the Quadro M5000 will keep up. If you go crazy you'll have to move on to something in the Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron server family of chips just to be able to address enough memory to conceivably bog the Quadro M5000 down.
Autodesk Maya Usage
The subjective performance in Autodesk Maya was similar. Having 45 million polygons in the viewport, smooth shaded in viewport 2.0 with ambient occlusion, and multisample anti-aliasing, and multiple 8k textures and several thousand individual objects - performance was still pretty amazing, considering. The viewport remained above about 10 fps with all the viewport 2.0 pretty settings maxed out, still a workable for modeling.
For the record, this is a sick amount of detail and cranked up pretty settings for your average scene. I could have pushed things a lot further had I started combining objects into single shape nodes, point clouds, asset management, etc. Of course you can grind the NVIDIA Quadro M5000 to single digit frame rates and below if you stack on enough high resolution textures and mostly additional real-time lights with real time shadows and so on. I can always break things.
For doing high resolution sculpting, animation, modeling, etc - the NVIDIA Quadro M5000 is fantastic. I don't think anyone would be at all displeased with its performance. It's certainly a step above the olderNVIDIA Quadro K5200.
The NVIDIA Quadro M5000 is impressive. Its compute performance is most impressive. The fact that it draws no more than 150 watts and has fewer cores than its predecessor, yet often dramatically outperforms it, is pretty awesome. When it comes to sculpting in Autodesk Mudbox and general use in Autodesk Maya, it's well suited to dense, richly textured scenes and highly detailed models. The exact performance difference of course depends on the data set. In Autodesk Maya there was indeed a boost as echoed by the SPEC test. In general the new Quadro M5000 was anywhere from a 25%-40% faster.
Again, as we saw in the benchmarks, this is highly dependent on your specific workload. Overall it's a quality card with enough performance to please anyone. As the industry moves more toward CUDA and other GPU based solutions, having a good performing GPU at general purpose computing tasks is increasingly critical.
I'm currently beta testing the yet-to-be-released NVIDIA Iray renderer for Autodesk Maya and the Quadro M5000 has been an enormous number-crunching asset. Look for a future article about my experience with the Quadro M5000 coupled with NVIDIA Iray.