A graphical processing unit (or GPU for short) has been the determining component of graphical fidelity for over a decade. However, this has not always been the case; the idea of a GPU didn't even exist until the 1990s, in which the state of the market was very different.
For example, powerhouses of today like NVIDIA didn't even release their first GeForce card until 1999. It’s safe to say that home computers and workstations have changed a lot and will continue to develop in the future.
Before GPUs, in the 1980s and earlier, there were graphic chips. Today, chips like these seem primitive. However, back then they were at the forefront of graphical innovation; this bit of hardware was purposely built to display 2D graphics.
We can’t talk about GPUs without mentioning gaming, because today, they are at the heart of any PC/console game, and have been ever since the arrival of 3D gaming in the 1990s Before this, games were very basic, and the hardware needed to run them was completely different from what it is today. In fact, it was arcade machines that often had the bespoke hardware and funding to really push video games forward and demonstrate what was really possible with modern technology.
The term GPU was only popularised in the early 1990s, and the idea of GPUs were only just being glamorised. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that a GPU was actually referenced, most notably on the release of the Sony PlayStation 1. It wasn't until 1999 when the first GPU was launched and NVIDIA released their first GPU line known as GeForce.
The improvement in GPUs over the first decade can be attributed to the all-out rivalry of notably two popular firms, NVIDIA and ATi. This competition saw constant improvements, year after year to frame rate and resolution.
So where are we now?
In the space of 10-20 years, the GPU market evolved, from the introduction of 3D video cards to modern high-performance rendering workstations with the ability to render complicated 3D scenes at previously unimaginable fidelities.
2010 - now
Between the eras of 2000 and 2010, consistent increase in power that led to big improvements in resolution and most notably framerate were the priority. The modern GPU market has gone in a different direction, due to the demand of driving resolutions with performance to 8K. Companies are now focusing on other technologies, focusing on radically changing your experience.
One such avenue is the venture into the perfection of light effects and raytracing which are the biggest changes in modern GPUs. It’s a modelling rendering technique that uses a sophisticated algorithm that can produce incredibly realistic lighting effects.
How do modern GPUs transform your workstations?
The drastic improvements in GPUs can respectfully be given to the gaming industry; the push and drive has allowed great development in the GPUs of today. The push for these GPUs to be utilised in a work environment was not realised until the era of home PC gaming. Looking at what modern workstation users require, these rendering beasts provide amazing performance.
Modern GPUs have changed the game, especially in the field of post-production where visual effects (VFX) and image editing is the main priority. Historically, most post-production was handled by central processing unit (CPU) rendering. However, once GPUs were introduced, they inherently took over this intensive process. This shift accelerated the process by a large margin and allowed for much faster rendering.
Advantages of Modern GPU Rendering:
- GPU rendering consumes less power than CPU rendering.
- GPU rendering offers improved speed performance, because GPUs have more cores (they can typically do the job of 5-20 CPUs).
- Affordability, GPUs have allowed artists to produce high-end designs, all without having to pay a large amount for CPU rendering farms.
- Ability To Work from Home, and the ability to breeze through heavy rendering workloads is now available with today’s modern Post-Production Workstations. Heavy rendering tasks like raytraced depth of field or glossy reflections are now available, from the comfort of your own home!
For many large enterprises, a high-end workstation is crucial to improving reliability and performance of your work. Today’s modern workstation user requires stability, image quality and performance, which top performing GPUs grant. This is especially true in the creative fields, like video editing. A GPU needs a powerful CPU; the pair go hand in hand, creating the ultimate powerhouse system. This is why at Exacta, we have built purpose-built machines utilising the best GPU and CPU. Our flagship system the PL Ultimate PRO is a powerhouse that supports up to 4* x16 dual width GPUs so you can achieve maximum bandwidth and compute without compromise. Rendering, simulation and post-production have never been faster.
Keeping your system up to date is just as important, as they can easily become outdated, and the latest innovation in technology will make your workstation obsolete.
At Proline, we consider this with each build, always looking to see what the latest updates are to ensure our workstations are always at the cutting edge.