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The NVIDIA Tesla lineup of graphics cards is designed for high-performance computing tasks, such as deep learning and scientific applications, rather than gaming.
However, some users have experimented with using these GPUs for gaming purposes, particularly during periods of GPU shortages. In this article, we will explore the viability of using NVIDIA Tesla GPUs for gaming and discuss the challenges and modifications required to make it work.
NVIDIA Tesla K80 for Gaming
While the Tesla K80 is a powerful graphics card designed for data center and scientific computing applications, it may not be the best choice for gaming. The card is optimized for high-performance computing tasks, but its performance in gaming falls somewhere between a GTX 1050Ti and a GTX 1060.
Moreover, the K80 does not have video output, and configuring it for off-screen rendering or side gaming is not a plug-and-play experience. In addition, the overhead of this method may result in subpar performance.
Modifying Tesla K80 for Gaming
To use a Tesla K80 for gaming, you will need a decent power supply with two CPU outputs, a BIOS with the option to enable “Above 4G decoding,” Windows 10 version 20H2 or higher, and a CPU with integrated graphics or a second GPU with display output.
The K80 also requires active cooling, which can be achieved with a recommended GPU cooler that blows air into the graphics card through the opening where the clear plastic used to be.
Windows does not recognize the K80 as a graphics processor by default, so you will need to install the latest NVIDIA Tesla K80 driver for Windows, modify the Windows Registry, switch the GPU from compute (TCC) to graphics (WDDM) mode in the command prompt, and assign the game executable to run using the K80.
Overclocking Tesla K80 for Better Performance
Overclocking the K80 can improve its performance for gaming purposes. One user found the GPU to remain stable (without any modifications to voltage) at a boost clock of 849.5 MHz and a memory clock of 3505 MHz.
These settings can be changed either using MSI Afterburner or by flashing the VBIOS using the provided instructions.
NVIDIA Tesla M40 for Gaming
The Tesla M40 is another datacenter GPU that has been used for gaming, albeit with some caveats. While it is not designed for gaming, it has the same GM200 GPU and 12GB memory layout as the GTX TITAN X, and can offer similar performance for a fraction of the cost.
The M40 can be found on eBay for around $150, while used GTX TITAN X GPUs go for around three times that price.
Modifying Tesla M40 for Gaming
The M40 does not have a fan and requires some ducting or a 3D-printed fan adapter to keep it cool. The M40 also does not have display outputs, so a second GPU is needed for display output.
Using an integrated GPU should work, as long as it is set as the primary in the BIOS. Additionally, the M40 requires a second 8-pin EPS power cable or a PCIe to EPS adapter.
The author provides a step-by-step guide on how to set up the M40 for gaming, which involves using the latest Windows 10 Insider build, enabling above 4G decoding in the BIOS, and switching the M40 from compute mode to graphics mode.
Performance of Tesla M40 in Gaming
The author tested the M40 with Overwatch and reported that the GPU maintained around 70 FPS at 1.00x resolution scaling and 50% GPU usage, and similar FPS at 1.75x resolution scaling and 100% GPU utilization.
However, there may be other issues when using the M40 for gaming with different titles.
NVIDIA Tesla T4 for Gaming
The Tesla T4 GPU is designed for CAD/machine learning or HPC purposes, rather than gaming. It is not optimized for gaming as it is not designed for double-sided polygons and has only single float precisions.
Furthermore, T4 type cards are TensorFlow oriented (A.I) cards and not equipped with proper video output hardware. However, one user reported being able to play on a Tesla T4 using GGA by enabling a virtual display on a Windows instance.
While it is technically possible to use NVIDIA Tesla GPUs for gaming, these GPUs are not designed or optimized for this purpose. They are primarily intended for data center, scientific, and machine learning applications. Modifying these GPUs for gaming requires technical know-how and additional hardware changes, such as adding active cooling and using a secondary GPU for display output.
Using the Tesla K80 or M40 for gaming could be a viable option for those unable to acquire a new gaming GPU during a GPU shortage, but be prepared for suboptimal performance and the need for technical adjustments[2,4]. Other Tesla GPUs, such as the T4, are not recommended for gaming due to their design limitations and lack of proper video output hardware.
If you are seeking a high-end gaming experience, it is advisable to consider graphics cards specifically designed for gaming, such as the GTX or RTX series from NVIDIA, rather than attempting to repurpose a Tesla GPU.