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Nvidia Quadro FX 4800: Workstation Graphics At Its Finest?

Nvidia Quadro FX 4800: Workstation Graphics At Its Finest?
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Nvidia's gaming graphics cards have been slowly moving away from the old-faithful G80 chip. Now, in fact, Nvidia's latest workstation offerings are outfitted with derivatives of Nvidia's GT200 GPUs, which many have come to know through their inclusion in the cheaper mainstream GeForce GTX 260 and 280 cards.

The first entrants in this product line are the Quadro FX 5800 at the extreme high-end, with its 4 GB frame buffer, and the more "reasonably priced" Quadro FX 4800, with its 1.5 GB of graphics memory. That latter board found its way into our test labs, so that we could put it through its paces. In a few weeks, we expect to get our hands on other models in this series as well.

The FX 4800 commands a price premium of over $300 compared to the equivalent FirePro V8700 from AMD's ATI division, which online resellers retail for about $1,250. Can buyers expect a boost in features and performance for this extra outlay? First, let's take a look at the comparable cards and their speeds and feeds from both companies in the tables that follow, then we'll get around to answering this burning question.

Workstation Graphics Cards and their Mainstream Equivalents
Workstation ModelDerivative GPU
FabMainstream-EquivalentGraphics RAM
3-Pin StereoDisplayPort
Nvidia Quadro FX 5600G8090 nmGeForce 88001,536 MB GDDR3yes
no
Nvidia Quadro FX 4800GT20065  nmGeForce GTX 260 (280)
1,536 MB GDDR3yesyes
Nvidia Quadro FX 4600G8090 nmGeForce 8800768 MB GDDR3yes
no
Nvidia Quadro FX 1700G8480 nmGeForce 8600512 MB DDR2yesno
ATI FirePro V8700RV77055 nmRadeon HD 48701,024 MB GDDR5yesyes
ATI FireGL V7700RV67055 nmRadeon HD 3850512 MB GDDR4yesyes
ATI FireGL V5600RV63065 nmRadeon HD 2600 XT512 MB GDDR4nono
ATI FireGL V3600RV63065 nmRadeon HD 2600 Pro256 MB DDR2nono
Workstation ModelMemory (RAM) BandwidthDirectXOpenGLShader ModelCore ClockMemory ClockPixel & Vertex Processing
Nvidia Quadro FX 560076.8 GB/s102.14.0600 MHz800 MHz112 SPUs
Nvidia Quadro FX 480076.8 GB/s103.04.0600 MHz800 MHz192 SPUs
Nvidia Quadro FX 460067.2 GB/s102.14.0500 MHz700 MHz112 SPUs
Nvidia Quadro FX 170012.8 GB/s102.14.0460 MHz400 MHz32 SPUs
ATI FirePro V8700115.2 GB/s10.12.14.0750 MHz900 MHz800 SPUs
ATI FireGL V770072.0 GB/s10.12.14.0775 MHz1,125 MHz320 SPUs
ATI FireGL V560035.1 GB/s102.14.0800 MHz1,100 MHz120 SPUs
ATI FireGL V360015.8 GB/s102.14.0600 MHz500 MHz120 SPUs

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  • 0 Hide
    LePhuronn , 15 April 2009 17:04
    And you can SLI them as well - saw Creative Suite CS4 run with 2 Quadro CXs at an event last year and it was sick
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 15 April 2009 19:52
    How does the performance differ in applications like Flight Simulator X, does the Quadro have better performance ?
  • 0 Hide
    dsolom3 , 16 April 2009 06:05
    leqiscatton, Flight Simulator X is a GAME that is meant to be played on GeForces and Radeons, not Quadros and FireGLs. If you want to but a Quadro/FireGL for playing games, you are wasting money...
  • 0 Hide
    krazyskillz , 16 April 2009 19:10
    Deary me, the number of people who post before they even read the article is just awful....
  • 1 Hide
    moward , 16 April 2009 20:07
    To make a blanket statement that gaming cards can and should not be used for workstation applications is pure nonsense, pretty typical of a reviewer who does not use these applications on a daily basis methinks.

    More and more applications are using DirectX as their main graphics API, yes Quadros will out preform GeForce cards using OpenGL (that is what they have been histiruically designbed to do) but DirectX performnce is another story. For 3DS Max, Autodesk Inventor, AutoCAD users to name a few, there is no compelling reason to spend big bucks on a Quadro
  • 1 Hide
    moward , 16 April 2009 20:07
    To make a blanket statement that gaming cards can and should not be used for workstation applications is pure nonsense, pretty typical of a reviewer who does not use these applications on a daily basis methinks.

    More and more applications are using DirectX as their main graphics API, yes Quadros will out preform GeForce cards using OpenGL (that is what they have been histiruically designbed to do) but DirectX performnce is another story. For 3DS Max, Autodesk Inventor, AutoCAD users to name a few, there is no compelling reason to spend big bucks on a Quadro
  • 0 Hide
    ROfu , 16 April 2009 20:46
    I totally agree with the above statement, The other comments about not being able to use the same drivers are also untrue, there are a few very simple applications to hack drivers to allow all the features of a Quadro to run on the equivalent Geforce.
    The entire review sounded like it was paid and edited for by Nvidia.

    I work with Maya, Modo, Zbrush and Mudbox on a daily basis as part of my work and i also have trial versions at home for testing, and there is no practicle difference between the gaming card and the workstation. And most notably you dont need the Quadro driver hack, using normal Geforce drivers are plenty quick enough.

    There are occasionally the odd driver issue when using games orientated drivers but these are normaly fixed with newer versions or going back a driver version.

    It would be nice, when reviewing workstation graphics cards if you could post images of whats being rendered. As these cards handle totaly different depending on circumstance and type of render irrelevant to whether they are gaming or workstation cards.
  • 0 Hide
    elektrip , 17 April 2009 00:18
    I always wanted to know what these workstation class cards are good for. I build custom PCs and one of my friends wanted a workstation for 3Ds Max. I installed a high-end gaming card, a Raid0, 8GB RAM, XP x64. From what I have gathered, 3Ds Max is optimized for DirectX rather than OpenGL. And rendering is done 100% on the cpu anyways. So what is it for? My friend says he has no performance issues while modelling large objects with many polygons and textures applied. What do those benchmark tests measure then? Time how fast a model is displayed? Do those workstation cards help rendering the finale image? (I think not) Who has a final answer to that?
  • 0 Hide
    elektrip , 17 April 2009 00:22
    Do they accellerate V-Ray rendertime in 3Ds Max? AFAIK this is done in CPU. Viewport? Think this is GPU intensive, but in 3Ds Max optimized for DirectX, i.e. a gamer card is probably even faster?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 17 April 2009 00:42
    Some really high-end CAD and FEA software like Unigraphics etc. use OpenGL exclusively. They are typically used by companies in the aeronautical, automotive and oil and gas services sectors.

    You can run still them on non open_gl optimised drivers but they are incredibly flaky and performance is a joke.

    3Ds Max while a powerful 3d design tool is closer to being a consumer level tool when compared against some of the bigger Product Lifecycle Management suites used in those industries.

    Like the reviewer mentioned the drivers are written and optimised specifically around these applications and the application writers specify which version of the driver is supported and ratified stable.

    This gives companies the peace of mind that their expensive CAD users are not going to lose 3 days work on a huge assembly because of a driver crashing.

    Some of the models used in these apps are nothing short of huge. In the company I work for it can take over an 30 mins to check out and load a complex assembly and that's with best of breed PLM solution, great network architecture and extremely fast twin xeon workstations.

    Decent review I thought.
    Ed.
  • 0 Hide
    moward , 17 April 2009 01:59
    My points were related to the fact that the reviewer dimisses gaming cards for workstation use, the Quadro-GeForce comparison is based on the Spec Viewperf10 benchmark which is an archaic OpenGL benchmark, hence this review only gives half the story... especially when most of the banchmarked applications that are considered in the review are 'consumer' level appplications which run fine under DirectX on a gaming card.

    I totally agree that Workstation class cards are the only option for some high end CAD/PLM products that *still* run exclusively under OpenGL. After all you would not like to think the Airbus you just strapped yourelf into, was designed by some Catia monkey using a £200 GeForce card now would you?
  • 0 Hide
    moward , 17 April 2009 02:02
    elektripDo they accellerate V-Ray rendertime in 3Ds Max? AFAIK this is done in CPU. Viewport? Think this is GPU intensive, but in 3Ds Max optimized for DirectX, i.e. a gamer card is probably even faster?


    No the only GPU acclerated rendering system at the moment is nVidias 'Gelato' which is frankly pants. I'm still waiting for Autodesk to get their head out of thei rears and launch a GPU rendering solution.
  • 0 Hide
    wild9 , 18 April 2009 13:22
    If there's little that seperates a worstation card and a commercial card, from a hardware perspective, then it's clear it's not the hardware that's holding the commerical side back..
  • 0 Hide
    Sewje , 19 April 2009 20:14
    01, 02, 03, 04??? What the heck is this? we live in 09, Come on get with the latest software, I don't wan't to know how fast software was 5+ years ago... it might as well be 50 years in computer years... totally useless.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 16 June 2009 03:18
    There is a fundamental difference in how gaming and workstation class cards handle graphics. Gaming cards are optimised for speed at the expense of accuracy whilst workstation cards are optimised for accuracy. If you run a complicated 3d model in something like Autocad or 3D studio on both types of cards at the same time, you would likely find the workstation card to produce solid, accurate images whilst the gaming card will have numerous artifacts and glitches.

    How much of this is down to physical architecture rather than drivers is another matter. (It would be interesting to see a comparison of games/applications on high-end gaming & workstation cards with original and hacked drivers (gaming to workstation, etc).