3Dlabs Wildcat II 5000 Roars Onto Shelves

3Dlabs putting its Wildcat Accelerators out in consumer boxes is a logical progression of its recent marketing activities. In May, the company put the Wildcat 4110 card into the hands of systems integrators as well as OEMs, and in June, it was joined by the Wildcat II 5110 . Today, 3Dlabs let us know that the Wildcat II 5000 will be the first of the big kitties to be available as a board-level product to both systems integrators and end users. The Wildcat II 5000 is built on the same architecture that powers the Wildcat II 5110, including a programmable geometry engine. It supports digital flat panel and display devices using the DVI standard, as well as a variety of Pentium III, Pentium 4 and Athlon processor-based systems with AGP 4X slots.

Keep in mind that, for around $1,400, it's not a gaming card. It's not so much that a card like this is overkill for games, but that it's not what it was designed for. Uwe went over the differences between mainstream and professional graphics cards way back in May of last year . Basically, professional users are looking for extremely high polygon rates (for large wireframes and other works in progress) and don't have a tremendous need for rendering lots of textures until a project is virtually complete (the rendering at that point is primarily taken care of by the processor). They also tend to look for cards that are customized to work well with the specific app they are using. As an example of the results of high polygon rates and pixel accuracy, take a look at the two graphics below. These were generated running the Viewperf benchmark, which measures the performance of systems running under OpenGL. The image on the top shows the results of running the benchmark on the Wildcat II 5000 and the one on the bottom shows the same benchmark and data being run on a lower end card. The circled areas are parts that were missed in rendering the image. Not a big deal in a game, but a pretty big deal if you are trying to represent a car or other CAD image on screen.

Uwe also did a review of OpenGL-based cards last month that you might want to take a look at in thinking about the features you need in one of these monsters. You can also use it to decide whether or not you need one.

Wildcat II 5000 features a driver that has been certified with a number of CAD and digital content creation applications including Alias|Wavefront's Maya and Studio Tools, Autodesk's AutoCAD and Inventor, Discreet's 3ds max, NewTek's LightWave, PTC's CDRS and Pro/ENGINEER, SDRC's I-DEAS, SOFTIMAGE|XSI, and UGS's Solid Edge and Unigraphics. The card includes many of the same technologies that power the Wildcat II 5110 (which clocks in about $1,000 more), including an extensible geometry processor that offloads calculations from the host CPU, a rasterization engine that delivers a sustained 8.5 million 3D triangles/sec. with a peak 166 Mpixels/sec. trilinear fill rate, a 32 MB frame buffer, 32 MB texture memory, 16 MB direct burst memory, multisampled scene-mode antialiasing (to ditch distracting aliasing artifacts), hardware accelerated 3D volumetric textures, and a DVI connector. 3Dlabs also claims an estimated ProCDRS benchmark of over 37 and Awadvs score topping 132. The Wildcat II is available this month for under $1,400 and can be purchased through distributors or directly from 3Dlabs online store .