Hardware

First Look: NVIDIA Quadro FX 4000

15 Sep, 2004 By: Ron LaFon

High-end AGP 8X graphics card


NVIDIA recently introduced the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4000 graphics card, the latest in its line of speedy AGP 8X workstation graphics cards. As expected, the card's performance was outstanding.

With graphics card technology at something of a crossroads right now, I took the opportunity to test the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4000 graphics card and the NVIDIA Quadro FX 3000 head-to-head on the same system, with the same video drivers, to evaluate performance differences between the two. I carried out tests on an Intel P4 3.4GHz-based system with 2GB of RAM at our standard 1280X1024 at 85Hz resolution with 32-bit color. See the review on p. 36 for more details on this system.

The FX 4000 requires newer drivers—the standard 56.72 drivers on the NVIDIA Web site at the time I started this review don't recognize it. NVIDIA provided me with the close-to-release 61.71 drivers that work quite well. The current v61.76 drivers now available online support the Quadro FX 4000.

 NVIDIA Quadro FX 4000
NVIDIA Quadro FX 4000

I used the MAXtreme v6.00.07.00 accelerated driver for 3ds max 6 for part of the test process and encountered no problems.

To extend the test results even further, I installed the new PCI Express NVIDIA Quadro FX 3400 on a 3.6GHz Intel P4-based system from @Xi Computer. Many CAD shops and CAD managers are beginning to evaluate new system purchases based on PCI Express, so I thought this would make for an interesting comparison. The FX 3400, like the FX 3000 and FX 4000, has a base RAM of 256MB. Though the chipset differs on each card, both the FX 3000 and FX 4000 are AGP 8X cards and the FX 3400 is a PCI Express card running at 16X mode.

Benchmark results were interesting, to say the least. Although NVIDIA advised me prior to the tests not to expect a significant performance difference between the FX 3000 and the FX 4000—indicating that the primary difference between the cards is the added features in the FX 4000—I did find a significant performance boost with the FX 4000.

The NVIDIA Quadro FX 4000 graphics card is a new top-of-the-line choice for AGP 8X workstation performance.
The NVIDIA Quadro FX 4000 graphics card is a new top-of-the-line choice for AGP 8X workstation performance.

Using the 6.14.10.6171 drivers at 1280X1024 at 85Hz with 32-bit color on a 3.4GHz Intel-based P4 system with 2GB of RAM, the FX 4000 achieved 134.19 on the Cadalyst C2001 benchmark. The FX 3000 on the same system tested at 118.97. On the SPEC ViewPerf 7.1.1 proe-02 benchmark, the FX 4000 tested at 46.19, slightly faster than the FX 3000 at 42.68. Finally, on the MAX4Bench tests with the default driver, the FX 4000 scored 60.17, edging out the FX 3000 at 58.55. With the NVIDIA MAXtreme 6.00.07 accelerated driver, the FX 4000 achieved a score of 106.7, compared with 100.61 for the FX 3000.

For comparison purposes I tested the PCI Express NVIDIA Quadro FX 3400 on an @Xi Computer 3.6GHz Intel P4-based system with graphic drivers 6.14.10.6121. On the Cadalyst C2001 benchmark, the FX 3400 turned in a score of 146.84 (the best ever achieved in Cadalyst Labs), 43.41 on the SPEC ViewPerf 7.1.1 pro/e-02 benchmark, and 65.14 on the MAX4Bench test with the standard video driver and a blazing 110.62 with the NVIDIA MAXtreme 6.00.07 accelerated driver. This is an interesting mixture of scores when compared with those of the FX 3000 and FX 4000, which I tested on a system with a slightly slower CPU. We'll have to see how they stack up against scores in the graphics card comparative review scheduled for our October issue.

The NVIDIA Quadro FX 4000 introduces a couple of new technologies geared for high performance and image quality on OpenGL and DX-based professional applications. These are rotated-grid full-scene antialiasing, which significantly increases the visual quality of lines and edges on 3D models without compromising performance, and high-precision, dynamic range technology for extended 32-bit floating point capabilities in shading, filtering, texturing, and blending for very high rendered image quality in visual effects such as motion blur and explosions.

Table 1. Benchmark Results for NVIDIA Graphics Cards and @Xi Workstation
Table 1. Benchmark Results for NVIDIA Graphics Cards and @Xi Workstation

These two new technologies are further enhanced by a very fast 256-bit GDDR3 memory interface and a 32GB/sec bandwidth for extremely fast throughput. Two dual-link DVI-I connectors, an industry first, drive multiple high-resolution displays at up to 3840X2400 resolution rates. Unlike the FX 2000 and FX 3000, the NVIDIA FX 4000 is a single-slot card.

At a suggested retail price of $2,195, the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4000 graphics card isn't inexpensive, but with its speedy performance and new technology features, it's likely to be the AGP graphics card against which all others are compared for the foreseeable future.


About the Author: Ron LaFon


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