Hardware

First Look: NVIDIA QUADRO FX 4400

1 Feb, 2005 By: Ron LaFon

High-end PCI Express graphics card.


THE NVIDIA QUADRO FX 4400, a new high-end PCI Express graphics board for workstations, is ideal for CAD and digital content creation applications. The FX 4400 was announced in August 2004 and the card is just now reaching reviewers and should soon be in the hands of end users.

 The NVIDIA Quadro FX 4400 PCI Express graphics accelerator supports SLI technology that lets two cards work in tandem.
The NVIDIA Quadro FX 4400 PCI Express graphics accelerator supports SLI technology that lets two cards work in tandem.

Equipped with 512MB of onboard GDDR3 memory, the FX 4400 has a 256-bit memory interface and a graphics memory bandwidth of 35.2GB/sec. All NVIDIA Quadro FX cards feature a true 128-bit floating-point precision graphics pipeline.

New technologies in the FX 4400 include NVIDIA's SLI (Scalable Link Interface) technology, which enables installation of two graphics cards that work in tandem to increase performance without degrading image quality. This technology is designed for PCI Express and is supported by the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4400, 3400 and 1400 GPUs. The FX 4400 is a double-width card with a fairly sizable heat sink. The card is relatively quiet in operation, which is certainly welcome in a workstation-level graphics accelerator.

The implementation of rotated-grid FSAA (full-scene anti-aliasing ) in the FX 4400 introduces greater sophistication in the multisampling pattern, significantly increasing color accuracy and the visual quality of edges and lines without compromising performance.

NVIDIA Quadro FX 4400
NVIDIA Quadro FX 4400

In addition to the Quadro FX 4400, a Quadro FX 4400G is also available. It adds Genlock and framelock capabilities on top of the FX 4400 architecture and feature set. Framelock allows professionals to link multiple systems in a cluster to scale power to problem size for life-sized visualization. Genlock allows users to sync with standard signal formats and house sync signals for video postproduction, broadcast, compositing and editing.

With an estimated street price of $1,799, the Quadro FX 4400 is clearly aimed at the professional workstation market, where high performance can quickly repay the investment made in such a device.

We ran some tests on the Quadro FX 4400 using a prototype dual PCI Express capable system from @Xi Computers, with a single PCI Express slot enabled. The system was based on a 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 processor (4000+) with 1024K cache. The test system incorporated an ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe motherboard populated with 2GB of RAM.

The graphics drivers provided by NVIDIA for this test, v7.0.4.1 for Windows 2000/XP, saw the FX 4400 as an FX 3400 card, but did recognize the total RAM complement and correct BIOS information. With Windows XP Professional and AutoCAD 2005 SP1, the C2001 benchmark test delivered a total index score of 152.76. SPEC ViewPerf 8.01 (www.spec.com), using the proe-03 Viewset, achieved a score of 53.82. MAXBench 4, using the NVIDIA MAXtreme 6.00.07 driver in 3ds max 7, posted a Comp High rate of 125.156 and a Comp Low rate of 140.001, for an averaged rate of 132.579. These are all commendable scores, especially the 3ds max scores, particularly for drivers that are still considered to be in beta. See the chart on p. 40 to see how this card compares with others we've reviewed recently.

With its solid performance, sophisticated technology and significant amount of onboard RAM, the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4400 is likely to be the PCI Express card to beat, at least for the foreseeable future. For additional information, visit the NVIDIA Web site at www.nvidia.com.

Ron LaFon, a contributing editor for Cadalyst, is a writer, editor and computer graphics and electronic publishing specialist from Atlanta, Georgia. He is a principal at 3Bear Productions in Atlanta.


About the Author: Ron LaFon


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