Hardware

First Look Review: NVIDIA QUADRO FX 3450

1 Jan, 2006 By: Ron LaFon

Workstation-level graphics card hits the sweet spot for CAD


We typically look at new workstation-level graphics cards just before they appear on the market, but this card has been in such demand by workstation vendors that it has taken some time to actually get one in hand for a review.



The NVIDIA Quadro FX 3450 is the successor to the FX 3400, one of NVIDIA's more popular cards for workstation-level performance. Though many aspects of the cards remain the same, bandwidth, throughput and power consumption differ substantially. Memory bandwidth of the FX 3450 is 32GB per second as compared with 27.2GB per second for the FX 3400. Geometry (triangles per second) is 150 million for the FX 3450 vs. 117 million for the FX 3400. Fill rate (texels per second) is 5.1 billion for the FX 3450, a big increase over 4.2 billion for the FX 3400. The new FX 3450 is faster, but at the same time uses less power—only 83 watts, compared with 101 watts for the older card.

Current manufacturer's suggested retail price for the NVIDIA Quadro FX 3450 is $1,499, with an expected street price of less than $1,200. If you purchase the card as part of a new workstation, it typically costs much less than buying it outright. The card incorporates dual DVI-I connectors (dual-link DVI-capable) as well as a stereo connector. The Quadro FX 3450 boasts 256MB of GDDR3 memory onboard, with a 256-bit memory interface. It's capable of supporting high-resolution panels up to 3840X2400 and supports NVIDIA SLI multi-GPU technology.

 NVIDIA Quadro FX 3450
NVIDIA Quadro FX 3450

We've tested one system that used the NVIDIA Quadro FX 3450 —a HP xw9300 workstation in last month's review. Using the then-current NVIDIA graphics driver v7.7.1.8, the HP with the FX 3450 achieved a total index score of 164.37 on the Cadalyst C2001 benchmark tests. On the MAXBench 4 benchmark with 3ds max 7, the xw9300 with FX 3450 combination scored 64.57 with the default graphic driver set for 3ds max and 136.42 when using the NVIDIA MAXtreme 7.00.03.00 driver. Though NVIDIA reports that the FX 3450 scored 58.22 on the SPECviewperf 8.1 proe-03 test suite (www.spec.org), the HP xw9300 posted a 61.57 score when we ran that test.

NVIDIA does make faster (and more expensive) high-end workstation graphics solutions for CAD, digital content creation and scientific applications, but the FX 3450 hits a sweet spot for price and performance. It's a popular choice among design and engineering users who don't require the absolute top performance available.

The NVIDIA Quadro FX3450 is a moderately priced PCI Express workstation-level graphics accelerator with 256MB of onboard GDDR3 memory.
The NVIDIA Quadro FX3450 is a moderately priced PCI Express workstation-level graphics accelerator with 256MB of onboard GDDR3 memory.

NVIDIA continually upgrades its Quadro drivers, and new drivers often produce speed improvements, so keeping updated with the latest is often beneficial. The MAXtreme driver for 3ds Max—which we've also tested with the recently released 3ds Max 8—is also an outstanding performer for those who use this application. As for AutoCAD, the PowerDraft driver from NVIDIA hasn't been updated for a couple of years and doesn't support recent AutoCAD releases. If you use an older version of AutoCAD, the PowerDraft driver is still available from the NVIDIA Web site and worth investigating. We get good performance from the NVIDIA graphics cards using the default OPENGL8.HDI accelerated driver that ships with AutoCAD.

As noted, the NVIDIA Quadro FX 3450 is a very popular graphics card that has a lot to offer.

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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