Graphics Cards

NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 (First Look Review)

31 Mar, 2009 By: Ron LaFon

High-end performance and support for new 30-bit color monitors make this graphics card an excellent professional choice.


NVIDIA began releasing its 10th-generation graphics cards late last year, and among the earliest releases was the Quadro FX 4800 -- a successor to the Quadro FX 4600. Cadalyst Labs was able to obtain a unit, and we ran it through the gamut of benchmark tests to see how it would perform for today’s design and engineering professionals.

Quadro FX 4800
Graphics Card

NVIDIA
408.486.2000
www.nvidia.com

Pros:
Speedy; more connectivity options; 30-bit color support;
extensive certifications.

Cons: None significant

Overall Grade: A

Price:
$1,995 retail; $1,536+ street

The Quadro FX 4800 is a double-width PCIe x16 graphics card based on NVIDIA's GT200GL graphics processing unit, which has a 384-bit memory width and a 76.8-GB/s memory bandwidth. The Quadro FX 4800 has 1.5 GB of onboard GDDR3 RAM and supports OpenGL 3.0, DirectX 10, and Shader Model 4. As with all Quadro graphics cards, the Quadro FX 4800 is certified for use with a broad range of CAD applications and other professional software.

Power consumption for the Quadro FX 4800 is given as 150 W, and the card offers several connectivity options, including two DisplayPort connectors, one DVI-I dual-link connector, and one stereo connector. The maximum analog resolution for the Quadro FX 4800 is 2,048 x 1,536. The maximum digital resolution is 2,560 x 1,600 when using the DisplayPort connector and 3,840 x 2,400 when using the DVI connection. The Quadro FX 4800 supports SLI configurations and G-Sync, as well as PureVideo and PureVideo HD. In addition to the standard 24-bit color support, the Quadro FX 4800 also supports the new 30-bit color displays entering the market.

The NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 is designed to meet the needs of the most demanding high-end workstation applications.

The Quadro FX 4800 directly supports 30-bit displays, such as the HP DreamColor monitors that are coming to market. Color fidelity with this combination, connected by a DisplayPort cable, provides over a billion colors, compared to the 16.8 million colors in 24-bit displays. This combination offers subtle, smooth gradations with a lack of banding -- even in situations that would be considered difficult -- making this card-display combination a good choice for those who do design visualization.

In operation, the Quadro FX 4800 was quieter than many previous NVIDIA cards, due in part to the housing that both covers and protects the card components.

NVIDIA regularly updates its display drivers, which are available for a number of operating systems, and it isn't uncommon for performance to increase with the release of new driver versions. The base graphics drivers now incorporate performance drivers for both AutoCAD and 3ds Max, eliminating the need for separate drivers for these applications. After installing the base drivers, the next time you start AutoCAD or 3ds Max, you'll be prompted to optionally install the performance driver for either application.

The test system I used for benchmarking the Quadro FX 4800 was an @Xi Computer MTower workstation based on an Intel Core 2 E8500 microprocessor with a speed of 3.17 GHz. The system had 4.0 GB of DDR2, 800-MHz PC2-6400 RAM and was running Windows Vista Ultimate x64 with the latest service packs and updates installed. I used NVIDIA graphics drivers v7.15.11.7846 (dated November 5, 2008) which were the most current display drivers available at the time of testing and were the first drivers to support the Quadro FX 4800 specifically. (At press time, the latest available driver was version 182.46, available for download from www.nvidia.com.)

First, I tested the Quadro FX 4800 with AutoCAD 2009 with currently available patches, updates, and service packs installed. Then I used Autodesk 3ds Max Design 2009 with Service Pack 1 and updates for the 3ds Max tests. The final benchmark test was the SPECviewperf 10 benchmark. All tests were run at 1,280 x 1,024 resolution with true color mode selected; vertical sync was forced off for all benchmarks, and background processes were -- as much as possible -- kept to a minimum.

With AutoCAD 2009 installed and configured for the Cadalyst C2008 benchmark, I tested with the NVIDIA accelerated AutoCAD DirectX driver, which completed the test in 60 minutes. The best C2008 total index score generated was 392 (3D graphics index was 861, 2D graphics index was 297, disk index was 191, and the CPU index was 207). These results are very good performance numbers for this system -- the 3D performance is especially good. Subsequently I tested the Quadro FX 4800 in HP’s new Z600 workstation and generated much higher performance numbers.

Next, I ran the 3ds Max benchmark using AutoCAD 3ds Max Design 2009. I tested with a new, and as yet unreleased, version of SPECapc for 3ds Max 9 (v1.2). The performance for this benchmark was good, producing a CPU render score of 5.01, a graphics score of 3.83, and a hardware shaders score of 10.31.

The final benchmark test was the SPECviewperf 10 suite, which produced the following scores: 50.06 for 3dsmax-04, 58.46 for catia-02, 51.50 for ensight-03, 181.60 for maya-02, 57.52 for proe-04, 119.51 for sw-02, 35.14 for tcvis-01, and 30.71 for ugnx-01.

The Quadro FX 4800 graphics card provides excellent performance combined with features that make it a great choice for CAD, engineering, and digital-content creation professionals. With its extensive software certifications, support for 30-bit color displays, and enhanced connectivity options, the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 is a professional-level product for professional users. Highly Recommended

Editor's note: NVIDIA announced on April 20, 2009, that the Quadro FX 4800 is now available for Mac Pro users. The new Quadro FX 4800 GPU for Mac features advances in GPU architecture, added graphics memory, and a standard three-pin stereo connector for true 3D stereoscopic imaging, critical to many core professional Mac applications, according to the company.


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