First Looks: NVIDIA FX 500

31 Aug, 2003 By: Ron LaFon

Entry-level graphics card.

NVIDIA has a diverse range of sophisticated graphics cards for workstations. At the top of the line, the NVIDIA Quadro FX 2000 offers dazzling speed and an equally dazzling sticker price. Though a remarkable card, it’s beyond the needs and the budget of many users. NVIDIA also offers several upper-midlevel graphics cards that balance speed and affordability. At the opposite end of the workstation graphics card line is the NVIDIA Quadro FX 500, a moderately speedy and moderately priced graphic card that meets the needs of many and requires only a single AGP 8X slot.

The NVIDIA Quadro FX 500 is a half-length graphics card with 128MB of DDR (double data rate) RAM. It’s certified for a wide variety of business, CAD, and graphics applications and features nView multidisplay technology. Priced at a reasonable $325 (street price), the FX 500 is a good value as an entry-level graphics card.

To benchmark the NVIDIA Quadro FX 500 and the AGP 8X NVIDIA Quadro FX 2000, I used on an @Xi Workstation based on an AMD Opteron 244 64-bit processor (1024KB cache) with 1GB RAM, running Microsoft Windows 2000 Workstation (see review, @Xi MTower 64). We updated the Cadalyst

The NVIDIA FX500, a single-slot, entry-level workstation graphics card, offers good performance for an excellent price.
Labs C2001 Benchmark to run in AutoCAD 2004. The updated benchmark is available for download. Other tests were the usual SPEC ViewPerf ProE-01 suite and MAX4Bench running under discreet’s 3dsmax 5.1, both with the default OpenGL driver configuration and with NVIDIA’s MAXtreme driver. Graphics drivers v6.14.01.4351, used throughout the test suite, performed without any problems. I tested 3dsmax with and without an accelerated driver, and I tested AutoCAD 2004 with the standard hardware-accelerated driver (wopengl8).

NVIDIA regularly uploads driver updates to its Web site, and new drivers usually bring significantly enhanced performance. There you also find the latest version of MAXtreme, the company’s PowerDraft driver for AutoCAD, and the latest version of the QuadroVIEW graphics utility, among other software. NVIDIA develops unified drivers—one set of drivers works for the whole line of graphics cards, making it much easier to find and install the latest version.

The Quadro FX 500 earned a C2001 Total Index number of 63.5, a score of 14.45 on the SPEC ProE-01 test suite, an average of 29.19 on the MAX4 benchmark with the standard driver, and a score of 40.46 on the same benchmark using the NVIDIA MAXtreme accelerated driver for 3dsmax. These are good numbers for such a reasonably priced entry-level workstation graphics card. Just as a reference to illustrate the breadth of performance in the Quadro FX line, the same tests on the Quadro FX 2000 produced a C2001 Total Index number of 107.11, a SPEC ProE-01 score of 34.97, a score of 51.19 using the default driver for the MAX4Bench test, and a score of 92 using the MAXtreme driver during the MAX4Bench tests. This significant performance range indicates real differences among the NVIDIA FX cards.

The Quadro FX 500 supports Cg, a C1-like high-level programming language developed by NVIDIA. Vendors such as Alias, Discreet, Softimage, and SolidWorks use Cg to incorporate the hardware rendering capabilities of the Quadro FX line of graphics cards into their applications.

You can apply sophisticated virtual materials or shaders such as metals, rubber, and skin to models and render them in real time with Quadro FX. The Cg language provides vendors with transparent and relatively direct access to the capabilities of the Quadro FX series of graphic cards.



About the Author: Ron LaFon

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