The card itself has a whopping 1.5GB of memory, which is double that of its predecessor, the Quadro FX 4600. The base graphics chip for the card is the brand new GT200GL, which contains 1.4 billion transistors and 192 CUDA based computing cores. Each of these cores is a separate multithreaded processor that can calculate pixel, vertex, geometry, and other computing tasks. Having so many processors on a card can certainly boost graphics performance, but the card can also be used as a general purpose computer for such tasks as simulation and image processing. A lot of applications are now taking advantage of this extra power, including CAD programs and even image processing software such as Adobe Photoshop CS4. Other technical specs include a 384-bit memory width, 76.8GB/s memory bandwidth, 300 million triangles/sec, and 38 billion texels/sec. In other words, big surprise -- this card is faster than the one before it.
Once installed, the card is configured using NVIDIA’s venerable unified drivers, which give you a very robust control panel. I really like amount of control and customization offered in this panel. For those who use multiple applications, NVIDIA gives you a wide range of presets to optimize the card to fit the application. A simple pull-down menu gives a list of dozens of applications, and selecting an application configures the card to the software vendor’s specs. For those who like to fly solo, you can also customize the configuration to tweak the 3D performance to your needs. For those using 3ds Max, NVIDIA offers it’s Maxtreme drivers, which are tuned specifically for that application.
|Monitor set up option with the new Quadro FX 4800 card.|
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The other test of a card is real world – in other words, in production. I used the card in my animation studio for a couple of weeks. Typically we do character animation, and sometimes we get fancy and do graphics intensive things such as crowd shots. I loaded a few more difficult 3ds Max crowd shots that we did earlier this year for a Nickelodeon TV show and the card definitely showed an improvement in performance, allowing many characters to animate and deform simultaneously. We could actually scrub through the animation without too many hiccups. This is really where these sorts of high-end cards show their value, any time a highly paid animator is waiting for a scene to scrub is wasted time. The savings in animator productivity could certainly justify this card for those doing high-end and intensive work.
This review is for a single card, so when we report benchmarks, it might not make much sense to have one card’s numbers hanging out there alone. It’s always better to compare cards. A few months ago, we reviewed the Quadro FX3700, which is just below this card in the NVIDIA product line.
|Taking a look at those numbers, the Quadro FX 4800 runs approximately 25-30% faster on any given benchmark. Of course, the tests were run at different times, so it’s not a controlled comparison, but the Quadro FX 4800 is certainly faster and these results are similar to NVIDIA’s own.|| |
Overall, the Quadro FX 4800 is a terrific card and certainly one of the fastest and most capable on the market. Considering the Quadro FX 4800 costs over twice as much as the next card down in NVIDIA’s line, the law of diminishing returns starts to apply here. Do you spend twice as much for a card to get a 30% speed gain? As always, the absolute fastest graphics card will cost you a premium, so the high midrange cards are usually the sweet spot when it comes to raw price/performance. But raw speed is only one factor to consider, the other big benefit to the Quadro FX 4800 is the additional 1GB of memory – 1.5GB as compared to 512MB for the Quadro FX 3700. This additional memory can be a make or break factor when using very large data sets. For the average artist, animator, or designer, however, the additional premium for this card may be hard to justify just for the speed boost and extra memory. The bottom line is that those who really need the Quadro FX 4800 are those people doing very high-end work, and they should be very pleased with this new card.
About the reviewer
George Maestri has over 15 years of animation experience and is currently president of Rubber Bug, a Los Angeles based animation studio that specializes in character animation. He is also the author of several books on animation, including [digital] Character Animation.
Quadro FX 4800
Quadro FX 3700 review
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