• CGSociety :: Product Review
    6 January 2006, by Joseph Tan


    This review looks at some of NVIDIA's current professional graphics Quadro products including the newest members of the family Quadro FX 4500 and Quadro FX 540.
    The Quadro FX series are generally aimed at scientific visualization, CAD/CAM, and digital content creation and undergo ISV certifications. Quadro FXs are themselves based off the consumer-oriented GeForce product line and have a number of additional features such as two-sided lighting, hardware clip and overlay planes not found in the GeForce products.The high-end product, such as the Quadro 4500, generally perform very well in CAD and DCC type applications and is reflected in synthetic and real SPEC benchmarks. The entry-level Quadro boards, are well suited for specialized 2D and less-demanding 3D applications. Our Quadro FX 540 review unit could drive three displays: two regular DVI or analog displays plus a HDTV output.
    Price: (MSRP)

    Vertex Shader Model:

    No. Vertex Shaders:

    Pixel Shader Model:

    No. Pixel/Fragment Shaders:

    Core Clock Rate:

    Memory Clock Rate:

    Main Memory:

    Memory Interface Width:

    Video Output:




    Stereo Output:

    HDTV Output:

    Max Resolution:





    Bus Interface:
    US$2499

    3.0

    8

    3.0

    24

    470MHz

    525MHz

    512MB GDDR3

    256-bit

    2x DVI-I(both dual-link capable)


    Yes

    No

    3840 x 2400 @ 48Hz
    2560 x 1600 @ 60Hz
    (dual link DVI)
    2048 x 1536 @ 75MHz (Analog)


    PCI Express 16x
    US$2399


    3.0

    6

    3.0

    16

    400MHz

    525MHz

    512MB GDDR3

    256-bit

    2x DVI-I(both dual-link capable)


    Yes

    No

    3840 x 2400 @ 48Hz
    2560 x 1600 @ 60Hz
    (dual link DVI)
    2048 x 1536 @ 75MHz (Analog)


    PCI Express 16x
    US$799


    3.0

    5

    3.0

    8

    350MHz
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    300MHz
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    128MB DDR
    spacer
    256-bit
    spacer
    2x DVI-I
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    Yes
    spacer
    No
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    1920 x 1200 @ 75Hz
    (DVI)
    2048 x 1536 @ 75MHz (Analog)

    spacer

    PCI Express 16x
    US$299
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    3.0
    spacer
    3
    spacer
    3.0
    spacer
    8
    spacer
    300MHz
    spacer
    275MHz
    spacer
    128MB DDR
    spacer
    128-bit
    spacer
    DVI-I, HD15
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    No
    spacer
    Yes
    spacer
    1920 x 1200 @ 75Hz
    (DVI)
    2048 x 1536 @ 75MHz (Analog)

    spacer

    PCI Express 16x
     All of the products in the table inherit the same fundamental pixel and vertex shaders feature set, so in theory most applications that run on the Quadro FX 4500 should also run on the Quadro FX 540.

    Both the Quadro FX 4500 and 4400 share many similar characteristics:
    • Both are equipped with 512MB of video memory and feature high capacity cooling systems. Maximum power consumption is <110 watts.

    • Both boards feature two dual-link capable DVI outputs, and support shutter glasses with the stereo outputs.

    • Both boards support an optional NVIDIA GenLock board.

    • Both boards can run in SLI mode if two Quadro FX 4400 or Quadro FX 4500 are available.

    • Both support NVIDIA's optional GenLock board.

    Both boards feature the same memory bandwidth (256-bit GDDR3 at 525/1100Mhz) but the Quadro FX 4500 features a newer GPU (G70GL) than the Quadro FX 4400 (NV45GL). This gives the Quadro FX 4500 higher pixel and vertex processing performance.

    The Quadro FX 4400's cooling assembly features a blower installed within an enclosed heatsink shroud. This does the job well but due to the operating speed of the blower, the noise level is quite high.

    Product feedback from the Quadro FX 4400 motivated NVIDIA to come up with a quiet cooling solution for the Quadro FX 4500. The new cooling system consists of a large fan seated within a block of finned aluminium heatsink flanked with heat conduction pipes. The Quadro FX 4500's large fan operates at a lower speed, giving it a much quieter operation compared to the Quadro FX 4400. The heat pipes do not contain any fluids as NVIDIA says they are empty hollow copper pipes.

    Installing two double-width video cards in one system may reduce the Quadro's cooling efficiency as the cooling assemblies almost touch each other. Our Tyan motherboard in the Alienware workstation proved to fit
    both the Quadro FX 4400 and 4500 together quite snugly, while the Asus A8N-SLI motherboard left more room between the boards.

  • The Quadro FX 1400 is a mid-range product offering aimed at a sweeter price/performance ratio than the Quadro FX 4500 and 4400. Equipped with 128MB of on-board video memory, connected over a 256-bit bus to the NV42GL GPU, the Quadro FX 1400 is a a respectable performer. Pixel and vertex shader model compatibility is the same as the Quadro FX 4500 & 4400. The cooling assembly is relatively quiet and like its bigger brothers, the Quadro FX 1400 features stereo output for shutter glasses and has the ability to SLI with a second Quadro FX 1400. Unlike its bigger brothers though, the Quadro FX 1400 does not feature NVIDIA GenLock support and does not have dual-link DVI outputs.
    The Quadro FX 540 is NVIDIA's new entry-level graphics solution. Equipped with 128MB of video memory this board supports the same pixel and vertex shader model as the Quadro FX 4500 & 4400, although its 3D performance is not potentially as great as its bigger brothers. The Quadro FX 540 Professional Video Edition includes a video breakout box to gives composite and S-video for 480i and 576i resolution SDTV, and component video for 1080i resolution HDTV video output.
    The Alienware MJ-12 7550a workstation was used for our benchmark runs. To get some benchmarking context, we've included two additional boards for comparison. One is ATI's latest workstation product the the Fire GL V7100 which we recently reviewed. The other board is the GeForce 7800GTX, the consumer-oritented cousin of the Quadro FX 4500. We were able to test out the GeForce's SLI capabilities, as our workstation had two PCI x16 slots and we were fortunate to be loaned two GeForce 7800GTXs.
    Vendor:

    Machine:
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    CPU:


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    Motherboard and chipset:
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    Memory:

     

    Alienware

    MJ-12 7550a Workstation
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    Dual Opteron 275
    (2.2GHz, 1MB L2 cache, dual core)

    spacer
    TYAN Thunder K8WE S2895 NVIDIA nForce Professional 2200/2050
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    Dual channel 2GB (DDR400, buffered, ECC)
    Price (MSRP):

    Vertex shader model:
    spacer
    No. vertex shaders:
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    Pixel shader model:
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    No. pixel/fragment
    shaders:

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    Core clock rate:
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    Memory clock rate:
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    Main memory:
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    Memory interface width:
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    Video output:
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    Max resolution:
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    Stereo output:
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    Bus interface:
    US$599

    3.0
    spacer
    8
    spacer
    3.0

    spacer

    24
    spacer
    430MHz
    spacer
    600MHz
    spacer
    256MB GDDR3
    spacer
    256-bit
    spacer
    2x DVI-I
    (one dual-link capable)
    spacer
    2048 x 1536
    (analog display)
    3840 x 2400
    (dual link DVI)

    spacer
    No
    spacer
    PCI Express 16x
    US$1.099

    2.0
    spacer
    6
    spacer
    2.0+


    spacerspacer
    16
     
    spacer
    493MHz
    spacer
    475 MHz
    spacer
    256MB GDDR3
    spacer
    256-bit
    spacer
    2x DVI-I (one dual-link capable)
    spacer
    2048 x 1536
    (analog display)
    3840 x 2400
    (dual link DVI)

    spacer
    Yes
    spacer
    PCI Express 16x
    The Quadro FX 540 is NVIDIA's new entry-level graphics solution. Equipped with 128MB of video memory this board supports the same pixel and vertex shader model as the Quadro FX 4500 & 4400, although its 3D performance is not potentially as great as its bigger brothers. Operating System:
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    Video Driver:
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    Dirext X:
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    Screen Resolution:
    Windows XP SP2 (32-bit)

    ATI FireGL 8.163.1
    NVIDIA Forceware 77.56
    ATI Fire GL MAXimum v.2.0.5284
    NVIDIA MAXtreme v. 7.00.03
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    9.0c
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    1280x1024 pixels
    32-BPP
    Vertical sync off
  •  spacer 
    3dsmax-03
    Catia-01
    Ensight-01
    Light-07
    Maya-01
    Proe-03
    Sw-01
    Ugs-04

    41.51
    30.71
    23.64
    23.69
    57.47
    64.11
    32.12
    50.29
    38.20
    29.81
    22.28
    23.93
    56.92
    56.63
    26.45
    38.20
    34.25
    29.15
    18.56
    24.20
    56.62
    49.58
    22.42
    28.48
    24.00
    23.32
    11.68
    22.09
    56.77
    33.21
    15.91
    15.51
    31.83
    23.26
    29.62
    17.26
    41.44
    44.62
    26.62
    31.94
    20.54
    13.25
    15.35
    11.78
    24.31
    17.42
    14.78
    10.13
    20.58
    13.12
    15.40
    11.75
    24.43
    16.87
    15.96
    10.10
     
    Update: 13 Jan 2006– The review did not use the Release 80 drivers. NVIDIA would like to point out that the Release 80 series drivers improve the SPECViewPerf Ensight (ensight-01) and SolidWorks (sw-01) scores significantly.
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    The Quadro family range showed a gradual performance improvement from the low end Quadro FX 540 to the high-end 4500. Not surprisingly the Quadro FX 4500 led the pack here, producing around twice the score as the Quadro FX 540 in most of the benchmark tests. The Quadro FX 4500 only shows a significant improvement over last year's high-end Quadro FX 4400 in some of the tests. The middle of the range Quadro FX 1400 could keep up with its faster siblings in some of the tests. The FireGL V7100 kept up to the Quadro FX 1400 in some of the tests, but was out classed by the bigger Quadro FX 4500 and 4400.The GeForce 7800GTX in single and SLI configuration performed much poorer than its workstation cousins. Lacking capabilities such as 2-sided lighting, hardware overlay and clip planes really hurt the gaming-oriented GeForces. Even running two GeForce 7800GTX in SLI didn't improve the scores significantly.

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    GFX
    I/O
    CPU
    Overall

    2.01
    1.77
    1.71
    1.91

    2.01
    1.76
    1.71
    1.92

    2.03
    1.78
    1.70
    1.94
    2.01
    1.76
    1.72
    1.93
    1.68
    1.73
    1.71
    1.69
    2.04
    1.76
    1.72
    1.94
    1.88
    1.77
    1.73
    1.84
     
     All of the Quadro boards here performed remarkably alike in this benchmark, like the "maya-01" test in SPECViewPerf. The enormous differences in rendering capabilities of the Quadro FXs may be more evident in other tests, but it appears for these Maya tests the differences are insignificant.
    The FireGL V7100 lagged behind the Quadro FXs for this particular test. The GeForce 7800GTX in single and SLI configuration performed about as well as the Quadro FXs, perhaps SPECapc for Maya doesn't use quite as many of the hardware overlays and clip planes as the other benchmarks. 
     spacer 

     

    1869

    1737

    1877206721715852.45952.71 
     The Quadro FX 4500, 4400, and 1400 scored very similarly, finishing this test within about 8% of each other in total test time. The FireGL V7100 and Quadro FX 540 came slightly behind.
    Both GeForce 7800GTX running alone or in SLI mode were seriously disadvanced for this 3ds Max test. The added rendering capabilities of running two GeForce 7800GTXs together seem to have little benefit. 
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    Rendering
    (Single CPU):

    Rendering
    (Multiple CPU):
    Multiprocessor Speedup:
    Shading
    (CINEMA 4D):
    Shading
    (OpenGL
    Software Lighting):

    Shading
    (OpenGL
    Hardware Lighting):
    OpenGL
    Speedup:


    314

    1009

    3.21x

    369



    1598



    3890

    10.53

    314

    1009

    3.21x

    369



    1600



    3843

    10.41

    314

    1009

    3.21x

    370



    1609



    3788

    10.22

    314

    1009

    3.21x

    371



    1571



    2982

    8.04

    314

    1009

    3.21x

    369



    1650



    3421

    9.26

    314

    1009

    3.21x

    372



    1767



    4021

    10.80

    314

    1009

    3.21x

    370



    1772



    3868

    10.45
     
     The Quadro FX 4500, 4400, 1400, FireGL V7100, and GeForce 7800GTX performed very closely with each other. The Quadro FX 540 lagged behind by around 23% with the Quadro FX 4500.

    Surprisingly the GeForce 7800GTX performed as well as the Quadro FX 4500, this probably shows that CineBench results is not affected by the GeForce 7800GTX's lack of workstation-specific features of the Quadro and FireGL boards. Running the GeForce 7800GTX in SLI made little difference to the final result. 
    Quadro FX 4500 - US$2499
    Quadro FX 4400 - US$2399
    Quadro FX 1400 - US$799
    Quadro FX 540 - US$299
    From the tested products, the Quadro FX 4500 is the undoubtedly the new workstation performance leader. The Quadro FX 4500 is slightly better performing than the Quadro FX 4400, has the same feature set, and operates substantially quieter. The very small price difference (at this time both around US$1800 on Pricewatch) between the Quadro FX 4500 and Quadro FX 4400, makes little difference to buy the latter.

    The Quadro FX 1400 is much cheaper than it's bigger brothers (at this time around US$450 on Pricewatch). Our benchmark tests showed little differences between the Quadro FX 4500 and Quadro FX 1400, except in SPECViewPerf. In real-world applications where overall performance is balanced out by factors such as CPU and memory on the host computer, the extreme differences between the graphics products are reduced.


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    • The Quadro FX 4500 earns the raw performance crown. It basically obsoletes Quadro FX 4400 with an updated GPU to give it additional grunt and a new low noise cooling assembly.
    • The Quadro FX 540 supports two computer monitors plus a HDTV display simutaneously.
    • "works out of the box" No issues with stability during testing.
    The Quadro FX 1400 makes a compelling price/performance case, but keep in mind that this product features one quarter the memory of its bigger brother which would disadvantage it seriously in some applications. The Quadro FX 1400 does not feature dual-link DVI output.The Quadro FX 540 at the current time retails for around US$250 on Pricewatch and was the weakest 3D performer in this group of professional graphics products.

    The Quadro FX 540 supports 2D display output to 1920x1200 (DVI) and 2048 x 1536 (analog HD15) plus a HDTV display via its video breakout box, giving this additional flexibility for use as a film or video studio environment. The Quadro FX range command a much higher price than its comparable GeForce product. While this can make sense for some workstation applications, CineBench appears not to use Quadro-specific features.


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    • The Quadro FX hefty price tag.


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    NVIDIA

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