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Professional 3D Accelerators in 3D Studio MAX 4.26: March-April
2002

April 14, 2002



Part 1: Introduction, participants, configurations, terms & conditions

Our lab continues estimation of professional video accelerators. We keep on improving the testing technique and extending the number of cards. This time we have almost a final version of the 3D studio MAX which is v.4 updated to the ver.4.26.

Apart from 3D MAX we have also included a synthetic test of video accelerators for OpenGL API - SpecViewPerf 6.1.2.

Besides, to compare the most powerful professional accelerators with game cards we are going to test the accelerators in two games working under the OpenGL API.

Since our last time we got new professional 3D accelerators, and now the list of participants includes:

  • NVIDIA Quadro 2 mxr
  • NVIDIA Quadro 2 pro
  • NVIDIA Quadro DCC
  • NVIDIA Quadro4 900XGL
  • NVIDIA Quadro4 750XGL
  • ATI FireGL2
  • ATI FireGL 8800
  • 3DLabs Wildcat II 5000

The following game was set against the contestants:

  • NVIDIA GeForce4 4600

As you can see, we took out the ATI RADEON 8500 card as last time it showed quite low results.

Cards

NVIDIA Quadro2 Pro

The Reference card NVIDIA Quadro2 Pro card has an AGP x2/x4 interface, 64 MBytes DDR SDRAM located in 8 chips on the right side of the PCB.

Brief technical characteristics:

  • Triangles per Second: 31 Million
  • Pixels Per Second: 1.0 Billion
  • Memory Bandwidth: 6.4 GBytes/s
  • NVIDIA Shading Rasterizer (NSR)
  • Second Generation Transform and Lighting (T&L)
  • Unified Driver Architecture (UDA)
  • 32-bit Z/Stencil Buffer
  • 64 MBytes Unified Frame Buffer
  • AGP 4X with Fast Writes

The NVIDIA Quadro2 Pro serves a base for only one card - ELSA Gloria III which is a reference card from ELSA; it comes with special software, including a driver for operation with some packets for 3D modeling - MAXTreme (it is freely available at the NVIDIA's site).

NVIDIA Quadro2 MXR

The Reference card NVIDIA Quadro2 MXR card has an AGP x2/x4 interface, 32 MBytes SDR SDRAM located in 4 chips on the right side of the PCB.

Brief technical characteristics:

  • Triangles per Second: 25 Million
  • Pixels Per Second: 400 Million
  • Memory Bandwidth: 2.93 GBytes/s
  • NVIDIA Shading Rasterizer (NSR)
  • Second Generation Transform and Lighting (T&L)
  • Unified Driver Architecture (UDA)
  • 32-bit Z/Stencil Buffer
  • 32 MBytes Unified Frame Buffer
  • AGP 4X with Fast Writes
  • Digital Vibrance Control (DVC)

The NVIDIA Quadro2 MXR serves a base also for only one card - ELSA Sinergy III which is a reference card from ELSA; it comes with special software, including a driver for operation with some packets for 3D modeling - MAXTreme.

NVIDIA Quadro DCC

ELSA Gloria DCC on the NVIDIA Quadro DCC has an AGP x2/x4 interface, 64 MBytes DDR SDRAM located in 8 chips on the right side of the PCB.

Brief technical characteristics:

  • Graphics processor Quadro DCC by NVIDIA
  • Over 3.2 billion texture mapping pixels/second
  • Memory range of 7.3 GBytes/second
  • nFinite FXT engine-fully programmable effect processor for realistic 3D representation, e.g. volumetric fog, particle effects, reflective bump mapping and animated water surface
  • Hardware acceleration of up to 8 light sources
  • 64 MBytes ultra-fast DDR RAM graphics memory (unified memory)
  • 350-MHz RAMDAC displays even resolutions of 2048 x 1536 pixels ergonomically and in TrueColor
  • Connection of analog or digital monitors (digital up to 1280 x 1024)

The NVIDIA Quadro DCC is also used for only one card - ELSA Gloria DCC which is a reference card from ELSA; it comes with special software, including a driver for operation with some packets for 3D modeling - MAXTreme.

NVIDIA Quadro4 900XGL and Quadro4 750XGL

The Quadro4 900XGL and the Quadro4 750XGL are based on the NVIDIA Quadro4 900XGL and Quadro4 700/750XGL GPU respectively, have AGP x2/x4 interface, 128 MBytes DDR SDRAM located in 8 chips on the right and back sides of the PCB. The cards differ in output connectors: the Quadro4 900XGL has two DVI and a TV-out, and the Quadro4 750XGL has a standard D-SUB, DVI and TV-out. Besides, their processors and memory work at different frequencies: 300/650 MHz for the Quadro4 900XGL (processor/memory), and 250/550 MHz for the Quadro4 750XGL. No more differences.

On the photo you can see the Quadro4 900XGL.

Brief technical characteristics:

  • GPU Quadro4 900XGL or Quadro4 700/750XGL by NVIDIA
  • 128 MBytes 128-bit DDR-SDRAM or 64/128 MBytes 128-bit DDR-SDRAM
  • Second nFinite FXT II engine
  • nView multi-display solution
  • Hardware overlay
  • Hardware antialiased lines
  • Two-sided lighting
  • Full scene antialiasing
  • Lightspeed Memory Architecture (LMA) II
  • Dual 350 MHz RAMDACs

Go here for more detailed characteristics.

ATI FireGL2

The ATI FireGL2 card has an AGP x2/x4 interface, 64 MBytes DDR SDRAM located in 8 chips on the right and back sides of the PCB.

Brief technical characteristics:

  • Graphics controller - IBM Chipset: RC 1000 Graphics Rasterizer and GT1000 hardware geometry engine with integrated features including;
  • VGA Controller - 2D/3D Raster Engine and dual Texture Unit;
  • 8-bit Double Buffered Overlays;
  • Video Overlay Unit;
  • 2 DMA / BLIT Units;
  • Polygon Setup Processor;
  • 300 MHz / 30-bit Palette DAC, including four color lookup tables and gamma correction table;
  • 256-bit Rasterizer & DDR memory interface;
  • Bus type - AGP 2X/4X v2.0 Compliant;
  • Memory configuration - 64 MBytes DDR SGRAM, Unified Framebuffer;
  • 3D performance:
    • 27 million Triangles/second, G-Shaded, Z-buffered, non-Textured
    • 31 Million Anti-Aliased Vectors/second
    • 410 Million Pixels/second fill rate, G-Shaded, Z-buffered, non-Textured
    • 200 Million Pixels/second Trilinear Texture fill rate (Mip-mapped)

This card was released by Diamond Multimedia yet before it amalgamated with S3 (today's Sonic Blue). When Sonic Blue decided to leave a video card sector its gaming and professional video cards were were sold to other companies. ATI Technologies became an owner of the FireGL family. Until now these accelerators were based on the IBM processors. And only starting from the RADEON 8500 the Canadian company announced a new line FireGL 8700/8800 based on its own GPU.

That is why this card has a BIOS from S3 Corporation and a software suite from Diamond Multimedia.

ATI FireGL 8800

The ATI FireGL 8800 has an AGP x2/x4 interface, 128 MBytes DDR SDRAM located in 8 chips on the right and back sides of the PCB.

Brief technical characteristics:

  • RADEON 8800 GPU
  • 64 or 128 MBytes DDR memory
  • CHARISMA ENGINE II supports full Transformation, Clipping and Lighting (T&L) at 75 million triangles/second peak processing capability
  • PIXEL TAPESTRY II, the 3D rendering engine, powers 2.4 Gigatexels/second for fast fill rates in 32-bit true color resolution
  • VIDEO IMMERSION II, industry leading video technology
  • Dual monitor support
  • Optimized OpenGL software drivers

Other characteristics are available here.

3DLabs Wildcat II 5000

The Wildcat II 5000 has an AGP 4X-AGP Version 2.0 interface, 80 MBytes DDR SDRAM located in 10 chips on the right and back sides of the PCB.

Brief technical characteristics:

  • Full-length ATX form-factor
  • High-speed Wildcat II chipset technology
  • Integrated 300 MHz RAMDAC
  • Data width:
    • Frame buffer: 128 bits
    • Texture buffer: 64 bits
    • DirectBurst: 32 bits

  • Memory:
    • 32 MBytes dedicated frame buffer
    • 32 MBytes dedicated texture buffer
    • 16 MBytes DirectBurst

  • Full lightning calculations (up to 24 lights)
  • Complete OpenGL 1.2 geometry acceleration

This and this documents give more detailed information.

The full-length ATX form-factor mean that the card is really big, and I failed to install it in any of our stands.

And now the game card:

NVIDIA GeForce4

The Reference card NVIDIA GeForce4 4600 on the NVIDIA GeForce4 has AGP x2/x4 interface, 128 MBytes DDR SDRAM located in 4 chips on the right side and in 4 chips on the back side of the PCB.

All technical characteristics can be found in this review.

Now a few words about the prices. Unfortunately, the cards differ very much in prices. For example, the Quadro2 MXR can be found at $38, though most likely you will find it at $180. And under the COMPAQ trademark this card is available at $310. The Quadro2 PRO sells at $740. The price range for the Quadro DCC is $670 - $900. The prices for the Quadro4 series has been announced by NVIDIA not so long ago, and most likely they will be reduced. NVIDIA wants $1,000 for the Quadro4 750XGL NVIDIA and $1,200 for the Quadro4 900XGL. The FireGL2 is produced under the HP trademark and sells at $870. The FireGL 8800 was announced by ATI at $1,000, though the actual price is $700. At last, the 3DLabs Wildcat II 5000 varies from $800 to $1,050.

All prices are taken from companies selling the cards and from open source such as www.pricewatch.com for the end of March 2002. The only reasonable explanation I can give is that NVIDIA tries to force out old cards from the market and glut it with new models.

Card settings and drivers

The settings of the cards' drivers are identical for both platforms. We used the latest available driver versions.

In order to avoid too many screenshots with driver settings note that we didn't changed anything in the settings after installation of the drivers except disabling of the vertical synchronization mode and anti-aliasing. Besides, if the 3D MAX optimization was available, this function was enabled. All other settings were default.

ATI FireGL2

The card worked with the v20.82 driver.

ATI FireGL 8800

This card was tested with the ver.30.26 driver.

NVIDIA Quadro line and NVIDIA GeForce4

The settings in the Quadro line were almost the same, that is why screenshots are shown only for the most powerful card - Quadro4 900XGL. The cards differ only in working frequencies (we didn't overclock or slow down the cards) and in AA modes, but we didn't use them either because anti-aliasing was enabled or disabled by the 3D MAX. All the cards were tested with the ver.28.32

3DLabs Wildcat II 5000

This card was tested with the ver.06.04.02.20

Special drivers for the 3DS MAX

Apart from the OpenGL for the Quadro line there was the ELSA MAXTreme v4.00.13 driver. When we started our tests it was the latest version available, but two more updates appeared in course of our testing, however, I didn't have enough time to use them. The onceover showed that some errors were corrected and a speed increased a little. I will return to these versions next time. The drivers are available at the NVIDIA's and/or ELSA's web sites and can be downloaded free. Here are MAXTreme settings:

The ATI FireGL 8800 card also has its MAXIMUM driver:

Now I'm going to tell you how we tested.

[ Next part (testing technique) ]


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