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OpenGL Workstation Graphics: Now We're Talking High End!

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June 16, 2006 11:14:46 AM

Manufacturers have never shied away from using superlatives. ATi pits its "Ultra High End" cards FireGL V7350 and V7300 against the honorable Quadro FX 4500 by Nvidia. With these models, both card companies enter the era of graphics cards with a full 1 gigabyte of video memory.
June 16, 2006 3:04:59 PM

Most high-end 3D apps are CPU-bound in my opinion. These high-end cards are nice, but not necessary. The extra texture memory is a big bonus.

I've love to see performance test using Gelato and Mental Ray. Both of these renderers use the GPU for "performance optimization"
June 16, 2006 4:01:53 PM

They both perform well, but the Quadro FX 4500 seems to do better in real world applications compared to the FireGLs.
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June 16, 2006 4:12:59 PM

I wish they had reviewed the most current nvidia series (5500/1500) built on the 7900 chipset that was comparable to the 72xx/73xx atis...

In most of the benches I've seen (and from the 1500 I installed last week), even the new mid-level quadros can best the 4500. Which is pretty great news if you have less than 1k to drop on a card.
June 16, 2006 4:34:07 PM

can someone explain to me the REAL difference between these and the standard fare graphics cards?
June 16, 2006 5:29:08 PM

Quote:
can someone explain to me the REAL difference between these and the standard fare graphics cards?


The article explains that there is no difference. Both companies simply cripple the OpenGL performance of their "gaming" cards with the drivers. They use BIOS tweaks to keep people from using the workstation drivers on the gaming cards. This is extremely bogus IMO. Why FORCE people to pay triple the cost for support they might not want/need.

I wonder if a simple BIOS flash would fix this?
June 16, 2006 5:59:17 PM

Quote:
Both companies simply cripple the OpenGL performance of their "gaming" cards with the drivers.
...
I wonder if a simple BIOS flash would fix this?


Some cards can't be flashed up (i.e 6800GS PCI is chip-wise equivalent to a Quadro FX1300/1400) at all, but if you install the Quadro drivers they can sometimes work like a workstation card. RivaTuner can be used with some cards.

The big benefit of workstation cards are 1) Higher vertex performance than the consumer version (benefit negated by anewer + faster consumer cards) and 2) Advanced features (multiple monitors + more texture memory, OpenGL conformance)...

Most 3D apps are only "certified" for use with high-end OpenGL cards. If you are making decent money, $1K isn't a lot to pay for one. For personal projects - a Quadro/FireGL is overkill
June 16, 2006 9:18:08 PM

I don't consider these a fair benchmark. If you used the most recent version of MAYA (6) then you would see a considerable increase in the ATi cards preformance.
June 17, 2006 8:18:55 PM

So nVidia still rules the roost in OpenGL perf. I'll be interested to see if this level of card will go the coProc route. nVidia has talked about GPU sockets. Though it would only be available on AMD systems, it would definitely be a high margin business.
June 18, 2006 4:06:43 AM

I agree that the bench was pretty lame. And 3dLabs is still in the game, at least they still sell their high end cards.

I'm a little confused. SolidWorks supports but does not work well with Open GL Cards. They are tightly embedded with MS and XP and now Vista. There is a reason Microsoft is dropping Open GL.

I used to use a 3DLabs Realizm 100 (about a year ago) and we had to turn off the Open GL settings to get any performance at all. I think the authors missed the focus. They need to do some genuine side by sides with all three cards (including the 3DLabs cards) in real SolidWorks modeling tests. Not just the SPEC tests which are just canned examples. SolidWorks has some pretty large assemblies that could be tested. But the real issue is why is Microsoft ending Open GL support? My take? It's all hype (open gl).

Anyway, thats my two cents. No I don't work for 3dLabs.
June 18, 2006 5:07:09 PM

From TFA :) 

"Microsoft made the political decision to no longer directly support the OpenGL interface - Vista only maps the OpenGL functions using a DirectX emulator, which could mean a considerable loss in performance."

What does this mean for programmers ?

What about people who use Qt's OpenGL classes ?
What about people who write programs in Cg ?

Who / which applications will be affected here ? I am not sure how bad
this news is yet but it sounds bad.

barnaby.
June 18, 2006 8:07:48 PM

Vista are a bad OS. Eats a lot of RAM, have driver compatibilitie issues, Open GL Apps have a bad performance and are a lot of DRM issues on the go.

Why not go Linux?
June 18, 2006 10:45:13 PM

8O

I will be the first to stand up and say I only use XP for one primary purpose: solid modeling in SolidWorks. SolidWorks has never strongly embraced Open GL, which is why I was confused by the use of the Spec Benches in the Tom's Hardware article.

Personally--re the specific use of SolidWorks its no loss to not have it supported by Microsoft in Vista. I don't plan on uggraing for at least a year after the official release next year.

But not everything is apples to apples. Looks like TL needs to revisit the issue and get the scoop on what exactly is going on. This is not necessarily so easy--not your typical product A vs product B bar chart comparison. Seems someone needs to interview the gurus at SolidWorks and Microsoft and find out what's up, not to mention all the other codewriters who implement open GL.

For sure, SolidWorks won't work efficiently on any other platform other than Windows--there is a partnership relationship between MS and SW on that, which is one of the reasons for SolidWorks outstanding growth during the NT-XP years.
June 19, 2006 9:19:06 AM

Uhh. guys... openGL will be fully supported in Vista.. there was a major stink about 1 year ago about "need to do OpenGL via directX Microsoft emulator"... but that was over a year ago! should check out opengl.org to get the real information. Moreover, even that one year ago it was this: if an application is windowed and wants Aero active, then it must go thorugh Microsoft's openGL emulator, but that is no longer true either... by the time Vista comes out, IHV will have full OpenGL drivers ready to go (note: even a year ago full screen openGL applications were not affected at all!) Tom's hardware really messed up on this article, it would be a good idea if they did some real fact checking..
June 19, 2006 3:38:19 PM

The benchmarks used in article are pretty much outdated, that is why the scores look almost identical across the board, and why the Quadro easily holds its own against the FireGLs. There is a discussion about this here:

Lostcircuits Quadro SLi thread

What it boils down to is that the GPU is not the bottleneck, rather the processing power of the machine (or lack thereof) determines how well one scores. Lostcircuits has an article where two Quadro 4500s are run in SLi and on all but one of the benchmarks it is processing speed that is the limiting factor on the score.

TinyClown
July 28, 2006 7:28:23 PM

Quote:
I will be the first to stand up and say I only use XP for one primary purpose: solid modeling in SolidWorks. SolidWorks has never strongly embraced Open GL, which is why I was confused by the use of the Spec Benches in the Tom's Hardware article.


Bit late to the discussion - but OpenGL will be around for a looooong time and longer than DX(whatever version) because it's simple and portable (though showing its age).

SolidWorks is one tiny app in a sea of 3D apps like Maya, Houdini, XSI, Max, LightWave, Cinema4D...
!