NVIDIA, ATi Bring Five OpenGL Workstation Graphics for PCI Express to Market

The Test Candidates In Detail

ATI adds the prefix "V" in front of the model number for cards with a PCI Express interface ("V" stands for visualization). By doing this, the manufacturer moves away from its rather unfortunately chosen naming system for AGP graphics cards. In the case of recent models the rookie user could not tell which letter was assigned to which performance category. The letters "X", "T" and "Z" gave no real clue as to what they meant.

Things are different with PCI Express. Here, the first number represents the performance category: "3xxx" for entry-level, "5xxx" for mid-range and "7xxx" for high-end.

What is interesting is the level of workstation support at ATI. This includes:

  • A 3-year product repair/replacement term;
  • Dedicated workstation customer support staff that understands workstation applications;
  • Advanced parts replacement, if a warranty repair is required, which minimizes downtime for design professionals.

ATI FireGL V3100

At the heart of the FireGL V3100 lies the X300 graphics processor, which was known as the RV370GL while under development. Although it does not have too much to offer in technical terms - two geometry engines and four pixel pipelines are not exactly generous - the interesting thing about this chip is the 110-nm production process. ATI was taking a bit of a risk, because most graphics chips are still produced by the 130- nm and 150-nm process. 110 nm was previously considered not to be "controllable," but ATI proves that it does indeed work.

It was worth the effort and expense. Because more chips can be made from each wafer as a result of the reduced area of the chip (die), ATI can pass on a part of its costs to its customers. With a recommended retail price of $249/€199, the V3100 is quite a bargain in the OpenGL market. Not every buyer wants the high-end model. In this segment, profits are made from the masses. In addition, the power consumption of this card is extremely low, and there is no need for an extra power supply via a Molex connector.

The V3100 is equipped with 128 MB of DDR memory, which is connected via a 128-bit interface and clocked at 190 MHz according to our measurements. According to the specifications, the memory bandwidth amounts to just about 6.4 gigabytes per second. So there is not much to be expected from the performance measurements. But what about efficiency? Our benchmark measurements will let you in on this.

The manufacturer has dispensed with the second DVI output for reasons of cost. In its place is a VGA socket next to the first DVI output.

Uwe Scheffel