Bring On PCI Express
PCI Express is up and away. Professional users who are thinking of getting themselves a new workstation this year should definitely switch to the new interface. Compared with AGP 8x, PCI Express at four-gigabits per second offers twice the bandwidth for upstream data traffic. And downstream it's actually 15 times as quick, but this is not so significant in practice, because graphics cards only deliver a finished picture on the monitor and don't send much data back to the motherboard.
Graphics chip manufacturers ATI and NVIDIA are offering the first cards to go with it. ATI puts up three candidates to start the race: The FireGL V3100 and V3200 for the low-end market, and the V5100 for the upper mid-range category. There are still a few delays with the V7100 - it will be appearing in the next few weeks.
NVIDIA responds with its Quadro FX 1300 for the entry-level segment, plus the FX 3400 for the mid-range market. The FX 1400 and FX 4400 will be launched this week, and a few test specimens might well be arriving at the THG lab in the next few weeks.
These graphics cards geared for OpenGL applications are spin-offs from already existing mainstream chips. However, the main differences lie in the drivers, certification and service. So it's no surprise that OpenGL boards are significantly more expensive than mainstream boards, even though they differ only minimally in terms of hardware.
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