Swift Acquittal: NVIDIA QuadroFX 2000

Conclusion: A Successful Surprise

A month ago, we were still philosophizing that the ATi FireGL X1 with R9700 chip ought to beat its predecessor, the Quadro4 980XGL (NV28GL) hands down. After all, it wasn't merely the technical data for the 9700 chip that said it all; performance in the gaming area also demonstrated that the theory was correct. ATi shared this view and wanted to quickly send us an overhauled OpenGL driver. This had not happened by the time we went to press.

The competition isn't letting the grass grow underneath its feet, either. Instead of resting on its laurels since the last test, NVIDIA has raised the stakes even higher. What's more is that it used to be quite common for ATi and NVIDIA to only launch the OpenGL variant of a graphics card based on the same chip three months after the consumer model launch. This gave their developers enough time to invest their drivers with sufficient stability and stride through the important stages in the costly certification process. All of a sudden, NVIDIA has ditched the approach and shortened the cycle to a mere three weeks.

In the THG test, the QuadroFX 2000 was a real heavyweight, with awe-inspiring performance and stability despite the relatively recent driver. The heat is on for ATi. To make sure it doesn't get left behind, the manufacturer absolutely must present a driver that at least puts the ATi FireGL X1 ahead of the "old" Quadro4 980XGL. ATi must not miss this opportunity. In our opinion, there are very few disciplines in which ATi could not only match but also best the QuadroFX 2000. If something doesn't happen soon, perhaps the wait for the R350 chip will help. Rumors have it that ATi will present it at CeBIT.

Overall, it's unusual that the NV30 chip can prove its performance potential better in the OpenGL segment than it can in the gaming area. It used to be the other way around. This suggests that this time the developers at NVIDIA have furnished the graphics engine with more OpenGL hardware acceleration. That would explain the driver's short development time - the greater the chip's conformity with the latest OpenGL specifications, the "thinner" the driver layer. In addition, the handling of the NV30 is much easier thanks to its highly flexible programmability. The introductory price tag on the QuadroFX 2000 is $1400/€1650. The card manufacturers that use the QuadroFX 2000 are ARM Systems, BOXX Technologies, Colfax International, Core Microsystems, Elsa Asia , Leadtek , MaxVision , NTSI, PNY , and Quantum3D .

Update on March 5, 2003: Just before we wanted to go online with this article, ATi has provided us with a new driver. First tests showed that this version leads to a substantial performance increase. We'll give you an update as soon as possible.

Uwe Scheffel