NVIDIA's New Quadro 4 XGL

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nVIDIA's New Quadro 4 XGL
Quadro 4 Meets AGP 8X And A Glimpse Of The Future In Workstation Graphics

By Dave Altavilla
November 12, 2002

 

Back in September, we gave you an in depth look at NVIDIA's flagship Workstation Graphics card, the Quadro 4 900 XGL.  Last week we were briefed via teleconference, by a couple of members of the NVIDIA Workstation/Professional Graphics team, with respect to what the NV gang has been up to since that time.  They were excited to show us their heightened emphasis and focus on the Workstation Graphics space and the products they have lined up to service this market.  Although we did gain some insight into what lies ahead for NV30 incarnations of NVIDIA Workstation products, we were sworn to secrecy until the designated launch date.  There is no question, this is a product that has potential to blow the lid off Workstation Graphics design but for now, we're in wait and see mode.

However, the Quadro 4, which is based on a superset of NVIDIA's GeForce 4 core but optimized for the Workstation MCAD and DCC environments, certainly has "legs" for some time to come.  This is due in part to recent architectural enhancements that have been implemented in the core GPU.  In addition, NVIDIA is driving more cost effective permutations into the mainstream. 

Product Line-up and Mid-Life Kickers For The Quadro 4
New boards and flavors
 

NVIDIA has continued to flesh out an family of Workstation products, now with renewed performance characteristic, based on AGP 8X implementations.  In addition, this is not just a validation of the chip in an AGP 8X compliant board level design.  In fact the design team at NVIDIA has made enhancements at the silicon level, which will allow these products to more efficiently utilize the bandwidth of the higher performance AGP 8X bus, at 2.1GB/sec. 

NVIDIA's Quadro 4 Line-up
Click image for full view

As you can see, there are many new flavors of the Quadro now.  Some of these, the mid range and high end products, will be based on NV25GL cores, while others, entry level and "professional 2D" products, will be based on the NV17GL core.

The above product is not one of those mock-ups or falsified shots, that we've seen circulated around the net over the years, for various pipe dream product concepts.  Rather it is a Quad Monitor capable version of the Quadro 4 200 NVS, which is based on an NV17 implementation.  This product should play fairly competitively in the Professional Desktop space, in environments like financial institutions, where multi-display setups are a prerequisite.  Additionally, NVIDIA is boasting top honors from the folks at Display Mate Technologies, for their overall image and signal source quality.

 

Theoretical Performance Of The New Quadro 4
NVIDIA's numbers, which we hope to prove out in the months ahead

When it comes to performance expectations of these new AGP 8X capable Quadros, we may see better results, than what we've seen from the NVIDIA consumer/gaming product offering thus far.  Here are some very general benchmark metrics provided to us by NVIDIA.

 

Quadro 4 900 XGL  Versus Quadro 4 980 XGL W/ AGP 8X
Click image for full view

 

Again, we want to be very clear that these charts and benchmarks are obviously NVIDIA generated numbers.  We will reserve full analysis and comment for when we have the products in our lab and can see the results first hand.  However, in some applications, like ProEngineer, MCAD Designers may be able to realize up to a 30% boost versus an AGP 4X based system.

Validation Is Key To Workstation Graphics
A costly and support intensive effort for full compliance and compatibility

An area that often gets overlooked with respect to Workstation product evaluations, in the media, especially with on line sources, is Design and Content Creation Software certification.  Validation and compatibility certification however is a costly and time consuming effort for the Workstation Graphics hardware OEM. 

In fact, we are confident that this is part of the reason why Workstation boards, based on nearly identical chipsets of their Gaming counterparts, can cost up to 4 times as much.  To get a product certified on MCAD  software platforms such as Autodesk CAD 2002, Solidworks, ProEngineer, as well as DCC products such as  Ailias Wavefront, 3D Studio Max, Lightwave, is no easy task and takes a team of engineers to support.  In short, NVIDIA has full certifications with virtually all the major Workstation software partners.  This is something that can not be said for all competitors in this market.

We've given you a quick take here, on what NVIDIA has in store for the Quadro 4 line in the weeks and months ahead.  Certainly, this "mid-life kicker" should bring further penetration for the graphics giant, into the Workstation market that they are already garnering a large percentage share in.  In addition, these new product introductions for the entry level and 2D Professional/Multi-Monitor markets, should give traction in areas where the likes of Matrox and others play more seriously.

The next question is, how long before we see an NV30 based Quadro?  With the Gaming version of the product seemingly targeted for sometime this quarter with an early Q1 full production ramp, one could hazard a guess that Q2 is more than likely.  However, we'll only speculate so far but rather promise to keep you up to date with facts, as we are authorized to release them for general consumption.

 

 

 

 

Tags:  Nvidia, Quadro, id

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