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NVIDIA QuadroFX 3700 512 MB
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Date: Apr 02, 2008
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Chris Connolly
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Overview

Earlier this year, we conducted a series of reports on both the high-end and mid-range workstation graphics card markets with a range of comparative tests. In our prior tests, we found performance to be exceptionally close between comparatively priced products from AMD/ATI’s and NVIDIA’s high-end and mid-range cards. NVIDIA is typically stronger on the high-end, whereas ATI’s cards are winning in the mid-range; it was pretty cut and dry.  However, once you start pricing these cards out, you’ll soon realize that there is a huge, gaping hole in the price spectrums of each respective competitive product offering.

ATI and NVIDIA sell their high-end (V8650/5600) cards for $2,500+, while mid-range cards sell for anywhere from $1,000 and under. The fact that there were no suitable options in the market for the $1,000 - $2,500 price range was a problem which would eventually be solved, and we’re finally starting to see workstation graphics cards finally coming to market in this price range. Cards in this price range would be expected to handle high-end tasks with relative ease, but aren't required to post absolute top-notch performance or feature huge frame buffer memory on board. Buyers in this range likely want to make sure they’re getting solid performance, but have a reasonable budget in mind.

With that in mind, today we'll take a look at NVIDIA’s entry to this market, the QuadroFX 3700. This card has an MSRP of about $1,700, which is smack-dab in between the price tags of their mid-range and ultra-high-end product lineups, although street prices are much lower. This card is based on NVIDIA’s popular new G92 graphics processor, which has been prominently featured in their GeForce 8800 GT/GTS lineup at a very  competitive price point. Likewise, with NVIDIA's G92 GL GPU underneath this professional-grade QuadroFX should also deliver substantially better performance in high-end OpenGL applications, while tackling DirectX 10 performance similarly to the 8800 series GPU as well.  Or so it would seem.  We'll make and effort to prove this theory out in the pages ahead.  


NVIDIA's "G92-GL / G92-875" is the heart and soul of the QuadroFX 3700


As with all Workstation class, professional certified cards, the QuadroFX 3700’s price tag is about $1,500 higher than its consumer counterpart, GeForce 8800 GT 512 MB.  So we'll take a look at the performance profile you’ll see in workstation graphics scenarios with this new Quadro board versus the rest of its workstation-class competition.
 

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Specifications

As mentioned in the prior page, NVIDIA’s new QuadroFX 3700 card is slipping into a price point right between the QuadroFX 1700 and the QuadroFX 5600. Let’s see how it stacks up, on paper, before we look at NVIDIA’s final, shipping product.


NVIDIA QuadroFX 1700

  • NVIDIA G84 Graphics Processor
  • 460 MHz GPU Clock Speed
  • 64 Unified Shader Processors
  • Shader Model 4.0 (DirectX 10) and OpenGL 2.1 Support
  • 512 MB of DDR2 Memory
  • 400 MHz DDR2 Clock Speed
  • 128-bit Memory Controller
  • 12.8 GB/s Memory Bandwidth
  • PCI Express x16 Connector
  • Bus Powered (No Power Connector)
  • Single Slot Aluminum Alloy Cooling System
  • Standard Length Card (ATX/EATX Ready)
  • Two Dual-Link DVI Output Ports
  • HDTV Output
  • Genlock/Framelock Incompatible
  • 2-Way SLI Multi-GPU Support
  • Supports Windows XP and Vista 32-bit and 64-bit, Linux 32-bit and 64-bit, Solaris
  • MSRP : $699 USD

NVIDIA QuadroFX 3700

  • NVIDIA G92 Graphics Processor
  • 500 MHz GPU Clock Speed
  • 112 Unified Shader Processors
  • Shader Model 4.0 (DirectX 10) and OpenGL 2.1 Support
  • 512 MB of GDDR-3 Memory
  • 1600 MHz GDDR-3 Clock Speed
  • 256-bit Memory Controller
  • 51.2 GB/s Memory Bandwidth
  • PCI Express x16 2.0 Connector
  • 1 x 6-pin Power Connector
  • Single Slot Aluminum Cooling System
  • Standard Length Card (ATX/EATX Ready)
  • Two Dual-Link DVI Output Ports
  • Stereoscopic Output
  • Genlock/Framelock Incompatible
  • 2-Way SLI Multi-GPU Support
  • Supports Windows XP and Vista 32-bit and 64-bit, Linux 32-bit and 64-bit, Solaris
  • MSRP : $1,599 USD
NVIDIA QuadroFX 5600

  • NVIDIA G80 Graphics Processor
  • 600 MHz GPU Clock Speed
  • 128 Unified Shader Processors
  • Shader Model 4.0 (DirectX 10) and OpenGL 2.1 Support
  • 1.5 GB of GDDR-3 Memory
  • 1600 MHz GDDR-3 Clock Speed
  • 384-bit Memory Controller
  • 76 GB/s Memory Bandwidth
  • PCI Express x16 Connector
  • 2 x 6-pin Power Connectors
  • Dual Slot Copper Cooling System
  • Full Length Card (EATX Required)
  • Two Dual-Link DVI Output Ports
  • Stereoscopic Output
  • Genlock/Framelock Compatible
  • 2-Way SLI Multi-GPU Support
  • Supports Windows XP and Vista 32-bit and 64-bit, Linux 32-bit and 64-bit, Solaris
  • MSRP : $2,999 USD

Sitting between the QuadroFX 1700 and 5600 lineups, the QuadroFX 3700 fits as snug as a bump-mapped, HDR-lit bug in a rug. While the QuadroFX 3700 is based on the newest of the three GPU architectures (NVIDIA’s fairly recent G92), in terms of raw graphics processing power it does have substantially less compared to the high-end QuadroFX 5600 card. The QuadroFX 3700 isn’t too far off though, as it only has a few less shader processors (112 vs. 128), slightly lower clock speed (500 MHz vs. 600 MHz), and has a 256-bit memory interface compared to a 384-bit interface on the 5600 card. Considering the massive $1,000 difference in price, the gaps between the 3700 and 5600 series card tend to look less significant.

The big differences here between NVIDIA’s new high-end and ultra high-end cards are memory and overall board size. The QuadroFX 5600 card has three times the memory as the 3700 card, but also is substantially larger and more difficult to cool. While the QuadroFX 5600 requires a massive PCB with a dual-slot cooler, the QuadroFX 3700 runs on a standard sized PCB with a single-slot cooling system. The QuadroFX 3700 also has a fairly un-impressive 512 MB of memory for a card at this price point. Considering memory prices are so cheap, we would have hoped that NVIDIA would kick it up to 1GB to really set it apart from its other G92 brethren. However, all in all, the QuadroFX 3700 has a strong feature set for a workstation product at this price point, at least on paper. Let’s take a look at this card in greater detail.

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The Board

The QuadroFX 3700, as mentioned on the prior page, runs on a fairly slim and compact form factor design. If the card design looks familiar, don’t be surprised. NVIDIA is using the same basic cooling system for the QuadroFX 3700 as seen on the GeForce 8800 GT lineup. Considering both the QuadroFX 3700 and the GeForce 8800 GT are based on the same G92 graphics processor under the hood, this is not too surprising. In comparison to NVIDIA’s monster QuadroFX 5600 card, the QuadroFX 3700 looks downright petite.


NVIDIA's QuadroFX 3700 and GeForce 8800 GT cards, side by side.


QuadroFX 3700, from the left ...


... and from the right.

Underneath its two-toned silver and black cooling get-up, we have NVIDIA’s G92-875/G92-GL graphics processor which runs at 500 MHz. The GPU has 112 shader processors, which means it’s less powerful per clock compared to the QuadroFX 5600 lineup, which features 128 shader processors at 600 MHz. However, comparing the price tags of these two boards, this is not that substantial of a difference.

The G92-GL also features a smaller 256-bit memory architecture opposed to the 384-bit architecture of the FX5600. The QuadroFX 3700 has 512 MB of GDDR-3 memory running at 1.6 GHz, the same speed of the QuadroFX 5600. However, the QuadroFX 3700 features one third the capacity at 512MB (as opposed to 1.5 GB on the FX5600). Available memory bandwidth for the QFX 3700 is a tad above 50 GB/s, which is impressive for a workstation-class card at this price point.

With these raw specifications on paper, the QuadroFX 3700 has a little less raw rendering horsepower compared to the GeForce 8800 GT lineup. However, while the 8800 GT looks stronger on the specification sheets, the QuadroFX 3700 has a few unique features, including stereoscopic output support, support for Quadro performance drivers, and  ripping-fast OpenGL rendering support compared to the GeForce 8800 family.

The PCB design is pretty standard NVIDIA-fare, featuring a PCI Express 2.0 connector (a first for the QuadroFX lineup), a 6-pin PCI Express power connector, and a single SLI connector for 2-way SLI support. The board features two dual-link DVI ports and a 3-pin Stereo output.


2 x Dual-Link DVI and SLI connector


From the backside

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Cooling and Power Consumption

The cooling system features a copper baseplate which connects directly to the GPU and works in conjunction with a series of aluminum alloy thin-fins to dissipate heat away from the core and memory chips. The cooler features an embedded 70mm cooling fan, which connects to the board via a 4-pin PWM power connector, allowing for smooth fan speed transitions. The "cover" of the card is made from aluminum alloy as well, which helps route airflow over the heatsink, but also helps dissipate heat itself. It’s also got a snazzy NVIDIA logo on top, which allows you to see it’s an NVIDIA card whilst installed in the system – a nice touch.

As for the cooling system itself, it’s quite effective at keeping the G92 cool while keeping noise levels down. Since the G92 runs at a lower clock speed compared to what these cooling systems are used to dealing with on the 8800 GT series, the cooling system is able to keep temperatures in check, rarely going out of its lowest fan state.

When the card is sitting idle, clock speeds will drop from 500 MHz (GPU) / 1.6 GHz (GDDR3) to 300 MHz (GPU) / 200 MHz (GDDR3), which cuts power consumption by a significant amount and also allows the GPU to run at temperatures of about 37°C (98°F). At this level, the QuadroFX 3700’s fan runs at 30% (~1600 RPM) and was more or less inaudible.

When you throw heavy GPU processing loads at the board, power consumption and heat levels increase by quite a bit, although this doesn’t necessarily lead to higher noise levels. Over a prolonged period of GPU stress testing, our GPU hit peak thermal levels of 67°C (152°F). At this temperature, our 3700’s fan was only running at 34% (~1850 RPM) and was still keeping the GPU cool. We did not see the fan speed jump beyond this level, as the slight extra boost in fan power was able to keep the GPU within a nominal temp range. All told the QuadroFX has a simple, quiet, and effective cooling system which we appreciate.


Idle Clocks and Temperatures


Full GPU Load Clocks and Temperatures

The QuadroFX 3700 card runs pretty cool and quiet – which bodes well for overall power consumption tests. NVIDIA’s G92 architecture is a far more efficient design compared to their monster G80 architecture featured on the QuadroFX 5600.  So even before testing, we were expecting substantial reductions in power consumption.

As always, our systems are tested on identical platforms (specs on the next page) with just the graphics cards swapped out. Levels are taken from a hardware AC wattage monitor during idling at the Windows desktop and with a full GPU load designed to hit peak GPU power consumption levels. Let’s see the results.

Total System Power Consumption
Lower Wattage Numbers Are Better


As expected, the QuadroFX 3700 consumes substantially less compared to NVIDIA’s ultra-high-end QuadroFX 5600 card, to the tune of about 30W when idling and around 80W during full GPU load. It’s also interesting to see that the QuadroFX 3700 consumes less power compared to our 8800 GT card, which is based on the same architecture but runs at slightly higher clock speeds compared to the 3700 card. All in all, these are very nice power consumption numbers considering the specifications and raw rendering power this card provides.

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Testbed and Cinebench

Test System Details
Specifications and Revisions

  • Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 (3.0 GHz) Quad Core (1333 MHz FSB)
  • 4 x Kingston DDR2-800 CAS 4-4-4-15 Modules (4 GB Total)
  • 1 x eVGA nForce 680i SLI LT Motherboard
  • 1 x Western Digital Raptor 74GB 10,000 RPM SATA Hard Disk
  • 1 x Plextor DVD+/-RW Serial ATA Optical Drive
  • 1 x Corsair HX620W 620W Modular Power Supply
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional (32-bit)
  • ATI FireGL V3600 256 MB (Driver version 8.44)
  • ATI FireGL V5600 512 MB (Driver version 8.44)
  • ATI FireGL V7600 512 MB (Driver version 8.44)
  • ATI FireGL V8650 2 GB (Driver version 8.44)
  • NVIDIA QuadroFX 1700 512 MB (Driver version 169.61)
  • NVIDIA QuadroFX 3700 512 MB (Driver version 169.39)
  • NVIDIA QuadroFX 5600 1.5 GB (Driver version 169.61)

Just as with our high-end workstation graphics card shootout – we’ve tested these cards with Windows XP. Both NVIDIA and ATI claim XP to still be the dominant workstation-class operating system, and performance is fine tuned for this operating system in order to reflect that.

Synthetic OpenGL Performance
Higher Numbers Are Better


The QuadroFX 3700 is off to a good start, as it actually provides our best Cinebench R10 OpenGL tests to date, even better than the older (but substantially more powerful QuadroFX 5600 card). This test also highlights how the QuadroFX 3700 and GeForce 8800 GT differ in terms of OpenGL performance. The 8800 GT is based on the same architecture and runs at higher clock speeds, but gets demolished by the QuadroFX 3700 in this test.

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3D Studio Max 2008 and Maya 8.5

OpenGL Modeling / Texturing Performance
Lower Times Are Better


OpenGL Modeling / Texturing Performance
Lower Times Are Better


The QuadroFX 3700 puts up solid numbers in our 3D Studio Max 2008 test, nearing the performance of the QuadroFX 5600 card and beating all of the ATI FireGL lineup in this particular test. Interestingly enough, the QuadroFX 3700 and GeForce 8800 GT show almost no performance difference in this particular test.

Our Maya test still shows ATI’s lineup in the lead, and the QuadroFX 3700 really doesn’t change the scenario that much. Again, we see performance levels devastatingly close to the QuadroFX 5600 card at a far, far lower price tag. In this particular test, we also see the QuadroFX 3700 pulling away from the GeForce 8800 GT, which stumbles in this test.

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SPEC Viewperf 10

Workstation OpenGL Performance
Higher Numbers Are Better





The QuadroFX 3700 doesn’t greatly shift the all-important SPEC ViewPerf benchmarks in Nvidia’s favor, but the card does compete fairly well. While the card struggles a bit in 3Dmax and Catia, it performs more favorably in Ensight and Maya, although for the most part, ATI’s FireGL V7600 delivers better price / performance compared to the QuadroFX 3700 card here.

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SPEC Viewperf 10 (Continued)

Workstation OpenGL Performance
Higher Numbers Are Better





The QuadroFX 3700 does much better on the final four tests, delivering performance levels surprisingly close to those of the QuadroFX 5600 card in all four. The QuadroFX series shines in ProEngineer and SolidWorks, although the TWX and UGNX tests clearly show ATI’s FireGL lineup delivering better performance across the board.

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GPGPU Computing

General Purpose GPU Processing
Lower Times Are Better




If you’re thinking of picking up a QuadroFX 3700 for its raw GPU computing power, you should be pleasantly surprised. Again we see the QuadroFX 3700 putting up numbers just slightly behind the much more expensive QuadroFX 5600 card. However, one should note that we see virtually no performance difference between the QuadroFX 3700 and the ($200) GeForce 8800 GT card in this test, as it’s avoiding the driver level optimizations for the most part.

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GPGPU Computing (Continued)

General Purpose GPU Processing
Lower Times Are Better


Our second round of GPGPU testing shows the QuadroFX 3700 is just as fast as the QuadroFX 5600 card on the smaller tests, although the bigger, meaner 5600 card shows a performance delta in the larger tests. Again, the QuadroFX 3700 doesn’t necessarily represent the greatest value, as the 8800 GT performs better than it at a much lower price point, but that could be said about the consumer-level variants of all of these cards.

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Gaming Performance
   

Synthetic Gaming Performance
Higher Numbers Are Better


Gaming Performance
Higher Numbers Are Better


For gaming and game development, the QuadroFX 3700 puts up very solid numbers, even showing numbers on par with ATI’s high-end FireGL V8650 product. Both the QuadroFX 5600 and GeForce 8800 put up better numbers, but for different reasons (QuadroFX 5600 has more raw GPU power, whereas the 8800 GT has gaming-tuned drivers). Nevertheless, for a QuadroFX card, it definitely has enough gaming power to handle most modern titles at very nice speeds.

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OpenGL Effect Benchmarks

Soft Shadows OpenGL Benchmark
Higher Numbers Are Better


Realistic Fur OpenGL Benchmark
Higher Numbers Are Better


Our synthetic OpenGL benchmarks show the QuadroFX 3700 putting up a good fight against its competitors in the Soft Shadows benchmark, putting up numbers on par with ATI’s high-end product lineup, but significantly slower than the QuadroFX 5600. The Fur benchmark appears to be more suited to the ATI camp, as ATI’s FireGL V7600 and V8650 products deliver better performance than the Quadro lineup here.

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Conclusion

With the release of the QuadroFX 3700, there is no longer a price / performance chasm between NVIDIA’s mid-range and ultra-high end workstation product lineups. The QuadroFX 3700 fits smack dab in between the QuadroFX 1700 and 5600 parts in terms of overall price, but thankfully, in terms of performance, our tests show that the QuadroFX 3700 hits performance numbers far closer to the QuadroFX 5600. Despite having a significant raw horsepower disadvantage, the QuadroFX 3700 is able to bring workstation performance levels at about 90% of the 5600 product, while only being about 60% of the price tag. NVIDIA’s G92 is indeed one of their most flexible and powerful architectures to date.
 



Of course, the QuadroFX 5600 is, and has always been a niche product. The type of user who needs the 1.5 GB of memory which the QuadroFX 5600 offers is extremely small in number, and for those who still need these massive amounts of frame buffer, the 5600 card is still being offered. The 3700 is a far more mainstream offering, and for the vast majority of workstation class applications, it delivers excellent performance across the board. The QuadroFX 3700 is also overclockable as well, and with a bit of tweaking, you can all but eliminate the performance gap between the 3700 and 5600 in most benchmarks. Not that we would recommend anything like that in a mission critical workstation, though.

Performance aside, the card has all of its bases covered – but it’s also worth mentioning that the card is pleasant to live and work with. NVIDIA’s stock cooling system does an excellent job of keeping GPU temperatures in check while noise levels remain extremely low, even under heavy, prolonged usage. The card occupies minimal space in the chassis compared to other cards in this market, and overall power consumption is surprisingly low as well. The more modern 65nm manufacturing process that the card is produced on shows through.  The QuadroFX 3700 card sips power compared to its bigger brother.

While NVIDIA’s $1,599 MSRP is a little off-putting, it’s good to see that even though these cards are just hitting the market, they’re already available for roughly half of this.  You can actually find cards in the $800-$900 range. At this price point, the QuadroFX 3700 is fighting against the FireGL V7600 product lineup. At the moment, we would say that NVIDIA’s 3700 product delivers better price/performance and a better overall experience, although ATI’s V7600 does provide better performance in a few of our test suites. However, the QuadroFX 3700 consumes less power, creates less heat, is quieter, and generally performs a bit better across benchmarks overall. Of course, ATI isn’t sitting idle, as they’ve recently launched their new V8600 card with 1 GB of memory and a similar price-tag. We’ve got one in the labs and we’ll be looking at it soon.

With everything said, the QuadroFX 3700 is an excellent addition to NVIDIA’s workstation lineup and is a card that was desperately needed once the QuadroFX 4600 went end-of-life. We would have liked to see NVIDIA push the card to a 1 GB frame buffer, although we do feel that if they had done this, they would have seriously risked cannibalizing their existing QuadroFX 5600 sales, as performance between these two products is remarkably close.  In all honesty, if NVIDIA pushed out a G92/G94 based QuadroFX card with ~25% higher clock speeds and at least 1 GB of memory, it would probalby outperform the QuadroFX 5600 and cost significantly less to manufacture and sell.  This of course may in fact be coming but for now, we’re extremely happy with what we’re seeing with the QuadroFX 3700.

 
 

  • Excellent Price/Performance Ratio
  • Greatly Decreased Power Consumption
  • Low Noise, Single-Slot Cooling System
  • 512 MB Memory Appears Small At This Price
  • Point - Should Have Been 1 GB
  • Somewhat Weak Maya Performance



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