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PNY Quadro 900XGL
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Date: Sep 17, 2002
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: HH Editor
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The PNY Quadro 900XGL - Page 1

The PNY Quadro 4 900XGL
Professional MCAD Testing Of Nvidia's Flagship Workstation Card

By -John Fiegener
September 16, 2002

 

Its been a while since we have gotten our hands on a new Nvidia professional level video card. Last time we here at (tool.) tested the Elsa Gloria II "Quadro", we were quit impressed with the performance of that entry into the professional MCAD graphics card arena.  Elsa had always been a producer of high quality gaming cards in the day.  It's too bad they left that market space.  

Let me first give you a quick introduction to who we are here at (tool.). tool. is a Product Design and Development consultancy. We ideate, design and engineer a variety of products in large segment of industries. We basically think of new ways do build a better mousetrap. We use high end MCAD solutions to develop our concepts. These high end solutions require a great deal of CPU might and are very graphic intensive. We are constantly updating and replacing our workstations with the latest and greatest chip from either Intel or AMD.  Most of this type of work used to be performed on expensive Unix boxes that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Today I can build a state of the art machine for under eight hundred dollars. Product development is an ever changing world where you either keep up with the technology or lose your edge in the industry. Speed is a crucial part of this job and in many cases with the type of applications we use, the weakest link can be the machine a designer or engineer is working on. 

The applications used by ourselves and many of the design consultancies range.  However, I would have to say that a majority of today's top firms use a combination of Pro/ENGINEER, Alias Wavefront and SolidWorks. We here use all three to develop our concepts. We use Alias to refine sketch concepts and render early phase models and Pro/E and SolidWorks to completely engineer assemblies and parts for production. Its the nature of this industry to be at the cutting edge of computer and graphic technology. In many cases we used these machines to design either the computer itself or the machines used to handle and produce the chips that go in them.

Enough of the career pitch. Lets get down to the review. 

In this round, we got the opportunity to take a test drive with what Nvidia is pitching a the "standard for professional graphics" and with some exceptions, that did prove to be the case here at (tool.)  Here are the technical specs of this new beast.

Specifications / Features Of The PNY Quadro 4 900 XGL
A GeForce 4 That Is All Business

Technical Specifications

  • Powered by NVIDIA® Quadro4? 900 XGL
  • 60 Million Triangles Per Second
  • 128-MB DDR SDRAM
  • Lightspeed Memory Architecture? II
  • Dual nfiniteFX? Vertex Shader -
    programmable second generation effect processor
  • Resolution up to 2048 x 1536 at 75 Hz per display
  • Flexible multi-screen solution with full 3D support
  • Dual monitor connectors (DVI-I and DVI-I)
  • Advanced desktop management with
    nView? technology
  • OpenGL stereo connector for shutter glasses
  • Unified Driver Architecture optimized for
    OpenGL and DirectX applications
  • Includes MAXtreme, POWERDraft, and
    Quadro4View software

Key Features:

  • Hardware overlay planes
  • Hardware antialiased lines
  • Two-sided lighting
  • Full-scene antialiasing
  • 2nd-generation occlusion culling
  • LMA II
  • 2048x1536 per display
  • nfiniteFX II Engine

Professional Certifications

MCAD:

  • PTC® Pro/Engineer(TM)

  • SDRC I-DEAS® Master Series

  • UGS® Solid Edge(TM)

  • Dassault CATIA®

  • Solidworks®

  • Autodesk AutoCAD

DCC:

  • Alias|Wavefront(TM) Maya

  • SOFTIMAGE®|XSI

  • Discreet 3ds max(TM)

  • Newtek Lightwave 3D(TM)

Operating Systems

  • Windows® XP (WHQL Certified)

  • Windows® 2000 (WHQL Certified)

  • Windows NT® (WHQL Certified)

I must say the heat-sink graphics are a nice touch. I can see Nvidia is taking a few tips from the automotive industry by making the engine compartment look appealing. Then there is the dual DVI output, which can be a plus or a minus, depending on your perspective.  However, all in all it is an impressive looking card from a hardware standpoint, with it's tiny little BGA memory chips, placed strategically around the GPU.

Setup and Drivers 

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The PNY Quadro 900XGL - Page 2

The PNY Quadro 4 900XGL
Professional MCAD Testing Of Nvidia's Flagship Workstation Card

By -John Fiegener
September 16, 2002

The Kit
No frills

This professional cards come with little goodies. For the price you pay for these cards, it would be nice to get a few perks such as some use full bundled software or a game preview, flattering the power of the new technology. But no, in the high end workstation card arena, you get the card the drivers and that's about it.

Click for full view

Drivers and Utilities
Detonator 40

The card installed on multiple machines with out a hitch. The CD provided by PNY made the driver installation simple and painless. The card came in the PNY box with the drivers on CD and the adapter dongle that allows users with traditional CRT's to use the card. The card can support 2 flat panel monitors via the new "nView" technology developed by Nvidia.  We used the old work horse of the industry, the standard 21" cathode-ray tube. I must say that I found the additional 2" dongle connected to my CPU a little annoying. Having the cable come into the box perpendicular already makes it an object that is subject to occasional impact.  Now add 2 more inches and it becomes a much larger target. I'm also one of those guys who is in and out of his case so much that I rarely screw down the connector screws. That's not the case with this dongle.  You have to screw it in or any small impact or shake from moving your chair, can cause your screen to go black.  We won't moan too much here however, because the upside is dual DVI output, which will be a real plus for some folks.

   

The drivers that were supplied were a little older than the current drivers available from Nvidia, so we downloaded the latest drivers from them directly.  Versus a consumer card, the driver control panels don't differ much in the Quadro 4 line.  Regardless, we took a couple screen captures as a refresher.  The 900 XGL allows for the traditional application customization. I ran the Pro/E test using the default and the Pro setting and saw no change on the test results, SPECviewperf or the Ocus Bench.  The Detonator 40 drivers provides antialiasing via a control panel option, as well as setting up your nView desktop management options and display type.

 

The Test Setup
Let's role

Mid Tower ATX Case w/ 400W PS, Pentium 4 1.6GHz  (Provided By OutsideLoop Computers) over clocked to 2.4GHz, ASUS P4B533 P4 DDR  Motherboard, 512MB of Mushkin 2100  DDR, Seagate 40 GB  7200 RPMHD, PNY Quadro 4 900XGL, Asus 52X CDROM, Windows XP, Detonator 40 Drivers

The Test Applications

The test bed consisted of 4 cards running through the same grueling graphic and CPU intensive exercises, provided by two respected agencies. SPEC provided Viewperf 7.0 as well as the SPECapc Benchmark for Solidworks 2001 plus. The Pro/ENGINEER testing was done with use of the OCUS Bench. Olaf Corton has been producing a very reliable Pro/E bench marks since the mid 90's. His test have become the standard in the community as a reliable way of testing systems with a variety of Pro functions both simple and complex.

Although SPEC does produce a Pro/E benchmark, we find the SPEC test to be more time consuming than necessary. The Ocus bench gives a straight look at performance of your machine running some basic tasks. Olaf has also recently expanded his benchmark to include new features of Pro and increased the intensity of the test on both the CPU and graphics.

Card Memory Drivers
PNY Quadro 4 900 XGL 128MB DDR Detonator 40
3D Labs GVX1  32MB SDR 2.16-0849
Elsa Gloria II (Quadro) 64MB DDR Detonator 40
Leadtek Geforce 2 Ultra w/ SoftQuadro 64MB DDR Detonator 40

Note that the Leadtek is enhanced through the use of the Softquadro driver patch that I obtained from www.nvworld.ru.  This patch allows the user of  Geforce II to modify the driver to allow the Geforce to act as if it was a Quadro. Go to nvworld.com to find out more.


 

SPECViewperf 7.0 Testing

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The PNY Quadro 900XGL - Page 3

The PNY Quadro 4 900XGL
Professional MCAD Testing Of Nvidia's Flagship Workstation Card

By -John Fiegener
September 16, 2002


 

In recent years, Olaf Corton has expanded his OCUS bench to include more features and assembly operations. As the speed of CPUs have risen, so too has the need for more comprehensive testing applications. Previous versions of the OCUS bench were allowing the computers being tested to obtain results close to or under 60 seconds. The new test can not be compared to the older version, due to the more complex nature of the test. 

Ocus 3.1 Benchmarks (Pro/E 2001)
Olaf Corton's finest


 


 

 Lower Scores Are Better

 

 

You can see in the OCUS test, that the 900 XGL outperforms the pack handily but for the price point you might think it would dominate with a little more muscle.  The card was just marginally faster, 2% to be exact, than the Elsa Gloria II Quadro or the Geforce 2.  It was actually ever so slightly slower in the graphics benchmark.  Not a very impressive start for such a pricey entry.  We ran the test a few times with the same conclusive results.  It looks like digging around on Ebay might produce some better values, at least in this application.  For those of you on a budget plan you can't beat the performance of the Geforce 2 Ultra.  Regardless, if you are concerned about certifications, warranty and support (who isn't?), you still have a serious performer with the Quadro4 900XGL. 

SPECapcSM Benchmark for SolidWorks 2001Plus & The Conclusion

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The PNY Quadro 900XGL - Page 4

The PNY Quadro 4 900XGL
Professional MCAD Testing Of Nvidia's Flagship Workstation Card

By -John Fiegener
September 16, 2002


 

Our SPECapcSW testing was a more conclusive with respect to the power behind  the Quadro4 900 XGL.

SPECapcSM Benchmark for SolidWorks 2001Plus? and the conclusion
Where things get interesting

 
 


 

 

 

Even with more than twice the RAM of the two Elsa Gloria II and the Geforce 2 Ultra, the 900 XGL was just not a differentiator, with respect to IO and CPU testing.  That's no real surprise because these two tests are much more system bandwidth limited than anything else.  However, the Quadro4 900 XGL claimed victory hands down against  the competition in the graphics tests and overall.   This is to be expected but we were really hoping to see less of a horse race versus the GVX1 card.  The 900 XGL is more than 2 generations ahead of the other cards in this competition and certainly at a higher price tag, coming in at around $1000 or so in our HotHardware CNet price search engine.

 

Although were somewhat disappointed with results of this card, compared with technology that we've have had in the lab for two years now, we must admit that the 900XGL did out perform every other card in the office. Its the degree of which it "out performed" that has us a little perplexed. We really expected the PNY Quadro 4 900 XGL to dominate in all categories. We were completely surprised by the results and performed the tests multiple times only to draw the same conclusion.  Will we see better Professional Graphics performance with future driver releases?  That certainly is a possibility but it remains to be seen.  It also would be interesting see how this top of the line NVIDIA offering compares with some of the other leading edger cards in professional MCAD arena, like the 3D Labs Wildcat III.

For now, we're giving the PNY Quadro 4 900XGL a HotHardware Heat Meter rating of...

 


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