Mid-Range Workstation GPU Shootout : FireGL V5600 vs. QuadroFX 1700 vs. FireGL V3600

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Nvidia QuadroFX 1700

The QuadroFX 1700 graphics card is the workstation equivalent of the GeForce 8600 for the gaming market. Both of the cards run on Nvidia’s G84 graphics processor and consume a small enough amount of power to not require any external power plugs. The card is small, quiet, and relatively unassuming. However, for the card’s diminutive size, it’s actually surprisingly powerful.

Nvidia QuadroFX 1700 512 MB

Nvidia QuadroFX 1700 512 MB

Nvidia’s G84 graphics processor, which is at the heart of the QuadroFX 1700, is manufactured on an 80nm manufacturing process. While it shares many similarities to Nvidia’s high-end G80 processor seen in their high-end workstation cards, the G84 is far smaller and less powerful. While the G80 processor has 128 unified shader processors, the G84 which we see here only has a quarter of that, 32 shader processors. This effectively cuts performance heavily across the board, but does make for a very small, efficient chip. The G84 has 289 million transistors stuffed into a core which is 169mm squared. Despite its size, the G84 supports DirectX 10, OpenGL 2.1, and even includes Nvidia’s VP2 hardware video decoding engine as well, something which even the high-end G80 processor doesn’t have.

The QuadroFX 1700 ships with its G84 processor clocked at 460 MHz with 800 MHz DDR2 memory, along with its shader clock set to 920 MHz. These numbers are quite a bit lower compared to the GeForce 8600 gaming card, which is based on the same GPU, and runs at 540 MHz GPU with 700 MHz memory and a 1.19 GHz shader clock speed. Of course, this is fairly typical with Quadro FX cards, running at lower clock speeds compared to their gaming brethren, so what we’re seeing here is not out of line for Nvidia.

With a tame clock speed and an advanced 80nm manufacturing process for its GPU, the QuadroFX 1700 doesn’t need elaborate cooling. Nvidia outfits this board with a very small aluminum alloy thin-fin cooler with a 4-pin PWM thermally controlled fan. While the fan is small, it doesn’t run at a high RPM, so you don’t get any high-pitched fan noise. It’s a very quiet card overall, even under heavy loads.

The board is equipped with 512 MB of DDR2 memory from Hynix. The memory modules are set to 400 MHz clock rate, and connect to the GPU via a 128-bit memory bus, allowing for 12.8 GB/s of memory bandwidth. Not that impressive for a $700 board. The memory modules are left un-cooled on the PCB, since they do not run warm enough to require any type of cooling.

Dual-Link DVI and HDTV Connectors

Single Slot Aluminum Alloy Cooling System

The FX1700 is equipped with two dual-link DVI output ports, which are capable of driving 2560 x 1600 30” displays per port. In addition, the board has an HDTV output port, in case you want to hook up this board to a component-enabled display. The board does not support stereoscopic output, nor can it connect to Genlock/Framelock boards like high-end Quadro cards.

The card and its feature set are somewhat unimpressive, considering its price tag, which means that in order for it to get a recommendation, it’s going to have to outperform ATI’s cards in the benchmarks and offer a better value. There’s nothing inherently wrong with FX1700 – it simply doesn’t seem to have a feature set which matches up against its price tag.

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