Nvidia’s first product targeted specifically at users of Adobe-based products is somewhat of a mixed bag. The Quadro CX is undoubtedly an ultra fast graphics card which can accelerate 2D and 3D content creation software, however, positioning a product like this specifically for Adobe software seems somewhat dubious. While Adobe’s new CS4 suite can see significant performance gains in some areas with the Quadro CX card compared to lower-end graphics solutions, when compared to mid-range cards, the Quadro CX’s price performance ratio doesn’t seem to quite match up, unless you're specifically using the card for Premiere Pro that is, in which case the RapiHD GPU acceleration is a game changer.
In essence, the Quadro CX is a re-purposed QuadroFX 4800 card, bundled with a hardware H.264 encoding plug-in for Premiere Pro CS4. If you were planning on picking up a high-end workstation card anyways, and you’re a heavy Premiere user, the Quadro CX’s value proposition might work for you. However, most CS4 users simply don’t need this type of high-end graphics horsepower, and as such, would get a better value by purchasing a $200 mid-range gaming card and grabbing the RapiHD plugin separately if you need it. In this economy, positioning this card as a CS4 accelerator at nearly $2,000 will be a hard sell, even if it is an extremely powerful workstation card beyond all the CS4 benefits.
We do appreciate that Nvidia is trying to tackle a new market with Adobe CS acceleration though, and we definitely feel that there will be more value in a product like this once Adobe offloads more of their processing onto the GPU. Adobe is just scratching the surface of what the GPU can do with image and video related tasks, and we feel once CS5 or perhaps CS6 come around, there will likely be some killer features that make a higher-end GPU a necessity due to the significant performance benefits offered over any CPU. Today though, CS4 really isn’t tapping the massive amount of horsepower offered by the Quadro CX most of the time.
If you have an older workstation and are using integrated graphics (but still have a free PCI Express x16 slot) or an older pro graphics card, throwing in a newer, compatible GPU will help CS4 and overall system performance significantly. It’s definitely an easier upgrade compared to buying a new CPU / memory subsystem or buying a new box altogether. However, this is obviously a smaller portion of the market, and relying on these customers likely won’t allow the CX line to gain a significant foothold in the short term.
Ultimately, the Quadro CX is a bit ahead of its time considering the amount of GPU acceleration offered by CS4 at the moment. It’s an extremely powerful card which delivers excellent performance, but the value proposition isn’t quite there due to the premium being charged for the CX. Nvidia would have likely been better served to launch the Quadro CX in a much less expensive form with perhaps a less powerful GPU, especially given the economic conditions facing design and production houses today. With that said, we would love to see the Quadro CX lineup continue and thrive, as GPU accelerated (non-3D) software is becoming a bigger and bigger market, which this lineup could easily tap into.