NVIDIA Quadro FX 2000 and ATi FireGL X1

The NVIDIA Quadro FX 2000 and ATi FireGL X1 - Page 3


The NVIDIA Quadro FX 2000 And The ATi FireGL X1
Professional Graphics Solutions Do Battle

By: Dave Altavilla
August 20, 2003



With our two high end Pro Graphics Workhorses configured in a high end Pentium 4 system, decked out with a healthy 1 Gig of system memory, we set out for a few benchmark trials with two popular CAD and DCC (Digital Content Creation) applications, SolidWorks 2003 and 3D Studio Max.

SPECapc For SolidWorks 2003
A 3D CAD Designers Heavy Duty Tool

SPECapc for SolidWorks 2003 is a fairly new benchmark from the folks at SPEC.  Here's some background with respect to "apc" or Application Performance Characterization tests and the SolidWorks 2003 module in particular.  The following description of the benchmark is courtesy of SPEC.org.

"Within SPEC's Graphics Performance Characterization (GPC) Group there was a strong belief that it is important to benchmark graphics performance based on actual applications. Application-level benchmarks exist, but they are not standardized and they do not cover a wide range of application areas. The Application Performance Characterization (SPECapc) group feels that end users will benefit from a broad-ranging set of standardized benchmarks for graphics-intensive applications."

"SPECapc for SolidWorks 2003? is designed to represent a day in the life of a typical SolidWorks 2003 user. The benchmark was developed by SolidWorks. It is written in Visual Basic and C, and runs on Windows 2000 and Windows XP platforms. The benchmark uses different-sized CAD/CAM solid models, the largest of which is an engine model with 3.13 million vertices.

Eight tests are included within the benchmark: I/O-intensive operations, CPU-intensive operations, and six different graphics tests. A single number is derived from a weighted geometric mean of the normalized score for all eight tests. Scores are also reported for each of the eight individual tests and for the geometric mean of the six graphics tests."



**  SolidWorks 2003 Benchmark Update - September 4, 2003  **

Since we initially published this article, we discovered an error in our SolidWorks 2003 benchmark numbers.  We've made corrections to the score in the graphs represented here as a result.  The SPECapc test that we utilized for the SolidWorks 2003 scoring has proven itself to be a bit finicky sometimes and often times difficult to produce repeatable results.  We have since modified our test methodology with this benchmark, in an effort to avoid future mistakes like this.  We apologize for any inconvenience the initial scoring may have caused.

We should point out that we took the graphics specific times for this test, rather than the normalized weighted mean that the benchmark likes to calculate, which includes processor and other IO function performance.  Since we're focusing on isolating the graphics subsystem in this test, we felt it was more relevant to work with only the time to complete the graphics test.  As you can see the Quadro FX 2000 completed the test about 10 seconds faster than the FireGL X1, which is about a 7% advantage.

SPECapc For 3D Studio Max 4.2.6
A 3D Graphics Artists Toolset

3D Studio Max has long been a favored DCC application for many 3D Artists.  Here's what SPEC says about the SPECapc test for 3D Studio Max 4.2.

"SPECapc for 3ds max? 4.2.6 contains four scenes reflecting typical uses of the application in an animation studio environment:

The first scene shows an architectural visualization containing more than a million polygons. It contains many objects, glass walls for refraction and opacity tests, and some textures. Multiple light sources are used.

Scene 2 is a closeup of sparks flying from wheels. Two alternative particle systems are investigated, one with a low particle count and the another with a high count. Multiple light sources are used.

Scene 3 pulls back to show a juggler pedaling the wheels while juggling three balls and balancing four teapots on top of his head. The juggler consists of NURBS surfaces attached to a skeleton and animated over time using inverse kinematics chains. The scene has multiple light sources. A camera moves along a path around the character. The camera viewport is maximized.

Scene 4 is a landscape modeled with displacement maps and meshes. Many textures and texture blends are applied to it. A camera moves along a path through the landscape.

The benchmark is divided into 35 tasks. Each task was assigned a weight by CAT Production representing the relative time animators spend performing the task. The same tasks are further characterized by SPECapc as either graphics- or CPU-intensive. Benchmark results are presented from 25 individual graphics tests and 10 CPU tests. The total number of seconds to run each test is normalized based on a reference machine. The normalization process ensures a scoring system where a bigger score is better."



At default 3DS Max Driver settings, the ATi FireGL X1 takes the lead handily once again.  However, when we enabled NVIDIA's custom "MAXtreme" driver for this application, when configured to the "Speed" setting, rendering times we dramatically reduced and the overall Graphics Mean score shot up three fold and at the "Quality" setting it more than double the score.  The MAXtreme driver configuration tool essentially gives users control over various image quality and rendering settings in 3D Studio Max and allows for dramatically reduced workloads, if desired.

Here's a quick shot of the MAXtreme Driver Control Panel settings we used for the scores indicated in the green and purple bar graphs in the above chart.

Driver Settings Used

Speed Settings

Quality Settings


As you can see in the "Speed" control panel, texture filtering settings have been optimized for "fastest" performance rather than quality, as well as Wireframe Views and Texture Compression.  The kicker here is that once you've got the desired general end result of your work, you can always go back and then adjust settings for quality.  Hats off to NVIDIA for providing an extra level of driver configurability to 3DS Max users, which will ultimately cut rendering workloads to a fraction, when need be.

Gaming Performance? - UT2003 and Q3


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