NVIDIA Quadro FX 2000 and ATi FireGL X1

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

By: Dave Altavilla
August 20, 2003

 

   

SPECviewperf has been around for ages it seems and the real advantage with this benchmark is that it draws performance metrics on many data-points in several different OpenGL based applications from various ISVs (Independent Software Vendors). The SPECopc (SPEC OpenGL Performance Characterization) project group is comprised of companies like 3DLabs, Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, ATi, Dell, IBM, SGI, Sun Micro as well as others, and helps define and endorse what application viewsets are used in the SPECviewperf test.

 

SPEC Viewperf
A Multi ISV Pro Graphics OpenGL Benchmark

Currently, there are six standard SPECopc application viewsets:   (courtesy SPEC.org)

  • 3dsmax-02, based on SPECapc for 3ds max 3.1 configured with the Open GL driver, includes three models containing an average of 1.5 million vertices each, and tests performance of scenes with different levels of lighting.
  • dx-08, based on IBM's Data Explorer application, has 10 different tests.
  • drv-09, based on Intergraph's DesignReview model review package, has five different tests.
  • light-06, based on Discreet's Lightscape radiosity application, has four tests.
  • proe-02, based on SPECapc for Pro/ENGINEER 2001, measures two models in three modes - shaded, wireframe and hidden-line removal (HLR).
  • ugs-03, based on SPECapc for Unigraphics V17, tests performance based on an engine model containing 2.1 million vertices.

These type of applications typically render large data sets. All six viewsets represent relatively high-end applications.  The end result would be the number of frames rendered/total time which will equal frames/second.

 

 

 


            Weighted Geometric Mean - Higher Scores Are Better

Here we see the Quadro FX 2000 take the lead by a large margin in the DesignReview-09 viewset, besting the ATi card by over 50%.  Functions such as triangle meshing, depth-buffering, and smooth-shading with one light source, are where the QFX 2000 shines.  The Data Explorer (dx-08) testing proved to be more of a draw, where the graphics subsystems are less stressed than is over all system bandwidth.  Finally, the Unigraphics Engine model (pictured above) proved to be right within NVIDIA's element, where the QFX 2000 outpaced the FireGL X1 with a 45% margin lead.

 

            Weighted Geometric Mean - Higher Scores Are Better

 

In this series of tests, we see much of the same picture that we saw in the other three previous viewsets.  ProEngineer, with its Sports Car model pictured above, in three different modes, shaded wireframe and HLR (hidden line removal), proved to be the Quadro FX 2000's strong suit by a long shot, besting the ATi card by over 60%.  Then Discreet's Lightscape lighting radiosity performance was more of a horse-race, with the Light-06 scores coming within 5% or so of each other.  And once again, as we have shown in our 3D Studio Max 4.2 test in of earlier SPECapc numbers, the Quadro FX 2000 aces out the ATi FireGL X1 by a significant margin, in the 3D Studio Max 3.1 version test that SPECviewperf runs in its benchmark suite. 

What's interesting to note in all of the SPECviewperf tests, is how balanced the NVIDIA Quadro FX 2000 is across many different applications.  When it lost to the ATi card, it didn't lose by much but when it decided to step out and take the lead, as it did in the 3D Studio Max, Pro-E, UGS and DRV-09 tests, it did so in a big way.  Again, since we're fully aware of the hardware level capabilities of the ATi card, with its robust R300/FGL9700 based core and strong memory bandwidth, one can only point to drivers as the bottleneck and ultimately what is holding the FireGL X1 back from being all it can be.

 

Final Analysis
Sizing It Up

Conclusion Update - September 4, 2003

In our little round-up we've shown you here today, there are definitely some patterns that have developed and conclusions we can draw from the performance measurements we took in each of the benchmarks.  First and foremost, it's obvious to see that the NVIDIA Quadro FX 2000 is a currently a considerably faster card than the ATi FireGL X1, as it was able to beat out the ATi card in every single test, with the exception of the Gaming Benchmarks and those are hardly all that meaningful for a Pro Graphics solution.  Then their is the issue of driver optimizations for each of the specific Pro Graphics applications we tested.  You see, unlike the Consumer Graphics space, application specific driver optimization is a openly discussed strategy that all major hardware OEMs practice.  Additionally, since there are far fewer of these applications to support, versus the hundreds of thousands of PC Games on the market, it's much easier to support and continually optimize drivers for Pro Graphics applications and next generation graphics hardware architectures.  And here is where clearly NVIDIA's product shines.

Although the ATi FireGL X1 was able to show it is a very capable card, with respect to rendering models and lighting, as it displayed with its prowess in the gaming benchmarks, the Quadro FX 2000 muscled out the FireGL X1 in every Pro Graphics test, due to it's stronger more configurable driver suite.  In the end, it all depends on which applications are most important to you.  If your an Engineer working with SolidWorks 2003, then the FireGL X1 may be a decent solution, since the ATi card is within striking distance here.  However a 3D Artist working with 3D Studio Max should look to the Quadro FX 2000 for its strength in this application.  Additionally, the NVIDIA Quadro FX 2000 has proven self to be a slightly more balanced, well rounded card in the Pro Graphics arena, versus the ATi FireGL X1. 

On the other hand, one aspect to consider, cost, is the same issue we keep coming back to with Pro Graphics cards.  At this point in time, various price search engines have the ATi FireGL X1 listed at or around $530.  Conversely, the NVIDIA Quadro FX 2000 is listed at no less that $1250.  So with this in mind, the FireGL X1 price/performance ratio is rather compelling, at less than half the cost of the competing NVIDIA product.

And finally, the fight is not over yet (is it ever?).  The ATi FireGL X2-256 is right around the corner and the Quadro FX 3000 is here now at HotHardware spinning models as we write this article.  Stick around, this should get even more interesting in the weeks ahead.

 

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