NVIDIA Quadro FX 3000

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The NVIDIA Quadro FX 3000 - Page 4


The NVIDIA Quadro FX 3000
NV35GL Based Pro Graphics

By: Dave Altavilla
September 10, 2003

We've utilized SPECviewperf version 7.1 in the following tests.  This is the most recent version of the benchmark and it has been updated with new workload scenarios, that are representative of today's multi-disciplined CAD and DCC environments.  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.



            Weighted Geometric Mean - Higher Scores Are Better

In the first set of viewperf benchmarks, we see the NVIDIA based cards, with the exception of the GFFX5900 Ultra, dominate the chart in two out of the three test runs.  Again, the picture is becoming clear that the GeForce FX product, in no way has been optimized or targeted for Workstation Graphics applications and the numbers show this boldly.  So, if you were expecting to get Pro Graphics performance on the cheap and work with a consumer level product, you'll have to re-think things a bit.  Beyond that, it is easy to see the strength of the Quadro FX product line in these applications.  However, the FireGL X1 actually put up a good fight in the Data Explorer viewset, besting even the Quadro FX 3000.  So if your gig is scientific data visualization and analysis, perhaps the ATi product and its more than attractive price point, is a good option for you.


            Weighted Geometric Mean - Higher Scores Are Better

Once again, the Quadro FX 2000 and 3000 cards take two out of the three tests, giving NVIDIA's product the lead in a total or 4 out of 6 SPECviewperf viewsets.  ProE is definitely an application where NVIDIA took the time to highly tune their drivers in an effort to drive performance.  In fact the Quadro FX 3000 bests a FireGL X1 by 65% in Pro Engineer.  So, for the masses using ProE as their mainstay tool (and there are many for sure), the Quadro FX 2000 and 3000 deliver on what you're paying for.  However, as it stands today, at least in the workloads generated by SPECviewperf, ProE users have little incentive to upgrade from a QFX 2000 to a QFX 3000.  The 3D Studio Max test seems to yield much the same result as well, with the QFX 2000 and 3000 boards right on top of each other.  On the other hand, as our previous SPECapc for 3DS Max 4.2 numbers prove out, future generations of these applications will most likely tax the graphics subsystem more and distance the Quadro FX 3000 from its mid-range sibling even more so.

An interesting note here is the FireGL X1's strength in the Light-06 test, suggesting that if a lot of shading and lighting is used in your daily tool-box, that perhaps the ATi product is a real sleeper behind its modest price tag.  Here the ATi product actually beat out the high end Quadro FX 3000 by a notable 6%.  While this isn't a huge margin, it does call to our attention, the possibility that the ATi card could have some innate strength in radiosity algorithms, shading and lighting.  Then again, it could be that NVIDIA's driver team hasn't set their sights on this application and as such, the drivers are holding the Quadro FX cards back somewhat.  We may look deeper into this in the future.


Final Analysis
Sizing up NVIDIA's Pro Graphics Flagship

At this point you've probably gotten the idea that the Quadro FX 3000 is targeted exclusively at the high end of the market and you would be perfectly correct.  The Quadro FX 3000 has an MSRP of $2295, which is a hefty price to pay for graphics card, considering the rest of your workstation probably doesn't even cost as much.  However, if you need this kind of performance and your project processing workloads scale exponentially, as they probably do versus the relatively small routines used in our benchmarks, then most likely the seconds saved in rendering times will add up to minutes and minutes add up to hours eventually.  As the saying goes, "time is money" and it just depends on the applications you run and how precious your time is, as to whether the NVIDIA Quadro FX 3000 is right for you.

The Quadro FX 3000, in general, is one of the fastest Workstation Graphics cards money can buy right now and the numbers we've shown you here today back that up.  There were only a few instances where ATi's offering was even in the ballpark performance wise. Then again, from a price point perspective, comparing a $500 FireGL X1 to a $2300 Quadro FX 3000, isn't exactly apples to apples.  Regardless, these are two of the top offerings from both camps, so we can only provide reference points based on the hardware that is available to us here.  The Quadro FX 2000 or even 1000 however, may also be better options for most designers and artists, with the performance of these cards falling within about 5 - 15% of the QFX 3000 but with a much more manageable price range.  All told however, we have to hand it to NVIDIA for delivering a product that brings best in class performance in these highly specialized and demanding CAD and DCC applications.  If every second counts, then open up those purse strings and belly up to the bar, because NVIDIA's Quadro FX 3000 can certainly serve up CAD and DCC Workstation performance.


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