Introduction

With the leap in performance that both ATI and NVIDIA made in desktop performance earlier this year, we were very excited about diving into workstation performance once boards were available. As usual, their workstation parts trailed their consumer parts in hitting the market place.

We have also been very keen on seeing what the new architecture from 3Dlabs has to offer in the form of the Wildcat Realizm 200 part. This 512MB workstation card is equipped with plenty of processing power and supports VS 2.0 and PS 3.0 level functionality. In bringing more pixel shader feature set support to the table than ATI, the Realizm and Quadro have an early advantage. Of course, the true test will be done in our performance tests.

Performance testing workstation level hardware has been very tricky in the past, but with the release of SPECviewperf 8.0.1, we were able to get a little help. SPEC really improved the quality of their benchmark from previous versions. In our opinion, it's now more reflective of real world performance than what previous versions have been. Given the difficulty associated with testing applications manually, we welcomed the inclusion of SPEC in our test suite. SPEC traces are taken from real applications, and the OpenGL commands are issued to the card (without the application itself running). The viewperf test is the only "synthetic" test that we use; all other tests performed are benchmarked within the application itself.

Today, we will be looking exclusively at the AGP lineup. Part of the decision to focus on AGP first has to do with platform. We were unable to get our hands on the type of system that we wanted to run for our first workstation graphics review in a PCI Express flavor in time for this article. On the AGP side, however, IWill was very happy to provide us with their DK8N motherboard. The board supports 2 Opteron processors, and we wanted to make sure that our test bed had ample CPU power to allow the graphics card to shine.

Each vendor offers much more powerful PCI Express versions of their card. 3Dlabs goes so far as to offer a multi-chip solution with two GPUs and a third chip called a vertex/scalability unit that handles vertex processing and division of labor among the two GPUs. We are very interested naturally in testing performance on the PCI Express workstation side as well, and we plan on doing a follow up to this article that targets just that.

For this article, we will start by looking at the architecture of each workstation GPU. The ATI and NVIDIA parts are based around their desktop parts, but we will give them a proper dissection here as well. We've never taken a look at the architecture of the 3Dlabs Wildcat Realizm part before now, so we'll begin there.

3Dlabs Wildcat Realizm 200 Technology
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  • DerekWilson - Thursday, December 23, 2004 - link

    johnsonx,

    thanks for the suggestion. we're definitly exploring options for other workstation articles.

    since this is the first of the graphics workstation articles we've tackled in quite a while, we wanted to start with current technology (R4xx, NV4x, and WC Realizm based parts). There aren't curently lower end parts (with the exception of the Wildcat Realizm 100) based on the technology we tested for this article.

    thanks again. let us know if there's anything else we can look into doing for future reviews.

    Derek Wilson
    Reply
  • johnsonx - Thursday, December 23, 2004 - link

    How about benchmarking some of the lower Quadro and FireGL cards? ATI has the FireGL 9600 (aka FireGL T2-128), FireGL 9700 (aka FireGL X1), and FireGL 9800 (aka FireGL X2-256t) at $250, $500 and $600 price points repectively. Comparable Quadros are available as well.

    For many professional uses, a workstation class card (with attendant workstation class, certified drives) is desired, but ultra-high performance isn't important. It'd be nice to see the comparitive performance of the lower end cards.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, December 23, 2004 - link

    ksherman,

    You may have some luck with the 6600gt under AutoCAD, espeically if you don't intend to push the graphics subsystem as much as we did (no AA lines, less tess, etc...), but depending on the Pro/E workload, you may have trouble.

    The SPECviewperf veiwset tests a much larger workload than the OCUS benchmark. If you're working with smaller data, you should be fine, but if we're talking millions of verts, you're going to have increasing ammounts of trouble with a 128MB card.

    Derek Wilson
    Reply
  • ksherman - Thursday, December 23, 2004 - link

    You guys should throw in a few mainstream graphics cards for comparison. I am trying to build a systems whos primary use will be with Pro/Engineer and AutoCAD and i certainly do not have the money for a $1000+ video card. Im just wondering how the other cards match up (like the 6600gt AGP) Reply
  • Speedo - Thursday, December 23, 2004 - link

    Nice review! Reply

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