While it's once every six months that NVIDIA graces the desktop world with a new graphics part, annually the professional world gets a dose of a new Quadro part. NVIDIA originally introduced the Quadro line with the release of their GeForce 256 GPU, although back then the Quadro GPU was nothing more than a higher clocked version of the GeForce 256 GPU with hardware AA lines support enabled.

The Quadro line has come a long way since its inception. When it first hit the streets the newcomer caused a bit of an uproar in the market since it was priced significantly lower than the competition while offering significantly higher performance. The biggest blow dealt to the competition was the fact that NVIDIA's Quadro was nothing more than a re-badged GeForce 256 at 3x the price yet still over 50% cheaper than the slower alternatives on the market.

The Quadro has brought NVIDIA immense success in the professional graphics market. During our briefing with NVIDIA they recited recent sales numbers placing the Quadro brand as being in over half of the x86 workstations currently on the market. Interestingly enough, the second runner up wasn't ATI or 3DLabs but Matrox. There are still a large number of workstations out there that aren't dependent on high-performance 3D graphics, and thus Matrox is able to survive without having released a significantly redesigned graphics core in almost three years.

One aspect of the Quadro's success has brought NVIDIA some grief; many protested the price premium the Quadro carried over the GeForce line by saying that the two chips were basically the same. Others found ways around NVIDIA's chipid scheme to effectively make GeForce based cards look, act and perform like Quadros. And finally there were those that saw what the Quadro offered and simply said no; for the first time a gamer's 3D card was actually used in quite a few budget 3D workstations as the GeForce line became just as much of a professional tool as a gamer's ally.

Just weeks after the spectacular launch of their GeForce4 and not so attractive GeForce4 MX series, NVIDIA has high hopes for their fourth generation Quadro series. The newly announced Quadro4 hopes to address the issues we just outlined; from loosening Matrox's grip on the x86 workstation market to better differentiating the Quadro and GeForce brands the Quadro4 attempts to do it all.

Just an expensive GeForce4?

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