Computer Graphics World

May 2010

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By GEORGE MAESTRI Graphics Card Quadro FX 3800 N vidia’s Quadro line of professional graphics cards is always one of the best on the market. Te cards push the limits of what worksta- tion graphics can do. Te cards run the gamut from entry level all the way up to some of the fastest graphics hardware available. Te Quadro FX 3800 is Nvidia’s top midrange card, and it offers some new features and a significant performance boost over the previous-generation card. Te Quadro FX 3800 is full length (be sure your motherboard has clearance) and occupies a single PCI Express slot. Te card is a little thicker than a standard card, and the entire top of the card is covered with an attractive aluminum heat sink and fan. Additional power through a standard six-pin connector is required. Te card is Energy Star-compliant, however, so it won’t use this additional power un- less required. Connectors on the card have changed a bit. Tis iteration has only one dual-link DVI connector (as opposed to two on the Quadro FX 3700) but adds two DisplayPort connectors, which is the emerging standard and also adds DRM to the mix. Te card runs fairly quiet. Nvidia rates the card’s noise level at below 40 decibels. Tis can be very nice for those of us who like our systems to be seen but not heard, particularly those who also do audio along with their video. Once the card was installed inside a case, I found it to be very peace- ful—not a peep from the card escaped the computer case. Te card also runs fairly cool, so additional cooling fans for the case are not required, again keeping noise to a minimum. Te Quadro FX 3800 is configured using Nvidia’s control panel, which gives users robust control over the card and OpenGL settings. One of the nicer features is the option to let the 3D application decide the appropriate OpenGL settings for the card. Tis is driven by Nvidia’s Application Configuration Engine (ACE), which automatically config- ures the graphic hardware for whatever software application is chosen. If you’re switching between applications, such as a CAD program and a 3D authoring package, you won’t have to reset your settings every time you start a new application. Other features of the control panel include options for color correction and application-specific overrides to the default OpenGL settings. For those using Autodesk’s 3ds Max, the card comes with a special set of drivers used to accelerate that application. Quadro FX 3800 $1599 (retail), $899 (street) Nvidia 30 May 2010 cap As for the guts of the card, the specifications of the Quadro FX 3800 show the inevitable march toward more, better, and faster—which is standard practice in the graphics card business. Compared to its pre- decessor, the Quadro FX 3700, the 3800 doubles the GPU memory to 1gb of GDDR3. Te QuadroFX 3800 also increases the number of The Nvidia Quadro FX 3800 has double the GPU memory as the 3700, its predecessor, making it a good choice for graphics and video encoding, thanks to an optional SDI video add-on. processor cores to 192, and adds the option of an SDI video add-on, which allows for high-end professional video out- put in 8-, 10-, or 12-bit formats. Te SDI daughter card can be used for real-time broadcast applica- tions, such as greenscreen and weather reports, but also for real-time compositing and other applications. Te fact that SDI is available on this level of graphics card is also nice from a budget standpoint. Tose who are using the card for video applications will not only be happy with SDI, but also with the additional processing power of the card. Te extra GPUs give the card power that can be used for graphics as well as for other tasks, such as video encoding. For artists who do a lot of video editing and encoding, Nvidia is offering Elemental Accelerator, which is a video processing plug-in for Adobe Premiere Pro CS4. Te application leverages Nvidia GPUs to dra- matically speed video decoding, processing, and encoding to H.264 and MPEG–2, with acceleration up to 10 times that of CPU-based encoding. Tis is one place where the parallel processing power of the GPU really shines through. For those running multiple operating systems, particularly people on

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