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By GEORGE MAESTRI Graphics Card need stability and compatibility with a wide range of professional DCC applications, such as CAD, 3D modeling, simulation, and game design. Tese applications require good support for OpenGL and the ability to handle large data sets. Tese requirements are different from those of gaming cards, so professional graphics cards, such as Nvidia’s Quadro series, are a much better choice for these tasks. At SIGGRAPH 2010, Nvidia announced a whole new line of professional workstation graphics cards. Tese are the first to use the new Fer- mi architecture, which debuted in Nvid- ia’s high-end gaming cards about a year ago. Tese cards represent the state of the art in professional graphics performance for workstations. Nvidia’s workstation cards have undergone a slight branding change since the last generation’s Quadro FX cards. Gone is the “FX” designation, leaving the new cards with just the “Quadro” name and model number. Tis is prob- ably because “FX” suggests the cards are for special effects, which they can certainly do, but they also have a lot of roles outside of entertainment, including architecture, engineering, and anywhere else large amounts of data need to be displayed. Te new cards are the Quadro 4000, with 2gb of video memory and 256 cores; the Quadro 5000, with 2.5gb of memory and 352 cores; and the top-of-the-line Quadro 6000, with a whopping 6gb of memory and 448 cores. Te Quadro 5000’s Fermi architecture is an evolution of Nvidia’s CUDA core, which has made each core more CPU-like with the ad- dition of fully supported integer functionality. Tis further blurs the line between the GPU and CPU, allowing the graphics card to take on tasks normally reserved for the CPU. Tis new architecture allows for a lot of new functionality. Probably the most notable example of this is the Mercury Playback Engine, which is part of Adobe’s Premiere Pro CS5 video editing application. Te Mercury Playback Engine, when combined with a suitable Nvidia card, significantly speeds up edit- ing, color correction, and com- positing. Editors can now work with HD footage having multiple layers and effects in real time. Tis allows desktop workstations to approach the speed and function- Quadro 5000 $2295 (list) Nvidia Quadro 5000 Y our computer is never fast enough. Tat’s just one of those basic facts of life for anyone who creates images and graphics for a liv- ing. Tese professionals certainly need raw speed, but they also The latest Nvidia profes- sional workstation graphics cards are the first to utilize the new Fermi architecture. ality only previously found in high-end film editing suites. Other Adobe applications, such as After Effects and Photoshop, also offer Nvidia GPU acceleration. In addition, real-time raytracing has seen a lot of im- provements with the new architecture. Nvidia’s new Iray engine lever- ages the Mental Ray rendering technology that Nvidia received when the firm acquired Mental Images a few years ago. Tis has become part of Mental Ray 3.8 and should hopefully find its way into the 3D and CAD packages that support Mental Ray. Moving to the hardware, the Quadro 5000 itself is a double-width card, with a hefty heat sink and fan taking up the top of the circuit board. For power, the card uses a six-pin power supply connector and needs about 150 watts to run. Te back of the card has a dual-link DVI port as well as two DisplayPort connectors. Tose with newer monitors will be able to use the DisplayPort connectors, which re- semble HDMI cables, but offer much higher resolution. While the card technically has three monitor connectors on the back, only two can be active at a time. Also on the back is a 3D stereoscopic connector, which is becom- ing increasingly important with the boom in 3D content. Te Quadro cards now support 3D Vision Pro, an upgrade to the current 3D Vision technology that allows for longer range, less crosstalk, and bidirectional communication so the hub will know if the glasses are working. Te card also has a connector on the top that can be attached to October 2010 45

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