Personalised productsATI and NVIDIA do not only develop professional products that anybody can find in shops. Both of them are able to provide personalized solution based on their GPU.
Obviously, these types of solutions are more expensive, since companies with very specific requirements generally require them.
An example, if you have looked at the pictures carefully, the FireGL V7100 PCB is able to include 512 MB even if no FireGL products with this amount of memory have been provided. The NV40/45 is able to support up to 2 GB of memory. It allows NIVIDA to meet some of the more specific requirements.
For quite some time now, ATI provides multi GPU solutions to Evans & Sutherland for flight simulators. NVIDIA announced, not so long ago, that Philips has contacted them for medical equipment. The graphic card professional market is simultaneously small and very far-reaching, this accounts for the price gap between general public, standard professional and specialized professional graphic cards.
Still on the subject of « options », NVIDIA has released a series of graphic cards with a Frame Lock and Genlock system to synchronize the image of several computers, in order to have a giant monitor. In other words, every professional market niche is interesting for ATI and NVIDIA and that makes sense since they generate nice profits and still manage to meet the customers’ requirements.
The same question keeps cropping up: is it better to buy an entry-level professional graphic card or a high-end general public graphic card for a computer used to play with, and to take the first steps in the 3D animation and modeling world. We feel that it is best to buy a GeForce 6800 GT, which has a broader range than an entry level professional graphic card such as the Quadro FX 540.
These graphic cards only come into their own in a professional environment and that is logical. The comfort gained thanks to improved performances, the options dedicated to graphic process application, the reliability improvement, and quality support are all more important factors than the quality/price ratio compared to general public products.
As an example: working on an important project without a smooth display of the application or with a lack of reactivity will soon reduce productivity, whereas a specially designed product, even if it is expensive and has a very low performance /price ratio compared to general public products, could solve these problems and provide a real bonus, whatever its cost.
Anyway, the initial target of this test was to decide between ATI and NVIDIA. There is no doubt that their professional range provides a bonus compared to general public products, but is a FireGL worth a Quadro, or vice versa? Our tests showed a strong domination of NVIDIA for performances and the NVIDIA OpenGL driver still benefits from industry recognition. There is no doubt that the best graphic card of this roundup is the Quadro FX 4400 and that the NVIDIA’s range generally performs better than ATI’s.
ATI has however a significant advantage: its price. Even if it is important not to keep in mind the usual price/performance ratio to evaluate these products. A FireGL V7100 is three times less expensive than a Quadro FX 4400! ATI seems to have decided to gain a few market shares by drastically reducing prices. All FireGL tested here include 6 vertex engines and this is the most important aspect for performances so it means that these graphic cards only cover a small part of performances. It also explains the small price range! The most interesting graphic card of the range is the FireGL V5000. It could be an even better product if it was equipped with 256 MB of memory and a more expensive power supply system on a level with its targeted market.
In the end it is clear that the Quadro FX 3400 and 4400 are only dedicated to a small number of users, who will choose them for specific reasons, including productivity and comfort gain. The Quadro FX 1400 and FireGL will meet the requirements for less specific performance searches, even if the choice for one or the other will have to be made according to the application used. For example, with Maya or a tool that only works with NVIDIA’s graphic card, the Quadro FX 1400 will be the obvious choice.
We will finish with a word about the FX 540 that gave us an overall good impression despite its situation compared to other graphic cards (which varies from the best to the worst). Thanks to NVIDIA’s extremely efficient drivers, it provides great performances in several situations but in other situation its entry level specifications aren’t enough to fill the gap. An entry level product is always a matter of compromise.