nVidia launches 4GB beast

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Nvidia has again upped the ante in the professional graphics sector with the launch of a new monster of a board, which is likely to set you back around £2,000.

With 4GB RAM, the ultra high-end Quadro FX 5800 has the biggest amount of memory on any graphics card, doubling the previous 2GB record held by AMD’s ATI FireGL V8650. However, this amount of memory and the high-level performance that this card boasts, is only likely to appeal to a small proportion of users, with nVidia touting the medical imaging, oil and gas, and automotive styling sectors, as key markets. Additional interest is likely to come from high-end CAD and design visualisation users with products such as NX and 3ds Max, particularly if these companies need one or two top-end workstations to complement their mid-range machines.

Built using the nVidia’s parallel CUDA architecture, the Quadro FX 5800 is also set to play a key role in the company’s drive to move complex computational problems away from the CPU and onto the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit).

While nVidia has done much to promote this technology, which is specific to nVidia hardware, little progress has been made in the mainstream CAE sector, with the majority of developments coming in the more niche areas of science and finance.

One development that should help bring CUDA more into the mainstream, is the launch of nVidia’s new Quadro CX card, which is a dedicated graphics accelerator for Adobe Creative Suite 4. With the Quadro CX, CUDA is used to encode H.264 videos in Adobe Premiere at what is claimed to be lightning-fast speeds. The card also powers real time image manipulation in Photoshop for the first time, though this feature is actually supported by all OpenGL 2.0 compliant graphics cards.

While the £1,000+ price tag is likely to put off all but the most power hungry users of Creative Suite, nVidia Quadro supplier, PNY, told DEVELOP3D that this card would also deliver excellent performance in 3D CAD/DCC applications. This could make it an attractive proposition for design visualisation specialists who use Photoshop and Premiere alongside products such as 3ds Max.

At the other end of the spectrum, nVidia’s Quadro business is also concentrating on the lower end of the market with the launch of the Quadro FX 470, the company’s first integrated professional motherboard GPU, and Quadro FX 370 Low Profile (LP), an entry-level Quadro graphics board for small form factor systems. While Nvidia has not yet signed up any of the major workstation OEMs for the Quadro FX 370 LP and Quadro FX 470, specialist workstation manufacturer CAD2 told DEVELOP3D that it was currently investigating the new technologies and hoped to be able to offer small form factor workstations in the New Year.



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