Nvidia Unveils New High-End Graphics Cards

Quadro series of graphics cards

The high-end cards are designed to tackle complex graphics applications, including automotive styling and design, oil and gas exploration, medical imaging, visual simulation and training, scientific research and advanced visual effects.

Nvidia Quadro FX 5600

The new line of graphics cards includes the Nvidia Quadro FX 4600 ($1,995) and the Quadro FX 5600 ($2,999). The cards support Shader Model 4.0, which allows for better performance and visual effects for OpenGL and DirectX 10 applications and will assist game developers in creating visual effects for Microsoft Windows Vista.

Depending on the application, the new Quadro cards provide performance improvements of nearly 100 percent, according to Nvidia.

Graphics cards have traditionally used a single pipeline to process graphical data, and resources that aren't needed at any point in time are left with nothing to do. The new Quadro cards contain 128 streaming processor cores that can be put to use where needed and as needed, either for graphics processing or for helping the main system CPU with floating-point intensive applications that might otherwise swamp the system.

Sponsored post

It basically works as a floating point co-processor. Of course, the applications must know that the GPU is there, but this will happen over time as software vendors start to take advantage of all the available processing power.

"Our new unified architecture can dynamically allocate compute, geometry, shading and pixel processing power for optimized GPU performance," said Jeff Brown, general manager of the Professional Solutions Group at Nvidia, Santa Clara, Calif.. "By using the processing resources more efficiently, there's nothing sitting idle."

Huge frame buffers enable the speedy processing of large textures and frames, which allows for better performance when zooming and panning high-resolution images. The Quadro FX 4600 has a 768-Mbyte frame buffer, and the Quadro FX 5600 has a 1.5-Gbyte frame buffer.

It should come as no surprise that the cards are power-hungry. The Quadro FX 4600 consumes 134 watts, and the Quadro FX 5600 consumes about 170 watts. So system builders should be sure to use a beefy power supply.

MARC SPIWAK is a technical editor for the CRN Test Center.