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Due to a number of successful investigations carried out by our team and our colleagues from site, we were lucky to get the opportunity to test the professional R300 based FireGL X1 and FireGL Z1 graphics cards. (see the news story called "Modify the Gaming Cards on ATI Chips into Professional Ones!" for more information). These graphics cards are close relatives of RADEON 9700/Pro and RADEON 9500 and differ from the latter solutions only by the jumper set into the "professional" position and new BIOS. Read more about it here.

As you remember, NVIDIA built Quadro/2/3 from their GeForce/2/3 by resetting the appropriate jumper defining the graphics card ID. ATI seems to have chosen the same way in case of its R300 graphics cards. We are first of all interested in the performance of these graphics cards in 3ds max 5 professional software set. X1 differs from Z1 by the use of 8 pipelines instead of 4, which should theoretically tell on the results of texture tests, and at the same time both professional graphics cards differ from the gaming ones by their drivers, which are optimized for professional applications. To make this comparison more exciting, we decided to add the results obtained by the latest NVIDIA graphics solutions: GeForce4 Ti4600 and Quadro 4 900XGL. The results of the latest professional FireGL 8800 solution from ATI are also there.

Testbed and Methods

To perform the tests I decided to use a set of benchmarks recommended by the 3ds max 5 developer company.

Here is our testbed configuration:

  • Intel Pentium 4 2.8GHz CPU;
  • ASUS P4PE mainboard;
  • 1024MB PC2700 DDR SDRAM;
  • RADEON 9700 Pro (325MHz/620MHz), RADEON 9500 (275MHz/540MHz), FireGL X1 (325MHz/620MHz), FireGL Z1 (275MHz/540MHz), NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti4600 (300Mhz/600MHz), NVIDIA Quadro 4 900XGL (300Mhz/600MHz), FireGL 8800. All the cards were equipped with 128MB graphics memory;
  • 20GB IBM DTLA 7,200rpm HDD.

We used the following software:

  • Windows XP SP1;
  • 3ds max 5 (OpenGL rendering), 1280x1024 32bit.

The tests were run with the following settings:

  • Background Texture Size: 512x512
  • Texture Size: 256?256
  • Texel Lookup: Nearest
  • Mipmap Lookup: None
  • Display wireframe objects using triangle strips: No
  • Use triangle strips: Yes
  • AntiAliased Lines: No

Besides that, the texture filtering parameters by Quadro 4 were set to Nice/Necest, as only in this case the picture quality provided by NVIDIA's solution corresponded to that provided by ATI cards.


Benchmark 1

This benchmark checks if the graphics card is capable of refreshing more than one viewport in 3ds max simultaneously. There is some animation played in all viewports, and to load the graphics accelerator even more each viewport is displayed in a different mode: from Wireframe to Smooth + Highlights.

  • Polygons: 40088;
  • Light source: 2;
  • Mode: Wireframe, Smooth + Highlights, Smooth + Highlights + Edged Faces.

Benchmark 2

Here the graphics cards have to work with animation in a single viewport. During the test the camera is flying above the rocks and hills of the moon surface landscape, which is built by 400 thousand polygons displayed in Smooth + Highlights mode.

  • Polygons: 400008;
  • Light source: 1;
  • Mode: Smooth + Highlights.

Benchmark 3

This test is none other but the same moon surface picture from the previous benchmark. However, besides the landscape itself, we now have some flying objects, like pace crafts or planes.

  • Polygons: 742128;
  • Light source: 1;
  • Mode: Smooth + Highlights.

Benchmark 4

This benchmark deal with the processing of multiple light sources. Since most graphics cards do not support more than 8 light sources, this test as well as the next two work with 8 lights of different types. Here we will have 8 SpotLight light sources, which move and light some geometrical object.

We should point out that imitating the effect made by SpotLights is a much more resource-hungry process than the imitation of Omni or Directional lighting.

  • Polygons: 60500;
  • Light sources: 8;
  • Mode: Smooth + Highlights.

Benchmark 5

Here we have the same object, but this time it is lit by 8 Directional lights. Directional lights in 3ds max 5 are the fastest unlike the previous package version.

  • Polygons: 60500;
  • Light source: 8;
  • Mode: Smooth + Highlights.

Benchmark 6

Again we've got the same object and 8 light sources. But this time these are all Omni lights, which involve average resources between SpotLight and Directional lights described above.

  • Polygons: 60500;
  • Light source: 8;
  • Mode: Smooth + Highlights.

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