PRODUCT: 3Dlabs Wildcat Realizm 800
WEB SITE: www.3dlabs.com
- Multiple processors onboard
- Can drive two HD displays
- 640MB of memory
There are three real players left in the game of producing professional level 3D graphics accelerators: Nvidia, ATI Technologies and 3Dlabs. Each company offers a range of products to suit various price/performance points. Within these ranges you often hear the terms "entry-level," "mid-range," "high-end" and "ultra high-end." These terms give you general guidance as to the price/performance point for any given graphics accelerator, but caution should be used as these terms are somewhat relative. Often Brand X's "high-end' may be more akin to Brand Y's "mid-range." In all cases, as I've stressed in my reviews over the years, check actual performance specifications at www.spec.org.
WE MEAN ULTRA!
This review is about what 3Dlabs calls its "Ultra High-End" Wildcat Realizm 800. What they mean by this is quite simple: as the term "ultra" means beyond, so the Wildcat Realizm 800 is touted to be beyond the high-end, to the highest of the high. Clifton Robin, brand manager for 3Dlabs, makes it quite clear what he thinks when he says,"The Wildcat Realizm 800 is the fastest and most powerful graphics accelerator on the planet - period."
Well, there is something to be said for believing in your product. Considering that only three players remain left in the professional 3D graphics game, I thought it would be interesting to take the Wildcat Realizm 800 for a little test run.
Before I get into the results of that test run, let's just quickly cut to the chase and state who any real competitors are in this 'ultra high-end" rarified air. ATI's current best card, which they label as "high end," is the FireGL V7100. Though this card is outstanding, and certainly qualifies as high-end, it falls just a bit short of that "ultra" status. So what of Nvidia? Their "ultra-high end" card that would be most comparable to the Wildcat Realizm 800 is the Quadro FX 4400. I have not yet reviewed this Nvidia board, but based on the Wildcat Realizm 800's greater memory and multiple VPUs and VSU, a future side-by-side comparison of these two products could prove interesting.
MULTIPROCESSORS ON ONE BOARD
In holding the board, one of the first things you notice is its impressive size and weight. This is a full-length PCI Express board, and before you consider buying it, make certain that your motherboard and chassis have room and that the power supply is adequate. I would suggest checking out 3Dlabs' Web site (www.3dlabs.com) or talking to someone in tech support to make certain the system you plan to mount this card onto will work. The substantial feel to this board goes back to the fact that the Wildcat Realizm 800 has two Visual Processing Units (VPUs) which are joined by an additional Vertex Scaling Unit (VSU). To complement these three processors is an amazing industry leading 640MB of memory. There are many other impressive specs on this accelerator, and rather than take the space in this review spouting statistics, I again suggest visiting the 3Dlabs Web site.
GETTING REAL WITH MAYA
For me, all the potential power of the Wildcat Realizm 800 comes down to this: how does it perform when running OpenGL-enabled professional 3D applications such as Alias Maya? I tested it with Maya 6.5, running on a dual AMD Opteron system with Windows XP. I was stunned at the results. The card successfully rendered complex models with shading, painting, texturing and lighting - all in realtime at extremely high resolution and color depth levels. Your creativity will be accelerated - I guarantee it. It was hard for me to pull myself away; just playing with ideas at high quality shading was so much fun. Other professional accelerators I've reviewed certainly offer some realtime shading, but not at this level of quality and speed.
As 3Dlabs' Clifton Robin put it, "We make products that allow professionals to be both more productive and more creative. This is ultimately what the power of the Wildcat Realizm 800 comes down to - being a productive tool for our customers."
OTHER DISPLAYS OF POWER
For those of you not into Maya, but still curious about the power of the Wildcat Realizm 800, here's another example of what this accelerator can do. While other high-end boards offer the ability to link outputs together to drive one HD display, such as Apple's 30-inch HD Cinema display, the Wildcat Realizm 800 can not only do this, but can simultaneously drive two of them. That right - a dual, dual-link.
With an MSRP of $2,799, this is definitely a product for the serious professional and those who simply demand the ultra performance this accelerator delivers. If you make money creating digital content using OpenGL-enabled applications, you know full well that time is money. You will be more productive and potentially more creative by tapping into the visualization power of the Wildcat Realizm 800.