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September 2014
Issue: November 1, 2005

REVIEW: NVIDIA QUADRO FX 4500

By: Randall Simpson

PRODUCT: Nvidia Quadro FX 4500
WEB SITE: www.nvidia.com PRICE: $2,499

- 50% increase in raw processing power
- Two dual-link, high-resolution (3840X2400) outputs
- 33.6 GB/s memory bandwidth and IEEE 32-bit floating point throughout

At their labs in Santa Clara, CA, the R&D team in Nvidia's workstation products division work hard to push technology to the limits. They do this so digital content creators can push their creativity and applications to their boundaries.

It's a beautiful relationship. It's beautiful because each succeeding generation of graphics accelerator brings more realism, more realtime interactivity, and ultimately more freedom to create. Though it's hard to see a downside to this relationship, if there is one it would be that Nvidia's hyper pace at pushing technology to the limits means that someone, like me, might spend less time creating and more time keeping an eye out for the latest tools that help others to create. But the upside for me of course is that I get to play with these new goodies first, and new toys are always fun.

The latest goodie in the workstation product line is the Nvidia Quadro FX 4500. If you're a professional digital content creator doing 3D animation or other high-end graphics-intensive work, there's a good chance you already own a member of the Quadro family. It could be an older AGP-based product or an entry-level or mid-range product, but, either way, as I stated in the first sentence of this review, Nvidia is working hard to push the boundaries of what technology can do, and this is proven once more in their ultra-high-end PCI Express-based Quadro FX 4500.

10.8 BILLION TEXELS PER SECOND

First of all, what the heck is a texel? Some readers certainly know, but just in case, in simple terms it's the smallest unit of a texture map, similar to pixels being the smallest unit of a rendered image.

They are the fundamental building blocks for making up 3D scenes, and the Quadro FX 4500 delivers 10.8 billion of them in a second. It's an absolutely amazing number, especially when you consider that even Nvidia's own product that comes closest to this number is their ultra-high-end Quadro FX 4400, delivering 6.4 billion texels per second. When dealing with real uncompressed HD and film work, this number needs to be as high as possible and Quadro FX 4500 delivers big time. Some other attention-getting specs for the FX 4500 include 512MB ultra-fast GDDR3 memory, graphics memory bandwidth of 33.6GB/sec, IEEE 32-bit floating point (FP32) through the entire pipeline, 12-bit subpixel precision and hardware accelerated pixel readback performance of 2.4GB/s, offering faster graphics to system throughput. This last figure, while rather technical, allows the FX 4500 to render complex 3D scenes and video frames and store them in system memory in realtime - allowing content creators that realtime feedback that's essential for being maximally productive, creative and meeting tight deadlines.

WHEN DOES 1 + 1 = 4?

The FX 4500 comes with two dual-link connectors, meaning that it can provide ultra high-resolution output (3840x2400) to two HD monitors such as the Apple Cinema 30-inch. Now, using Nvidia's SLI technology, you can double your output performance by combining the output of two FX 4500's in the same workstation and displaying up to four Cinema 30-inch HD monitors! It takes a while to re-think your workflow paradigm when faced with this kind of multiple display high-resolution power, but just one simple example would be having multiple angle high-resolution full screen realtime previews when working in a 3D or compositing application. Think of the difference between that and the days of working with multiple angle wireframes!

PRETTY IMAGES, PRETTY CARD

When you connect your FX 4500 to a Cinema 30-inch monitor, as I did, sure enough, the images are stunning. Nvidia's high dynamic range (HDR) technology offers spectacular color range, depth and accuracy.

A bonus for me was actually when I unplugged the FX 4500 from the monitor and opened the HP 4300 workstation that I was testing it in and looked at the card itself. Besides the pretty images it creates, the FX 4500 just plain looks pretty. Though still taking up two card slots because of cooling fan intake, it has a very attractive design as its small cooling ducts wrap almost organically to the GPU. Though not a scientific process by any means, I've always felt that an elegant design on the outside often indicates an elegant design inside.

IS THE FX 4500 FOR YOU?

Keep in mind, the Quadro FX 4500 is Nvidia's top ultra-high-end graphics accelerator. This is the best of the best. If you do high-end 3D animation for film or HD work and have an older graphics accelerator, the Quadro FX 4500 will definitely make a difference in your creative workflow. A dual x16 PCI Express workstation will allow you to leverage Nvidia's SLI technology. At a suggested retail price of $2,499, the FX 4500 is obviously not an "entry level" product, but chances are, if you've read this far, your not an "entry level" professional, and you already know you need this product.