This year, PCI Express truly has taken the graphics community by storm. The technology, although less than one year old, already is poised to replace AGP as the standard graphics bus for the PC. As such, a whole new crop of graphics cards has been released to take advantage of the technology. Now shipping, 3Dlabs’ Wildcat Realizm 800 brings the Wildcat line of cards to the PCI Express bus. The Realizm 800 takes advantage of PCI Ex-press to provide excellent performance.
3Dlabs has been in the graphics business for quite some time, and the Wildcat line of cards has a stellar past, starting its life under Intergraph and continuing with 3Dlabs to the present. Wildcat cards have historically been at the cutting edge of technology, and the Realizm 800 is no ex-ception. This new card lives up to its lineage and is, without a doubt, one of the fastest cards on the market today.
|The Wildcat Realizm 800 tops out 3DLabs’ line of professional graphics cards by providing fast performance, making it a powerful solution for 3D authoring.
Two visual processing units (VPUs) and a vertex/scalability unit (VSU) for geometry processing, as well load balancing, drive the Realizm’s graphics performance. This card has a whopping 640MB of RAM, which should be more than enough for most applications. The RAM is divided into 512MB of fast VPU RAM and 128MB of RAM for the VSU to cache instructions and geometry. All RAM in the system is GDDR3, which provides good throughput.
In terms of size, the Wildcat is the SUV of graphics cards. The card is not only full length, but also double width. The extra width is needed for the massive heatsink and cooling duct attached to the card. Make sure that the inside of your system has enough room for this large graphics card. I installed and tested the Wildcat board in a Hewlett-Packard xw8200 dual-Xeon workstation, and it fit like a glove.
The Realizm 800 requires a 16x PCI Express slot, which is the standard for graphics cards. In addition to the PCI Ex-press connector, the card requires additional power through a standard four-pin power connector. The card itself draws about 150 watts of power, so be sure to have a beefy power supply. On the back of the card sit two DVI ports, as well as a stereo connector. For those who work in real-time and video applications, 3Dlabs sells a Multiview add-on card to provide genlock, synchronized framebuffer swap, and synchronized refresh rate. It enables a card to sync with video, or multiple cards in multiple machines to operate in concert.
Software and drivers are provided on a CD, although the latest drivers are available via the 3Dlabs Web site. The card is supported under Windows XP and 2000, as well as Red Hat Linux. I tested a pre-release version of the card, and typical with new technology, I had a few software issues. But these were quickly solved by downloading the latest drivers and updating the BIOS to the workstation. Once I was up and running, the card performed well. Application performance also was smooth. I tested the card against several applications, including Alias’s Maya and Discreet’s 3ds max, and discovered no problems.
Display quality was excellent, and I liked the display manager that comes with the drivers. This feature provides the user a lot of flexibility when configuring multiple displays. On a single display, the Realizm 800 attains up to 3840x2400 resolution and can support the new high-end 9.2-megapixel displays.
To test the card’s raw performance, I benchmarked it using Spec Viewperf 8.0 on an HP xw8200 workstation. The Realizm 800 was particularly fast in the 3ds max and Maya tests, scoring 37.57 and 45.97, respectively. Another terrific score was 42.3 on the UGS-01 test, which simulates Unigraphics’ CAD application. The overall numbers were excellent, making the Realizm 800 the fastest OpenGL card I have tested so far.
Overall, 3Dlabs Wildcat Realizm 800 is a card aimed squarely at the high end. The card was exceptionally fast and perform-ed well in the 3D authoring applications I used to test it. It has a few drawbacks, such as its physical size and the price. At $2799, the Wildcat Realizm 800 is at the very top end of the pricing curve. You could get a card with slightly less performance for roughly half the price, but top performance never comes cheap. If you need extremely high-quality graphics with cutting edge performance, 3Dlabs’ Wildcat Realizm 800 is certainly a great choice.
George Maestri is president of Rubberbug, a Los Angeles-based animation studio specializing in character animation.
Minimum System Requirements:
Intel Pentium 4, AMD Athlon, or compatible processor, Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP or Red Hat Linux Enterprise Edition (3.0 or later), one 16x PCI Express slot with an adjacent empty slot for cooling, 150W power support, 512MB of system memory, and 25MB of free disk space.