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NVIDIA Quadro CX Review and Adobe CS4 GPU Acceleration

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Manufacturer: NVIDIA
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The NVIDIA Quadro CX Card

Adobe CS4 and NVIDIA

I can remember quite vividly when NVIDIA first showed off some of the fruits of the relationship between itself and Adobe; at a press event that focused on the GT200 GPU architecture, Adobe showed off a program then known as 'Stonehenge' that later became part of Adobe's CS4 suite of products.  At this early demo NVIDIA and Adobe showed off improvements to Photoshop including zooming and rotating around an image that was nearly a 1GB in file size as quickly as we are used to doing with 1KB files today.  Though only a small portion of day during the GT200's unveiling, it really was one of the few parts that got me excited as a computer and technology advocate.

Since then much has changed and the world of GPU computing has been dramatically shifted.  Just recently I wrote an article that looked at the pair of video transcoding applications from NVIDIA and AMD that used their respective GPUs to greatly decrease the time required to move between video formats when compared to even the best CPU-based transcoders. Bother companies are promising and promoting other 3rd party applications that will utilize the parallel-processing power of the GPU to change the way we compute in our homes including software from CyberLink and Nero.

And, as it turns out, the Adobe team has spent quite a bit of time looking at how the GPU can improve their software and introduced some great feature and performance improvements to the latest CS4 editions of Photoshop, Premiere and even After Effects.  Today I am going to take you through some of these new software improvements as well as the hardware that brings them to professionals in the form of NVIDIA's Quadro CX graphics card.

The Quadro CX Graphics Card

The Quadro line is NVIDIA's brand for professional-level graphics boards for 3D and CAD designers as well as video and image editing users.  While the underlying technology behind the GPUs on each card are basically the same between the Quadro line and the GeForce desktop-based products, there are some important differences that should be noted, not the least of which is price.  The Quadro CX card we are testing with here today for example retails for $1999 - quite a bit of an increase over even the highest-priced GeForce card.  What do you get for that price difference? 

First, most Quadro cards will come with larger frame buffers than desktop cards to better situation the products for extremely large data sets.  The Quadro CX has 1.5 GB of on-board GDDR3 memory and some of the NVIDIA offerings go as high 4GB!  Some Quadro cards will offer SDI, a super high quality and uncompressed video stream, that desktop cards never will.  10-bit color per channel is also available on the Quadro CX while the desktop cards are running at 8-bits per channel at most; this can greatly improve color fidelity for professionals with appropriate monitors and displays.  These cards are also sold and supported directly through NVIDIA and as the level of support they bring is a large part of the cost differential we see.  Professionals demand results and answers right away - they are also willing to pay for it. 

The Quadro CX is built in a very familiar shape - similar to the GeForce GTX series of cards - and shares the underlying GT200 GPU technology as well.  The Quadro CX is in fact the first 55nm GT200b chip we have tested here at PC Perspective and we should soon be seeing these smaller and more power efficient chips in the desktop markets.  The GPU features 192 shader processors along with a 384-bit memory bus making it similar is specifications to the original GTX 260.

The back of the card also looks very similar to the cooler designs of the GTX 200-series. 

Because this card will find its way into professional's hands the output configuration is fairly different than what you would see on a consumer card and includes only a single dual-link DVI output but supplements it with a pair of DisplayPort connections.  The lone output along the heat exhaust is for stereo 3D!

The Quadro CX card supports NVIDIA SLI technology to double up on potential graphics rendering performance and even for GPU compute applications as well.


The Quadro CX card only requires a single 6-pin PCIe power connector - this is interesting because the GTX 260 consumer-level requires a pair of the power connections to run.  Why the difference in power consumption?  Thanks to the 55nm technology used on the Quadro CX card and the fact that these are likely highly binned GPUs the GPU in this part is likely one of the most power efficient of NVIDIA's GT200 GPUs you will find.

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