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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

NVIDIA Quadro 4000 for Mac
versus other top GPUs

Posted Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

There's a lot of interest in the NVIDIA Quadro 4000 for Mac. Even at $800 from discount sources, it's still almost twice the price of the ATI Radeon HD 5870 Mac Edition. So what is so special about it? The short answer in a word: "Fermi." That's what NVIDIA calls its GPU "architecture that incorporates CUDA parallel computing capabilities and advanced visualization to deliver performance that greatly accelerates professional workflows up to 8 times faster."

NVIDIA Quadro 4000 for Mac

Rather than posting results for the same old test apps -- the "usual suspects" -- we are expending extra effort to include apps which contain special code to take advantage of the Quadro 4000's unique architecture. For example, The Foundry's Kronos plugin for After Effects CS5 accelerates the retiming of HD video to do slow motion with motion blur -- but only if you have a Quadro 4000 (or similar GPU from NVIDIA).

Yet I know many of your are dying for some sense of its speed compared to other high-end Mac Pro compatible GPUs. So here's an appetizer.

SPECviewperf is a well known and respected graphics performance evaluation suite created by the SPECgpc group at It measures the graphics subsystem's performance and its impact on the system without the full overhead of an application. It should also be a good predictor of graphics application performance for applications that emit a similar OpenGL command stream when they are not bound by other subsystem bottlenecks.

It is what I call a "hybrid benchmark" in that it uses code from real world apps like Autodesk Maya and NewTek LightWave to form the synthetic benchmark. Why? So that it can isolate the graphics subsystem contribution and provide repeatable and reliable testing of specific graphics subsystem functions.

SPECviewperf measures performance for the following entities:
1. 3D primitives, including points, lines, line_strip, line_loop, triangles, triangle_strip, triangle_fan, quads and polygons
2. attributes per vertex, per primitive and per frame
3. lighting
4. texture mapping
5. alpha blending
6. fogging
7. anti-aliasing
8. depth buffering

Version 11 was released in late June, 2010. Among the major changes are a new GUI, fully updated viewsets traced from newer versions of applications, larger models, and advanced OpenGL functionality such as shading and vertex buffer objects (VBOs).

We tested using the Mac Pro Westmere 6-core at 2560x1440 (native resolution of the 27" LED Cinema display) with no anti-aliasing (since there was a variation in support for it in each card). We compared the Quadro 4000 for Mac to the three top performing GPUs for the Mac Pro. Since there is not a Mac OS X version of SPECviewperf, we ran it under Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit. In the table below, the numbers are frames per second. The red number is the fastest result for a given test.

SPECviewperf Radeon HD 5770 GeForce GTX 285 Radeon HD 5870 Quadro FX 4800 Quadro 4000
CATIA 7.0 5.8 7.5 23.7 36.9
EnSight 16.8 11.6 18.6 14.8 28.0
LightWave 25.4 12.2 26.0 54.5 56.0
Maya 6.0 5.0 8.4 46.2 72.1
Pro/ENGINEER 2.1 1.5 2.1 9.0 9.1
Solid Works 18.6 10.8 19.9 40.4 48.9
Siemens TCVIS 4.5 2.4 4.2 17.3 32.9
Siemens NX 8.1 5.2 12.1 17.0 29.7

ANALYSIS: The Quadro 4000 clearly dominates every phase of SPECviewperf.

... we get a different picture from FutureMark's
3DMark Vantage. We skipped the game tests and focused on the six special Feature Tests. For details on each test, see the bottom of THIS PAGE.

Vantage Radeon HD 5770 GeForce GTX 285 Radeon HD 5870 Quadro FX 4800 Quadro 4000
Texture Fill (GTexels/s) 31.6 24.1 62.9 17.7 14.1
Color Fill (GPixels/s) 3.8 7.4 7.6 3.4 3.6
Pixel Shader (FPS) 30.9 39.3 60.5 25.7 18.3
Windy Flag (FPS) 29.5 32.5 37.5 21.3 30.1
Particles Collide (FPS) 36.0 37.8 58.7 31.4 52.1
Perlin Noise (FPS) 86.5 45.5 171.1 29.7 34.1

ANALYSIS: The Radeon HD 5870 dominates in all Feature Tests of 3DMark Vantage.

You don't want you to jump to a premature conclusion based on the two benchmarks featured in this article. However, they do illustrate that the NVIDIA Quadro 4000 may or may not speed up your workflow depending on what applications you run.

In our next "Quadro 4000 versus Others" installment, we will show how it runs various real world pro apps under OS X including Adobe After Effects (with Kronos plugin), Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Color, Apple Motion, and others. Some of those pro apps are optimized for the Quadro 4000 for Mac. Some are not. Some functions within those apps are optimized. Some are not. Stay tuned to find out which is which.

Comments? Suggestions? Email , mad scientist.
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WHERE TO BUY THE QUADRO 4000 for MAC (and other GPU upgrades)
Four of the five GPUs featured in this article are available on the Apple Store USA online including the
NVIDIA Quadro 4000 for Mac. Clicking that link will help us earn a commission when you purchase one. For all other GPUs or Apple products, CLICK THIS LINK and use the "Search Store" box to find what you want.

Other World Computing is offering the Quadro 4000 for Mac for $928. They also have the Radeon HD 5870.

NewEgg has the PNY Quadro 4000 for MAC priced at $799.

The lowest price? Amazon has the PNY Quadro 4000 for Mac for $794 with free shipping.

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copyright 2011 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"