Nvidia launches new Quadro workstation graphics hardware with 3D glasses

Making a move to seal its control of the high-end of the visual computing market, Nvidia is launching super-fast graphics chips and 3D glasses for visualization workstations today.

The new Quadro line of workstation products are based on the code-named Fermi graphics chips that the company launched in the spring. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Nvidia is spreading the Fermi graphics chips throughout its product line. It came out with a hot line of chips for gamer PCs first, then launched low-end game chips, and now is moving into the high-end professional workstation market. Coupled with Nvidia’s 3D Vision Pro glasses, engineers can use the workstations to fully visualize what they see in their imaginations.

Nvidia dominates the workstation graphics market, which is expected to hit about $2.35 billion in 2010, according to Nvidia’s own estimates and market researcher IDC.

The company made the announcement at the Siggraph academic graphics conference today in Los Angeles. Nvidia is taking its stereoscopic 3D glasses, created in the past couple of years for games, into the computer workstation market, where the glasses can make it easier to design 3D objects and collaborate on design projects. Meanwhile, the Quadro add-on graphics boards will produce the fastest workstation graphics on the planet, said Jeff Brown, general manager of the Quadro business for Nvidia. The workstations with the Nvidia Quadro Plex 7000, Quadro 6000, Quadro 5000, or Quadro 4000 graphics chips are targeted at designers, engineers, researchers and animators.

The new Quadro graphics cards can perform five times faster on 3D applications and run up to eight times faster for computational simulations compared to Nvidia’s last generation of Quadro products. The Quadro 6000 can process 1.3 billion triangles per second. That means it can set up a 3D scene extremely fast. Nvidia has been making Quadro graphics workstation products for more than a decade, and it has a five to 10 times lead in unit sales on Advanced Micro Devices at any given time. As it climbs up the computing ladder, Nvidia is adding new capabilities such as error correction codes memory and IEEE double-precision floating point performance. Those features matter to scientists and engineers working on problems in medical imaging, finite element analysis and computational fluid dynamics.

Special effects firm Industrial Light & Magic is already using the Quadro graphics chips and is seeing improvements of 10 to 15 times in its processing of animated film scenes that include complex images such as dust, fire, and air simulations, said Olivier Maury, a research and development engineer at ILM, which was started by Star Wars film maker George Lucas. Nvidia is also providing the software that the graphics hardware needs to make big advances in graphics processing, said Rob Enderle, analyst at the Enderle Group.

The products range in capability, with the Quadro 4000 using 256 cores, or processing brains, for non-graphics CUDA processing. The high-end Quadro Plex 7000 has 896 CUDA cores. Prices range from $1,199 for the Quadro 4000 to $14,500 for the Quadro Plex 7000. Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo, Boxx Technologies and NextComputing will offer computers using Nvidia’s Quadro graphics hardware.