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Product Review: 3Dlabs' Wildcat VP


December 15, 2002
 

The Wildcat VP is built around 3Dlabs' new P10 chip, a real-time multithreaded processor that allows you to run single or multiple accelerated graphics applications with increased performance. The Wildcat VP cards can address up to 16GB of virtual memory, with the cards having 64MB or 128MB of on-board memory. Therefore, these cards are not designed to improve performance on older machines, they are designed for machines with Pentium 4 or Xenon processors with lots and lots of RAM running Windows 2000 or XP. They will run on Windows 98 or ME, but it's not recommended.

The sheer beefiness of these cards is impressive. Not only can they run accelerated OpenGL in a dual monitor setup, but each monitor is capable of running in 2048x2048 resolution in 32-bit color. In addition, if you have LCD shutter glasses, there's a stereo output allowing you to run an OpenGL application in stereo.

For those of you running modeling applications that support lights, the Wildcat VP line supports 24 hardware-accelerated lights. The Acuity driver interface lets you select performance options for either high texture requirements (as in a modeling application) or lots of geometry.

There are four Wildcat VP models, from the new low-end VP560 ($249) to the ultra-high end VP870 ($1,199), with the differences being in speed and memory configurations.

These cards are fully DirectX 8.1-compliant, and they will have DirectX 9 drivers. The major DirectX 9 features that the Wildcat VP doesn't have are 2.0 pixel shaders (they do support 2.0 vertex shaders) and floating-point pixels. This means that there's no hardware support for the extended precision color operations that require 64- or 128-bits-per-pixel color space.

OpenGL support, as you might guess, is excellent. The most interesting aspect is that 3Dlabs and ATI are the driving forces behind the OpenGL 2.0 specification, and 3Dlabs has a set of prerelease drivers available. All of the specifications can be found at www.3dlabs.com/
support/developer/ogl2/index.htm
.

If your day-to-day activities include working on modeling in 3DS Max or Maya, or you're looking for a high-end graphics card for that über-work PC, or you're looking to try out the latest OpenGL shader language, then the Wildcat VP deserves serious consideration.


Wildcat VP

3Dlabs

Price: $240 to $1,199 (MSRP) depending on speed and memory configurations.

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