NVIDIA Quadro 4000 for Mac: Smaller, Faster, Better

I was impressed enough last year when NVIDIA® released the Quadro FX 4800, a video card that radically improved performance in tandem with Premiere Pro CS5‘s new Mercury Playback Engine. You can see my review of the Quadro FX 4800 for Mac here along with my review of Premiere Pro CS5 and After Effects CS5. But I was surprised late last year when NVIDIA released the Quadro 4000 for Mac and boasted even more impressive specs.

The Quadro 4000 and other new Quadro cards use a new NVIDIA GPU architecture called Fermi, and NVIDIA seems to have shattered previous limitations in video performance and rendering. Compared to the Quadro FX 4800, the Quadro 4000 offers 33% more GPU cores (256 versus 192), a 426% increase in precision (243.2 MFLops vs. 57.6 MFLops) and 2GB of RAM versus 1.5GB. The Quadro 4000 also costs $600 less and uses 8W less power. I’m not an expert on the technical details of CUDA and GPUs, but most computer users will say that a product with more processor cores and more memory for less cost is a definite improvement.

The most noticeable difference between the Quadro FX 4800 and Quadro 4000 is that the Quadro 4000 is half the size and requires only one card slot in your Mac. The Quadro FX 4800 requires two—the monitor ports are stacked on top of one another, and both are DVI connectors. The Quadro 4000, in contrast, has a DVI and DisplayPort connection side by side. Terry White, Adobe’s Worldwide Creative Suite Design Evangelist, has a good photo of the two cards side by side, with the ports visible. Terry doesn’t mention in his article that the Quadro 4000 ships with an optional 3D stereo connector that mounts on top of the card and uses a second card slot. I installed that as well so I wouldn’t have to hunt for a card slot cover, and if I ever get into outputting video for 3D TVs and displays I’ll be prepared.

The Quadro 4000 is small enough to require only one card slot, but the optional 3D connector takes up a second slot. The connector bracket sits on top of the card and a cord connects it to the card. You can see an image of this configuration at Amazon.com.

The Quadro 4000’s performance gains are hard to compare to the Quadro FX 4800’s because both produce phenomenal improvements. Both can play back projects with multiple simultaneous HD videos and effects, and I didn’t try adding more and more elements until one started to show the stress. Terry calculated the performance difference between the two to be around 10 percent, which is probably about right.

Users who invested in a Quadro FX 4800 last year should rest assured that their card matches with the latest NVIDIA has to offer the Mac. Those who didn’t buy the Quadro FX 4800 have even less of an excuse to turn down the Quadro 4000, which is priced at $1,199 but I see them listed at Amazon.com at under $800. I’m also glad NVIDIA has kept a DVI connector on the card but also implemented a DisplayPort, which is the next generation of display connections. The Quadro 4000 ships with a DVI-DisplayPort adapter and also a DisplayPort-Mini DisplayPort adapter.

NVIDIA Quadro 4000 for Mac
US$1,199 (under $800 at Amazon)
Rating: 10/10