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Sun Microsystems

Sun's New Workstations and Graphics Cards 299

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the chasing-after-sgi dept.
An anonymous reader "Sun Microsystems has released the Sun Blade 2000 workstation, along with a new graphics accelerator, the XVR-1000. This could very well give SGI's lineup a run for its money in the CAD and Visualization fields, although its fillrate and 38-bit colour may make it less desirable for animation. Make sure to check out Ace's article. " (page down a couple times to read it)
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Sun's New Workstations and Graphics Cards

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  • How does that break down storage wise?
    • Re:38 - bit color (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sien (35268)
      From the Ace's article:
      Like the Wildcat II series we have reviewed in the past, the XVR-1000 is targetted towards the workstation market, and as such, there is a great deal of emphasis on image quality and accuracy. The board features 38-bit RBGA color (30-bit RGB + 8-bit Alpha), a 116-bit framebuffer, and 26-bit floating-point Z buffer.
      The Z buffer precision might actually be of use. There are people who do visualisation who care about this stuff. As for the color, does anyone know if you can actually see any difference there ? I mean - 24 bit color is 16M colors ?
      • Re:38 - bit color (Score:3, Informative)

        by Stiletto (12066)
        As for the color, does anyone know if you can actually see any difference there ? I mean - 24 bit color is 16M colors ?

        It's not about the number of colors, or whether you can see the difference. You want more bits of color precision for handling multiple lighting/shading/blending/etc. ops that happen throughout the rendering pipe, before the end result's precision is scaled down and displayed.

        For example, when adding more and more lights to a scene, you will eventually start clipping against those 24 bits of precision.

        I'd like to see 128 bpp internal rendering pipes and 128 bit Z buffers. It would take a lot to exhaust that kind of precision.
      • Re:38 - bit color (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LinuxParanoid (64467)
        Sun still has some customers in the 2D publishing space, who might use images scanned in or color-corrected with greater bit-depth precision.

        And theoretically, texturing-intensive entertaiment applications could use it for better results when blending multiple textures. But practically, fill rate is probably not strong enough for those guys to buy the XVR-1000.

        Basically, I think it's a penis-comparison match versus PC graphics. "My color depth is bigger than yours." Which Sun hopes will justify the higher price.

        It may hit a few niches, but its mostly irrelevant.

        --LP, who no longer knows the 3D gory details but still faintly remembers where the bodies are buried
      • Re:38 - bit color (Score:2, Informative)

        by subgeek (263292)
        it matters for print.

        it is difficult to get screen colors to match printed colors. they simply use different color space. (although you can simulate cmyk with rgb somewhat). and differences are easier to see in print. in 24 bit color there are 16M colors, but only 8 bits (256) of variation for each of the 3 primaries. this also one of the reasons that many scanners and printers are capable of more than 24 bit color.

        Then there's the alpha (transparency) that isn't considered at all in 24 bit RGB. so that matters, too.
      • > There are people who do visualisation who care about this stuff. As for the color, does anyone know if you can actually see any difference there ? I mean - 24 bit color is 16M colors ?

        Yes, 24 Bit color is 16M colors, but that is *inadequate* when you start talking about color gradients. 24-bit color has 3 color channels, each with 8-bit depth. That allows for 256 shades of *primary colors*, but the eye can detect millions of shades. A higher color bit depth has less banding issues.

  • Will Sun continue to make the old model?
  • This thing comes equipped with dual 1.05GHz Ultrasparc III CPUs. I guess these are Sun's answer to Intel's 64-bit CPUs.

    Personally, I'd like to see this and HP's PA-RISC architectures gain some footholds again. HP might be too far behind, but a 1GHz 64-bit CPU certainly isn't behind in technology.
    • by beamz (75318) on Friday March 15, 2002 @12:13PM (#3168420)
      Sun never needed to answer to Intel's 64bit cpus. Sun corners a market that Intel has not even begun to penetrate yet.

      Just the fact that Sun and Alpha have been doing 64bit years illustrates that fact.

      Also there is a little bit of a misconception here. They perform drastically different because of the SMP bus architecture and just the fact that it's CISC vs RISC etc.
      • Also there is a little bit of a misconception here. They perform drastically different because of the SMP bus architecture and just the fact that it's CISC vs RISC etc.

        I'd say this is the misconception. The advantages of RISC over CISC for an equivalent clock speed CPU actually vary significantly based on the TYPE of workload. A good example: a while back a customer was complaining that compiles went twice as fast on their HP PC platform (1GHz CPU) than they did on their Sun platform (450MHz CPU). Compiles are almost entirely CPU bound. Found numbers point out that the SPEC ratings for the 1GHz CPU were about twice those of the 450MHz. What a surprise.

        The thing is, the machine with the 450MHz CPU had 4 CPUs. If they had invested some effort in configuring a parallel make, the 450MHz machine with 4 CPU's would have approached being able to half the compile time of the single threaded make on the PC.

      • Actually, Sun has painted themselves into a corner. Sun used to be the de-facto standard for science and engineering. Nowadays, most scientists and engineers have a PC (often running Linux) or Mac on their desk and Sun only sells to a tiny high-end specialty market. Even in the big server market, Linux clustering beats Sun hands down for many applications in terms of bang-for-the-buck.

        64bit processing is not compelling enough to cause a lot of people to switch. With cheap memory, that will change over the next couple of years, but then AMD and Intel will have mature 64bit offerings.

        Sorry, but Sun has been steadily going downhill. They just don't have much of a market anymore.

    • I dont think that intel ever really had a question for Sun to answer. At 800MHz, Intel's 64it chip is slow in the all important MHz rating (sun has had 900's out for a while now) and still has a few years of compiler design ahead of it before it makes any sense. And this is Sun's 3+rd generation of 64 bit chips, vs Intel's 1st.

      As for HP, they helped intel build their 64 bit chip, so the PA-RISC is more or less dead.
  • by Tairan (167707)
    SGI is going bankrupt and hasn't released any new innovative products in years. I'd hope a new(er) sun box could beat them. It's only been on the drawning board for about two and a half years now. Then again, when they made a superiour operating system, they couldn't beat Microsoft. When they made a superiour processor, they couldn't beat Digital or Intel. So they probably won't beat SGI. As Sun is going right now, they themselves probably wont be around in a year or two. Thank you linux!
    • Sun couldn't beat Digital? I'm confused, I thought digital was getting beat, got bought out and their new parent company killed them. Intel has just started to enter the server market it a serious way, so your suggestion that Sun has already lost to them seems unfounded at best. Microsoft has a tiny share of the high end server market which Sun prefers, so I think the jury is still out on that as well. Is your whole arguement based on the fact that Sun isn't dominating the home computer market?
  • Mirror (Score:1, Funny)

    by Alan_Thicke (553655)
  • by eufaula (163352) on Friday March 15, 2002 @12:05PM (#3168356) Journal


    http://www.sun.com/2002-0314/feature/ [sun.com]

    The system ships with a 73gb fibrechannel harddisc, 900 or 1.05 UltraSparcIII (dual capable), and a gig of ram. nice box. It sets a world record in workstation performance (halfway down the press-release).
  • by qurob (543434) on Friday March 15, 2002 @12:05PM (#3168360) Homepage
    Not flame bait, but a legitimate question. What would someone be using a $34,000 workstation for? Even a $9,000 one?

    They can't possibly be selling THAT many of them.

    Anyone here using them? What for? Is a PC really not that powerful?
    • The article basically said there was 340 MB of various types of RAM onboard the graphics unit. Judging from that, the XVR is for high end graphics work which is why everyone is saying this is a challenge to SGI. The SunBlade 2000 is signicantly cheaper and is more of a normal engineer's workstation. So no, not a whole lot of ppl will get the 35K one. But those that do are probably in the habit of spending big chunks of change on graphics workstations.
    • by Dog-Cow (21281) on Friday March 15, 2002 @12:13PM (#3168418)
      Ford Motor owns about 7000 Suns, and still buys them. PCs just don't have the applications that CAD/CAM desisgners need to get real work done. There are some big software packages ported to Windows, like I-DEAS, Unigraphics, and Catia, but the whole workflow and ancillary apps are non-existant.

      • by Dirk Pitt (90561) on Friday March 15, 2002 @01:11PM (#3168797) Homepage
        This is true. And SGI certainly doesn't even have a large share of the MCAD market. Mostly Sun and HP/UX. SGI is a valid option, but doesn't touch the other two in terms of performance.

        As for PCs, NOBODY's doing large model work on them. Small shops might use them because they're economical, but no one would use a PC to work with multi-thousand surface/100k+ element geometry/FEM. Perhaps this is a Windows limitation, not hardware architecture; it's hard to tell because most of the big 4 (Catia/ProE/Unigraphics/Ideas) don't have a Linux port yet, AFAIK.

        • "as for pc's, NOBODY is doing large model work on them".

          Actually, yes, many companies, including the one I'm consulting for are switching to PC's for large geometry loads. Our test and evaluation guys are getting Win2K boxes on a daily basis. These machines in real benchmarks run faster than the Sun/SGI/HP machines. Some substantially faster.

          Most major software vendors are porting their CAD applications to PC's, because that's where the money is.

          There are a few bigger companies out there who are refusing to make the switch, but give 'em 10 years or so. As their competition saves a million dollars a year because they switched to PC's, they'll start to take notice...

    • by afidel (530433) on Friday March 15, 2002 @12:40PM (#3168576)
      Well we have a number of older Sunblades (1000's) and Ultra 60's (also workstation class) that we use for chip design. When trying to route some of our bigger asic's we use all 8GB's of ram in the 1000's. Show me an Intel workstsation that can handle 8GB of ram. Since these runs typically take days having even a single crash is unacceptable, and yes I know about checkpointing but afaik the tools from the chip factories don't do it, and even if they did that's a lame answer. For the most part it's about stability, and memory addressing not about raw cpu power (though since the jobs take days more cpu power is always apreciated =)
      • Yep, you have to have the right tool for the job.

        I also do chip design and we have been using Xeon with Linux for many applications. For cell level hspice and block level synthesis you can't beat the speed of the PCs.

        For top level jobs like extraction we need the ram.

    • by larien (5608) on Friday March 15, 2002 @12:43PM (#3168598) Homepage Journal
      Well, we've (i.e. an oil company) recently bought over 70 Sunblade 1000s for use in oil/gas exploration. Currently, there are a lot of applications which require the graphics throughput provided by Elite3d/Expert3d cards backed up by dual 64-bit CPUs which a wintel solution can't provide due to various factors, not least of which is bus bandwidth. Note that these cards use UPA slots, not PCI or AGP and most high-end Unix workstations come with 64-bit PCI which is much less common in the Intel based world (yes, I know they exist, but...).

      As for raw compute performance, if you believe Sun's SPEC ratings from their product site, a 1.05GHz SPARC CPU is only just lagging behind an Intel 2.2GHz PIV on integer performance and beating it on FP. As FP is what drive 90% of scientific applications, Intel hasn't got the SPARC beaten yet by a long shot (especially since you can get a 106-way SPARC box, but Intel is limited to 32-way last I heard).

      It's probably also worth noting that list price is rarely what a company will end up paying.

      • As for raw compute performance, if you believe Sun's SPEC ratings from their product site, a 1.05GHz SPARC CPU is only just lagging behind an Intel 2.2GHz PIV on integer performance and beating it on FP.

        Where do they claim that? According to the SPECcpu website, a 1.05 GHz SPARC III Cu gets 537 [spec.org] base SPECint and 701 [spec.org] SPECfp, while a 2.2 GHz P4 easily beats it with 790 [spec.org] SPECint and 779 [spec.org] SPECfp.

        Intel is way ahead in integer, and although the Sun catches up somewhat in FP, if you look at the individual results, it's entirely due to one massive spike on the art test. They recently figured out a (controversial [aceshardware.com]) compiler trick that gave them nearly an order of magnitude increase on that one SPECfp test, and doubled their overall SPECfp score. Sun are known for their stability & scalability, but not their CPU speed.

        Of course, if you have 106 [sun.com] of the things, that's different. But you'll be paying over US$4M for it, which isn't exactly workstation class anymore.

      • ...you can get a 106-way SPARC box, but Intel is limited to 32-way...

        Not only that, but the USIII can scale to >1000 CPUs in a system. Sun can just keep pushing out whatever size server the market needs; they have a lot of headroom that Intel just doesn't have.
      • Nevertheless, the price/performance ratio of Intel is better than that of the Suns. That is true also for parallel applications.

        What Sun gives you is a bit more performance per processor, or a bit more performance per multiprocessor box. But that is not usually a compelling argument, since big computations are usually distributed anyway, and it's still cheaper to build a 200 processor Beowulf cluster than to buy a 100 processor SPARC box. (The Beowulf probably also gives you better I/O and memory bandwidth overall.)

    • There are MANY uses for such a machine and this is the reason why Sun and SGI are still in business. Try medical imaging, combustion simulation, particle simulation, subatomic simulation, CAD/CAM design of complete/complex things like aircraft or automobiles, battlefield visualization etc etc etc....

      Many applications in the modeling/simulation end of things need to run for days or weeks and have system requirements for RAM that are not met by simple commodity PC hardware. The bounds are always going to be pushed and for many, fast Intel hardware does the job. But for those that are always pushing the boundaries and for those whose time is VERY important will go with the higher end hardware.

      Win2k has improved, but running compute intensive code even on the latest 2.2Ghz P4 with 1GB of RAM is too unstable and takes too long. Add to that M$'s lousy multiple monitor support.

      UNIX is where it is at for intensive computing. Yes, Linux is cheap and can be run on cheap hardware, but I can't get Linux boxes with 8GB of RAM, access to Firewire, and plug and play can be a nightmare. I want my workstations to be able to do it all from surfing the web, to writing papers, to modeling, to compute intensive algorithms over the weekend. For this I and others will pay more.

      My hope is that Apple takes the scientific computing thing seriously. OSX is a nice OS, but right now they just don't have the horsepower to make for a serious hardware competitor in the workstation market. If they can get the CPU's and bus speed up to snuff and pack in more RAM, I'll buy lots of shiny new Apples and others I work with will do the same.
    • Pixar is well known for using a farm of Sun rendering servers and workstations. This announcement is more nail in SGI coffin.

      PPA, the girl next door.
      • Pixar is well known for using a farm of Sun rendering servers and workstations. This announcement is more nail in SGI coffin.

        I was under the impression that they used SGI Octanes. (at least thats what the SGI rep that sold me my Octane said.) Anybody here know for sure?
        • They use BOTH Sun servers and SGI Octane 2 (hint: google search "pixar sun" then "pixar sgi". My original post was not denying Pixar using SGI. It just mean that Pixar has now more reasons to move to Sun entirely (which is a shame because I still prefer IRIX over Solaris.)

          PPA, the girl next door.
          • They use BOTH Sun servers and SGI Octane 2

            Ahh, I recall now, the rep told me they used the Octanes for rendering farms. The real issue for Pixar moving to any platform would probably be where Renderman gets ported to. My guess would be that if Apple can get its hardware up to snuff, Pixar would be moving to Apple hardware as I do seem to recall someone telling me Renderman was also on NeXTstep.
    • Having supported one of the major cad/cam packages in the market (Pro/ENGINEER) I can tell you if I was an engineer I would spit on anyone who tried to give me a PC. A company will make back the extra money in engineers time in well under a year. The large packages all simply work better and are *much* more stable on Suns.
    • Why do some people choose to race BMWs instead of Dodge Neons? Why do some people choose brand-name Swiss Army knives over cheap knockoffs?

      The high-end Sun workstations are well-rounded well-engineered computational workhorses. PCs just fall short in overall system flexibility, CPU cache size, I/O bandwidth, hardware errata, ease of maintainence, tight OS support, firmware, ECC, ... you name it.

      Sun workstations are useful until they are physically broken. From the engineering desktop to the printer server, it is common for a Sun box to go ten years before being decommissioned. How many ten year old PCs are still useful doing real work? Not many.

      In general, the RISC-based computers from Sun, SGI, IBM, etc., can just be pushed harder, worked longer, and still be standing long after the PCs were abandoned and donated to schools.
  • SunBlades have served better as terminals in the past. I don't really know if this newer offering is going to be any good or not. While the specs do look impressive, there may be smaller things that keep the SGI workstations on top. Solaris does make a great desktop unix OS though. I loved it when I had a SPARCstation.
    • These machines are not the same as the blade 100 toys. Apart from a factor of 10 difference in price, the Blade 1k and 2k machines have the newer generation CPUs, gobs of L2 cache, and a fast IO subsystem.

      • Hey, don't call my beautiful 100 a toy! :) Seriously, for me it's perfect, especially with a flat panel. And once my SunPCI card comes in in a few weeks, I can finally reduce my desktop to one keyboard and monitor and run in both unix and windows. Even though both are around 700mhz, nothing I do (run emacs, outlook, listening to mp3s, running a web browser, etc..) will even come close to taxing the CPUs.
  • Direct link (Score:4, Informative)

    by ChrisRijk (1818) on Friday March 15, 2002 @12:06PM (#3168372)
    Direct link to the post [aceshardware.com] as a stand-alone page.

  • This could very well give SGI's lineup a run for its money in the CAD and Visualization fields

    Maybe, except that that most of the 3D Unix stuff is designed for SGI/Irix... I guess when you're Sun you can get stuff ported if you want, though!

    Looks like a kickass box.
  • I have Sunblade 100, from which I write this comment. From my experience, this machine is by a factor 4 (yes, four) time slower than a new Athlon XP 1.9... And it costs much much more.

    If it wasn't for endianness compatibility with existing binary data, I wouldn't be using it.

    • Sunblade 100, [...] 4 [...] time slower than a new Athlon XP 1.9.

      OK but a Sunblade 2000 is 20 times faster !!!
    • Is that from actual testing and benchmarks or a wild guess? Just interested...
      • It's been my experience as well. We ran some benchmarks (informal, but fairly accurate) depicting memory speed and disk speed and processor speed. The one that really comes to mind was some octave. A p4 1.5 Ghz beat up the blade 100 and the blade 1000 quite handly (multiple times faster).

        I think that these things are designed to give desktop compatibility with the larger sun boxes that are more..um..useful.

        The rule of the game is that unless you _need_ 64 bit, use an x86. I'll probably get flamed all over for that, but dollar for dollar, the consumer market has the fastest machines.
      • Blade 100s are absolute dogs. I too have used one, and stay far away. Our DBA installed Oracle 9i on one and the performance was absolutely pathetic - easily bested by the 9i install on his 600 MHz Intel PIII workstation, which he was using for ten other tasks at the same time.
    • The 100 line has US II processors, not US III. Not that the US III beats an athlon in raw performance, but complaining that an SB 100 isn't as fast is just plain silly.

    • You can not compare the PC based sunblade 100 with the blade 2k (or even the sunblade 1000). The sunblade 100 is a cheap pc104 box, the 2000 is an extremely high end machine, more comparable to the high-end Ultra's. The sunblade 100's are extremely low end sun's and are GREAT for what they cost and what you get. The only thing i see the same besides the name is that they are both workstations.

      If my blade 100 would stop crashing, i'd have some better things to say about it.
    • by Zapman (2662) on Friday March 15, 2002 @12:33PM (#3168535)
      Be careful. Even though they have the same name, there is a wide difference between even a 'blade 100 and a 'blade 1000, let alone the 2000.

      See:
      http://www.sun.com/desktop/sunblade2000/de tails.ht ml
      for more details.

      Summary:

      Sunblade 100:
      USIIe chip, runs at 500mhz., up to 2 gig ram, 2x 20g HD.

      Blade 1000:
      1 or 2x USIII chip, runs at 750MHz or 900MHz. Up to 8 gig ram, and either 36 or 73 gig disks (1 or 2)

      Blade 2000:
      1 or 2x USIII chips, runs at 900MHz, or 1.05 GHz. Up to 8 gig ram, and 2x 73 gig FC-AL disks (fiber connected disks)

      And that graphics card kicks butt. You can put up to two of them in a blade 1000 or 2000, letting you drive 4 displays.
  • by CodeMonky (10675) on Friday March 15, 2002 @12:12PM (#3168414) Homepage
    and at only $11K its a steal.

    Or rather, thats the only way I'm getting one, theft.
  • by Pussy Is Money (527357) on Friday March 15, 2002 @12:16PM (#3168438) Homepage Journal
    Specifically, 3DRAM implements an on-chip ALU and SRAM cache to handle alpha blending and Z buffer operations inside the framebuffer itself.
    The ALU-in-RAM is just brilliant. Why move the data to where the operations are when you can move the operations to where data is?
    • 3DRAM has been around 4-5 years or so. It is nice technology, but to answer your rhetorical question, adding logic operations to memory adds significantly to the expense of the RAM. (It's a non-commodity part made by Mitsubishi, and at the very least must be tested, and I think manufactured, in custom ways.)

      It also reduces memory flexibility; you can't just take some of that huge texture memory you have and start using it as the frame+Z buffer of a dual-head display for example, unless the right amount of 3D RAM was spec'ed in the hardware design to begin with.

      Also, at least in the early days, some blending modes were supported and others weren't.

      Reducing Z buffer bandwidth is pretty nice though, don't get me wrong. But most of the industry has stuck with the volume economics of more conventional RAM types.

      --LP
  • by Performer Guy (69820) on Friday March 15, 2002 @12:17PM (#3168442)
    What do you mean 38 bit color makes it less desirable for animation?

    That is just wrong. This has 10 bits per component RGB. Typically that's more than enough. In addition animation apps like Maya tend to be geometry and state limited not fill limited.

    Ofcourse the tag 'animation' is a bit to vague to mean anything in the first place.

    Well done Sun, this should cause SGI some pain, but I'd say more because it gives the impression that Sun is doing something interesting where SGI hasn't done anything genuinely interesting in a LONG time.
    • P.S.

      This thing also has true 16 sample antialiasing. That is incredible, and better that the highest end SGI systems.
    • I thought the new SGI Fuel workstations are quite interesting. How do they compare with the Blade 2000?
    • For the final output image that is fine. The human eye can (on average) distinguish just north of 9 bits per color component. The problem is rounding and other systematic errors pushing past the 9 bit mark and becoming visible. This is not useful for your typical computer monitor which can't display 24bit color right anyway, but other output formats have enough quality that the error (=lack of precision) would be noticeable.

      I can't comment about software limitations in Maya et al.
      • Those 10 bits are only used for display on a monitor, the point is it is not used for 'output' elsewhere in a production environment. On top of this you can't see north of 9 bits but it's entirely dependent on the gamma distribution of the bits and whether they are perceptually uniform w.r.t. contrast sensitivity.
  • >> although its fillrate and 38-bit colour may
    >> make it less desirable for animation

    I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean. The fillrate is just fine for a workstation, games generally are the only programs that need a high fillrate, memory bandwidth and size, and of course T&L are *much* more important. The 38 bit internal color is excellent, nicely comparing to SGI ( http://www.sgi.com/workstations/comparison.html ), and unmatched by 3dlabs. The bit-depth of the graphics card has nothing to do with the color rendering accuracy, which is usually 48 or 64 bits for high end stuff. Games really need high bit depth precision for multitexturing, which multiplies color errors. I think Carmack mentioned this in a .plan once.

    Nvidia will probably have 64 bit color in NV30, and 3dfx's rampage was supposed to have 52 bit color ( http://www.digit-life.com/articles/3dfxtribute/ ) Games start needing high bit depths when you have massive multi-texturing, which tends to multiply errors. I think Carmack had a .plan about this...
  • Where I work, we need computing power for 2 things:
    1. Running builds
    2. Simulating embedded processors (ARM, mcore) for testing our product.

    We have a mix of Sun workstations and x86 linux boxen. We just got one of the new-ish SunBlade1000 for trial (single 900Mhz processor, 1GB RAM).

    While the Sunblade kills the competition (1Ghz Pentium4 w/linux) in build times, it's actually slightly slower with the simulations (which were, ironically, developed natively for SUN architecture!)

    So, before you think about getting one of these puppies for your own pad, you better find some published benchmarks specific to your needs. There's no magic bullet.
  • This is a graphics board that costs $3400. It's a nice graphics board. It has 360MB of memory on board, 10-bit color, and supports two large monitors. But all those things don't justify it costing 10x the price of the current NVidia GEforce boards. It's only a little better than the best gamer cards. Also, it doesn't seem to have enough fill rate to update its monitors at full speed.

    The low end really has eaten the high end in graphics hardware. Five years ago, the $1000 boards outperformed the $100 boards by an order of magnitude or more, because the high-end boards had hardware Z-buffers, geometry hardware (the 4x4 matrix multiplier), and hardware texture and lighting support. Today, low-end 3D boards have all that; the high-end boards just have a bit more of everything.

    The cost probably reflects about $400 in parts, and millions in engineering cost divided by the few hundred of these boards Sun will sell. That's a losing business proposition.

    Sun also announced a 24" high-resolution flat-panel monitor. Any info on that?

    • Indeed - except for the bit about performance :-)

      If you're willing to spend the money to get the speed, the nVidia Quadro4 900XGL [nvidia.com] is the current SPECviewperf record [spec.org] holder [amazoninternational.com], supports two displays (2048x1536 each, better than the XVR's dual 1280x1024), and costs well under half the XVR-1000. It also supports stereo viewing and a programmable vertex & pixel pipeline.

      True, its DACs are 24 bits instead of 30 bits (SGI workstations are still the go there, with 36 bit RGB DACs), but the NV30 may change that. It also does multisampled anti-aliasing (currently 9-tap 4-sample, though older drivers did offer a 16-sample mode too).

      • The nVidia Quadro and GEforce lines are the same chips and boards. The differences are a jumper, a different clock rate, and a big price differential.

        For the GEforce 1 and 2, there's a known hack to perform the upgrade.

        It just doesn't make sense developing custom silicon for high-end graphics boards. Too few are sold.

    • by Derkec (463377) on Friday March 15, 2002 @03:02PM (#3169440)
      2x the performance can be worth 10x or more the price in some circumstances. If that performance gain means a 5% productivity gain for an engineer that costs your company 100K a year, $3400 starts to sound cheap. If it improves the framerate in your video games, it's damn expensive. It's all about what gain you're going to get out of the 2x performance gain.
  • by tcc (140386) on Friday March 15, 2002 @12:55PM (#3168680) Homepage Journal
    Very interresting [tech-report.com] If they Pull it out.

  • 38-bit color is bad (Score:3, Informative)

    by [l0l]Bobo (39241) on Friday March 15, 2002 @01:07PM (#3168767)
    I find it surprising that Sun claims that its 30 bit color is "what is likely the best color fidelity in the workstation industry". This is 10 bits per color channel and 8 bits for alpha. I'm sitting in front of an SGI Octane2, which has 12 bits for each of R,G,B,A (it costs around 3x more, but it's still a workstation, and a desktop machine at that).

    Does 10 or 12 bits really make a difference over 8 bits? Of course it does. Most film work these days is rendered in either 12 bits, 10 bits logarithmic, or 16 bits. Think about it: in a dark movie theatre room, 256 levels of grey (for instance) is not a lot. And if that doesn't convince you, think about image manipulation: after a few multiplications and compositions, you'll end up with very little color resolution with 8 bits. And yes, these things are often done in hardware in the color buffer (eg flame [discreet.com]).

  • I personally feel there is a more interesting article that is linked to: http://www.sun.com/executives/realitycheck/headsup 020314.html
    details MHz-vs-Speed differences. While not the most interesting for the well-informed, it's great for those who know that MHz doesn't necessarily = speed.
  • on this one. How the heck am I spose to find a bunch of "hardly used" sun sunblades on the cheap for personal use? In this new age of fiscal responsibility and limited cash, there is no way I can convince managment I need one of these as a MP3^H^H^Hsendmail server....
  • Ace is wrong... (Score:3, Informative)

    by LinuxParanoid (64467) on Friday March 15, 2002 @02:14PM (#3169163) Homepage Journal
    Ace is wrong about one thing:

    Currently, the XVR-1000 targets primarily the engineering and CAD markets, as opposed to 3D animation, given the rather limited fillrate. However, Sun intends to use the MAJC-5200 to scale the performance of its graphics solutions to higher levels in the future (as seen in this older roadmap), so we may yet see a solution attacking the 3D animation market at some point in the future.

    The MAJC-5200 will improve geometry performance (number of triangles, floating point math required), not fillrate (number of pixels/texels shaded, integer math).

    Animation requires better fillrate, and more MAJC-5200s won't provide that. MAJC-5200 *will* provide Sun with stronger geometry performance (FLOPS, remember?), which is just what Sun's core engineering and CAD markets most want. Lots of small triangles to accurately show the precise shape of things of digitally-created parts. Nothing about MAJC-5200 will strengthen Sun's penetration into new SGI markets per se. That'd be dependent on some other, presumably fill-rate enhancing, technology.

    --LP
  • by BrookHarty (9119) on Friday March 15, 2002 @02:25PM (#3169223) Homepage Journal
    We have sun blade 100's at work, and they make great workstations. But being a rebel I wanted to put Linux on it. The only Linux distro with the best support was SUSE 7.3. Suse is a great distro, but they can only do so much without help from SUN.

    Some major problems with linux on sunblades.
    1. DMA doesnt work correctly.
    2. GFX card drivers, only the basic onboard card is supported, dont get the high end elite cards.
    3. Sound support is a hit or miss, sometimes it detects and loads the modules, havnt figured this out.

    For a 1000 bux box, usb and firewire, dvd, takes PC memory for a SB100. If linux was truely supported, they would sell ALOT more.
  • I want one of these to replace my Matrox G400 Dual Head MAX card. :~(

    Sad that it is not PC compatible, though I can guess as to why.

    Sun should seriously think about getting into the PC hardware business for the high end proffesionals, there really is more potential to sell peripherals for the wide PC market then there is in trying to get everybody to switch over to their plateform. (how ever kick ass their machines may be.)

    Ah, besides, a G400 MAX card that could do a bit more in the 3D arena from time to time would also be nice, hehe. I would seriously like to be able to run the occasional game at a resolution higher then 640x480@16bit color (well actualy I can run in 32bit color since the G400 was one of the first consumer cards to not take /too much/ of a hit from running in 32bit color VS running in 16bit color. Now days a lot of cards run better in 32bit color then they do in 16bit color. . . .)

    Ah, and no the G500 is not what I am talking about. ^_^

    Oh well, hopefuly the Kyro3 will be coming out Any Day Now(TM), though I do believe that it is a year or so behind its unofficaly leaked due date, LOL!

  • Looks like the two may be comparable. The Fuel costs about $11,000 for a R14K 600 model. I think that the Fuels v12 graphics may have the edge here, but for slightly lower end stuff, I can see companies going with Sun (We know they'll be around in 5 years) instead of SGI for some of their MCAD stuff.
  • Expensive, powerful machine and they could'nt afford to chuck in some gigabit ethernet?

    Hell even consumer level Apples come with Gigabit now.

    With 8Gb RAM, heaps of cache and fast large disk capacity, these things will be transfering data across the network, by default, at about 12MB/s? Intel sell Gigabit cards now for peanuts and if anything would need it, it would be one of these.

    I know, someone will probably reply to this in an as-a-matter-of-fact type comment with, "well you can buy gigabit ethernet". But why should you have to for this?

So... did you ever wonder, do garbagemen take showers before they go to work?

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