The Quadro FX 4800 is a pricey card - by our estimation it accounts for half of the cost of the CAD2 Imagine WS114 workstation - but for users who need vast 3D graphics power, nothing from rival AMD matches up.

The FX 4800 has an impressive set of specifications: 192 parallel processing cores, and GDDR3 RAM with 76.8GBps memory bandwidth. It has two DisplayPort outputs for sending 10-bit-per-colour video to monitors such as Dell's UltraSharp 2709W or HP's DreamColor.

However, in our standard Cinebench real-time 3D test, the CAD2 Imagine WS114 posted a far lower score than Armari's Magnetar NS+, which had AMD's flagship ATI FireGL V8700 graphics card.

The Cinebench test uses a relatively simple scene, and the FX 4800's performance relative to the V8700 rose dramatically in more complex scenes in Maya. In our standard complex Maya test, the two workstations were neck-and-neck - but when we doubled the complexity, the FX 4800 pulled in front, helped by having an extra half-GB of RAM.

Our concern is that few Digital Arts readers will see the benefits of the FX 4800, as it's only those working with massive models and scenes, especially those in scientific sectors, who are likely to need it.

The model has an Intel Core i7 940 quad-core chip, which runs at 2.93GHz. The Core i7 platform gets rid of the old front-side bus for faster communication with the motherboard, introduces a three-channel memory interface - hence the WS114 having an odd-looking 12GB of RAM - and brings back Hyper-Threading of faster multi-thread performance.

In the Cinebench rendering test, the WS114 was slower than the Magnetar NS+ - which isn't surprising as Armari's workstation has a 3GHz chip. Results in Photoshop CS3 were near-identical, but the WS114 pulled ahead in After Effects CS3.

The CAD2 Imagine WS114 offers both speed and capacity, having a 300GB 10,000rpm system drive and a 1TB 7,200rpm media drive.

OUR VERDICT

With a very powerful graphics card and oodles of RAM, the CAD2 Imagine WS114 produces exceptional compositing performance. But it's expensive, and many users may not see the benefits of that graphics card.