Actually the laptop does have a pretty decent card. Its a Radeon 9800 mobility. Which is fast becoming an old card... I just saw a laptop for sale that has 256M cards on it... drool.
Anyway when I switched the app to render 40 rows we are showing about 1200 images... That are mapped to about 1200 3D mesh planes (roughly 2400 polygons... excuse my math i'm a designer
I think the real tax was in the fact that we were mapping so many images not because of the polygon count. (Ive used models from Zam3D that had much higher polygon count)
Anyway the scenario hasnt really been optimized for showing that many images. The framerate stays pretty high with about 10 rows, But it was cool engough looking when you can see down a tube of 1200 images (even if the framerate was compromised).
We have been playing around with implementing a similar effect using VisualBrush on a single 3D mesh and have found that we can accomplish this at a much higher frame rate, but we lack some of the 3D interactivity that we created.