AMD Radeon Pro WX 7100 Review

The FirePro brand is dead; long live the Radeon Pro. AMD puts its Polaris chips and reworked drivers to work in three new workstation graphics cards. We’re about to give the fastest model, the Radeon Pro WX 7100, a real workout.

The Radeon Pro WX 7100 features a new naming scheme and a bold color, but is it any better than the workstation cards that came before? Months passed between AMD's Radeon Pro WX 4100, WX 5100, and WX 7100 announcement and actual availability. But we're finally ready to go hands-on.

The original German version of this review was published prior to an important BIOS and driver update. Today's coverage takes those improvements into account, addressing almost all of the concerns we originally raised. Details are spread throughout the review, explaining how the updates affect our findings.

AMD's entry-level model, the Radeon Pro WX 4100, employs a complete Polaris 11 GPU with 1024 Stream processors. That's more than the desktop Radeon RX 460. Its maximum compute performance is 2.4 TFLOPS, and it's limited to 4GB of GDDR5 (rather than 8GB).

The Radeon Pro WX 5100 boasts an Ellesmere GPU with 1792 Stream processors enabled, offering up to 3.9 TFLOPS and 8GB of memory, while the Radeon Pro WX 7100 we're reviewing today utilizes the same chip with all 2304 of its Stream processors active.

Similar to the desktop Radeon RX 480, this card features 144 texture units and 32 ROPs. Its 8GB of GDDR5 operates at a mere 1750 MHz, which explains the somewhat lower bandwidth specification. AMD's decision there is completely understandable in a single-slot graphics card, where every watt of power consumption affects cooling.

AMD aims the Radeon Pro WX 7100 at a broad audience that includes artists and developers responsible for creating content on certified hardware. A street price of ~$630 is attractive to this group.

So, what do we want to compare the WX 7100 to? It's a workstation-class card, so we immediately limit our pool to professional products. Given AMD's price point, it makes sense to consider Nvidia's Quadro M4000. To our list, we add AMD's FirePro W7100 and W7000, both of which preceded the WX 7100, to track performance development.

Update, December 1, 2016: Driver Problems and a Hotfix

Several issues in our original review prevented complete satisfaction with AMD's Radeon Pro WX 7100. To begin, the driver installer wouldn't recognize any of the new WX workstation cards, forcing us to swap in an older board just to get the software on our test machine. This problem was resolved after AMD’s team in Toronto provided us with several internal beta versions.

Then, we experienced crashes after activating FSAA in SolidWorks 2016. Reproducing the issue for AMD's driver team yielded another quick resolution. In addition, a bug reported in Creo 3.0 (M90, anti-aliasing active), which caused program crashes, was likewise fixed.

Another issue hampered our efforts to test with an Intel Xeon E5-2640 v4 on an X99-based workstation motherboard. During idle, the memory didn't clock down properly, resulting in power consumption measurements that were 34W too high. This was also resolved, compelling us to generate new measurements.

Pre-Production BIOS problems

Our initial coverage also unveiled thermal issues under full load. As it turns out, AMD sent us a pre-production sample with fan curves that were far too optimistic; the fan didn't spin quickly enough. AMD was made aware of our measurements before the review went live, and company representatives provided the necessary corrections.

The production BIOS AMD sent over enabled a more aggressive curve, allowing the card to run a solid 14°F (8°C) cooler. We merged this result with our previous findings, added the fan speed readings, and re-worked the infrared measurements.

Before delving into benchmark numbers, let's summarize the specifications of all three Radeon Pro cards:

Test System and Setup

In an effort to stay as real-world as possible, we're using a workstation developed in cooperation with the Hamburg-based company Happyware. It sports an Intel Xeon E5-2640 v4 processor and a very good MSI X99-based workstation motherboard. The results obtained with this machine are not comparable to those presented in previous professional graphics reviews, since the platform and software are different.

A lot of apps common to these stories require certified hardware and assume you own a workstation graphics card. However, many companies, including Autodesk, now use DirectX instead of OpenGL, so some high-end titles benefit from cheaper consumer products as well.

Tom's Hardware Crossover Workstation
Test System:
Intel Xeon E5-2640 v4
8x 8GB Kingston DDR4-2400 registered ECC
MSI X99A Workstation (MS-7A54)
Intel SSDSC2KW010X6
Seagate Constellation Server HDD
Windows 10 Enterprise
Driver:
Radeon Pro 16.Q4 WHQL and 16.Q4.1 Beta
Quadro ODE 372.95 WHQL (ODE drivers)

MORE: Best Graphics Cards

MORE: Desktop GPU Performance Hierarchy Table

MORE: Gaming At 3840x2160: Is Your PC Ready For A 4K Display

MORE: How Well Do Workstation Graphics Cards Play Games?

MORE: All Graphics Content

Create a new thread in the US Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
35 comments
Comment from the forums
    Your comment
  • xenol
    Why can't cards of this design make it to the consumer market? I'm sure there are lots of people yearning for a single-slot cooler card.

    On that note, it's ridiculous that AIBs slap on a two-slot cooler on lower end cards.
    7
  • ohim
    the cooler is crap.... nobody wants a single slot card if it gets above 90°C
    2
  • Rookie_MIB
    The reason why it's single slot is simple enough, when you're looking to cram as much compute performance as possible in a computer, the slot spacing matters. There are some workstations which are ATX based which have 7 PCIe x 16 (or x8 after PLX switching) capable slots. As long as the cards can reliably remain below their temp threshold - that's all that matters.

    With a gaming style cooler (dual slot) it reduces the amount of compute performance without really increasing the speed as much. For example. If with a dual slot cooler, you can increase the core/VRAM speed 25-50% (because power usage increases exponentially with speed), that doesn't compare with being able to increase the compute by 100% by adding a second card.
    4
  • SliSpitfire
    3.5 dB(A) more IS actually more than twice the perceived noise (logarithmic scale).
    -1
  • Virtual_Singularity
    Thanks for the review. They're a great value for their price. One of the biggest changes at AMD since last year, and especially within the past 6 months or so, has been the increased attention to driver optimization for their dGPUs. Their enterprise-oriented cards also benefit. The coolers on these single slot cards may not be the greatest, but for their intended use they're fine.
    2
  • FormatC
    The price is the best argument. But let's also wait for next Sunday/Monday.
    Nvidia will show on their booth (Solidworks World) the new Pascal Quadro lineup.
    It's under NDA until next week, but I have the most of this cards already in my hands.

    I plan a showdown after this NDA with all available cards from AMD and Nvidia
    in real-world applications. I'm sure, the price of the WX7100 will help to survive,
    also after the launch :)

    The WX4100, 5100 and 7100 are here, also the Quadro P5000, P6000 and a few
    not launched cards ;)

    BTW:
    The Quadro P6000 beats the Titan X Pascal in Gaming. I tried it with Resident Evil 7
    in 4K and Shadow Cache On. Impressive, but expensive. :D

    The WX7100 is from my sight the better RX480. Closer to the sweet spot and more
    efficient. And only marginally slower. The RX480 is the result of the stupid arms race
    against the GTX 1060 and might be more interesting without such high clicks/voltages.
    Just sitting on a RX480 roundup with up to eight cards and some cards takes more than
    200 Watts in gaming loops. This is simply too much for a few FPS more.
    Polaris is not bad, if the chips are used as constructed. All stronger OC is mostly painful.
    2
  • shrapnel_indie
    Anonymous said:
    3.5 dB(A) more IS actually more than twice the perceived noise (logarithmic scale).


    Actually, 3 dB isn't perceived as twice as loud. you need 10 dB for that.

    http://www.noisehelp.com/decibel-scale.html
    http://www.acousticsbydesign.com/acoustics-blog/perception-vs-reality.htm
    http://www.siue.edu/~gengel/ece476WebStuff/SPL.pdf (Page 5)
    1
  • TJ Hooker
    Anonymous said:
    3.5 dB(A) more IS actually more than twice the perceived noise (logarithmic scale).

    It would be ~twice the power, but human perception of sound is not linear with power.
    -1
  • bak0n
    Anonymous said:
    Why can't cards of this design make it to the consumer market? I'm sure there are lots of people yearning for a single-slot cooler card.

    On that note, it's ridiculous that AIBs slap on a two-slot cooler on lower end cards.


    RX460 is now out as a single slot card. But yes, I agree with you.
    -1
  • FormatC
    I like the low-profile cards, because I have a lot of very small ITX-cases with no space inside :)
    1
  • extremepenguin
    Low profile cards only work if you have a lot of airflow, I run a number of machines with the single slot Quadro's and I have 2 running the WX7100. They are 1U rack mounts in dedicated rooms with AC, need ear plugs to work in there but nobody seems to complain about slow performance, outside the Adobe users.... they are impossible to please.
    0
  • FormatC
    A small 35 watts card can be cooled with a low profile solution. But all above 40 watts is really painful for the ears, I totally agree.
    And - to be honest - Adobe users are very special (me included) :P
    0
  • harly2
    had to dig at the excellent 480,....because your toms hardware, and you're shills.
    -3
  • harly2
    anyone notice toms is rarely referenced now? place needs a makeover.
    -1
  • dmitche3
    I know that it is not apples to apples but for once when comparing these high-end workstation cards I would like to see thrown into the mix a high-end desktop card. Why? For the average reader the numbers don't mean much. By putting in something that the everyday person uses they can see the vast difference, or lack of difference between a desktop video card and a workstation.
    1
  • dmitche3
    I know that it is not apples to apples but for once when comparing these high-end workstation cards I would like to see thrown into the mix a high-end desktop card. Why? For the average reader the numbers don't mean much. By putting in something that the everyday person uses they can see the vast difference, or lack of difference between a desktop video card and a workstation.
    -2
  • FormatC
    All this cards are based on the same chips as the consumer cards, but the drivers are not really comparable.
    In each case a workstation card will lose, if both cards are running the same app OpenGL excluded).
    The P6000 is an exception. But I have things like Solidworks in my suite, that can't sart with a gaming card.

    I'm sitting on a crossover workstation review that will show the advantage/disadvantage of each solution.
    I mixed pro and consumer parts to get for each user profile the best solution. And I hope, it will be translated too :)
    2
  • 80-watt Hamster
    Anonymous said:
    the cooler is crap.... nobody wants a single slot card if it gets above 90°C


    So I guess it's good they got it down to 85C, then.
    0
  • Ne0Wolf7
    Now the question is: How does this $600 card compare to some $600 GTX 1080s?
    -3
  • FormatC
    For what?

    The $600 you pay not for the silicon itself, but for drivers, support, certification and so on.
    Workstation is not office crap and alone the time to optimize drivers for pro apps costs a lot of money.
    In a lot of pro apps this consumer cards will lose, in a few not. Try f.e a consumer card in Siems NX.
    The app will start, but the performance is a pain. :)

    This is nothing for gaming, office or multimedia. May be for producer software and huge workloads.
    1