What's red, black, sports 4 GB of GDDR5, and has DisplayPort outputs all over? AMD's FirePro V9800, the company's ultra-high-end workstation card. We run it through a battery of SPECapc and real-world performance tests, then compare it to Quadro 5000.
I remember sitting aboard the USS Hornet and listening to AMD pitch its Eyefinity technology for the first time. Back then, company representatives were so anxious to talk about Eyefinity’s potential for gaming. All of the sudden, we had this GPU that was powerful enough to drive an array of monitors at 5760x1080, no sweat. And two of those chips could be used together in CrossFire to realistically make 5760x2160 viable.
The problem, it turned out, wasn’t with AMD’s vision. Eyefinity across three displays remains an impressive sight for anyone used to gaming on just one screen. But the six-monitor stuff fell flat—an unfortunate consequence of the fat bezels nearly all LCDs continue to employ. More than a year after AMD’s first demonstrations of Eyefinity, we still haven’t seen Samsung’s MD230X6 six-monitor setup—though it’s available on Newegg for $3600 bucks. Good game.
As AMD talked about gaming on multiple displays, however, all I could think about was the four-monitor setup I had at home. Would adding two screens help improve productivity? Did I even have room on my desk for such a massive amalgamation of desktop real estate? Word. Excel. Outlook. Firefox. Six or seven Skype windows. I certainly had enough software open all day long to use six screens. That counted for something.
Professionals Can Use This Stuff
As a gaming-oriented card, the Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition honestly struggles with its intended purpose—again, through no fault of AMD’s. As a productivity-oriented card, the Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition is overkill. You don’t need a flagship GPU to drive a sextet of displays, after all. The good news is that DisplayPort 1.2 will make it possible for the new Radeon HD 6850 and 6870 boards to support six displays using hubs (once those are available, that is). There won’t be any need for a special edition card to enable Eyefinity’s full complement of outputs.
More good news—in the workstation space, you don’t really need to worry about a card that might not please everyone. AMD knows that its new FirePro V9800 is only going to appeal to a very narrow sliver of the professional market. After all, the thing costs $3500 bucks, it sports a full 4 GB of GDDR5 memory, and it’s another one of those products specifically designed to support six monitors via DisplayPort. For those who can use the FirePro V9800, though, this board is the first of its kind, and it might just enable usage models and configurations that simply were not possible previously.
Back in September, Tom’s Hardware DE reviewed the $1500 FirePro V8800 against Nvidia’s Quadro 5000. The Quadro card performed significantly better—but we were using one of the first drivers available for AMD’s card. Since then, updates have been made, purportedly improving performance. With that in mind, if you don’t specifically need the massive frame buffer, six-display array, or frame lock/genlock support, then the FirePro V8800 is going to be a much more economical buy than the $3500 FirePro V9800.
So, how does the FirePro V9800 (with the newest drivers) compare to Nvidia’s Quadro 5000? We fired up as many professional-class tests as we could get our hands on to find out. Oh, and I also set up an array of six Dell monitors to show you what working in After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Photoshop CS5—all at the same time—might look like.