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Workstation Graphics: 19 Cards Tested In SPECviewperf 12

Workstation Graphics: 19 Cards Tested In SPECviewperf 12
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SPECviewperf 12 sets out to be the standard for evaluating workstation graphics cards by including the latest professional applications, more complex models, and synthetic workloads pulled from important market segments. We test 19 cards in the new suite.

SPECviewperf 12 sets out to be the standard for evaluating workstation graphics cards by including the latest professional applications, more complex models, and synthetic workloads pulled from important market segments. We test 19 cards in the new suite.

SPECviewperf 11, introduced back in 2010, has been showing its age for a while. It wasn't really giving us a realistic-looking picture of modern workstation graphics hardware and driver performance anymore. The applications composing it were just too old. Moreover, AMD and Nvidia were thoroughly optimizing for the specific workloads, throwing off the suite's value.

So, the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) chose to step up its game with a much-needed update. After all, SPEC’s mission is to create relevant benchmarks that closely adhere to current industry standards.

AMD and Nvidia are both members of SPEC, allowing them to exert some influence over the new collection of tests. The idea is that no company gets an unfair advantage. We'll see how that works out in practice, though.

Update: 3/17/2014

We added benchmark results for the Quadro K6000, which naturally excels in many of this suite's sub-tests. Bear in mind that Nvidia's flagship is a purpose-built board, though, selling for $5000 on Newegg. Unfortunately, SPECviewperf doesn't include any general-purpose compute workloads, which is where the Quadro K6000 would undoubtedly excel most.

We wanted to run tests using SPECviewperf 12 as quickly as possible in order to provide a baseline look at workstation-class graphics performance, before drivers start getting optimized specifically for the test's various workloads (similar to what happened with SPECviewperf 11). To that end, it's also important for us to gauge how relevant the performance of SPECviewperf 12 is compared to the software it claims to represent.

Important Preamble:

SPECviewperf 12 is a demanding benchmark, targeting upper-middle and high-end workstation-class graphics cards. In tests that employ extremely complex models or workloads with immense memory requirements, the lower-end boards are at a disadvantage. Consequently, the results for those entry-level products need to be considered in relative terms; they're simply not meant to handle tasks like this.

Benchmark System

A carefully-picked test system is designed to facilitate analysis of CPU scaling based on cores, threads, and clock rates. For most of the benchmarks, the processor is overclocked to prevent platform-limited situations. However, I also have a complete page dedicated to processor-oriented testing for a more complete performance picture.

CPU and CoolerIntel Core i7 3770K (Ivy Bridge), Overclocked to 4.5 GHz
Corsair H100i Compact Water Cooler (Gelid GC Extreme)
Motherboard
Gigabyte G1. Sniper 3
RAM
32 GB (4 x 8 GB) Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR3-2133
SSD
2 x Corsair Neutron 480 GB
Power Supply
Corsair AX1200i
Operating System
Windows 7 x64 Ultimate SP1
Drivers
AMD FirePro 13.251.1
Nvidia Quadro 332.21
Other Equipment
Microcool Banchetto 101
HAMEG HMO 1024 Four-Channel Digital Memory Oscilloscope
HAMEG HZO50 (1 mA-30 A, 100 kHz DC, Resolution 1 mA)
HAMEG HMC 8012
HAMEG HZ154 (1:1, 1:10), Assorted Adapters

Three Gaming Cards (For Comparison, Of Course)

Admittedly, it's usually pointless to throw gaming-oriented graphics cards into a round-up of professional products. Software drivers are such a big part of what makes a FirePro or Quadro card distinct, that we know the Radeons and GeForces just won't fare as well. Then again, it's still important to know how desktop boards are represented in performance and image quality comparisons. Are there certain applications that don't necessitate workstation-class hardware? That's what we want to know. So, we're throwing in three gaming cards as well. They'll be the gray bars in the benchmark results graphs.

Let’s jump right in with the first of eight benchmark sections.

Display all 43 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    spp85 , April 13, 2014 11:39 PM
    AMD FirePro now a days performs very good at a cheaper price. Good job AMD. Keep on improving that.
    When AMD releases the mighty 16GB FirePro 9100 based on Radeon R9-290X core will be competitive to the Quadro K6000 in performance.
  • 4 Hide
    ykki , April 13, 2014 11:48 PM
    Waiting for the W9100 benchmarks and oh lord (AMD) let it be good! :) 

  • 7 Hide
    FormatC , April 14, 2014 12:03 AM
    I've also reviewed the FirePro W9100 in a large article with a lot of real-world benchmarks (the review was published last week in German). But AMD is really funny: the W9100 launch was at 7th, the R9 295X2 at 8th... So we got not time enough to translate it faster or merge the results. It's a shame :( 
  • 0 Hide
    Shankovich , April 14, 2014 8:21 AM
    Can't wait for the W9100 benchmarks! Getting one sent to me but oh man I still want to see some results :D 
  • 0 Hide
    PepitoTV , April 14, 2014 8:33 AM
    I would've loved to see Titan benchmarks included as that card is often named as a 'poor man' workstation card...
  • 0 Hide
    bobcramblitt , April 14, 2014 8:42 AM
    Thanks for this. Would love to see some future benchmarking of workstation-level systems using the new SPEC workstation benchmark (SPECwpc V1.0 -- http://www.spec.org/gwpg/wpc.static/wpcv1info.html). But, then again, I'm a SPEC guy...
  • 0 Hide
    edhap , April 14, 2014 9:44 AM
    Hey SPEC guy, when can we do away with synthetic benchmarks for the workstation market? Hopefully VP12 is the last of these and you can focus on real applications. The last thing I need is another benchmark that does not match real world use cases

    I find that internal benchmarking the only way to really understand the value of workstation cards. W7000 for example - it was awesome in our internal testing. While good, the cards is much better than these benchmark results suggest. Not sure why I would look at another SPEC benchmark when I will still need to test the cards in-house to really know how good they are for our applications and models.
  • 1 Hide
    adamglick , April 14, 2014 10:00 AM
    Fortunately, VP12 is MUCH MUCH closer to an actual (non-biased) representation of real-world application performance than was VP11. Yes, it's still "synthetic" but it uses actual code traces from updated versions of real applications -and its results are typically in-line with actual application testing results.

    Unfortunately, testing in the real applications (using something like APCapc) requires actual licenses of the software apps. Many of these vendors (CATIA, NX, etc) simply don't make temp licenses available for reviewers/journalists or other non-users.

    VP12 should be quite good enough to help make informed evaluations of GPU hardware. If you are concerned about seeing in-application performance measurements for particular apps, you can ususually find the data with a bit of googling, although take results you find posted on the internet by "regular Joe's" with a grain of salt.

    Adam Glick
    Sapphire Technologies
  • -2 Hide
    adamglick , April 14, 2014 10:02 AM
    *It is a shame Tom's did not include the results of the latest AMD FirePro 9100 card. They do actually have this card for eval and testing in house and It's a mystery to me why they chose not to include the results here.

    tsk tsk tsk
  • 0 Hide
    filippi , April 14, 2014 10:07 AM
    It was a great review. thanks a lot!

    About CPU Scaling: "In the second set of our scaling results, only SolidWorks responds to CPU frequency. Core and thread count don't make a difference

    This is not entirely true. It goes as far as 10% at 4.5 GHz.
  • 0 Hide
    bobcramblitt , April 14, 2014 10:15 AM
    Quote:
    Hey SPEC guy, when can we do away with synthetic benchmarks for the workstation market? Hopefully VP12 is the last of these and you can focus on real applications. The last thing I need is another benchmark that does not match real world use cases

    I find that internal benchmarking the only way to really understand the value of workstation cards. W7000 for example - it was awesome in our internal testing. While good, the cards is much better than these benchmark results suggest. Not sure why I would look at another SPEC benchmark when I will still need to test the cards in-house to really know how good they are for our applications and models.


  • 1 Hide
    bobcramblitt , April 14, 2014 10:21 AM
    SPEC does offer application benchmarks (SPECapc) that run with the installed apps. But, there are many people who do not want to have to benchmark on a licensed app. For those, SPEC offers Viewperf. Or you might want to try SPECwpc for full workstation performance -- this includes some viewsets, but also open-source apps. Sure the SPECviewperf viewsets are synthetic, but they represent actual traces of how the application is engaging with graphics subsystems. No one at SPEC would argue that its benchmarks substitute for your real-world testing based on how you use apps every day.
  • 0 Hide
    FormatC , April 14, 2014 11:34 AM
    Quote:
    *It is a shame Tom's did not include the results of the latest AMD FirePro 9100 card. They do actually have this card for eval and testing in house and It's a mystery to me why they chose not to include the results here.
    tsk tsk tsk


    It is so problematic to read the posts above too? I wrote:

    Quote:
    I've also reviewed the FirePro W9100 in a large article with a lot of real-world benchmarks (the review was published last week in German). But AMD is really funny: the W9100 launch was at 7th, the R9 295X2 at 8th... So we got not time enough to translate it faster or merge the results. It's a shame :( 


    And for your information: AMD (Sapphire included) was not able to send me a R9 295X2 to my lab here in Germany! So I had to wait for Chris' card (yes, we've paid 550 bucks only for FedEx Priority from U.S. to Germany) and I was so lucky to handle two launch articles at the same time. The day has 24 hrs only, sorry for my laziness.

    You get the complete W9100 story (the updated SPECviewperf12 is only a part of this) on 17 pages, don't worry, but it must be translated first.
  • -1 Hide
    urtrapt , April 14, 2014 12:05 PM
    Please add the Titan and Titan Black to this benchmark.
  • 0 Hide
    FormatC , April 14, 2014 12:07 PM
    Useless. Both are slower than 780 Ti OC ;) 

    Titan is good for compute, the SPECviewperf12 is more graphics related. No chance for consumer cards. ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    urtrapt , April 14, 2014 12:20 PM
    With that attitude you should just sum the entire review of graphics card with
    "Don't bother with anything else because Nvidia K6000 is the fastest."
  • 1 Hide
    FormatC , April 14, 2014 12:51 PM
    Totally wrong.

    You see the results of the consumer cards inside? The Titan is a little bit slower than the tested GTX 780 Ti, the Titan Black is in such cases 2-3% faster. But both are slower than a 780 Ti OC and the results of this card are in the most cases absolutelly worthles. I've tested the consumer cards belong the workstion graphics only for demonstration purposes.

    But it really makes no sense to run pro-apps with non-certified hardware and drivers!
  • -1 Hide
    wiyosaya , April 14, 2014 1:43 PM
    In my opinion, people who would run a gaming card in these apps would not be using models as complicated as those in the test.
  • 0 Hide
    hologram , April 14, 2014 2:06 PM
    So let me get this straight. As A Maya user the 780 Ti or even a titan Black would be a better choice than a Quadro???
  • -1 Hide
    hologram , April 14, 2014 2:10 PM
    sorry there were some posts between the time I read the article and the time I posted.
    A better question is this. The 780 TI OC is faster than a titan black? And are these tests with the normal 780 TI driver? If so for working not he road a 780 ti rig will do the job.
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