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AMD FirePro V8700: High-End Workstation Graphics

Gaming Versus Workstation Performance : Radeon HD 4870 Versus FirePro V8700

After our latest round of OpenGL workstation articles, we received numerous questions about why we didn't include a gaming series in our testing. It seems that not all of our readers were ready to accept our claims that gaming cards run more slowly than workstation graphics cards, especially where professional applications are concerned. That's why we include a comparison with hard numbers instead of vague generalizations in this story.

Performance Comparison: Viewperf 10
Graphics adapterRadeon HD 4870FirePro V8700
ChipRV770RV770
Memory bus256-bit256-bit
Core Takt750 MHz750 MHz
Memory clock900 MHz850 MHz
DriverCatalyst 9.1FirePro 8.543
3dsmax-04 (3D Studio Max)23.3544.23
Catia-0217.944.95
Ensight-0327.5846.96
Maya-0240.12240.2
Proe-04 (Pro/Engineer)13.8245.39
SW-01 (Solidworks)30.75103.33
Tcvis-01 (UGS Teamcenter Visualization)8.1537.78
Ugnx-01 (UGS NX)16.6456.93

As you can clearly see, the ATI driver programmers have done an amazing job. The two models' hardware is 99% identical, and yet the FirePro adapter completely outclasses the cheaper Radeon gaming card. The most extreme case in point is Maya, where the FirePro V8700 is six times faster than the Radeon HD 4870.

We also decided to investigate if there were visible differences in picture quality between the two models. On a basic Windows desktop we discovered no discrepancies, but as soon as you load a professional graphics application such as Maya or 3ds Max and import a complex 3D model, things change completely. When using the Radeon, you simply have to accept that wire frames will peek out of shaded surfaces all over the place, and that significant clipping occurs as numerous objects are viewed or animated. These phenomena simply don't occur when using the FirePro. Bottom line: those who seek to be frugal with expensive workstation applications should not fall prey to false economies.

  • Tindytim
    Can we get some BIOS hacks for the next review of Workstation cards? Since 99% of the cards are just Desktop variants with the drivers being the difference, all that's Needed is a BIOS hack.

    I'd love to see how the real thing would stack up next to a card with different BIOS.
    Reply
  • bvanveelen
    Is that 1% difference in hardware enough to give these big differences? If the firepro drivers could somehow be applied to a HD4870 would it give similar performance?
    Reply
  • curnel_D
    TindytimCan we get some BIOS hacks for the next review of Workstation cards? Since 99% of the cards are just Desktop variants with the drivers being the difference, all that's Needed is a BIOS hack.I'd love to see how the real thing would stack up next to a card with different BIOS.Ok, so basically, we'd have to get ahold of a fireGL bios, and hack it into a 3850. If there was an equivilant to a 3870, I'd do it myself.
    Who's brave enough? :P
    Reply
  • Tindytim
    bvanveelenIs that 1% difference in hardware enough to give these big differences? If the firepro drivers could somehow be applied to a HD4870 would it give similar performance?That's what a BIOS hack will do. You change the BIOS of the 4870 card to that of it's workstation equivalent.
    Reply
  • Antiphonal
    It's funny - my HD4870 is intentionally crippled in applications that I will not use so they can use a 5x price mark up for people who use those applications. /sigh
    Reply
  • Tindytim
    curnel_dOk, so basically, we'd have to get ahold of a fireGL bios, and hack it into a 3850. If there was an equivilant to a 3870, I'd do it myself. Who's brave enough?Do a google search. It's been done before. Although I doubt this new card would yield any benefit over a 4870 with a BIOS hack, other than in some overclocking.

    I'd be more interested in the Nvidia card because then they at least add a little more VRAM. Hell, I'd love to see a Quadro card, with lots of VRAM, BIOS hacked to a Desktop variant to see how it would do at higher resolutions over the actual desktop variant.
    Reply
  • Harby
    AntiphonalIt's funny - my HD4870 is intentionally crippled in applications that I will not use so they can use a 5x price mark up for people who use those applications. /sigh
    You're clueless. The price premium is for the drivers themselves, not the hardware. No one crippled your gaming card. But no one optimized its drivers for workstation applications either. And these optimizations are not simple tweaks but massive and careful code to give you massive performance boost under very very specific applications.

    You could go as far as saying that you're in essence buying an expensive piece of software as well and not just a graphics card.
    Reply
  • You should test the other way around also, how does workstation card perform in games? (Not possible maybe)
    Reply
  • Harby
    vixenistheshitYou should test the other way around also, how does workstation card perform in games? (Not possible maybe)
    Of course its possible. But at best performance will be equal, I would assume a bit worse, depending on whether FirePro drivers include the specific game optimizations catalayst includes or not.
    Reply
  • krazyderek
    Drivers and 3yr support aside, I really really really really would have liked to see the top 4870 1gb consumer card thrown in just for a reference point. It would do wonders to help justify the price markup to my boss that signs the purchase order.
    Reply