AMD's RV770 graphics processor, so well-known for its use in gaming variants of the Radeon HD 4870, is now being used in the company's workstation graphics cards. At the same time, AMD has stepped away from its well-known FireGL brand; the most current professional graphics adapters now carry a FirePro label. Tom's Hardware has been lucky enough to score an early production model, the FirePro V8700, for comprehensive benchmarking.
The FirePro boards also mark a complete switchover by AMD from 80 to 55 nanometer manufacturing technology. Buyers should rejoice in that this means reduced power consumption, and correspondingly quieter cooling fans. But can a smaller die size and related technological advancements also improve performance?
Price is certainly a key factor here. At a price of $930 at Newegg, the V8700 is an astounding $284 cheaper than its predecessor, the FireGL V8600. Until this product hit the market, AMD's ATI division had always placed great emphasis on maintaining price-performance ratios across similar products of its own design.
Nvidia has historically been able to outperform similar ATI products at the highest end of its product offerings. These days, Nvidia buyers must be willing to settle for performance parity instead--for example, see our previous article, "Pro Graphics: Seven Cards Compared".
It's not completely clear to us why ATI has suddenly dropped the GL suffix from its Fire brand names, replacing that portion of that name with "Pro" instead. In discussions with product managers at ATI, we were repeatedly informed that "Pro" stands for "Professional" and thus better speaks to the goals of the workstation graphics group. Nevertheless, we believe that it can be risky to mess around with established brand names. Perhaps it makes more sense to see this move as a way of de-emphasizing differences between OpenGL and DirectX technologies? Either way, ATI has decided to switch its branding completely from FireGL to FirePro.
|Workstation Graphics Cards and their Mainstream Equivalents|
|Workstation-Model||Chip-Basis||Fab||Mainstream-Equivalent||Graphics RAM||3-Pin Stereo||Display Port|
|ATI FirePro V8700||RV770||55 nm||Radeon HD 4870||1024 MB GDDR5||yes||yes|
|ATI FireGL V8600||R600||80 nm||Radeon HD 2900 XT||1024 MB GDDR4||yes||no|
|ATI FireGL V7700||RV670||55 nm||Radeon HD 3850||512 MB GDDR4||yes||yes|
|ATI FireGL V7600||R600||80 nm||Radeon HD 2900||512 MB GDDR3||yes||no|
|ATI FireGL V5600||RV630||65 nm||Radeon HD 2600 XT||512 MB GDDR4||no||no|
|Nvidia Quadro FX 5600||G80||90 nm||GeForce 8800||1536 MB GDDR3||yes||no|
|Nvidia Quadro FX 4600||G80||90 nm||GeForce 8800||768 MB GDDR3||yes||no|
|Nvidia Quadro FX 1700||G84||80 nm||GeForce 8600||512 MB DDR2||yes||no|
|Workstation-Model||MemoryBandwidth||DirectX||OpenGL||Shader Model||Core Clock||Memory Clock||Pixel and Vertex Processing|
|ATI FirePro V8700||115 GB/s||10.1||2.1||4.0||750 MHz||900 MHz||800 SPUs|
|ATI FireGL V8600||111 GB/s||10||2.1||4.0||675 MHz||868 MHz||320 SPUs|
|ATI FireGL V7700||72.0 GB/s||10.1||2.1||4.0||775 MHz||1125 MHz||320 SPUs|
|ATI FireGL V7600||51.0 GB/s||10||2.1||4.0||500 MHz||510 MHz||320 SPUs|
|ATI FireGL V5600||35.1 GB/s||10||2.1||4.0||800 MHz||1100 MHz||120 SPUs|
|Nvidia Quadro FX 5600||76.8 GB/s||10||2.1||4.0||600 MHz||800 MHz||112 SPUs|
|Nvidia Quadro FX 4600||67.2 GB/s||10||2.1||4.0||500 MHz||700 MHz||112 SPUs|
|Nvidia Quadro FX 1700||12.8 GB/s||10||2.1||4.0||460 MHz||400 MHz||32 SPUs|
Legend: SPUs = Stream Processing Units
In this context, we also think it's wise to describe a couple of interesting software initiatives. When it comes to Nvidia's CUDA (Computer Unified Device Architecture) we can offer a comprehensive article. On the other hand, the competition offers its own AMD Stream Computing. We dig into this more deeply on the next page, and do likewise for the ATI FirePro V8700 hardware details.