FirePro V3900: Faster Than Quadro, Still Entry-Level
Summary and Conclusion
Our benchmark test shows that the FirePro V3900 is a viable OpenGL-oriented accelerator. It dominates the similarly-priced Quadro 400, and even bests the more expensive Quadro 600 in most scenarios, sometimes dramatically so.
Workstation Card or Consumer Card?
We included the V3900’s desktop cousin, the Radeon HD 6570, and Nvidia's entry-level GeForce GT 430, which shares the GF108 chip with its workstation sibling, Quadro 600. Consequently, we see some massive performance dips attributable to the consumer-grade drivers. You're asked to pay a notable premium for workstation cards built on familiar graphics processors and their specially-optimized drivers. But even if that deliberate segmentation seems excessive, for folks whose jobs depend on good performance and validation in money-making applications, paying the extra money is probably justified.
Image quality is something that can't be quantified using the bar graphs from a benchmark. However, the mainstream gaming cards do have noticeably inferior image quality. We ran across plenty of examples of edges that should have been hidden, but weren't (see the picture above), which you simply don't see from workstation cards. The professional hardware also renders wire frame models and textured areas much better. If you use CAD software for a living and want the best results, you really should be using a FirePro or Quadro, and not a Radeon or GeForce. If you're just experimenting with professional software and don't require professional quality, you may get by with a consumer-grade card.
The FirePro V3900 is a fitting successor for the V3800. Priced at $110, we consider it to be a good value in the entry-level workstation graphics card space. As long as you're primarily looking at mostly static CAD images, this card is a good alternative to the low-end Quadro cards, both with respect to price and performance.
We aren't going out on a limb when we call it a price/performance leader for its segment. However, we must stress that the graphics processing potential of this card is comparably low-end compared to the Radeon HD 6570 with which most folks are familiar. Thus, the FirePro V3900 may be unsuitable for more demanding professional workloads, such as complex CAD animations. In the end, you need to take the application software, the use case, and your budget into account when making your purchase decision. If you don't need high-end graphics performance, a low-power, low-profile card like the V3900 may be the right buy for you.