AMD FirePro V9800 4 GB: Eyefinity Meets Professional Graphics

AMD's FirePro V9800 Goes Ultra-High-End

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.

You like that? Even these little 21.5-inch Dells take up more than five feet of horizontal desk space.

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.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • Nvidia shines in the industrial/commercial/scientific market, with their driver team and CUDA/GPGPU tech. Too bad the V9800 fell short of expectations. Also, Nividia cards are obviously going to have better results in Adobe Mercury since both companies worked together on hardware optimization. AMD needs to be more aggressive in working together with software makers, (including games!) to have a stronger hold on both the CPU and GPU markets. Overall, a good read.
  • reprotected
    It would actually make sense if they compared with the V8800 and the Quadro 6000. We also need a review of the Quadro 4000, 2000 and the 800, along with the lower Firepro 3D series.
  • reprotectedIt would actually make sense if they compared with the V8800 and the Quadro 6000. We also need a review of the Quadro 4000, 2000 and the 600, along with the lower Firepro 3D series.1. Definetly, a review of the "lower end" cards would be nice.
    2. Plus, it would be nice to see how well the SLi cards scale.
    3. Also, with the updated (e)nVidia desktop cards (GF100 to GF110), will the Quadro ones see a revision too - if so, when?
  • Benchmark with gpu base render engin like mental images IRay or Chaos Group V-Ray RT
  • cangelini
    radiovan1. Definetly, a review of the "lower end" cards would be nice.2. Plus, it would be nice to see how well the SLi cards scale.3. Also, with the updated (e)nVidia desktop cards (GF100 to GF110), will the Quadro ones see a revision too - if so, when?
    Good question (3), I'll ask!

  • Cwize1
    This was a rather underwhelming test suit. I think the fundamental problem you have is that most of the tests you ran were CPU based.

    What most of these production apps use the GPU for is on the fly rendering. For example, sculpting in blender can tax the GPU quite nicely given enough vectors. Another good blender one would be playing back a super resolution baked fluid simulation in real time. For example, take the tom's hardware logo you had before, turn it into water and let the water fall onto a flat surface. Bake the simulation with a ridiculous resolution (as much as you can before blender crashes) and then play the simulation back in real time while watching 5 high definition videos at the same time.
  • tony singh
    What a disappointment, hopefully next firepro will be aa winner.
  • hell_storm2004
    The FirePro has still the long way to go to catch up with the Quadro. I hope ATI makes good progress in the workstation models soon like they have come a long way in the desktop market.
  • wa1
  • eclecticfortune
    In this article's conclusion appeared this statement:
    "If you’re a creative professional working with Adobe’s CS5 suite, then the Quadro is hands-down a no-brainer."
    Benchmarks indicate that the lower priced GTX 480 is a far better choice (cost effective)for those taking advantage of the Mercury Playback Engine running Premiere Pro CS5.
    At the top of this page, click on the "MPE Performance Chart" to get a comparison between the different Nvidia Cards with Premiere Pro CS5.