Does FirePro W9100 Take The Workstation Graphics Crown?
If the purpose of your professional graphics quest is efficiency, AMD's FirePro W7000 is tough to beat. Really, the FirePro W9100's purpose is high performance in 3D and compute-heavy tasks. In those disciplines, the card does not definitively grab the crown from Nvidia's best effort. AMD's latest does, however, appear to be the most cost-effective way of getting close to the pinnacle of what's possible in the workstation world. Take our CAD and CAE, or multimedia and entertainment benchmarks, for example. In those applications, the FirePro W9100 is a perfect match.
As long as AMD enjoys continued success promoting OpenCL acceleration in professional applications, the company's FirePro family should continue claiming market share. Adding the Mac as a supported platform is a step in the right direction, even though the volume of Mac-compatible cards is still low.
4K Resolution and Connectivity Galore
The FirePro W9100 is the first (and currently only) card that can drive up to six 4K monitors at full resolution, even if that means stepping down to 30 Hz when more than three are connected. A massive 16 GB of fast GDDR5 memory is more than enough for anything that you can throw at it.
Cooling and Power Draw
One opportunity for improvement is an underwhelming thermal solution, which we've seen previously on AMD's desktop-oriented reference cards. By redesigning the cooler, some of the company's board partners have already demonstrated that Hawaii can be made to run at much lower temperatures than 92 °C. The challenge, of course, is that those gaming products start exhausting heat inside your chassis, and that just doesn't fly in the workstation world.
Instead, professional cards need to push thermal energy out from their I/O brackets. Nvidia does this successfully with its Quadro cards, and AMD should start following suit. The FirePro W9100's heat sink and fan undoubtedly sacrifice some of the board's performance potential, since Hawaii is known to perform best under optimal cooling.
Suggested List Price
AMD is showing some confidence in pricing its FirePro W9100 at $4000. Compared to the slower Quadro K5000 at $1800 and the faster Quadro K6000 at $5000, AMD isn't far off the mark, though. And in the end, the FirePro W9100 surfaces as a strong candidate for high-end workstation duty, particularly when your workload is well-suited to the GPU's strengths (and the driver team's priorities).
How does the FirePro W9100 fare in our final analysis, then? The $4000 card's price tag is justified by excellent performance, versatility across mature professional segments and the latest workloads, and unmatched connectivity. You get a mix of speed in 3D tasks and general-purpose compute-intensive apps, or both at the same time.
It'll be interesting to see how many professionals dig deep for no-compromise speed in their performance-sensitive software. If the audience is out there, AMD's FirePro W9100 should help reclaim some of the company's workstation market share.