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FirePro V3900: Entry-Level Workstation Graphics

Meet AMD's FirePro V3900

Low-cost workstation graphics cards certainly aren't designed to be gaming racehorses. Rather, they're meant to be good enough for a number of mainstream professional tasks. After the recent launch of AMD's FirePro V3900, we were given an opportunity to find out what such basic cards can do, and how well AMD's entry-level card stacks up against its competition.

The FirePro V3900 is aggressively priced compared to what you're probably used to seeing for a workstation-oriented board, currently selling for about $110. According to AMD, the card competes against Nvidia’s Quadro 400, which is offered at a similar price. We decided to benchmark not only those two cards, but also Nvidia's Quadro 600, a Radeon HD 6570, a GeForce GT 430, a GeForce GT 440, and the brand-new Radeon HD 7750. We know those other cards weren't designed to contend in the professional space. However, we're curious as to how they'll do, given similar specifications.

Good Old Friends in New Clothes

AMD's FirePro V3900 features a Turks-based GPU and is quite similar to the Radeon HD 6570. The previously-launched FirePro V4900 sports a more complex Turks-based GPU and is more easily compared to the Radeon HD 6670. According to AMD’s roadmap, Turks will continue to persist until 2015, which is all the more reason to put this little V3900 through its paces.

Of course, we know that the Turks GPU is a descendant of Barts, which powers the Radeon HD 6800-series cards, and which itself is a descendant of Cypress, the GPU driving AMD's older Radeon HD 5800-series cards. Turks, however, only has six SIMD engines, each of which consists of sixteen thread processors. Each thread processor has five stream processors (ALUs). The SIMD blocks have four texture units. And thus, a Turks chip has a grand total of 24 texture units and 480 ALUs. The DRAM is attached via two 64-bit memory interfaces, for an aggregate 128-bit bus. Moreover, the two rendering back-ends of the chip sport four color ROPs, for a total of eight.

AMD FirePro V3900AMD Radeon HD 6570Nvidia Quadro 400Nvidia Quadro 600
Stream Processors480 (96 5D)480 (96 5D)48 (1D)96 (1D)
ROPs 8848
GPU Clock 650 MHz650 MHz450 MHz640 MHz
Memory Clock 900 MHz800 MHz770 MHz800 MHz
Interface 128-bit128-bit64-bit128-bit
Memory Bandwidth28.8 GB/s28.8 GB/s12.3 GB/s25.6 GB/s
Video Memory Size 1 GB GDDR31 GB GDDR3512 MB GDDR31 GB GDDR3
Shader Model 5.05.04.04.0
TDPapprox. 50 Wapprox. 50 Wapprox. 32 Wapprox. 40 W
Street Price$110$50$95$145

On paper, the V3900's smaller Turks chip looks more impressive than the GT216 on Nvidia's Quadro 400. It even looks a little better than the GF108 on the Quadro 600. We'll test to see if this translates into the performance of real-world tasks.

Also, it's no secret that the higher performance of workstation cards versus their gamer-oriented brethren in professional applications is mostly a result of optimized drivers. So, a comparison with the FirePro's desktop equivalent is particularly apropos as well.

  • djjoejoe
    If a large difference between a workstation card and a gaming card can be the drivers, does this apply to gaming performance as well? Does the workstation GPU preform similar to the desktop equiv or higher thanks to 'better' drivers. Is it just a case of drivers being optimized for things that end up not applying to gaming, thus any sort of performance increase only applies to none gaming applications?

    Just curious :)
    Reply
  • SpadeM
    I'm curious about some things, can you pop one of these cards in a pc running next to a 560Ti used for gaming? And then exchange the output in the back of the pc and select the workstation card to use to render in max or maya? Or do you have to reboot every time you set the video output?
    Reply
  • JOSHSKORN
    Can these cards run...THAT game? OR any other GPU intense game?
    Reply
  • RazorBurn
    Both Cards run on the same Hardware, its just that Professional Video Cards have their Drivers optimized to CAD/CGI, etc.. Its like two same SUV cars with Same Engine, but with different tires, one with plain road tire and the other has snow tires.. SUV with a snow tires will certainly run better in snow terrain that the plain road tire SUV..

    CAD apps like AutoCAD had Optimized code to run better on Professional Video Cards because the Optimized code in the Drivers.. Unlike Gaming Video Cards which has Optimized codes for Games but not on this CAD apps..
    Reply
  • Olle P
    It would be nice to see one or two games thrown into the test.
    Just for the heck of it, and also to answer the question:
    - Which card is the better choice for my work station if I'd also like to run a game or two during the lunch break?
    Reply
  • EDVINASM
    I wonder, is there going to be a new budget version out soon based on AMD 7xxx series?
    Reply
  • These clowns need to be brought into court for this intentionally crippling of desktop GPUs, and price fixing of workstation cards.

    This travesty needs to stop.
    Reply
  • Exactly. With how often the question is asked, "How well will this or that pro card perform in games?", I can't believe at least one or two game benchmarks weren't included.

    I'd especially like to see some benchmarks on mid-range pro cards.

    Also, same question as above, can I use a Profession CAD graphics card along side a gaming card and get CAD benefits on one monitor and gaming on the other.
    Reply
  • EDVINASM
    MarriedManExactly. With how often the question is asked, "How well will this or that pro card perform in games?", I can't believe at least one or two game benchmarks weren't included.I'd especially like to see some benchmarks on mid-range pro cards. Also, same question as above, can I use a Profession CAD graphics card along side a gaming card and get CAD benefits on one monitor and gaming on the other.
    Unless your motherboard supports PCI Express slot switch off via software you can't. Even if it would, you would need to restart. Plus knowing AMD driver compatibility and reliability I wouldn't even hope atm. If you are gaming a lot and doing a lot of 3D, question is, what is more important to you, games or 3D content creation? If you are just beginner and doing CAD for fun, you will get by with gaming GPU. Otherwise, you must be making money on your projects and you should afford mid-high GPU for CAD.
    Reply
  • jaquith
    Nice article and thank you!

    Holly cow, you weren't kidding when you said 'Entry Level', this is more like 'Impoverished Level.'

    To me an entry level are sub-$400 cards; nVidia Quadro 2000 series and AMD FirePro v5800. Obviously, Pro GPU's are tailored for their use.
    Reply