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AMD FirePro V8700: High-End Workstation Graphics

AMD FirePro V8700: High-End Workstation Graphics
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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.

Market Overview

Workstation Graphics Cards and their Mainstream Equivalents
Workstation-
Model
Chip-
Basis
FabMainstream-
Equivalent
Graphics RAM
3-Pin StereoDisplay Port
ATI FirePro V8700
RV770
55 nm
Radeon HD 4870
1024 MB GDDR5
yes
yes
ATI FireGL V8600R60080 nmRadeon HD 2900 XT1024 MB GDDR4yes
no
ATI FireGL V7700RV67055 nmRadeon HD 3850512 MB GDDR4yesyes
ATI FireGL V7600R60080 nmRadeon HD 2900512 MB GDDR3yesno
ATI FireGL V5600RV63065 nmRadeon HD 2600 XT512 MB GDDR4nono
Nvidia Quadro FX 5600G8090 nmGeForce 88001536 MB GDDR3yesno
Nvidia Quadro FX 4600G8090 nmGeForce 8800768 MB GDDR3yesno
Nvidia Quadro FX 1700G8480 nmGeForce 8600512 MB DDR2yesno

Workstation-
Model
Memory
Bandwidth
DirectXOpenGLShader ModelCore ClockMemory ClockPixel and Vertex Processing
ATI FirePro V8700115 GB/s10.12.14.0750 MHz900 MHz800 SPUs
ATI FireGL V8600111 GB/s102.14.0675 MHz868 MHz320 SPUs
ATI FireGL V770072.0 GB/s10.12.14.0775 MHz1125 MHz320 SPUs
ATI FireGL V760051.0 GB/s102.14.0500 MHz510 MHz320 SPUs
ATI FireGL V560035.1 GB/s102.14.0800 MHz1100 MHz120 SPUs
Nvidia Quadro FX 560076.8 GB/s102.14.0600 MHz800 MHz112 SPUs
Nvidia Quadro FX 460067.2 GB/s102.14.0500 MHz700 MHz112 SPUs
Nvidia Quadro FX 170012.8 GB/s102.14.0460 MHz400 MHz32 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.

Display 10 Comments.
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  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 4 March 2009 16:56
    Here is something I've always wondered. How does a workstation graphics card handle everyday gaming?

    I imagine that its much more effective to purchase multiple gaming GPU's for preformance, but I still wonder.
  • 0 Hide
    PhReaK2007 , 4 March 2009 17:10
    Om another question, can you load the FirePro drivers for the Radeon, and if so how does it perform with workstation graphics then ??
  • 0 Hide
    eddieseven , 5 March 2009 01:14
    Having given up on racing for the latest and greatest card for gaming a couple of years ago due to many disappointments and a firm conspiracy theory that game manufacturers are in cohoots with the graphics card industry in order to extract as much cash as they can out of the gaming populace, I’m no surprised to read now that Gaming cards are inferior to professional workstation cards.
    However, I do also remember reading somewhere, also a couple of years ago that workstation cards could not handle game graphics!
    Why doesn’t somebody just create a decent all round card instead of all this smoke and mirrors?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 5 March 2009 05:12
    Firstly, thank you very much for finally putting some hard figures to the difference between the Pro and gaming cards - very interesting. Are these improvements also seen in more specialist and less common application (for example I use EASE acoustic simulation software for work) or are the massive performance gains only for applications where targeted optimisation has occured?

    Secondly, I also would be really interested to know how these Pro cards handle gaming.
  • 0 Hide
    Solitaire , 6 March 2009 04:18
    Guys, the reason for the discrepancies between the mainstream and enterprise adaptors is DRIVERS. Not because a HD4870 (which incidentally is a quarter of the price) is magically "more shit" than the FirePro. And to answer the other query; The FirePro may very well SUCK at gaming. Why? Re-read first sentence. The FirePro drivers are specifically optimised for their intended purpose, and there would be no or minimal attempt to maintain compatibility with, much less optimise performance for, any gaming. It might work, it might work great, it might not, it might not work at all; the driver programmers don't really care as its just not their job.
  • 0 Hide
    spawn_eternal , 6 March 2009 14:15
    You only pay extra for the Driver enhancements, there is very little difference between the gaming and workstation cards. Both nVidia and Ati handicap the gaming/desktop drivers so that they can sell the Workstation card at a higher price.
  • 0 Hide
    Sewje , 11 March 2009 23:26
    Just goes to show how much performance is being kept from consumers, you spend and spend and all you get is a purposely crippled hardware. Makes you wonder why they even bothering making new cards when they don't even give the full speed of the existing cards.
  • 0 Hide
    Mikey_bug , 18 March 2009 20:48
    Therefore would it be possible to flash a HD4870 with the firmware from a FirePro V8700 since it is possible to do so for say a Nvidia 8800GTX too a 8800Ultra (all that changes are the frequencies it tries to run at and its product identity). Therefore the drivers could be fooled into thinking its a pro card ;) .

    Anybody with a HD4870 they are prepared to loose?... (should be fixable if it doesnt work)
  • 0 Hide
    Mikey_bug , 18 March 2009 20:49
    Therefore would it be possible to flash a HD4870 with the firmware from a FirePro V8700 since it is possible to do so for say a Nvidia 8800GTX too a 8800Ultra (all that changes are the frequencies it tries to run at and its product identity). Therefore the drivers could be fooled into thinking its a pro card ;) .

    Anybody with a HD4870 they are prepared to loose?... (should be fixable if it doesnt work)
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 13 May 2009 04:52
    Why do people keep on comparing the "Workstation" to the "Gaming" cards?
    How about calling them by their *real* names, the cards with proper OpenGL support, and the cards with just DirectX/3D support...

    The *real* pity in all of this is that some games and applications actually use OpenGL so that they can be cross platform, and then get nerfed by ATI/nVidia's drivers (or to be correct, lack of correct OpenGL drivers) for the "Gaming" cards.