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FirePro V3900: Entry-Level Workstation Graphics

FirePro V3900: Entry-Level Workstation Graphics
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AMD's new FirePro V3900 is the company's low-profile, entry-level workstation graphics card. It's priced to compete against Nvidia’s Quadro 400. Today we're putting it up against Nvidia’s Quadro 400 and five other professional and desktop graphics cards.

AMD's new FirePro V3900 is the company's low-profile, entry-level workstation graphics card. It's priced to compete against Nvidia’s Quadro 400. Today we're putting it up against Nvidia’s Quadro 400 and five other professional and desktop graphics cards.

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 £95. 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 colour ROPs, for a total of eight.

  AMD FirePro V3900AMD Radeon HD 6570
Nvidia Quadro 400
Nvidia Quadro 600
Stream Processors
480 (96 5D)
480 (96 5D)48 (1D)
96 (1D)
ROPs 88
4
8
GPU Clock
650 MHz650 MHz
450 MHz
640 MHz
Memory Clock
900 MHz
800 MHz
770 MHz
800 MHz
Interface
128-bit
128-bit
64-bit
128-bit
Memory Bandwidth
28.8 GB/s28.8 GB/s12.3 GB/s25.6 GB/s
Video Memory Size
1 GB GDDR3
1 GB GDDR3
512 MB GDDR3
1 GB GDDR3
Shader Model
5.0
5.0
4.0
4.0
TDP approx. 50 Wapprox. 50 W
approx. 32 W
approx. 40 W
Street Price
£95
£50
£95
£140


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.

Display 3 comments.
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  • 3 Hide
    sicofante , 17 March 2012 05:31
    I suppose you are not allowed to by Nvidia, but you should compare similarly priced ***not similarly specced*** GeForce cards to Quadros. There's little buyer information in knowing that OpenGL drivers are better for Quadro/FirePro than GeForce/Radeon. We've known that forever. What everyone wants to know is how much performance can you get by spending around €120. That's a Quadro 400/600 vs FirePro 3900 vs GeForce GTX550 Ti OC ***NOT*** GeForce GT430/440. In other words: great to know the FirePro beats its Quadro rivals at a similar price point, but we still have no idea how it does against its true Nvidia GeForce rival.

    Sigh. :-(

  • 2 Hide
    sicofante , 17 March 2012 05:33
    Also, when comparing pro cards, some Linux love would be welcome. Lots of pros are using Linux workstations for 3D animation. Nvidia is known for doing good drivers for Linux. Not so much AMD.
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , 18 March 2012 16:53
    Is FirePro better gaming card then?