AMD FirePro W8000, W9000 Challenge Nvidia's Quadro

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As of today, AMD has a new set of high-end professional GPUs available -- and a new shot at the professional GPU crown. It's a move the company hopes will allow it to take a greater share of the professional 3D business. AMD's battle against Nvidia in the professional graphics market is similar to the company's struggles against Intel ten years ago. In both cases, initial AMD gains have been partly reversed; Jon Peddie Research estimates that AMD now holds just 15% of the professional market, down from 18.4% six months ago.

Nvidia, meanwhile, has been largely idle. The company's high-end parts, the Quadro 4000, 5000, and 6000, are all based on the original Fermi architecture. By moving first with a new architecture, AMD has (at least hypothetically) stolen a march on its competition.

That's important, for a pretty fundamental reason.

The professional GPU market is only a fraction of discrete GPU unit sales volume, but commands a disproportionately large section of total dGPU revenue. This graph neatly captures why enthusiasts and consumers should care about AMD's professional graphics business. With a four year profit margin of just 5.1%, it's imperative that AMD begin to turn a higher profit from its graphics unit if it's going to keep up with Nvidia or invest significant funds into OpenCL or other optimizations for current software.

AMD FirePro W9000 and FirePro W8000
Specifications & Features

Click for high res.

The new W9000 and W8000 cards we're reviewing today are replacements for AMD's nearly two-year-old FirePro 3D V9800 and V8800.

Memory bandwidth has increased by 80% and double-precision floating point performance is up to 1TFlop. On paper, these cards appear to be dynamite.

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Im really not surprised honestly. AMDs last run of firepro GPUs was a joke.

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Ask yourself why.

Seriously. Why?

Because as the reviewer, I don't have a satisfactory explanation for this behavior. It bucks every trend I'm aware of. "They're just a joke" is not a valid answer when examining performance that runs counter to hardware performance in every other field.

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I have always wondered why this game (pro graphics cards) is either play very strong in the game or don't show up for it. They keep showing up though! I have used ATI/AMD now cards for quite some time. Yes i have had Nvidia cards as well but my first self built PC contained a (PII 400 pre-release by a week and 3 days) All in wonder pro. I still have it downstairs on a shelf and it is operational as well. In professional cards I do not ever recall them even having a chance though really.

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AMD may be releasing the workstation cards now (at SIGGraph), rather than waiting until the drivers and ISV packages are optimized for GCN, if there's a significant opportunity for customers who use them as reliable 24x7 engines in render farms and media workstations. These customers may not be relying on the certified engineering packages tested in SPECPerf. AMD can show benchmarks like the ray-tracing in instead.

(I think a previous generation initially exhibited a large performance regression in 2D performance. I can imagine the driver developers optimize the newer APIs first, perhaps assuming the latest most demanding software will use the newest APIs. So software using older APIs may initially suffer.)

(As I understand, even with standards like OpenGL or OpenCL there is still work to do to tune the kernels to the parameters of the hardware available, such as local memory size. I speculate that there may also be parameters in how the data is organized (tile size?), which limit the number of compute units, or lanes within a compute unit, an algorithm can use at once, analogous to how a 4-thread game can't make use of all of a 6- or 8-thread CPU. AMD may not have the resources or market share clout to convince the engineering package software companies to adapt their software to Tahiti/GCN on AMD's schedule.)

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If we look at these benchmarks

we will see big improvements int Quadro 6000 perfomance. It is drivers impovements, or diferent system setup?

And every time in differents setups we will get very different results... As for Spec, they are so lazy and using very old versions of programs. I hope AMD continue close work with softwre developers.

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Spec just released a new version of Maya; I'll be testing it.


Presumably that's driver performance improvements. SPEC workloads are designed to only stress the GPU; CPU changes should produce a minimal effect.

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@HotHardware: some suggestions:

1. please include GPU driver version numbers alongside hardware model numbers on the test configuration table/page for any benchmarks, especially engineering software benchmarks.

(It will help readers compare numbers from different review benchmark runs. It will help users who come back to reviews trying to diagnose performance differences, and determine whether an driver upgrade may be responsible.)

2. please include output settings such as rendered resolution, color bit depth, AA settings, etc.

(It will help readers compare numbers from different review benchmark runs. It will help diagnose if a strong GPU has enough work to exhibit scaling over weak GPU. Top gaming card reviews often don't show scaling benefits unless there are large screens or multiple screens. The HH V7900 V5900 article tested at 2560x1600. Officially submitted results on the SPEC site seem to use 1920x1200 or 1920x1080, but I expect workstations with such high end hardware would often be connected to higher resolution screens, sometimes even with 10-bits-per-pixel IPS screens rather than normal 6 or 8 bits per pixel. Thanks for discussing vsync, but no other settings are listed. Maybe the article is missing a table?)

(3 nit: please add a legend to the first bar chart, catia and ensight. It was difficult to read the text the first time while trying to keep multiple possible interpretations in mind.)

@GKvarta: you may be confusing two different benchmarks. SPECviewperf Maya runs a trace of the graphics commands sent to the GPU, focusing on the GPU performance. It can be run without a copy of the application. SPECapc Maya runs the actual application, so it may stress the CPU more to generate the model and emit the graphics commands.

On the other hand, in the linked article, the SPECviewperf 11 Maya scores

Quadro6000: 115fps-at-2560x1600

Quadro5000: 99fps-at-2560x1600

are much more impressive than the top officially submitted scores on the SPEC site

Quadro6000: 115fps-at-1920x1080

Quadro6000: 107fps-at-1920x1200

Quadro5000: 95fps-at-1920x1200

because the 2560x1600 implies rendering near twice as many pixels per frame as 1920x1080.

The linked article used a i7 980X overclocked to 4.27GHz,

while the officially submitted results use safer stock-clocked Xeons (3.46GHz-3.73GHz)

which might account for a part of the difference, but maybe not all of it. (I wonder if that article's benchmark runs rendered at a full 2560x1600 as the chart titles say, or at a smaller resolution on a 2560x1600 screen.)

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@gc9: good highlights. I like to read HotHardware, but sometimes benchmarking articles is too superficial. As for new FirePro card, I think it's more of preview, not the review, drivers is not ready (as was with 7970 at launch day). Feels like V8 engine with not enough feeding with petrol...

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The drivers used were AMD's provided (8.982.3) and Nvidia's Quadro 296.70. If AA had been enabled, I would've said so. 

2)  All tests were done using default settings. That means the monitor was set to 1920x1080 and 32-bit color. 

3)  "Top gaming card reviews often don't show scaling benefits unless there are large screens or multiple screens." This can be true, but evidence suggests it's not the case. Given their relative performance and data from the V3900 review (which I went back and eyeballed), it's incredibly unlikely that scaling is somehow limited to Quadro due to benchmark design. 

The HH V7900/V5900 article was written by someone with a 2560x1600 monitor. If you would like to A) Donate or B) Annoy my boss into buying me one, I would be happy to use a 2560x1600 display in future professional GPU reviews. Until such time as this occurs, one does what one can with what one has. 

4) To the best of my knowledge, none of the SPEC tests are configured to utilize 10-bit color workloads. In any event, I do not own a 10-bit monitor. 

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@JH: Thank you for the driver version numbers, resolution, and color settings. 1920x1200 or 1920x1080 may be the resolution for official submissions,so that will help comparisons.  (My intent was not to lay any fault on you for rendering at the official submission resolution.  I was trying to come up with ideas for other causes of the unexplained lack of scaling.  I was also trying to explain why it may be reasonable for the prior review to maybe render larger than the official submission resolution.  Sorry if I raised your hackles.)

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