AMD FirePro W8000, W9000 Challenge Nvidia's Quadro - HotHardware

AMD FirePro W8000, W9000 Challenge Nvidia's Quadro

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We tested all of our cards using an Asus P8Z77-V motherboard with 16GB of DDR3-1333 and a Core i7-3770K processor. Windows 7 64-bit was installed and we fully patched the OS before beginning our analysis. All of the applications we tested were patched to the most recent versions available, as far as Service Packs and other updates are concerned.

Our three FirePro test cards

We tested AMD's new FirePro W8000 and W9000, as shown above, as well as an older V7900. Our Nvidia cards were a Quadro 6000 and 4000. Due to time constraints, we weren't able to test every card in every scenario. We've got more than enough information to take an overview of the competitive situation between the two companies, however.

All of our benchmarks were run with Vsync disabled. When we consulted SPEC, we were told that the organization takes no official position, and that AMD tends to test with Vsync off, while Nvidia tests with Vsync on.

SPECViewPerf 11 (64-bit):

We begin with SpecViewPerf 11. SpecViewPerf is described as "a portable OpenGL performance benchmark program written in C.. Viewsets differ from SPECapc benchmarks in that they exercise only the graphics functionality of the application. This enables direct performance comparisons of graphics hardware. Since SPECviewperf does not require an application software license to run, it is accessible to a wider range of users than SPECapc benchmarks. It is also easier to use and runs faster than SPECapc benchmarks."

We've broken the various SPEC tests into several graphics to make them easier to parse. We begin with catia-03 (Computer Aided-Three-dimensional Application) and the scientific visualization program ensight-04.

This isn't the sort of start we'd hoped for. The FirePro W9000 and W8000 are a clear improvement on the V7900, but the Quadro 6000 still leads in ensight-04. Catia-03 performance is terrible; the W9000, at $4000, is just barely half the speed of the Quadro 4000 at $650. The fact that all three AMD cards top out at 27 FPS seems to point to an application or driver issue -- and it's not the only one, as we'll see.

Lightwave and Maya are both 3D modeling programs, and here the new FirePro cards are on slightly better ground. The new GPUs manage to more-or-less match the Quadro 4000's performance in Maya and best it in Lightwave, but Maya again shows virtually no performance difference between the W9000, W8000, and V7900.

The program is clearly capable of executing faster, as the gap between the Quadro 4000 and Quadro 6000 shows.

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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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