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AMD ATI FirePro V8800 Workstation Graphics Card
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Date: Apr 07, 2010
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Mathew Miranda
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Introduction and Specifications

ATI has come on very strong in the consumer graphics space over the last few months. Besides being first to market with DirectX 11 compatible video cards, unleashing Eyefinity technology on to the masses, and expanding their product line up at every meaningful price point, the Red Team also lays claim to the fastest desktop graphics cards in the world, the Radeon HD 5970. With all of the excitement surrounding these new cards for the consumer market, we wondered when professional graphics models would arrive.

For the uninitiated, here's a quick summary. Workstation graphics cards are used by a wide assortment of professionals, such as 3D professionals working in CAD, DCC, broadcast, medical imaging, and financial services. They tend to focus on OpenGL as the API of choice, as the vast majority of applications opt for it rather than Direct3D, the common API for gaming-level graphics on the desktop. Typically, GPU makers perform very little modification to their base GPU for workstation class products. Rather, they unlock improved performance with driver enhancements and workstation application optimization and validation alone. Professional graphics drivers really enable increased performance though highly focused tuning in specific workload and software environments. Also note that workstation cards go through many stages of certifications from application providers to ensure compatibility as well. Mainstream gaming cards simply don’t have to be tested as strenuously, hence the considerable price discrepancy between the two types of cards.

During the summer of 2009, we reviewed ATI's flagship workstation graphics card, the FirePro V8750. At the time, we revealed that it was basically a V8700 with improved memory capabilities. With the launch of the new FirePro V8800 and its new GPU architecture, we expect to see a lot more improvement than just a memory upgrade. As you may have guessed, the V8800 is the workstation equivalent to the Radeon HD 5870. It sports the RV870 GPU with 1600 shader processors, but also offers 2GB GDDR5 memory checking in at 1150MHz. This is the card 3D pros have been anxiously waiting for and its finally ready for prime time. Read on as we take the brand new FirePro V8800 for a spin to see just how fast it really is.


ATI FirePro V8800 Professional Graphics Card





While the majority of the specs speak for themselves, there are a few features we'd like to point out. The FirePro V8800 includes four native DisplayPort outputs, a stereo output, and comes with two DP to DVI adapters. These will come in handy for those lacking DisplayPort monitors. Furthermore, ATI brings Eyefinity technology to the workplace as users will be able to stretch applications across four screens. And we should note that the card requires two 6-pin PCIe power connections from the PSU and consumes about 208W. 

As far as pricing goes, $1499 may seem like a lot to average consumers, but is actually in line with current offerings in the high end workstation videocard space. Last year, the V8750 launched at $1799 and prices for top end professional graphics cards have been trending downward for the past couple of years. Better performance at a lower cost?  Yes, please.
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The FirePro V8800 Up Close

It's true that high-end workstation graphics cards may be based on the same core architectures as gaming-targeted graphics cards, however, their purposes are very different. While they both accomplish the same task, processing commands and rendering images on-screen, workstation cards endure a more strenuous existence than their gaming counterparts. Workstation cards are used to solve huge, mission-critical problems, like helping engineers design and build cars; helping architects to plan and construct buildings, and even help oil and gas companies to provide more effective production and transportation methods.


ATI FirePro V8800

  • Cypress XT RV870 Graphics Processor
  • 40nm Manufacturing Process
  • 825 MHz GPU 
  • 1600 Stream Processors
  • Shader Model 5 (DirectX 11), OpenGL 4.0, OpenCL 1.0 Support
  • 2GB GDDR5 Memory
  • 1150 MHz GDDR5 
  • 256-bit Memory Controller
  • 147.2 GB/s Memory Bandwidth
  • PCI Express 2.0 x16 Connector
  • 2 x 6-pin Power Connectors
  • Dual Slot Copper Cooling System
  • 4 x DisplayPort Outputs
  • Stereoscopic Output
  • Genlock/Framelock Compatible
  • Crossfire 2.0 Multi-GPU Connector
  • Supports Windows 7, XP, Vista, Linux 32/64-bit

  • MSRP : $1,499 USD

ATI FirePro V8750

  • ATI RV770 Graphics Processor
  • 55nm Manufacturing Process
  • 750 MHz GPU 
  • 800 Stream Processors
  • Shader Model 4.1 (DirectX 10.1), OpenGL 2.1 Support
  • 2 GB GDDR5 Memory
  • 900 MHz GDDR5 Clock Speed
  • 256-bit Memory Controller
  • 115 GB/s Memory Bandwidth
  • PCI Express 2.0 x16 Connector
  • 2 x 6-pin Power Connectors
  • Dual Slot Copper Cooling System
  • 2 x DisplayPort, 1 x DL-DVI Outputs
  • Stereoscopic Output
  • Genlock/Framelock Compatible
  • Crossfire 2.0 Multi-GPU Connector
  • Supports Windows 7, XP, Vista, Linux 32/64-bit, and Solaris

  • MSRP : $1,799 USD


Comparing the new AMD FirePro V8800 card to the previous generation V8750, we immediately see major differences. A smaller 40nm manufacturing process is accompanied by a much faster 825 MHz GPU and 1600 stream processors. Although memory size remains the same at 2GB, the speed has increased to 1150 MHz on the V8800; this has improved memory bandwidth to 147.2 GB/s. All of these advanced features are sure to upgrade the performance of the V8800. 



 

Like the HD 5870, the V8800 uses a matte black heatsink assembly that houses ATI's dual-slot copper heatpipe cooling solution. The embedded fan exhausts air out of the back of the card and out of the system. Unlike the V8750 which spun loudly at startup, the V8800 powers on quietly and stays that way during normal use. ATI focused on providing a peaceful work environment, even with high end models, and V8800 owners will benefit from it.

 


The FirePro V8800 sports four DisplayPort connections. That's only a couple DP ports less than the
HD5870 Eyefinity 6 videocard we recently tested out. From the looks of it, four fullsized DisplayPort outputs was the most ATI could physically fit on the rear panel of the V8800. More ports would require the use of Mini DisplayPort connections. 

On the other end of the card, we find two 6pin power ports. Maximum board power is 208W, but the RV870 GPU is well known for its low power consumption during idle. This is due to aggressive clock gating and voltage reductions when the card is not under significant load.

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Testbed and Cinebench R11.5

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM: In order to provide comparable results, each graphics card was installed on the same, high end X58 based test system. The components we used consisted of an EVGA Classified motherboard, Core i7 980X Extreme Edition processor, and 12GB of Crucial Ballistix Tracer memory. Within the BIOS, we configured the processor and memory to their rated specifications of 3.33GHz and 1600MHz respectively. The Crucial M225 solid state drive has a clean copy of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit installed. Once the installation was completed, we fully updated the OS and installed the latest drivers and applications relevant to the review article.
 

HotHardware's Test System
Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Core i7 980X (3.33GHz)

EVGA Classified 760 Motherboard
(X58 Express Chipset)

ATI FirePro V8800 2GB
ATI FirePro V8750 2GB
ATI Radeon HD 5970

12GB Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR3-1600
(6 X 2GB) 8-8-8-24 1T


Crucial M225 128GB SSD

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Professional 64bit
ATI Catalyst Display Driver 8.702 - Workstation
ATI Catalyst Display Driver 10.3

Benchmarks Used:

Cinebench R11.5 64bit
SPEC Viewperf R10
3DMark Vantage 64bit
Unigine Heaven 2.0



If you're wondering why there aren't any NVIDIA workstation cards used in this article, here's the scoop. Since our last workstation card article, we've updated the test system to reflect the most current platform available to graphics professionals, specifically the new Core i7 980X processor and Windows 7 64bit operating system. Unfortunately, we no longer have the NVIDIA Quadro graphics cards to test, but invite you to reference the
FirePro V8750 review to see how they compare with the results from this article. Also note that since NVIDIA has not yet released a Quadro update based on Fermi, comparing the V8800 to the V8750 is perfectly relevant at this time.

Cinebench R11.5 64bit
Synthetic OpenGL Rendering Performance

Cinebench R11.5 is an OpenGL 3D rendering performance test based on Cinema 4D from Maxon. The benchmark goes through a series of tests that measures the performance of the graphics card under real world circumstances. Within Cinebench, graphics card testing makes use of a complex 3D scene depicting a car chase which measures the performance in OpenGL mode. Results are given in frames per second; the higher the number, the faster the graphics card. 


The V8800 shows a slight improvement over the V8750, but not by much. It looks like the HD 5970's raw graphics processing power wins this round though. Just keep in mind that this is a basic OpenGL benchmark; the next few tests focus on specific applications that the V8800 is designed to handle.
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SPECviewperf 10: 3Dsmax and Catia

 
SPECviewperf 10 measures the 3D rendering performance of systems running under OpenGL. It uses data sets that are designed for and used by real world applications. The benchmark was initially developed by IBM but is now updated by SPECCopcSM's project group. This latest version provides the ability to compare performance of high quality graphics modes that use anti-aliasing and also measures how effectively graphics supsystems scale during multithreaded content. All results are given in frames per second.
 
SPECviewperf 10
Multi-threaded 64bit Rendering




The V8800 hits a home run in the3ds Max benchmark and provides a remarkable 42% increase in performance over the V8750. During CATIA (Computer Aided Three-Dimensional Interactive Application) testing, the V8800 showed a 2% increase. Also worth noting is the large performance delta between the workstation cards versus the HD 5970. 
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SPECviewperf 10: Maya and Pro Engineer

SPECviewperf 10
Multi-threaded 64bit Rendering




Here, the V8800 shows an impressive 61% performance increase over the previous generation card during the Maya benchmark. Pro Engineer testing revealed a 17% gain as well.
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SPECviewperf 10: SolidWorks and TCvis

SPECviewperf 10
Multi-threaded 64bit Rendering




Once again, the V8800 tops the performance charts. It gives us a 46% boost in SolidWorks and a 23% boost in TCvis testing. As shown during all SPEC testing, the HD 5970 can't keep up with the FirePro cards when it comes to workstation applications.  
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SiSoft SANDRA 2010

 

SiSoft SANDRA 2010 16.26
GPU Number Crunching


SANDRA 2010

SiSoft SANDRA is an information and diagnostic utility. It provides useful information about your hardware, software, and other installed devices. SANDRA gives you the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low level. The SiSoftware GPGPU processing benchmark performs single- and double-precision floating point arithmetic on the GPU and the results are reported in pixels/s, i.e. how many pixels can be computed in 1 second.

  

The V8800 finished first in the GPGPU Processing test with a score of 758 MPixels/s. With the computer shader processor option picked, the FirePro card easily beat out current gaming products like the HD5870 and HD4870 in CrossFire.  Additionally, the V8800 finished second in SANDRA's Memory Bandwidth test, behind the GTX 295.
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Unigine Heaven 2.0 Benchmark

 

Unigine Heaven 2.0 Benchmark
DX11 Performance


Unigine Heaven 2.0

Heaven 2.0 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine. It makes comprehensive use of tessellation technology and advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion). We tested the graphics cards here with high shaders, extreme tessellation, 4xAA, 16x aniso, at a resolution of 2560 x 1600.



Make no mistake about it, the settings we used for testing here were tough on our graphics cards. Every possible setting is maxed out except for anti-aliasing, which is at 4x. Interestingly enough, the V8800 proved to be the slowest of the group, with an average of only 12.6 FPS during testing.
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3DMark Vantage

 

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DX 10 Gaming Performance


3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which isn't available on previous versions of Windows. With the latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the latest PC hardware.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's Performance preset option, which uses a resolution of 1280x1024.




Yes, we realize the V8800 is not designed for gaming, but were still curious about its performance in this aspect. As expected, we found the card's strength is not limited to workstation applications, as it scored over four thousand 3D Marks higher than the V8750. That's a 50% increase in performance for this particular benchmark over the previous generation model.  
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Power Consumption and Noise

 
We'd like to cover a few final data points before bringing this article to a close. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test systems were consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the graphics cards alone.
 
Power Consumption
Lower Numbers Are Better


With the V8800 installed, our Core i7 test system consumed 335W during load and 203W in an idle state. Compared to the V8750, the new FirePro graphics card used 20% less power at idle but about 2% more at load. We expected this much since ATI claimed to significantly reduce power consumption while idle with only a slightl increase under load, moving from the RV770 to the RV870.

Also, its important to mention that V8800 remained cool and quiet throughout testing. Throughout our time with the card, we never heard the fan ramp up during any of the benchmarks. Unlike the V8750, which spins at 100% for a few seconds at system startup, the V8800 powers up silently and remains that way.
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Conclusion

Performance Summary:  When compared to the R770 based V8750, the new FirePro V8800 is simply on another level. Heading into our performance analysis, we wanted to see how well the V8800 stacked up against its predecessor, and now there is no doubting the V8800's dominance in the workstation benchmarks we performed. The following chart sums up the performance increases over the V8750 in the individual tests, but we recorded a 32% gain on average. Maya, 3ds Max, and SolidWorks had substantial gains in particular.


 


We mentioned this before and its worth repeating here. An MSRP of $1499 is not chump change in any way, shape, or form. But it is on par with the launch prices associated with high-end workstation cards. The sagging economy has impacted the market and we've seen initial price points fall over the past couple of years. Take into consideration the V8750, which launched at $1799 last year, is easily trumped by the V8800 starting at $1499 today. For those who find the asking price too steep, ATI will continue to fill their workstation line up with more affordable options, just as they are doing with mainstream gaming cards.




Things are going very well for ATI these days. They are dominating the consumer market with the Radeon HD 5000 series and have now released the powerful FirePro V8800 to the professional arena. If NVIDIA doesn't hurry, we're sure to see a series of FirePro launches months before a competitive Quadro card is even announced. Indeed, the V8800 gives professionals cutting edge performance, four DisplayPort outputs, and Eyefinity support at a market competitive price point versus other cards in its class, As of today, if you're looking for the fastest graphics card for 3D animation and rendering workloads, the ATI FirePro V8800 is the answer. 

  • Impressive performance improvement
  • Low idle power consumption
  • DirectX 11 and Eyefinity support
  • Runs cool and very quiet

 

  • Expensive at $1,499

 



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