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AMD ATI FirePro Round-up: V7800, V4800, V3800
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Date: Jun 17, 2010
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Mathew Miranda
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Introduction and Specifications

Two short months ago, we evaluated the FirePro V8800 the current king of ATI's workstation graphics card line-up, which replaced the V8750 as the flagship FirePro model. Unfortunately, we were unable to test it alongside any NVIDIA workstation cards for comparison purposes. At the time, we were handcuffed by two unfortunate circumstances. One was the fact that we no longer had Quadro FX cards available for re-testing, and our newly upgraded test bed prohibited us from using previous data for comparison. But also because there wasn't a current generation Quadro FX model available to compete against the V8800. And as of the release of this article, there still isn't. In the meantime, ATI has bolstered their lineup with five different FirePro models at various price points and performance levels. In addition to the top of the line V8800, the new lineup consists of the high-end V7800, the mid-range V5800, an entry-level V4800, and super affordable V3800.  


Today we'll be looking at three of the four remaining cards in the FirePro lineup, the V7800, V4800, and V3800. For your convenience, the chart below outlines the features of each model. Without a doubt, the price and performance variance between the products will be considerable, but we aim to provide you with the information necessary to make the appropriate choice when shopping for a FirePro graphics card, that will not only meet your needs, but fit your budget as well. Let's see what these models have to offer.

ATI FirePro Professional Graphics
Professional Workstation Models
  


It would not be totally fair to compare these cards to one another. The V7800 is a powerful, high end part that should be closer in performance to the V8800 we previously reviewed. For this reason, we included the V8800 and V8750 in our comparison group and repeated the test suite using the latest drivers available from ATI. On the other hand, the V4800 and V3800 are entry level cards that offer similar features to one another, but target consumers on a limited budget. Before we find out how well these cards perform, let's take a closer look at each one and see what they bring to the table.

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The FirePro V7800, V4800, V3800 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.



 
FirePro V7800

ATI labels the V7800 as the "most powerful single slot workstation graphics card" on the market. One thing we can say for sure is the V7800 is a very long card. At over 11 inches, it is the longest FirePro card on the market. The card makes use of a Cypress GPU with 1440 stream processors. Additionally, it provides the same 2GB of GDDR5 memory as the V8800, with a sizable 128 GB/s of memory bandwidth.

It supports up to three displays and features two DisplayPort jacks with one DVI connection. Like the V8800, it provides a Framelock/Genlock connection, as well as CrossFire capability. The V7800 is rated at 138W and requires a single 6-pin PCI Express power cable. 



 
FirePro V4800

The entry level V4800 sports the Redwood XT GPU with 400 stream processors, 1GB GDDR5 memory, and 57.6GB/s of memory bandwidth. It can drive up to three 30" monitors through two DP outpus and one DVI port. Unlike the V7800, this card does not require additional power from the PSU and lacks a PCI Express power connector. Maximum board power is 69W and will consume a fraction of that during idle.




 
FirePro V3800

If size is a consideration, the V3800 should be able to fit in any system. This small form factor card is an entry level solution for workstation environments that supports two displays. It makes use of the Redwood Pro GPU with 400 stream processors, pared to 512 MB of DDR3 memory, offering 14.4 GB/s of bandwidth, and uses only 43W of power. Just under seven inches in length, the V3800 offers a DisplayPort connection and a DVI port for connectivity.


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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 6GB of OCZ Blade memory. Within the BIOS, we configured the processor to an overclocked speed of 4.38GHz and memory to 1857MHz. These settings will minimize the occurrences of performance bottlenecks during benchmark runs and allow the graphics cards to show their true potential. Furthermore, our Crucial M225 solid state drive entered the testing process with a clean copy of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit installed. Once installation was complete, 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:
Intel Core i7 980X Extreme Edition
Overclocked 4.38GHz

EVGA Classified 760 Motherboard
X58 Express Chipset

ATI FirePro V8800 2GB
ATI FirePro V8750 2GB
ATI FirePro V7800 2GB
ATI FirePro V4800 1GB
ATI FirePro V3800 512MB

6GB OCZ Blade DDR3-1857
(3 X 2GB) 7-8-7-20 1T


Crucial M225 128GB SSD
Firmware 1916

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Professional 64bit
ATI Catalyst Display Driver 8.723 - Workstation

Benchmarks Used:

Cinebench R11.5 64bit
SPEC Viewperf R10
SiSoft SANDRA 2010




 

Cinebench R11.5 64bit
Synthetic OpenGL Rendering Performance


Cinebench R11.5

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. 

 


Our first test answers one of the questions we had going into this article. How would the current generation V7800 priced at $799 perform when compared to last year's V8750 which cost almost twice as much? As you can see, it beats out the more expensive card by about 4% and comes very close to the V8800's score. Granted, folks aren't buying these cards to run Cinebench, but this OpenGL test is a solid indicator of performance nonetheless.

Another interesting comparison is found between the V4800 and V3800. These entry level cards are separated by only $80 in asking price, but their scores indicate a much larger disparity in ability. At 49.63 FPS, the V4800 is 55% faster than its less expensive sibling. Now let's get into some real world testing to see if these performance marks carry through.
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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 subsystems scale during multi-threaded content. Consequently, all results are given in frames per second.

 
SPECviewperf 10
Multi-threaded 64bit Rendering





In relation to the V8800, our V7800 graphics card trails the top spot by about 11% during 3ds Max and Catia testing. Its performance is noteworthy, considering the price discrepancy of the two products. But once again, the V4800 makes its presence felt by scoring within 7% of the V7800 in both tests, while also providing a considerable improvement over the V3800.  

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SPECviewperf 10: Maya and Pro Engineer

SPECviewperf 10
Multi-threaded 64bit Rendering





Here, the V7800 gets within striking distance of the V8800 with only a 9% difference in Maya, and a 6% deviation in Pro Engineer. While the V8800 is obviously the faster card, the performance shown by the V7800 proves it is not far behind. In addition, the low cost V4800 is confirming its results from the previous tests. There is only a 3-6% separation between the V4800 and V7800 on these particular benchmarks.

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SPECviewperf 10: SolidWorks and TCvis

SPECviewperf 10
Multi-threaded 64bit Rendering





The V7800 performed well in our Solidworks test, trailing the powerhouse V8800 by only 11%. But the V4800 steals the show at 229 FPS, almost equaling the V7800's score and landing within 13% of the V8800, absolutely remarkable for a sub-$200 product. 


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SiSoft SANDRA 2010


General purpose computing on graphics processing units (GPGPU) is the method of using a GPU for computations normally done by the CPU. The technique is made possible by adding programmable stages along with higher precision arithmetic to rendering pipelines, which allows the use of stream processing on non-graphical data.

SiSoft SANDRA 2010
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 graphs above display GPGPU processing along with the memory bandwidth performance associated with it. In these tests, its clear that the current, high end FirePro model V7800 is more powerful than last year's ultra high end V8750 graphics card. The most impressive results come from the GPGPU processing test where the V7800's compute shader performance almost triples that of the V8750.

Moreover, SANDRA shows a greater separation between the V7800 and V4800 than displayed during our SPECview testing, and falls more in line with the price points ATI has presented. Looking at Compute Shader and Stream performance, the V7800 is more than 70% faster than the V4800.

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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 system was 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


A quick look at power consumption reveals no surprises. As you would expect, the V7800 consumed more power than the entry level V4800 and V3800 cards. At 342W fully loaded, the V7800 used about 12% less power than the top of the line V8800, while idle power was about the same at 241W.   

All three cards in our roundup feature single-slot coolers with relatively small fans. During our testing, noise levels remained reasonable and we did not notice a big difference during idle and load conditions.


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Conclusion

Performance Summary:  With ATI's latest workstation driver that claimed to improve upon Cinebench performance, we tested each card in this round up and re-tested the two previous FirePro products we had already reviewed. Now that we have our data, let's analyze the numbers. Certainly, the testing has produced some interesting results. On average, the V7800 consistently performed within 11% of the V8800 in both synthetic and real world benchmarks. That point alone is impressive to us, especially when you look at the cost of each card ($799 vs $1499). But it also finished ahead of the V8750 in 8 of the 11 benchmarks we ran, trumping last year's flagship model and making it a legitimate high end workstation graphics card. Our SANDRA GPGPU testing put the V7800 ahead of the older V8750 by 65% in Compute Shader results and 40% for Stream processing performance. In many ways, the V7800 delivered and workstation professionals should take note of what ATI was able to do with a single slot cooling solution.


With that in mind, we expected to compare the two entry level cards to one another, but the results pushed us in a different direction. Why? Because the V4800 outperformed expectations during our real world testing. This affordable GPU did not perform like an entry level product. Looking at our SPECviewperf scores, the V4800 came within roughly 6% of the performance displayed by the V7800. On the other hand, our synthetic OpenGL and GPGPU benchmarks told a different story. Cinebench showed the V7800 to be almost twice as fast as the V4800, while SANDRA scored it over three times faster.

So which set of testing is more accurate? The truth lies somewhere in the middle. the V4800, with its more limited GPU, is not likely to perform as closely to the V7800 with demanding workloads as the SPECViewperf scores suggest. And since our real world numbers don't correlate with the performance deviation shown in synthetic testing, we're inclined to believe SPECviewperf isn't giving us the complete picture in this particular case. Although its the industry testing standard metric for workstation graphics, in the world of benchmarks, SPECviewperf is getting a bit long in the tooth. It was released over three years ago, during May 2007, and could use an update soon.     

 


We mentioned in our last FirePro review that if you found the V8800's asking price of $1499 too steep, that more affordable models were on their way, and here they are. As a high end card, the V7800 fits in nicely at $799 if you are looking to upgrade at this performance level. With its release, there is really no reason to pick up last year's V8750, which still retails for over $1000. We expect to see the V8750's price come down even lower, now that the V7800 is out. Also, our benchmarks revealed the V4800 is a strong performer for a card that can be had under $200. If your budget is tight, and want an affordable workstation videocard, you can't go wrong with the V4800 at that price. And although the V3800 did not provide eye opening performance, its small form factor makes it a relevant option for anyone looking for that feature.

Within the workstation and professional graphics world, ATI is currently dominating the scene. They are providing consumers with a full product line of FirePro cards that span the entire performance spectrum, with prices ranging from $109 all the way up to $1499. Much like the desktop market, ATI is months ahead of NVIDIA in getting products launched and available for purchase. Of course, we fully expect Quadro FX parts to hit the scene sooner rather than later, especially with mobile versions of Fermi, like the GTX 480M, making an appearance. Until then, if your work requires a current generation professional graphics card for 3D animation and CAD rendering workloads, and you can't wait for NVIDIA to provide an alternative, the ATI FirePro series has what you need, right now.



ATI FirePro V4800 Professional Graphics Card

  • Great bang for your buck
  • Low power consumption
  • DirectX 11 and Eyefinity support
  • Cool and quiet
  • Limited to three display outputs

 




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