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AMD ATI FirePro V9800 Workstation Graphics Card
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Date: Sep 16, 2010
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Mathew Miranda
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Introduction

It didn't take AMD long to respond to the release of NVIDIA's new line of Quadro workstation-class graphics cards. The new flagship FirePro V9800 we'll be showing you here is the latest ultra high end professional graphics card from AMD, and competes in the same space as the 6000 and 5000 models from NVIDIA. It replaces the V8800 as the flagship model of the FirePro line, and targets professionals who require the highest levels of performance and connectivity, with plenty of onboard memory and support for multiple displays.

In case you were wondering, the ATI brand still exists. Radeon and FirePro cards like the V9800 continue to wear the ATI badge, but as we confirmed recently, change is on the horizon. We were told by AMD that moving forward, ATI will not be used on next-gen graphics cards or Fusion-based processors. Consequently, expect this transition to materialize by the end of 2010.  


With that said, let's go over the tech specs of the new FirePro V9800. In a nutshell, this is the Eyefinity 6 card of the professional market, with a huge frame buffer. Digital content creators are treated to 1600 stream processors, 4GB of GDDR5 memory, and a huge amount of memory bandwidth. Furthermore, the GPU has a core clock of 850MHz, while memory is set to a frequency of 1150MHz. It supports DirectX 11, OpenGL 4.0, and Shader Model 5. Above all, the V9800 takes the place of the V8800 as ATI's fastest FirePro product, while offering even more options for professional users. The table below lists additional features of the V9800. 

ATI FirePro V9800 Ultra High End Graphics Card
Professional Videocard

Core Clock
850 MHz
Memory Clock
1150 MHz
Stream Processors 1600
Total Memory
4 GB GDDR5
Memory Interface
256 bit
Memory Bandwidth
147.2 GB/s
Output Connectors
6 x mini-DisplayPort, 1 x Stereo 3D
Bus Type
PCI-E 2.0
Form Factor
Dual Slot
Accessories

5 x DisplayPort to DVI passive adapters
1 x DisplayPort to DVI active adapter
Power Requirements 1 x 8 pin PCI-E power connectors
1 x 6 pin PCI-E power connectors
Power
199W
Price
$3,499


 

In terms of its specifications, the FirePro V9800 looks similar to the V8800. The core clock gets bumped up by a modest 25MHz, an additional 2GB of memory is present, and it offers a two more DisplayPort outputs. It's worth noting that AMD includes six mini-DisplayPort to DVI adapters with the card. But at $3,499, it costs twice as much as the V8800. That's a hefty price to pay for the luxury of two additional outputs and some extra memory. Then again, this product targets a specific set of users with the most demanding set of display requirements. Let's find out if the additional features are worth the extra money.

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The FirePro V9800 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 complex, 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 means of production and transportation.

 

Like its predecessor, the V9800 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, which keeps components cooler inside the case. Upon start up, the V9800 powers on quietly and stays that way during normal use. AMD has tuned the latest batch of FirePro cards to remain relatively quiet, even with high end models, and V9800 owners will benefit from it.

On the front end of the card, we find a 6-pin and an 8-pin PCIe power connector. This is different from the V8800, which featured two 6-pin connections. Interestingly enough, the maximum board power is 199W, down 9W from the V8800. It's worth noting, the RV870 GPU is well known for its low power consumption during idle due to aggressive clock gating and voltage reductions when the card is not under significant load. 


The FirePro V9800 sports six mini-DisplayPort connections and one stereo port. That's a couple more than the V8800 which offered four DP outputs. Also seen in the image above is the backplate which helps to dissipate heat created by the components installed on the card.


FirePro V9800 vs Quadro 6000 Comparison Chart
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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 Asus Rampage III Extreme 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 4.27GHz and memory to 1869MHz. These settings will minimize the occurrences of performance bottlenecks during benchmark runs and allow the graphics cards to show their true potential. Furthermore, our Western Digital VelociRaptor 300GB 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 4.27GHz

Asus Rampage III Extreme Motherboard
X58 Express Chipset

ATI FirePro V9800
ATI FirePro V8800
ATI FirePro V8750
ATI FirePro V7800

NVIDIA Quadro 6000
NVIDIA Quadro 5000
NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800

6GB OCZ Blade DDR3-1869
(3 X 2GB) 7-8-7-20 1T


Western Digital VelociRaptor 300GB
16MB Cache / 10K RPM

Display:
Dell 3008WFP LCD Monitor
2560 x 1600


Relevant Software:

Windows 7 Professional 64bit
ATI Catalyst Display Driver 8.76.5
NVIDIA Quadro Driver Release 260.53

Benchmarks Used:
Cinebench R11.5 64-bit
SiSoft SANDRA 2010 64-bit
SPECviewperf R11 64-bit
SPECapc Lightwave 3D 9




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 Cinebench OpenGL rendering shows the V9800 has the second highest performance out of all the cards tested, and holds a slight performance lead over the V8800. Also, we find ATI's flagship model trails the Quadro 6000 by 7%, but is 3% faster than the Quadro 5000 in Cinema 4D rendering. 

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SiSoft SANDRA 2010

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 show Compute Shader processing performance along with the memory bandwidth performance associated with it. Compute Shader is a new programmable shader stage introduced with DirectX 11 that expands Direct3D beyond just graphics programming. Since both NVIDIA and ATI camps support it, we ran the test on every videocard we used in this article.

The FirePro V9800 dominates our GPGPU shader processing and memory bandwidth tests. Against the Quadro 6000, it shows an 87% performance advantage in compute shader processing and a 13% lead in memory bandwidth. Additionally, it is 7% faster than the V8800 in shader processing as well.

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SPECapc Lightwave 3D 9
 

SPECapc: Lightwave 3D 9.6
Multi-threaded 64bit Rendering

Lightwave is a complete modeling, rendering, and animation system used extensively in broadcast television production, film visual effects, video game development, print graphics, and visualization. We installed Lightwave v9.6 trial edition and used the SPECapc benchmark specifically designed to test the program's performance.







We saw mixed results as the V9800 achieved the highest interactive score of the group, but also had one of the lowest multi-task scores. Our render scores were almost identical for every card tested. Results from the interactive scores were the most diverse, and expose the 10% advantage the V9800 has over NVIDIA's ultra high end Quadro 6000. 

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SPECviewperf 11: Catia and EnSight

SPECviewperf 11 is the new industry standard of workstation level, OpenGL performance benchmarking. This software suite was released June 2010 from the SPECgpc project group. It features a new GUI that accompanies the fully updated viewsets traced from newer versions of real world applications. These updates include larger models and advanced OpenGL functionality, such as shading and vertex buffer objects (VBO). SPECviewperf 11 consists of As with the previous version, all results are given in frames per second.

SPECviewperf 11: CATIA 
Computer Aided Three-dimensional Interactive Application




In CATIA and EnSight testing, the V9800 shows a small improvement over the V8800. It scored only 1% faster in CATIA, and just 2% better during EnSight rendering. But as you can see, the new Fermi-based Quadro cards have the large advantage in these benchmarks. Really large.

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SPECviewperf 11: Lightwave 3D and Maya
SPECviewperf 11: Lightwave 3D and Maya
Multi-threaded 64bit Rendering




In the Lightwave 3D benchmark, we find more competitive results. Surprisingly, the V9800 scores slightly lower than the V8800 in this test, but still trails the Quadro 6000 by a margin of 14%. Maya testing shows the V9800 is faster than the V8800 by 1% but still can't catch the Quadro 6000 and 5000 cards.

 

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SPECviewperf 11: Pro/ENGINEER and SolidWorks
SPECviewperf 11: Pro/ENGINEER and SolidWorks
Multi-threaded 64bit Rendering




The V9800 and V8800 turned in two of the lowest scores in Pro/ENGINEER rendering. Although the results were close, the V7800 and V8750 performed faster than the V9800. During the SolidWorks benchmark, the V9800 once again shows a small improvement over the V8800. Unfortunately, it continues to lag behind the Quadro 6000 and 5000 by 30% and 25%, respectively.

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SPECviewperf 11: Siemens Teamcenter Visualization and NX
SPECviewperf 11: Teamcenter Visualization and NX
Multi-threaded 64bit Rendering




The final set of SPEC benchmarks support our previous results. ATI's V9800 is slightly faster than the V8800, but falls behind the new Quadro models by a wide margin. 

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Power Consumption, Temps, and Noise

Power Consumption and Operating Temperatures
How low can you go?

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.


Although it features a faster core clock and more onboard memory, the V9800 shows lower power consumption than the V8800. Out of all the cards tested, it even showed the lowest usage in an idle state. At full load, it required 16% less power than the Quadro 6000.  



The V9800 turned in impressive temps during testing. At full load, it maxed out at 73 degrees Celsius, 15 degrees cooler than the Quadro 6000.

Also, its worth mentioning the noise level we experienced using the V9800. Ultimately, the V9800 provided a quiet working environment during testing. Fan speed remained about 20% during most benchmarks, which is extremely quiet. In fact, we still could not hear it during our load testing with Furmark, where fan speed increased to only 30%.

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Performance Summary and Conclusion


Performance Summary:  In comparison to the previous flagship V8800, the new FirePro V9800 showed a slight performance increase. During testing, the card performed about 2% faster than its sibling due to the 25MHz core clock increase. Clearly, our test suite does not show the advantage the card's larger memory capacity over the V8800. But the V9800 was impressive during GPGPU testing, as it came in 103% faster than the Quadro 5000, and 48% better than the 6000. Granted, SANDRA is a purely synthetic benchmark that neither AMD or NVIDIA optimize their drivers for, it showcases the raw computing power of 1600 stream processors and massive amount of memory bandwidth found on this FirePro model. The card also provided a strong showing in Cinebench where it was 3% faster than the Quadro 5000, and only 7% slower than the 6000. Unfortunately, SPECviewperf 11 results were another story. On average, the V9800 fell behind the Quadro 5000 by 73%, while trailing the 6000 by 102%. NVIDIA obviously has a huge performance advantage in the applications used in SPECviewperf 11.

 

 

In order to take advantage of the V9800's features, prepare to dive deep into your spending budget. The card retails for $3,499, which is $2,000 more than the asking price of the V8800. That's a huge premium that's difficult to justify looking back at the benchmarks, unless you require the unique features this card provides. Although, we must admit our testing and performance numbers don't show the full capabilities of the V9800. Without a doubt, it's the fastest FirePro model you can buy, and the only workstation card on the market to offer six outputs. But going from the V8800 at $1,499 to the V9800 at $3,499 is a major investment.


Ultimately, we weren't wowed by the performance of the V9800. That's mostly due to the fact that we've already seen what the V8800 can do, and the V9800 adds features that benefit only a smaller group of users. Yes, it's a little faster than the V8800, but not by much. On the other hand, we appreciate the fact that it offers low idle power consumption, and runs basically dead silent. Of course, workstation users who utilize up to six video outputs now have the ability to use a single card in order to light up their displays, while being easy to use and simple to set up. At this time, that's a claim that only AMD can make. Indeed, the multiple display Eyefinity technology found in the FirePro line is truly it's strength, and the biggest advantage it has over NVIDIA Quadro cards. If you require a lot of pixel pushing power across several monitors, check out the FirePro V9800 4GB graphics card from AMD.    

 

 

  • Excellent performance
  • Six monitor support
  • 4GB GDDR5 onboard memory
  • Low idle power consumption
  • Runs cool and quiet

 

  • Expensive
  • Incremental performance increase over V8800

 



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