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AMD FirePro V7900 and V5900 Professional Graphics
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Date: May 24, 2011
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Mathew Miranda
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Introduction
It has been a while since we last evaluated a workstation-class graphics card from the FirePro product line. The V9800 launched in September 2010 and was officially the last card to sport the ATI logo. Since then, AMD has released its Cayman-based Radeon HD 6900 cards for the consumer market, among many other Radeon HD 6000 series cards. It was only a matter of time before the new architecture made its way into the professional FirePro line.


Today we'll be looking at a couple of new AMD FirePro models, specifically, the V7900 and V5900. A quick glace below outlines some of the important specifications of each model. With the AMD FirePro V7900, professional users are treated to 1280 stream processors, 2GB of GDDR5 memory, and 160 GB/s of peak memory bandwidth. Furthermore, the AMD FirePro V5900 provides 512 stream processors, a 2GB frame buffer, and memory bandwidth in the 64 GB/s range. Both cards come with single-slot cooling solutions and multiple I/O ports for some multiple monitor action.

AMD FirePro V7900 and V5900 Professional Graphics Cards
Specs

  AMD FirePro V7900
 AMD FirePro V5900
Core Clock
725 MHz
600 MHz
Memory Clock
1250 MHz
500 MHz
Stream Processors 1280 512
Total Memory
2 GB GDDR5
2 GB GDDR5
Memory Interface
256 bit
256 bit
Memory Bandwidth
160 GB/s
64 GB/s
Output Connectors
4 x DisplayPort
2 x DisplayPort, 1 x Dual-link DVI
Form Factor
Single Slot
Single Slot
Power
150W
75W
Price
$999
$599


On the surface, the new FirePro models don't look like they bring anything revolutionary to AMD's product line. You get two additional DisplayPorts on the V7900 and an extra 1GB GDDR5 memory with the V5900 versus their closest counterparts in the line-up, but is that all there is to the story? Of course, our benchmark test suite will definitely show the performance benefits of these cards. Before we check out the results though, let's take a closer look at the cards to see how they differ from their predecessors.

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Detailed Look

It's true that high-end workstation graphics cards may be based on the same core architectures as their gaming-targeted cousins, 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.


FirePro V7900 vs FirePro V7800 Comparison Chart

The V7900 is very similar to the V7800 model it supplants in AMD's current line-up, with a few key differences. It utilizes fewer stream processors (1280 vs 1440), but provides more memory bandwidth (160 vs 128 GB/s) and a different I/O configuration. The core clock gets bumped up by a modest 25MHz (725 MHz vs 700 MHz), and the V7900 offers four DisplayPorts instead of the two found on the V7800. In addition, the new card uses more power, maxing out at 150W. The rest of the feature set remains essentially the same.

 

Like its predecessor, the V7900 uses a matte black heatsink assembly that houses AMD's single-slot copper heatpipe cooling solution. The embedded fan exhausts air out of the back of the card, but there are no vents so the heated air remains within the system. On the front end of the card, we find a single 6-pin PCIe power connector. This is identical to the V7800.


FirePro V5900 vs FirePro V5800 Comparison Chart

Like the V7900, the new V5900 brings a few changes to the table when compared to the V5800. First, it's based on AMD's Cayman LE architecture versus the Juniper Pro GL core found on the V7800. The V7900 provides fewer stream processors but a larger memory buffer, going from 1GB to 2GB. I/O ports and power consumption remain basically the same.

 

Here we find the familiar matte black heatsink assembly and single-slot cooling solution. The V5900 does not require a PCIe power connection from the power supply as it gets all the juice it needs from the socket. And like the V7900, it sports a single cooling fan that looks like it might get noisy under load, but we'll find out for sure once we get our testing under way. 
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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 V8800
ATI FirePro V7900
ATI FirePro V7800
ATI FirePro V5900
ATI FirePro V4800

NVIDIA Quadro 6000
NVIDIA Quadro 5000

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 8.83
NVIDIA Quadro Driver Release 270.73

Benchmarks Used:
Cinebench R11.5 64-bit
SiSoft SANDRA 2011 64-bit
SPECviewperf 11 64-bit




We're still in the process of obtaining mid-range and entry level Quadro cards. Specifically, the Quadro 4000 and 2000 match up competitively with the new FirePro cards we're looking at in this article. Unfortunately, we did not have them on hand and could not produce their results in time for the launch of this review, but will update scores once we get them on site.
 

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 AMD FirePro V7900 providing excellent performance, almost matching the more powerful V8800 with a score of 76.63 frames per second here. The FirePro V5900 is no slouch either, beating out the V4800 with its 55.47 FPS.
 
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SiSoft SANDRA 2011

SiSoft SANDRA 2011
GPU Number Crunching


SANDRA 2011

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.

Not surprisingly, the V7900 trails the V7800 in GPGPU processing performance due to having fewer stream processors available. But it stays on par during the memory bandwidth test at 22 GB/s. Additionally, the V5900 performs well, leading the V4800 by 91% during the first test.

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SPECviewperf 11: CATIA and EnSight
SPECviewperf 11 is an industry standard, workstation-class, OpenGL performance benchmark. This software suite was released in June 2010 from the SPECgpc project group, and updated February 2011. 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 results are given in frames per second.

SPECviewperf 11: CATIA and EnSight 
Computer Aided Three-dimensional Interactive Application




Looking at our first set of SPEC results, the V7900 does exceptionally well. It was 21% faster than the V7800 in CATIA, and an amazing 84% better during the EnSight benchmark. The V5900 also turns in a good showing, beating out a couple of more expensive cards in both tests.

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SPECviewperf 11: Lightwave 3D and Maya

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




Surprisingly, the new V7900 leads all the FirePro models in both benchmarks shown above. It easily beats out both the V8800 and V7800 cards with scores of 66.57 FPS in Lightwave and 79.46 FPS in Maya. The V5900 continues to impress by performing comparably to the V7800 in both tests.

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SPECviewperf 11: Pro/ENGINEER and SolidWorks

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




All the AMD FirePro cards showed similar performance during Pro/ENGINEER testing, but the new V7900 and V5900 recorded impressive numbers in SolidWorks. Placing first and second in our comparison group, the V7900 hit 58.31 FPS, while the V5900 averaged 53.71 FPS.

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SPECviewperf 11: Teamcenter Visualization and NX

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




Continuing the trend from our previous results, the V7900 shows measurable improvement over the V7800. It records a 5% lead in Teamcenter Visualization and a 67% improvement during NX.

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Power Consumption, Temps, 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 and Operating Temperatures
How low can you go?


The V7900 and V5900 showed two of the lowest fully loaded power consumption results in our comparison group. Only the entry level V4800 offered better results. Specifically, the V7900 used 16% less energy than the V7800 under load, and 8% less in an idle state.



While monitoring operating temps, the V5900 ran the coolest under load at 62 degrees. On the other hand, the V7900 showed similar temperature results as the V7800, at 72 degrees fully loaded and 49 degrees idle.

Also, its worth mentioning the noise levels we experienced using the new FirePro models. We maintained a quiet working environment with both cards. During our load testing with Furmark, neither one created enough noise to make us notice a change in sound levels versus the rest of our system components.

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Performance Summary and Conclusion

 

Performance Summary:  With all of the results now in, let's analyze the numbers and see what they tell us. First up, the AMD FirePro V7900 had a great showing overall throughout all of our benchmarks. It performed better than the FirePro V7800 in most of our tests, and even trumped the high-end FirePro V8800 in a few. That's especially impressive considering the V8800 is technically a more powerful card and costs about $1200. Without a doubt, the AMD FirePro V7900 delivered the goods--professional users should definitely take note. Not to be outdone, the V5900 also provided great results. Although its scores weren't as eye-opening, it consistently lead the FirePro V4800 and was able to catch the V7800 on more than one occasion.

Considered a high end model, the V7900 checks in at $999. In comparison, the V7800 was $799 at launch and can currently be found online for about $629. But as our testing shows, the new FirePro model is justifiably more expensive than its predecessor and offers significantly more performance. The AMD FirePro V5900 will launch at a retail price of $599 and replaces the V5800 as the premiere mid-range FirePro model. If you're shopping for a workstation-class card at or around this price point, the FirePro V5800 can be purchased for $379 at your favorite e-tailer.

 

In the past, we've said that the multiple monitor Eyefinity technology found throughout the latest FirePro line is one of its greatest strengths, and we believe that statement remains true today. If you're on the fence between a FirePro or Quadro, and multiple monitors is a concern, keep that in mind. AMD hits more price points than NVIDIA by offering consumers more models to choose from at competitive price points. There are no fewer than 16 current generation FirePro cards available on the market at this time. On the other hand, Quadro cards have shown their performance lead at the high end. But if you're looking for a low power, multiple monitor solution for your 3D animation and rendering workloads, definitely check out the new FirePro V7900 and V5900 cards from AMD.


AMD FirePro V7900

 

  • Excellent performance
  • Four monitor support
  • Runs cool and quiet
  • DisplyPort 1.2 support
 

  • Expensive
  • Uses more power than previous generation
 


AMD FirePro V5900

 
 

  • Good performance for the price
  • Low power use
  • Runs cool under load
  • DisplayPort 1.2 support
 
 

  • Idle temp is a bit high



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