AMD FirePro V3900: Pro Performance, Bargain Price
The V3900 is interesting for another reason -- it's AMD's latest salvo in its ongoing campaign to steal professional market share away from rival Nvidia. Workstation-class GPU sales are overwhelmingly dominated by Team Green, but AMD has slashed its professional prices in an attempt to siphon market share. The FirePro V3900 is aggressively positioned against its predecessor, as you can see from the specs below.
Stream Processors: 480
Memory Interface: 128-bit
Size/Type: 1GB DDR3
Bandwidth (GB/s): 28.8
DisplayPort 1.2: 1
Dual-link DVI: 1
Max. Resolution per monitor: 2560x1600 @ 60Hz
Max. Combined Horizontal Resolution: 9600x1080 @ 60Hz
AMD Eyefinity Technology Support: Yes
Shader Model: 5.0
OS Support: Microsoft Windows 7, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Linux (32-bit or 64-bit)
Max Power (TDP): <75 W
Max Power (measured): <50 watts
Slots Required: 1
Form Factor: Half Length/Half Height (packaging includes full-height bracket)
Bus Interface: PCI Express 2.1 x16
Street Price: $119
The FirePro V3900 is currently selling for $114; the FirePro V3800 is $99. Based on specifications alone, we expect the V3900 to be a substantially better value.
Should You Go Pro?
This is one of the most common questions readers ask about professional video cards, so we're going to take a moment to set the record straight. Both AMD and Nvidia have created some FUD on this subject; there's a video on YouTube from last spring in which Bobby Miller, the ex-FirePro maanger at AMD, states that "AMD FirePro graphics cards feature a unique hardware set that differs greatly from what can be found in consumer graphics cards... If you put the AMD FirePro chip into a Radeon board, it simply would not function."
This is somewhat misleading. AMD may perform some additional validation on FirePro products, and the video cards themselves sometimes carry different display outputs or RAM loadouts -- but the GPUs at the heart of the card carry the same features as their consumer-class cousins. That doesn't mean professional GPUs are a bad purchase -- just be aware that they aren't built on fundamentally different technology.
Professional cards like the FirePro V3900 offer support for 10-bit color, up to five simultaneous displays (if you have monitors that support DisplayPort 1.2 and a hub), and accelerated rendering support for 3D applications like 3ds Max, Maya, Lightwave, and a number of other programs. This last feature is typically the reason why people invest in professional graphics cards rather than opting for consumer-class solutions.