Overview and Specifications
ATI’s FireGL brand of workstation-class graphics cards have played second fiddle to NVIDIA's offerings for some time now. NVIDIA’s rival Quadro lineup has been an incredibly strong competitor, and combined with the fact that the last several FireGL card releases have suffered from late arrival dates and lackluster performance by the time they hit the market, NVIDIA has been able to get a solid foothold in this market. However, with the power of the R600 graphics processor under the hood, ATI has introduced a new lineup of workstation cards which are giving NVIDIA a run for their money in terms of price/performance metrics. The R600 may not have been a tremendous hit for the gaming market, but in a workstation environment, the power of this GPU can be harnessed in a much different way.
Today in hand, we have the new FireGL V7600 512MB workstation graphics card. This card is based on the same basic board design as the Radeon HD 2900 lineup for gamers, but is tweaked on both the hardware and software level for enhanced workstation performance. The card is the least costly of ATI’s FireGL lineup based on the R600 GPU, and currently retails for just south of $1,000. At this time, Nvidia has nothing directly competing against this product at that price point, which gives ATI an opportunity to strike for workstation users who want a high-end workstation card at a price tag under four digits. We’ve heard rumors of upcoming products from Nvidia which will directly target this card, but for now, the FireGL V7600 owns its specific price point.
The closest competitor, from a price perspective, is Nvidia’s QuadroFX 4500 card, which can currently be had online for $800 - $1,000. While the QuadroFX 4500 is a solid competitor, it’s been on the market for several years, and doesn’t support some newer technologies like Shader Model 4.0 (DirectX 10). However, in the workstation market, where OpenGL is still king, this feature matters very little. The driving factors for workstation buyers are still raw OpenGL graphics performance, clean drivers, industry certifications, memory capacity, and overall value. In its market, the FireGL V7600 looks very strong. Let’s take a closer look at the actual product.
ATI FireGL V7600 - Angled View
ATI FireGL V7600 - Angled View
"Introducing the ATI FireGL V7600 workstation graphics accelerators from AMD with Unified Shader architecture - this fully featured graphics accelerator is ideal for maximizing productivity when working with complex 3D models and intense textures for Computer Aided Design (CAD), Digital Content Creation (DCC) and simulation. The ATI FireGL V7600 delivers industry leading features and performance at an affordable price."
The FireGL V7600 uses the same massive R600 core used in the Radeon HD 2900 lineup, which has an (estimated) 420mm2 die size, is comprised of over 700 million transistors, and is based on an 80nm manufacturing process. The V7600 runs at a far lower clock speed, however, as ATI’s utilities report the card operates at a 507 MHz core frequency, compared to the 750 MHz+ clock speeds at which their gaming-targeted R600 products run. Unfortunately, all of the available software-level utilities to try to pinpoint exact clock speeds would not work with the V7600 card, which also kept us from overclocking the card. Keep in mind this is a workstation card though, so the percentage of those actually overclocking a card like this is slim to none.
The board is equipped with 512 MB of GDDR-3 memory which is connected to a 256-bit memory controller. ATI’s documentation is conflicted on overall memory bandwidth of this card, as their reviewers guide claims it has 35 GB/s whereas their website says over 50 GB/s. ATI’s software tools claim that the clock speed of the DDR memory is a mere 513 MHz (x2 DDR), which matches up closer to 35 GB/s rather than 51 GB/s.
Catalyst Control Center
Reported Clock Speeds
The V7600 uses the same Catalyst Control Center that most ATI users are familiar with. We did not see any specific FireGL functionality in the driver set. ATI does not publically have FireGL V7600 drivers on their website, so we had to use the bundled drivers that came with our sample board.
One aspect which we feel is worth noting is that the FireGL V7600 does not have 64-bit drivers readily available at this time. We were forced to run our tests under a 32-bit operating system, although when we tried to run this card in a 64-bit operating system, we realized that there simply aren’t any Vista or XP x64 drivers available from ATI. We think it’s quite likely that someone buying a $1,000 graphics card will also be running 4GB of memory and will likely use a 64-bit operating system, so potential buyers might want to keep this in mind. We’re certain that they will be adding 64-bit support soon, but as of now, x64 users are out of luck.