The FireGL V7600 card from ATI/AMD brings excellent workstation class performance down to the sub-$1000 price range. The numbers simply don’t lie. Nvidia’s QuadroFX 4500, which once dominated this market and sold for roughly $2,500, is now getting bested by nearly a 2x margin in many benchmarks by this $999 card. This is excellent news for anyone who requires top-notch high-end digital content creation performance, but can’t drop several thousand dollars on an ultra-high-end product. It would be short-sighted of us to not make a note that the QuadroFX 4500 card is over a year old, though. Nvidia is preparing a follow-up card to fit in this price point in the very near future but specific details remain to be seen.
The FireGL V7600 card by itself is not without a few shortcomings. While we were impressed by its raw performance and value, the card is significantly louder and creates more heat than other workstation cards we’ve tested. In a closed case environment, it’s unlikely that the noise will be a detriment, but when the card kicks up to its highest fan speed, it becomes very noticeable. The card is also double-width and requires an 8-pin PCI Express power connector, although these are fairly standard system requirements for a high-end workstation card today.
While noise is one concern, driver support and availability also pose other problems for this card. To date, we could not find this card on any store shelves, despite press releases about the board’s shipment hitting the web last month. Even if you wanted to get one of these cards, it’s nearly impossible at this time. And if you did manage to get your hands on one, as we did, you may quickly run into driver-related issues. The beta drivers we were provided with had some quirks, and there are no new drivers available yet. In addition, to date, this card does not have 64-bit drivers available, which is a huge roadblock for potential workstation buyers. We’re certain that 64-bit drivers will be included in the final shipping retail package, but at this point, we can’t provide any input on the matter until we have a chance to test them.
All in all, the FireGL V7600 gives ATI a much-needed shot in the arm for their FireGL lineup. It provides excellent performance at its price point, has modern GPU features like DirectX 10 and OpenGL 2.0 support. We feel comfortable that despite current maturity issues, it will be a solid product when it ships. We look forward to what Nvidia will counter with at this price point but for now ATI's FireGL V7600 looks to be a very competitive and compelling professional Workstation Graphics product.