High-End Workstation Graphics Shootout - AMD FireGL V8650 Vs. NVIDIA QuadroFX 5600

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ATI FireGL V8650

ATI FireGL V8650

Starting off, we have ATI’s massive FireGL V8650 card. As of now, this is their current top-of-the-line workstation offering, powered by the R600 GPU with 320 stream processors. This particular board ships with a massive 2GB of GDDR-4 memory / frame buffer, double that of any other R600 based product currently on the market.


ATI FireGL V8650 2GB

ATI FireGL V8650 2GB

Before we delve too deeply into the specifications, let’s first take a look at the board itself. There’s no other way around it, it's massive, and it’s built solid like a tank. As a rough estimate, we would say that the board weighs about three to four times more than a standard consumer level graphics board. As you might expect, a board like this won’t fit in any standard chassis, as it requires an extended ATX chassis, and even with eATX, you won’t have a ton of extra space left. The board also requires 8-pin +12V and a 6-pin +12V PCI Express power connectors, which are only available on newer power supplies.

This two-slot card features an impressively large all-copper, dual-heatpipe cooler underneath its fan shroud, which makes up for the bulk of this card’s weight. The heatsinks are still cooled by ATI’s standard centrifugal embedded fan airflow system, which whisks hot air out of the chassis. Trust us, there’s a lot of heat which comes out of this card when it’s running at full tilt. To the right of the fan itself is a heavy duty aluminum alloy heatsink (anodized to be red) which covers the board’s power regulation components. The board also includes a black plastic holder, which can also lock into certain eATX cases for added stability. The board connects up via a standard PCI Express x16 connector to the PC.

Under that massive heatsink, as we’ve mentioned before, is the ATI R600 graphics processor. R600 is based on a 80nm manufacturing process and in the case of the FireGL V8650, runs at a clock speed of 688 MHz. R600 is a unified shader design, much like Nvidia’s high-end GPUs, and the R600 has a full 320 stream processors. The GPU fully supports DirectX 10.0 (Shader Model 4.0) and OpenGL 2.1, and also supports 8/10/16-bit color for those who require such display fidelity. Linked to the GPU via a 512-bit "Ringbus" memory controller is 2 GB of GDDR-4 graphics memory spread out on the front and the back of the PCB. These memory modules run at 1.736 GHz clock speed, which allows for 108 GB/s of memory bandwidth for this card.

The board is equipped with two dual-link DVI connectors which can handle 2560 x 1600 resolutions per connector, and the board fully supports ATI’s Hydravision multi-monitor suite. Sitting between them is an output port which can handle both HDTV output and act as a stereoscopic 3D output port. ATI also includes a single port on the top of the card which can be used to connect a Genlock/Framelock daughterboard, although one of these is not included by default with the board.

Dual-Link DVI and Stereo Connectors

Crossfire Multi-GPU Connector

Also, sitting right next to that connector is a pair of Crossfire connectors on the top of the PCB. Sadly, ATI does not support Crossfire functionality for their workstation lineup at this time, so even if you do get two cards and connect them up, don’t expect to see any additional performance. Of course, this could change with a future software level release. ATI does say that you can use multiple FireGL cards in a single system if you want to drive multiple displays with high-performance graphics independent of each other.

The FireGL V8650 is an impressive piece of technology, no matter what way you look at it. This card features more raw processing horsepower and memory compared to most people’s desktop PCs. It’s big, it’s somewhat loud and runs moderately hot (as you’ll see in the next pages), but if you need a huge frame buffer and a really powerful GPU to back it up, ATI has delivered a solid product with the FireGL V8650.

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