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More to Come, So Stay Tuned

Wrapping up the first part of our review of the FirePro W9000 and W8000, we’ve taken a look at the specifications of the new FirePro W series, along with looking at the impact of Graphics Core Next for professional graphics, and how all of this fits together in AMD’s larger plans. AMD’s big goal remains to capture a much larger share of the lucrative professional graphics market from NVIDIA in order to break out of the sub-20% rut they’ve been in for some time. To do that they not only need to deliver solid hardware at a reasonable price, but also exceptionally solid drivers, and major industry partnerships that will advance the state of professional graphics applications and help AMD counter NVIDIA’s strong marketing message at the same time.

Later this week we’ll be publishing our second part of this review, focusing on building a professional graphics test suite and the resulting benchmarks. It goes without saying that benchmarking professional cards comes with quite a few quirks, less so because of the hardware and more because of the typical programs. A typical professional graphics application looks, acts, and renders nothing like a game – in particular shaders are sparingly used – which means that performance bottlenecks are in entirely different places.

This actually poses a recurring problem for the professional graphics industry, since compute/shader performance has been growing by leaps and bounds, while raw texture and pixel throughput has been much more modest. This reflects the consumer market where games are primarily investing in shader effects and 1080P has been a staple resolution for quite some time, but it means that many professional applications aren’t directly tapping much of a modern GPU’s capabilities since shaders aren’t heavily used. Instead some professional applications can tap those resources through the use of compute, which is part of the reason why AMD and NVIDIA both invest in projects that increase the use of compute in the professional graphics market.

Anyhow, we’ll have more on the performance of the FirePro W series later this week with our follow-up article. So until then stay tuned.

R.I.P: FireStream (2006 - 2012)
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  • johnthacker - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    The W7000 has some uses in specific situations, but that's because it's a single slot card. Single slot Radeon HD 7850s (much less 7870s), which also use Pitcairn, are difficult to find; there was one OEM that showed off a design IIRC. Other than that it's hard to see exactly when someone would want these cards.

    The same generally holds for NVIDIA (the Fermi Quadro cards are cut down GF100 based, so they can be better at compute than their gaming numbers suggest, and the old Quadro 4000 is a single slot card.) Interesting that NVIDIA so far is trying to reserve GK110 for Quadro and Kepler only. We'll see if that works.
    Reply
  • Dribble - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    AMD doesn't need to provide compatible, they need to provide better.

    Bottom line is companies won't change gpu manufacturer. Nvidia works well, has traditionally worked better then AMD and they still have much better driver support (team is much bigger).

    There are no AMD fanboys routing for the underdog, you have to provide a clear business reason to change, and "we're almost as good as nvidia in sometimes" isn't it.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    Compute baby ! amd compute ! compute ! GPGPU ! amd wins! amd wins!
    (that's all I've heard since 7000 series)
    Hey, winzip man.
    Reply
  • Pixelpusher6 - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - link

    I really have to question AMD's move here to kill off Firestream and have the FirePro line serve both markets. At the present time this is where they have an advantage on Nvidia. 1TB double precision performance is pretty good even though its only 1/4 of single precision, even clocked low enough to be passively cooled it should still beat Nvidia's best compute card. K10 is not really a compute card at all and to me it seems like they just wanted to get something, anything out until K20. And K20 is by no means a certainty for Q4 2012, my guess is it will be delayed. I just don't have confidence in Nvidia's mastering of the 28nm process yet, especially given the enormous die size of this chip which I've heard presents some unique challenges. And when K20 does come out it will probably be more expensive than their current compute cards.

    If I were AMD I would re-brand the compute card, drop the Firestream name because of it's association with VLIW, and come out with a new brand to highlight what really makes up GCN...Compute. Does anyone know if HPC clusters use actively cooled cards or only passively cooled? I was under the impression that compute cards generally were clocked a little lower but passively cooled. If that is the case then that rules out using the FirePro W9000 and W8000 in these server clusters. It seems like AMD just conceded this market completely when they finally have a competitive compute GPU to gain a foothold. As someone else noted this market will only be expanding. If AMD wants to only focus on professional graphics I sure hope their drivers will be better than the consumer counterparts.
    Reply
  • dtolios - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - link

    When will AMD start improving compatibility with VRay RT and other similar OpenCL apps? All this computational potential remains unused outside benchmarks - at least for the CG world.

    Radeons are vastly better in OpenGL than GeForce cards, so the switch to FirePro's is way less "mandatory" for such apps. But even if those driver issues were solved, AMD would secure a huge increase of share in the professional CG market which now uses nVidia (yes, mostly gaming cards) almost exclusively.
    Reply
  • AG@FirePro - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    You might imagine that it's in AMD's best interest to work very closely with all the important ISVs in this space - and you would be right! :) Helping our technology partners and the broader software development community implement open-standards-based GPU acceleration in their applications is an area of heavy onging investment for us.

    Of course, not all apps are written the same. Some applications -especially those written in years past- are architected in a way that makes it challenging to enable the best performance across all the modern GPU options on the market. Proprietary or "hybrid" codebases often make full cross-compatibility quite difficult. can assure you that neither ISVs nor end-users want their toolsets be tied to a particular hardware vendor or proprietary technology base. Unfortunately, it's not always as easy as flipping a switch and sometimes this takes a while. This said, I think it's fair to say that our aim is that very soon, everybody will have the option to run the hardware of their choice in conjunction with their favorite realtime raytracer, physics solver or any other hardware-accelerated toolset.

    AMD FirePro cards fully support OpenCL in both hardware and software. Our devices offer certified and acknowledged compatibility and killer performance for a broad range of OpenCL-based applications. The same is true for tons of applications accelerated under OpenGL, DirectX and DirectCompute APIs. Compatibility and reliability are crucial. Nobody understands this more than us.

    To this end, we continue to be closely aligned with all the key ISVs in the M&E, DCC and CAD space to help them provide maximum flexibility, choice and value for their end-users.We also continue to refine and expand our range of developer tools (profilers, compliers, debuggers, etc) while at the same time contributing heavily to the open-source community in the form of optimized libraries and other free developer resources.

    The OpenCL story gets better every day. Every day, there are new and better OpenCL libraries being written and shared. There are new compiler optimizations being made all the time which allow for faster andmore flexible implementations. More and more software devs are liberating their code and their customers from proprietary APIs. While CUDA-bound apps still provide lots of value for many end-users, the writing is clearly on the wall. The age of proprietary GPU acceleration has begun to yield to a new reality of flexibility and choice for consumers.

    This is a good thing, no?

    *PS* You may have noticed an announcement about certain new server-side GCN-based FirePro GPU offerings today. Stay tuned. Things are about to get seriously fun up in here.

    Adam G.
    AMD FirePro Team
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    It's not a good thing because it has not happened, and it doesn't appear it will even in the next decade.
    It's still proprietary, and is not cross card company compatible, so it's all crap talk.
    As we saw amd do after their years of PR bashing, WinZip PROPRIETARY.

    It's gonna be all seriously vendor specific up in there for a long, long time.
    Reply
  • warpuck - Sunday, August 19, 2012 - link

    Does this mean I wont need 2 PCs? one for games and another for graphics. I did notice what appears to be a crossfire connector. I know most companies would not go for PC configuration like that, unless it was in the boss's office. I am one of those independants. I like taking a break when I feel like it. Not having 2 PCs would simplify things for me. Reply
  • peevee - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    OK, "later this week"? In the review written 8/14. "This" week ended, then "next" week ends today... Reply
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Hey!
    No problem about the inconsistent data, but maybe you can present it in a more accurate way? Currently the interval of the X axis is not to scale and the line through the data points makes it seem as though you know the way it progressed in between the data points. I'd rather make a simple bar chart with the intervals showing correctly. It would be a more honest and easy to read diagram. :)
    Great article though! :D
    Reply

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