ATI FireGL V5000: Well-Rounded Mid-Rangeby Derek Wilson on January 31, 2005 3:52 AM EST
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FireGL V5000 ConfigurationThe FireGL V5000 brings 2x dual-link DVI and stereo display support to ATI's midrange line, but these are certainly not what we would point out as its strongest features. Effectively taxing the maximum resolution supported by the card costs quite a bit of money and would probably be a better fit for a high end card and workstation.
Yes, there are some things we see as being a little mismatched about the FireGL V5000. What is very interesting, however, is that ATI has managed to drop the price of its midrange R423 based FireGL V series by cutting the pixel pipelines, memory bandwidth, and total RAM while maintaining a solid level of workstation performance. This is possible because ATI has maintained the R423 series maximum number of vertex pipelines in the FireGL V5000.
This type of logical thinking about mid range workstation graphics is very refreshing to see from a highly consumer focused company. It doesn't take a lot to realize that a large portion of workstation work is vertex based. Traditionally, professional graphics only corporations have focused on geometry acceleration first, and this shift in thinking from ATI is very fortunate.
Let's look at it this way. For most designers, engineers, or artists who work in programs like AutoCAD, PRO/E, and Maya, most time will be spent working in various wireframe modes. Fill rate and pixel pushing are not of utmost importance in these arenas. In order to focus on drawing lines and points as fast as possible, the hardware fixed function geometry pipeline must be up to snuff. The very pixel focused nature of consumer graphics card design is not exactly a good fit for workstation hardware in this respect. Having the capability to do pixel shading and push high fill rates is good for some workstation applications, these but the CAD/CAM and DCC markets make up a much wider percentage of the user space than all other workstation customers combined.
It is still a necessity to have enough memory bandwidth and pixel power to meet fillrate demands of the applications being run. This should be no problem in wireframe modes at standard resolutions. When we start to push the card with shaded/textured modes and other factors, its limitations will show through.
In the consumer space, ATI is a very good performer. The DirectX and pixel pushing power of the R4xx series is solid. Availability of high end parts has been a tough factor in the race for consumer space dominance on both ends of the spectrum, but on the workstation side, NVIDIA has the advantage. ATI has traditionally been weaker in terms of OpenGL performance (the focus of the workstation market). By stacking the deck in terms of geometry performance, ATI can recover from their OpenGL performance deficit (at least when it comes to the V5000's competition).
In fact, as we will see, depending on the application the price/performance of this ATI part is very good. But if you are a DCC user who likes to run in shaded and textured modes at huge resolutions, this may not be the card for you. We'll let the numbers do the talking in just a second.
Here's a look at how the V5000 stacks up against the other workstation cards we will have in our labs:
|AGP Workstation Graphics Contenders|
|3Dlabs Wildcat Realizm 200||ATI FireGL V5000||ATI FireGL X3-256||NVIDIA Quadro FX 4000|
|Street Price||~$860||MSRP $699||~$875||~$1600|
|Memory Size/Type||512MB GDDR3||128MB GDDR3||256MB GDDR3||256MB GDDR3|
|Pixel Processing||32-bit / 16-bit storage||24-bit||24-bit||32-bit / 16-bit selectable|
|Shader Model Support||VS 2.0 / PS 3.0||SM 2.0||SM 2.0||SM 3.0|
|2x Dual-Link DVI||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Genlock/Framelock||Multiview Upgrade||No||No||SDI version|
The street price of the V5000 will likely be lower than the MSRP of 699, which puts it in a very good position. The V5100 (which we do not have in our labs for testing) has slower clocks than the X3-256 in a PCI Express flavor. It can be found in the low $600 price range while MSRP is $799. Obviously retail and street prices in the workstation market don't work the same as they do on the consumer side.