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)


View All Comments

  • cjb110 - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    No interest in the product unfortunatly, but the article was a well written and interesting read. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    I certainly miss the days of softmodding consumer cards to pro cards. I think the last card I did it on was either the 8800GT or the 4850. Some of the improvements in rendering quality and drawing speed were astounding - but it certainly nerfed gaming capability. It's a shame (from a consumer perspective) to no longer be able to softmod. Reply
  • augiem - Thursday, August 16, 2012 - link

    I miss those days too, but I have to say I never saw any improvement in Maya sadly over the course of 3 different generations of softmodded cards. And I spent so much time and effort researching the right card models, etc. I think the benefits for Autocad and such must have been more pronounced than Maya. Reply
  • mura - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    I understand, how important it is to validate and bug-fix these cards, it is not the same, if a card malfunctions under Battlefield3 or some kind of an engineering software - but is such a premium price necessary?

    I know, this is the market - everybody tries to acheive maximum profit, but seeing these prices, and comparing the specs with consumer cards, which cost a fraction - I don't see the bleeding-edge, I don't see the added value.
  • bhima - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    Who has chatted with some of the guys at Autodesk: They use high-end gaming cards. Not sure if they ALL do, but a good portion of them do simply because of the cost of these "professional" cards. Reply
  • wiyosaya - Thursday, August 16, 2012 - link

    Exactly my point. If the developers at a high-end company like Autodesk use gaming cards, that speaks volumes.

    People expect that they will get better service, too, if a bug crops up. Well, even in the consumer market, I have an LG monitor that was seen by nVidia drivers as an HD TV, and kept me from using the 1980x1200 resolution of the monitor. I reported this to nVidia and within days, there was a beta version of the drivers that had fixed the problem.

    As I see it, the reality is that if you have a problem, there is no guarantee that the vendor will fix it no matter how much you paid for the card. Just look at t heir license agreement. Somewhere in the agreement, it is likely that you will find some clause that says that they do not guarantee a fix to any of the problems that you may report.
  • bwoochowski - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    No one seems to be asking the hard questions of AMD:

    1) What happened to the 1/2 rate double precision FP performance that we were supposed to see on professional GCN cards?

    2) Now that we're barely starting to see some support for the cl_khr_fp4 header, when can we expect the compiler to support the full suite of options? When will OpenCL 1.2 be fully supported?

    3) Why mention the FirePro S8000 in press reports and never release it? I have to wonder about how much time and effort was wasted on adding support for the S8000 to the HMPP and other compilers.

    I suppose it's pointless to even ask about any kind of accelerated infiniband features at this point.

    With the impending shift to hybrid clusters in the HPC segment, I find it baffling that AMD would choose to kill off their dedicated compute card now. Since the release of the 4870 they had been attracting developers that were eager to capitalize on the cheap double precision fp performance. Now that these applications are ready to make the jump from a single PC to large clusters, the upgrade path doesn't exist. By this time next year there won't be anyone left developing on AMD APP, they'll all have moved back to CUDA. Brilliant move, AMD.
  • N4g4rok - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    Providing they don't develop new hardware to meet that need. Keeping older variations of dedicated compute cards wouldn't make any sense for moving into large cluster computing. They could keep that same line, but it would need an overall anyway. why not end it and start something new? Reply
  • boeush - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    "I find it baffling that AMD would choose to kill off their dedicated compute card now."

    It's not that they won't have a compute card (their graphics card is simply pulling double duty under this new plan.) The real issue is, to quote from the article:

    "they may be underpricing NVIDIA’s best Quadro, but right now they’re going to be charging well more than NVIDIA’s best Tesla card. So there’s a real risk right now that FirePro for compute may be a complete non-starter once Tesla K20 arrives at the end of the year."

    I find this approach by AMD baffling indeed. It's as if they just decided to abdicate whatever share they had of the HPC market. A very odd stance to take, particularly if they are as invested in OpenCL as they would like everyone to believe. The more time passes, and the more established code is created around CUDA, the harder it will become for AMD to push OpenCL in the HPC space.
  • CeriseCogburn - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    LOL - thank you, as the amd epic fail is written all over that.
    Mentally ill self sabotage, what else can it be when you're amd.
    The have their little fanboys yapping opencl now for years on end, and they lack full support for ver 1.2 - LOL
    It's sad - so sad, it's funny.
    Actually that really is sad, I feel sorry for them they are such freaking failures.

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