Gaming Performance

As I mentioned earlier, under OS X games have to specifically be written to use both GPUs in the new Mac Pro. Under Windows however it's just a matter of enabling CrossFire X. I ran the new Mac Pro with dual FirePro D700s through a few of Ryan's 2014 GPU test suite games. The key comparison here is AMD's Radeon R9 280X CF. I've put all of the relevent information about the differences between the GPUs in the table below:

Mac Pro (Late 2013) GPU Comparison
  AMD Radeon R9 280X AMD FirePro D700
SPs 2048 2048
GPU Clock (base) 850MHz 650MHz
GPU Clock (boost) 1000MHz 850MHz
Single Precision GFLOPS 4096 GFLOPS 3481 GFLOPS
Texture Units 128 128
ROPs 32 32
Transistor Count 4.3 Billion 4.3 Billion
Memory Interface 384-bit GDDR5 384-bit GDDR5
Memory Datarate 6000MHz 5480MHz
Peak GPU Memory Bandwidth 288 GB/s 264 GB/s
GPU Memory 3GB 6GB

Depending on thermal conditions the 280X can be as little as 17% faster than the D700 or as much as 30% faster, assuming it's not memory bandwidth limited. In the case of a memory bandwidth limited scenario the gap can shrink to 9%.

All of the results below are using the latest Radeon WHQL drivers at the time of publication (13-12_win7_win8_64_dd_ccc_whql.exe) running 64-bit Windows 8.1. Keep in mind that the comparison cards are all run on our 2014 GPU testbed, which is a 6-core Ivy Bridge E (i7-4960X) running at 4.2GHz. In other words, the other cards will have a definite CPU performance advantage (20 - 30% depending on the number of active cores).

You'll notice that I didn't run anything at 4K for these tests. Remember CrossFire at 4K is still broken on everything but the latest GCN 1.1 hardware from AMD.

Battlefield 3 - 2560x1440 - Ultra Quality + 4x MSAA

Battlefield 3 starts out telling the story I expected to see. A pair of 280Xes ends up being 16% faster than the dual FirePro D700 setup in the Mac Pro. You really start to get an idea of where the Mac Pro's high-end GPU configuration really lands.

Bioshock Infinite - 2560x1440 - Ultra Quality + DDoF

Bioshock ends up at the extreme end of what we'd expect to see between the 280X and D700. I tossed in a score from Bioshock under OS X, which obviously doesn't have CF working and ends up at less than half of the performance of the D700. If you're going to do any heavy 3D gaming, you'll want to do it under Windows still.

Company of Heroes 2 - 2560x1440 - Maximum Quality + Med. AA

Not all games will scale well across multiple GPUs: Company of Heroes 2 is one of them. There's no performance uplift from having two 280Xes and thus the D700 performs like a slower single GPU R9 280X.

Company of Heroes 2 - Min. Frame Rate - 2560x1440 - Maximum Quality + Med. AA

Metro: Last Light - 2560x1440 - High Quality

Metro is the one outlier in our test suite. Although CrossFire is clearly working under Windows, under Metro the D700 behaves as if it wasn't. I'm not sure what's going on here, but this does serve as a reminder that relying on multi-GPU setups to increase performance does come with a handful of these weird cases - particularly if you're using non-standard GPU configurations.

GPU Choices 4K Support & The 4K Experience
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  • JlHADJOE - Wednesday, January 01, 2014 - link

    AFAIK the D700 is also a FirePro, and also has ECC on its VRAM. Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, January 01, 2014 - link

    Wrong, it has no ECC. On OSX Apple writes much of the graphics driver anyways, so they can get away with calling Radeons FirePros as ECC isn't a necessity to call them that. Reply
  • Kevin G - Wednesday, January 01, 2014 - link

    ECC on the FirePro's doesn't actually add additional RAM like it does on traditional server DIMM's. Instead as RAID5 like parity is performed on GPU memory channels to be able to be able to detect a memory error. Thus the 6 GB card will only have 5.25 GB available to use with ECC enabled. Since all the memory channel have to be used for a memory access, performance in some workloads takes a significant hit. I believe by default ECC is disabled for performance and memory capacity reasons.

    There is also one other difference between the D700 and the W9000: clock speeds and voltages. The D700 runs are a lower clock speed by default and presumably lower voltage to cut power consumption.
    Reply
  • DaveGirard - Wednesday, January 01, 2014 - link

    the D700 is clocked lower than the W9000. It's at 850MHz instead of 950. Reply
  • lilo777 - Wednesday, January 01, 2014 - link

    Except it does not have ECC memory or the Pro drivers which are the only things that differentiate Pro from consumer grade cards. As such they are consumers grade cards (and the two year old generation) which cost around $700 at most not the $3500 pro cards. Reply
  • japtor - Wednesday, January 01, 2014 - link

    There's never been a pro driver distinction in OS X, Radeons are validated for pro apps in OS X like FirePros in Windows. Granted there hasn't been the pro branding until now, but Apple does the drivers iirc so I don't see them bothering with splitting the driver base like AMD does. Reply
  • melgross - Wednesday, January 01, 2014 - link

    You know nothing about Apple's drivers. I would bet that at the very least, they are based on the pro driver configurations, as apple has little interest in gaming, and a lot of interest in pro users. If you look at the performance of this in a pro app you can see that performance is pretty good. Mac Pro's are used in NASA, drug company research labs, CAD shops, video, photography labs and studios and publishing. Game drivers are of no interest to them.
    Reply
  • solipsism - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    Note that he speculates that the CPU would be soldered (something no Mac Pro has ever had) and the thermal cap removed (something I believe Apple had only done once).

    Also note he doesn't have any more PCIe available for the SSD so he ends up going with the much slower SATA version but to make up some of the speed he gets 2x512GB in a RAID 0 configuration.

    I like the case they used and I'm expect to see *more* of these smaller cases hit the market for DIYer and from OEMs now that Apple has stepped in.
    Reply
  • Lonyo - Wednesday, January 01, 2014 - link

    There are lots of small cases on the market and there have been for a while now... sure there could be more, but they are already widely available with a hell of a lot of variety of designs... not sure exactly how you think Apple will have any real impact on this market.

    If anything is going to have an impact it would be Steam boxes because OEMs might start pulling their fingers out and designing more gaming oriented small boxes, although they also are already rather common, but not always available for end users, such as the Alienware system which has a horizontal GPU mount with a riser.
    Reply
  • solipsism - Wednesday, January 01, 2014 - link

    Where are all these OEM PCs with very small cases but high performance like the new Mac Pro? Reply

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