We recently ran a piece that covered hardware from the three major workstation graphics add-in card vendors (NVIDIA, ATI, and 3DLabs). For background on the hardware we will be testing, please take a look at that article. This piece will focus on the merits of the FireGL V5000 as an addition to ATI's lineup of workstation parts.

That having been said, let us introduce you to the new ATI FireGL V5000:

This midrange workstation card is based around a much trimmed down R423 core. The fundamental technology hasn't really changed for a few generations, especially not in terms of workstation feature set. The idea has really been smaller, faster, more. To that end, we've seen ATI focus very much on pushing the hardware and technology they had as hard as possible. To be fair, they did introduce a couple new features with R423 (3Dc being the most interesting), but nothing on the level of the Shader Model 3.0 support NVIDIA had. And the issue here is that the workstation market isn't really going to benefit from a normal map compression scheme. Even 3DLabs supports Pixel Shader 3.0 these days.

ATI can make up ground if they are able to take what they do and do it well. And we've seen them come through here in the consumer space and deliver. Figuratively, not literally: there has been low availability on the most interesting parts. Hopefully for ATI, we'll be to see the same tenacity in the workstation market when it comes to performance with better success on getting product out the door and into the customers' hands.

In talking to ATI about the FireGL V5000, we learned that ATI has recently started trying to push harder into the workstation market and make some headway against the rest of the market. They feel they have started to do so, and we hope that if they actually want the responsibility of a market leader in the workstation segment that they will take on the responsibility of one before they acquire the position. To us, that means we need to see some real hard hitting workstation only features in the next FireGL revision. Overlay planes, quad buffered stereo, and dual-link DVI are great, but there are plenty of professional level OpenGL features that ATI could choose to implement (or to implement better) in the next revision of FireGL.

If ATI really wants to separate themselves and lead the workstation world they can. We would love to see the FireGL team take a stand and demand higher quality for their core. We would love to see IEEE 754 floating point, better anisotropic filtering (and image quality in general), and true virtual memory support from the graphics card to the hard drive that's transparent to software. Of course we're going to want to see at least SM3.0 if not DX10 support coming up soon. Run separate silicon if necessary.

We understand that workstation software sometimes lag the times in terms of technology used. We're not going to see CAD software that pushes pixels like Half-Life 2 anytime soon. But workstation hardware is fundamentally different than consumer level hardware, and a different way of thinking needs to be applied.

Does the FireGL V5000 hint that ATI has what it takes to think about workstation in a way worthy of the leadership position they wish to obtain? Let's take a look and find out.

FireGL V5000 Configuration


View All Comments

  • nadirshakur - Saturday, February 26, 2005 - link

    please please please someone tell me what the hell is that thing in the middle, it looks like s-video but has three pins instead of the usual four on s-video i have the card and trying to connect it to my computer, someone please help, thanks! Reply
  • nadirshakur - Saturday, February 26, 2005 - link

  • nadirshakur - Saturday, February 26, 2005 - link

  • Draven31 - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    But, it won't fix the occasional OpenGL errors you'll get by risking putting an ATI card in your workstation. No thanks. Reply
  • Shadowmage - Tuesday, February 1, 2005 - link

    Damn, that's pretty bad. nVidia's going with a mere THREE vertex shader card?

    Yeah, I didn't mean to demean your review; I just think that getting $500 performance with a $200 card is rather amusing. That's even better than getting $550 performance (X850XT PE) out of a $400 card (X800 Pro VIVO)!

    And yeah, there are some driver hacks that let you install the workstation drivers on an UNMODIFIED consumer card.
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, February 1, 2005 - link

    Shadowmage ...

    There are a few other factors that go into it, but the silion they've stuck on there is the same as the x700.

    The differences are the fact that the X700 lacks the 2 Silicon Image TMDS transmitters for 2x dual-link dvi, the stereo connector, has a different bios, and also uses different drivers. Build quality is also generally better with pro boards, and cap/resistor/pcb layouts are slightly different in some cases.

    The reason we focused on the hardware rather than on the consumer part from which it is derived is that we are going to take a look at NVIDIA's 3 vertex 8 pixel workstatoin design shortly. We would rather see NVIDIA go with a 6 vertex 8 pixel design for their workstation as well, but this would have meant deviating from their consumer desing (6600). It just so happened that ATI was lucky and their consumer part fit what we wanted to see in a midrange workstation.

    We want to encourage NVIDIA and ATI to look at their workstation parts as requiring different silicon. Maybe eventually they will actually start doing things the right way with respect to the end user. Of course, maybe I poured that message on a little thick at the beginning, but we feel it's very important.

    By the way, there was actually a guide to modding r3xx cards to their respective fgl cards on adrian's rojak pot in january. We haven't seen documentation on modding r4xx based cards into the fgl v series. It's interesting to note that it's not enough to simply flash the bios and install the drivers -- ati makes it more difficult than that.

    Derek Wilson
  • Shadowmage - Tuesday, February 1, 2005 - link


    This is just the X700 with a different driver! :D
  • phaxmohdem - Tuesday, February 1, 2005 - link

    LOL I just found the pricing info. My bad. Great job Anand.

    And BTW

    1st and 2nd Post's bitches!!! (since that seems to be the staple of bragging rights these days for whatever reason.)
  • phaxmohdem - Tuesday, February 1, 2005 - link

    Crap! A story thats been up for nearly 24 hours with no comment love.....

    Fear not I have not forsaken thee!!

    I wish I could find pricing information on this card. Looks to be perfect for my needs dabling in 3D design.

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