FireGL V5000 Configuration

The 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
Memory Bus 256bit 128bit 256bit 256bit
Memory Clock 500MHz 432MHz 450MHz 500MHz
Core Clock ? 425MHz 490MHz 375MHz
Vertex Pipes 4 6 6 6
Vertex Processing 36-bit 32-bit 32-bit 32-bit
Pixel Pipes 12 8 12 16
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
Stereo 3D 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.

Index The Test


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 02, 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 01, 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 01, 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 01, 2005 - link


    This is just the X700 with a different driver! :D
  • phaxmohdem - Tuesday, February 01, 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 01, 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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