Enterprise, Graphics

New AMD FirePro Boards Surprise With High End GPU Silicon in Two Different Roles

As we are approaching the middle of 2011, the companies are refreshing their professional parts. First nVidia introduced a 512-core Tesla part (based on GF110 instead of "hot’n’heavy" GF100), and now AMD is introducing new FirePro graphics cards.

AMD introduced two new professional cards today: FirePro V5900 and V7900 Respectively. However, the most interesting part is that both share the same GPU silicon
AMD introduced two new professional cards today: FirePro V5900 and V7900 Respectively. However, the most interesting part is that both share the same GPU silicon

The company is bringing new features from the Northern Islands GPU architecture, such as more efficient core arrangement (VLIW4 instead of VLIW5), Geometry Boost (setup and rasterize two triangles per clock, i.e. twice as much as in previous generations), improved PowerTune for decreasing the power consumption, AutoDetect Technology (professional acceleration for multiple applications running at the same time), as well as Eyefinity and Crossfire Pro technologies.

AMD's 2.15 billion transistor Cayman die shows its versatility with FirePro V5900Keeping things in line with the fact that Northern Islands architecture has less cores than Evergreen one (FirePro Vx800 Series), we expected to see less cores on V5900. However, we did not expect a radical decrease – while the old ATI FirePro V5800 featured 800 Cores (Juniper die), the new AMD-branded FirePro V5900 packs only 512 cores, a 36% decrease in number of cores! Even more interesting is the GPU. Incredible how it may sound, but AMD didn’t put 1280-core Barts inside. Nope, AMD put a 2.15 billion transistor part – inside a 75 Watt graphics card. For this majestic feat, AMD and Intel are battling for the prestigious award of "Castrator of the year 2011". First Intel fused off 60% of their sexa-core 32nm Westmere design to get a 4.4GHz dual-core processor, and now AMD fused off about 70% (1.5-1.7 billion transistors) of their high-end GPU to make it fit inside the 75 Watt thermal envelope.

The good part of the board is the fact that it features 2GB of GDDR5 memory ticking at only 512MHz in Quad Data Rate mode. Without any doubt, this is the lowest clocked GDDR5 memory we’ve seen since the standards’ inception. Combining a 256-bit memory access with 512MHz clock results in video memory bandwidth of only 64GB/s (identical to its predecessor, a 128-bit V5800). Three display outputs enable users of this card to drive three displays using AMD Eyefinity technology.

Still, this part will sell for much more money than AMD can get with a fully featured, 1536-core Cayman die and 2GB of fully clocked GDDR5 memory in the form of Radeon HD 6970. While HD 6970 retails for $350, FirePro V5900 will sell for $699. The difference in price is of course, in the specialized drivers that accelerate professional applications.

Second card being introduced today is the brand new $999 professional card that also features top-of-the-range silicon – Cayman. Just like its predecessor (V7800), AMD FirePro V7900 is a card which our OEM sources call the sweet-spot of the whole FirePro range. The company created this part to have the high-end GPU giving as much performance as possible, while keeping it in single-slot form factor, with power consumption limited to 150 Watts.

FirePro V7900 features 1280 cores, down from 1440 on ATI’s FirePro V7800, but brings 2GB of GDDR5 memory ticking at 1.28GHz QDR, resulting with frame buffer bandwidth of high 160GB/s – a nice jump from 128GB/s in the previous generation. This board supports AMD HD3D Pro standard via included expansion bracket as well as 4-display Eyefinity setup. Given that the only outputs on the board are full-sized DisplayPort 1.2, we’re not surprised to see boards being shipped with DVI and HDMI 1.4 adapters.

According to AMD, the company received certifications for following software applications: Autodesk 2012 applications, Ansys 13.0, Bentley Systems Microstation V8i, CEI EnSight 9.2.2b, CEI EnSight CFD 3.5, Dassault Systèmes applications, SolidWorks SolidWorks 2010 and 2011 3D CAD software, ESRI ArcGIS 10, ESRI ArcGIS 9.3.1, and Side Effects Software Houdini 11.

The boards are available for sale starting today.