First Look: ATI FIREGL V7100

1 Feb, 2005 By: Ron LaFon

PCI Express graphics card.

The ATI FIREGL V7100 is the most powerful offering in ATI's Visualization series of PCI Express graphics cards, but its performance places it in the midrange of workstation graphics cards. Announced in June 2004, V7100 cards just recently became available.


The FireGL's single-chip architecture is touted by ATI as having fewer failure points and shorter physical connections, thus minimizing the time and distance between data requests and delivery to maximize reliable performance. It's a native PCI Express implementation, rather than AGP technology that has been bridged to PCI Express.

Seen from the side, the most obvious feature of the ATI FireGL V7100 is the large copper heat sink, typical of recent models in the FireGL line. In operation, the V7100 is a relatively quiet graphics card that uses a single PCI Express slot. A wire connector delivers two power feeds from the parent system. To run this card, a system must have a PCI Express slot and a power supply capable of handling the additional load of the graphics card.

The back side of the ATI FireGL V7100 offers dual DVI-I connectors and a 3D stereo connector. The V7100 includes 256MB of GDDR3 onboard RAM.

 Cadalyst Labs Graphics card comparison
Cadalyst Labs Graphics card comparison

I tested the ATI FireGL V7100 using a dual PCI Express capable system from @Xi Computer (www.xicomputer.com), with a single PCI Express slot enabled. The system was equipped with an AMD Athlon 64 processor (4000+) that ran at 2.6GHz with a 1024K cache. The system, based on an ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe motherboard, was populated with 2GB of RAM for this test.

The graphics drivers provided by ATI for this test, v6.14.10.6483 for Windows 2000/XP, performed well. Testing with AutoCAD 2005 SP1 on Windows XP Professional produced a C2001 total index score of 115.74. With SPECviewperf 8.01 (www.spec.com), using the proe-03 viewset, the score was 46.60. Finally, when I ran MAXbench 4 using the default graphics driver in 3ds max 7, the Comp high rate was 43.03 and the Comp low rate was 79.11, with an average rate of 61.07. The ATI accelerated driver extension for 3ds max included with the driver didn't support 3ds max 7 and also wasn't available on the ATI Web site, although it should be online by the time you read this. I did run tests with 3ds max 7 using the integrated DirectX driver, with the underlying graphics driver set for 3ds max. With this driver, the card posted a Comp High rate of 167.33 and a Comp Low rate of 188.99, for an average of 178.16. 3ds max 7 has its own fast integrated DirectX driver implementation. See the chart at left to see how this card stacks up against others we've reviewed recently.

The scores for the ATI FireGL V7100 place it in the midrange of graphics cards. Pricing is $1,099 (MSRP), on the expensive side for a card with midrange performance.

As we went to press, ATI released the FireGL V5000, a PCI Express card priced at $699 MSRP. In designing this lower-priced card, ATI retained the full complement of six vertex pipelines found in its higher-end cards, so it should perform well with CAD applications. The new card incorporates 128MB RAM and dual DVI connectors. We'll take a look at it soon.

The ATI FireGL V7100 PCI Express graphics card comes with 256MB of GDDR3 memory onboard.
The ATI FireGL V7100 PCI Express graphics card comes with 256MB of GDDR3 memory onboard.

Ron LaFon, a contributing editor for Cadalyst, is a writer, editor and computer graphics and electronic publishing specialist from Atlanta, Georgia. He is a principal at 3Bear Productions in Atlanta.

About the Author: Ron LaFon

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