MCAD Tech News (#368)

13 Aug, 2014 By: Cadalyst Staff

AMD to Round Out Next Generation of Workstation Graphics Cards

Entry-level and midrange models, scheduled for release later this year, are designed to deliver more memory and increased computing and graphics performance for CAD workflows.

By Nancy Spurling Johnson

Design and engineering firms — today more than ever — are realizing the workflow and bottom-line benefits of 3D CAD and the powerful applications it supports, including reality capture, building information modeling (BIM), design visualization, and simulation and analysis. This trend, along with the growth of digital signage, graphics processing unit (GPU) computing, computer virtualization, and other applications, is fueling demand for more powerful, professional-grade graphics cards that deliver the performance required to support graphics-intensive software.

AMD, the company behind approximately 16.5% of professional graphics card shipments for Windows and Linux workstations (according to Jon Peddie Research), has announced upcoming additions to its AMD FirePro professional graphics family that amount to a big leap in computing potential for CAD workflows. The new generation of AMD FirePro W-Series models will support the entry-level desktop workstation user to the ultimate power user, offering larger memory configurations and increased compute performance (compared with previous models), as well as support for 4K multidisplay, next-generation application programming interfaces (APIs), and PCIe 3.0; application certifications; and "rock-solid drivers," AMD reported.

In June, the company launched the AMD FirePro W9100 and AMD FirePro W8100 graphics cards, which compose the high end of the W-Series line. Those models will be joined by the AMD FirePro W2100, AMD FirePro W4100, AMD FirePro W5100, and AMD FirePro W7100, all supported by AMD Graphics Core Next architecture and all designed for CAD, engineering, video, and animation professionals.

Scheduled for release later this year, the AMD FirePro W2100, W4100, W5100, and W7100 will join the previously released, high-end W8100 and W9100 in the W-Series family.
Scheduled for release later this year, the AMD FirePro W2100, W4100, W5100, and W7100 will join the previously released, high-end W8100 and W9100 in the W-Series family.

New Features

Highlights of the next-generation models include the following, according to AMD:

  • With 16 GB of GDDR5 memory and the ability to support as many as six 4K displays, the AMD FirePro W9100 is AMD's most advanced professional graphics solution, offering a single-GPU solution for ultrahigh-resolution visualization environments. Along with the FirePro W8100, it is designed to support the most compute-intensive applications, including computer-aided engineering (CAE) and media and entertainment (M&E) applications.
  • The AMD FirePro W8100 features 8 GB of GDDR5 memory and as much as 4.2 TFLOPS of compute power to accelerate projects beyond just graphics.
  • Designed for multimedia applications in engineering as well as M&E, the 8-GB AMD FirePro W7100 is designed to boost performance and support for 4K content, including video playback, editing, and transcoding. Glen Matthews, senior manager, professional graphics, said the FirePro W7100 will deliver much better CAD performance than its predecessor, the FirePro W7000: "It's an excellent solution for CAD."
  • With 4 GB of GDDR5 memory and four display outputs, the AMD FirePro W5100 can tackle complex models, assemblies, data sets, and advanced visual effects with ease. Called a "midrange powerhouse" for M&E, it has twice the memory and is said to be 190% faster the FirePro W5000 (based on SPECviewperf 12 CAD viewsets).
  • The AMD FirePro W4100 is designed for CAD users who want the performance of a midrange graphics card but can only afford entry-level options. Among other features, it can support four monitors.
  • The AMD FirePro W2100 is said to deliver the optimized and certified professional application performance that consumer graphics lack, at an entry-level price. It simplifies the process of selecting the right graphics card by combining desirable features in one product at a good price, Matthews stated. Designed for CAD, finance, and medical-imaging applications, it performs as much as 67% faster for CAD applications than last year's entry-level AMD FirePro V3900 (based on SPECviewperf 12 CAD application viewsets).

Ready for the Future: OpenCL and Mantle

Many top software developers, including Autodesk, Dassault Systèmes, MAXON, The Foundry, and Chaos Group, are moving to OpenCL. The new AMD FirePro W-Series models will support the current OpenCL version 1.2, and a new driver will be available in the fall to support OpenCL 2.0, Matthews said.

Mantle, an AMD-powered API, enables higher graphics performance on Graphics Core Next GPUs for all applications, including CAD and gaming, Matthews said. He promised some exciting news to come for application developers: "We really think this is going to be a big change in the market."

Pricing and Availability

AMD FirePro W9100 and W8100 graphics cards are now available for purchase from numerous workstation providers. The AMD FirePro W2100, W4100, and W5100 will be available in September from AMD global distribution partner SAPPHIRE Technology and major workstation providers; the AMD FirePro W7100 will be available in Q4 2014.

Like all AMD professional graphics cards, the new models will be covered by a three-year warranty. Pricing will be available when products are released, Matthews said.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Nancy Spurling Johnson is Longitude Media's content director.

Lenovo Launches Three New ThinkStations

Professional desktop workstations promise the hardware power needed for rendering, simulation, and 3D design.

By Cadalyst Staff

This week Lenovo announced the ThinkStation P900, P700, and P500 desktop workstations, rounding out the P Series that was launched in May with the entry-level ThinkStation P300. The P Series workstations are designed for professionals in industries including engineering, architecture, and media and entertainment.

According to Cassidy Lammers, product reviews analyst for Lenovo, the company has "improved our storage and memory in the new line, both in terms of capacity and performance with more DIMMs and faster memory thanks to DDR4. In addition, all users will benefit from the flexibility to configure the system to their needs with our FLEX bays and truly tool-less components. We've also improved our thermal design, giving greater uptime and easy replacement of parts."

The workstations are built around Intel Xeon processors and NVIDIA Quadro graphics cards; the P900 model supports up to three K6000s, the most powerful of the NVIDIA Quadro line. "As data sets get larger and more complex, our customers need increasingly powerful, interactive performance," said Jeff Brown, vice-president and general manager, Professional Solutions Group, NVIDIA. "The P Series delivers this capability by utilizing the new generation of NVIDIA Quadro GPUs to ensure that users get the most out of their investments."

The new models feature a redesigned cooling system with a patented tri-channel architecture. A FLEX bay can support an optical drive or the FLEX Module, which can be used to support an ultraslim optical drive, a media card reader, or Firewire (IEEE 1394). Newly designed HDD trays support both 2.5" and 3.5" hard drives. And with one tray supporting up to two 2.5" hard drives, users can add as many as 14 drives (P900 model only).

Additional features include:

  • Tool-less upgrades: Users can access critical components, including the motherboard and power supply, without tools. Key touch points are highlighted with red bands.
  • QR codes: By scanning the code, users can access detailed information on system architecture and component technical specifications.
  • Diagnostic port: An Android-based tablet or smartphone can be plugged into the USB port for system analysis using the ThinkStation app, or any USB mass storage device can be used to transfer diagnostic information directly to the dedicated ThinkStation diagnostics web page.
Lenovo ThinkStation P Series workstations.

The new Lenovo ThinkStation P Series workstations will become available in late September through Lenovo business partners and on; the company will announce pricing closer to that time.


What’s New at

Video Tip: AutoCAD File Tab Tips
If you work with multiple open drawings at once, then file tabs are a must! Watch this video tip from Cadalyst and Lynn Allen to learn all the ins and outs of working with the File Tab feature that was added in AutoCAD 2014. Watch the video »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

Add comment

More News and Resources from Cadalyst Partners

Take the Gradual Path to BIMWhite Paper: Take the Gradual Path to BIM. Implementing building information modeling (BIM) can be a daunting challenge, but you don't have to take on everything at once. Learn how small, incremental advances can yield big benefits over time. Download your paper today!

Discover DraftSight(R) - the capabilities of Autocad(c) and more at the right price. DraftSight is a 2D and 3D CAD solution that can create, edit, view and markup any DWG file with greater ease, speed and efficiency. Learn more here.