ATI FirePro V580014 Jul, 2010 By: Ron LaFon
First Look Review: Mid-range graphics card is economical, energy-efficient, and an excellent choice for AutoCAD users.
AMD recently added several new products to its ATI FirePro series of professional graphics cards, among them the high-end V8800, the entry-level V3800, and the mid-range V5800. Cadalyst Labs opted to test the ATI FirePro V5800 to gauge the performance of this middle-ground option. Those wanting more performance and memory could opt for the V8800, and those desiring a more economical card could go with the V3800. Since AMD's initial announcements, the company also introduced the ATI FirePro V7800 and V4800.
Features and Specifications
The ATI FirePro V5800 features 1 GB of ultra-high-speed GDDR5 memory and a native 30-bit display pipeline in the graphics-processing unit (GPU) to ensure accurate color reproduction and high visual quality in a single-slot graphics card. These characteristics make the V5800 well suited for CAD and digital-content creation (DCC) users who work with medium-to-large models.
The V5800 is based on a new-generation GPU that features ultra-parallel processing architecture to help maximize throughput by directing horsepower wherever needed. This intelligent management enables real-time rendering of complex models and scenes and increasingly greater frame rates for animation. The V5800 has 800 stream processors, one 128-bit memory interface, and a 64.0 GB/second bandwidth.
Connectivity options include three independent outputs: two DisplayPort connections and one dual-link DVI connector. Users can operate as many as three 30" displays (12.3 million pixels) with one ATI FirePro V5800 card or as many as six displays — each with independent display resolution, refresh rates, and display rotation settings — when using two cards in the same computer. High–dynamic range (HDR) rendering is possible thanks to 8-, 10-, and 16-bit color component support. The card supports a maximum resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 at 60 Hz. The V5800 offers hardware acceleration and DirectX 11 and OpenGL v3.2 advanced features. The company's ATI EyeInfinity technology supports massive desktop workspaces for an immersive graphics and computing experience.
The ATI FirePro V5800 is PCI Express 2.0–compliant and uses a single full-length PCIe slot, drawing its electrical needs entirely from the slot so that no auxiliary power connections are necessary. When active, the V5800 uses 75 W of electricity or less.
The operating system support is provided with drivers for 32- or 64-bit Microsoft Windows 7, Windows XP, and Windows Vista as well as Linux.
Testing and Performance
I used an Xi Computer MTower workstation to test the ATI FirePro V5800. This test system was based on a 3.17-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 microprocessor. It had 4.0 GB of DDR2 800-MHz PC2-6400 RAM and was running Windows Vista Ultimate x64 with the latest service packs and updates. I used ATI graphics drivers v8.723.6.0 (dated April 19, 2010), which were the most current display drivers available at the time of testing. These integrated ATI drivers sense when a recognized application such as AutoCAD is running and automatically reconfigure settings to optimize performance.
To test a graphics card, I normally run a three-part benchmark series that includes the Cadalyst Benchmark Test and AutoCAD, an Autodesk 3ds Max benchmark, and the full SPECviewperf 10 (the latter two from www.spec.org). However, an updated version of the 3ds Max test was not available at the time of testing. Running SPECviewperf 10, I discovered a problem with that particular benchmark and the v8.723.6.0 graphics card drivers that were available at test time. I elected to omit those test results, considering them to be unreliable with this driver version.
So I pressed forth using a benchmark test suite comprising only the Cadalyst C2010 Benchmark v1.3 and AutoCAD 2010 with all currently available patches, updates, and service packs installed. (Note that Cadalyst C2011 has since become available; see www.cadalyst.com/benchmark.) I ran all tests at 1,280 x 1,024 resolution with Truecolor mode selected. Vertical Sync was forced off for the duration and background processes were kept to a minimum.
I tested using the native AutoCAD Direct3D driver, which completed the benchmark in just 19 minutes. The best C2010 total index score was 362. (The 3D graphics index was 741, the 2D graphics index was 293, the disk index was 161, and the CPU index was 253.) These performance numbers are excellent, well above what I have seen in the past for mid-range graphics cards.
ATI regularly updates its graphics card drivers with new versions that often offer enhanced performance, so it's a good idea to obtain the latest versions of the drivers before evaluating system performance at your site. AMD has performed extensive hardware certification for this line of ATI FirePro cards; to view the current list, go to http://ati.amd.com/firepro and click on Certified Applications.
The manufacturer's suggested retail price for the ATI FirePro V5800 is $499, but I have seen street prices as low as $419.
All ATI professional graphic products come with three-year warranty coverage.
With its moderate price and excellent AutoCAD performance, as well as its relatively thrifty energy use, the ATI FirePro V5800 provides great value as a mid-range graphics card. Although I can't award the Highly Recommended rating without comparable scores from at least two benchmark tests, the results I did achieve for the ATI FirePro V5800 indicate that it's a worthwhile option to consider.
Editor's note: AMD reports that an updated driver is now available that resolves the SPECViewperf benchmark performance regression issue that was encountered during our review.