Overview and Specifications
ATI has been particularly aggressive with their FireGL workstation graphics card lineup over the past six months. While their flagship R600-architecture was the basis for the solid (but ultimately underwhelming) Radeon HD2900XT release for the gaming market, our tests have shown that this particular GPU architecture actually is much more competitive in the workstation market. While the R600 may not be the best choice for a high-end gaming rig, it is indeed a powerful chip for high-end OpenGL work, and as such, has led to a revival of sorts for ATI’s FireGL lineup.
With an excellent performing workstation GPU in tow, ATI finally took the steps to get their latest generation of FireGL cards out to the market fast – much faster than we’ve seen from them in the past. ATI now has a number of R600-based workstation products out on the market, and is competing quite well with NVIDIA in terms of both price and performance. ATI’s cards generally offer nearly all the bang for the buck as the QuadroFX lineup, but ATI has some unique models as well which give them their own following of users. One of their newest models, the FireGL V8600, has finally hit the market. This is the card we’ll be looking at today.
The FireGL V8600 follows on the heels of its father, the big daddy FireGL V8650. The FireGL V8650 is ATI’s current ultra high-end product, featuring ATI’s R600 GPU in all its 320-shader processor glory, paired with 2 GB of high-speed GDDR memory - it's a beast of a card – and sells for well over $2,000 on the street. The FireGL V8600, on the other hand, follows this same mentality but is running with a smaller frame buffer – a "mere" 1 GB of memory onboard. In most situations, the extra 1 GB of memory on the FireGL V8650 isn’t being used, so ATI has lopped off this extra memory and is now offering a trimmed down version which is far more competitive in terms of price. Considering that most mid to high-end applications don’t even come close to using a full 2 GB frame buffer, this 1 GB card should perform with a smidgen of ATI’s much more expensive V8650, but will cost a lot less. Obviously, this is good news for any potential buyer.
With 1 GB of memory, the FireGL V8600 has an MSRP $900 less than the FireGL V8650 ($1,899 vs. $2,799), and is already selling for around $1,500 on the street. Of course, all of this is nicely timed, as NVIDIA’s QuadroFX 3700 board also just shipped with a very similar MSRP ($1,699) and is just now hitting the review circuit. ATI is targeting the FireGL V8600 right at NVIDIA’s new card, touting its double-sized 1 GB of memory and full 320-shader processor architecture at roughly the same price point. Let’s see what the better option is, shall we?
The FireGL V8600 squeezes in-between two other R600-architecture based FireGL products which ATI is currently shipping, the V7600 and the V8650. Overall, the V8600 is much closer to the V8650 in terms of specifications and board design (a likely reason why ATI named these products so similarly). However, a specification table always helps break things down.
ATI FireGL V7600
As you can see, the FireGL V8600 boasts significant improvements over the FireGL V7600 card, including double the memory, higher memory bandwidth, and a higher GPU clock speed. In comparison to the V8650, however, the cards are exactly identical with exception to the overall memory size. Everything else, clock speeds, features, are all the same between the V8600 and V8650 cards. This leads us to believe that performance wise, the V8600 and V8650 should be identical, unless the particular application / benchmark needs to store more than 1 GB of data in the frame buffer.
FireGL V8600 Specifications
FireGL V8650 Specifications