AMD FirePro W5000

AMD launched their new Southern Islands FirePro products at Siggraph 2012, which included the W9000, W8000, W7000 and W5000, which all make use of AMD's graphics core next (GCN) architecture. The FirePro W9000 and W8000 have already been reviewed right here at Legit Reviews, so today we will be taking a look at the more value oriented FirePro W5000 and how it does in professional applications.

AMD Firepro W5000

Priced at $448 shipped, the W5000 is a card that comes with the support and certification for the applications professionals use without the high price tag of the more powerful cards in the FirePro lineup. The W5000 packs 768 Stream processors with an engine clock of 825MHz. The 2GB of GDDR5 memory comes clocked at 800MHz on a 256-bit bus, offering 102.4GB/s of memory bandwidth. The W5000 also packs 32 ROPs. Overall, the W5000 packs quite a punch for its price range fitting in nicely in the mid-range segment offering 1.27 TFLOPs of single precision compute performance.

AMD FirePro W5000n

The AMD FirePro W5000 uses a simple copper heatsink for the VRMs with the simple yet adequate cooler keeping the GPU's temps under control.

AMD FirePro W5000n

The card itself is roughly 7.25" in length and just under 4" tall and of course only takes up a single expansion slot.

AMD FirePro W5000n

The W5000 comes with one Dual-link DVI and two DisplayPort connectors, which can drive up to six monitors.

AMD FirePro W5000n

We can see here that a crossfire connector is present should the need for multiple GPUs arise. However, no Genlock connector is available on the card, and pay no mind to the W4000 branding this card is indeed a W5000. That said you will see an array of pins on the card, these are for an as yet unannounced FirePro feature that will launch in the future.

Test System

Test System

The system used for this review is a daily driver, which is used for both gaming as well as Photoshop and 3D modeling. It may not be the prettiest or the fastest rig around but it gets the job done and will be the basis for the benchmark numbers you will see in the next few pages.

Legit Reviews Test System:

Looking at the above specs the hardware is fairly solid and should prove far more than capable of running the benchmarks and tests we will be throwing at it. From this base configuration, we installed the FirePro W5000 and the AMD FirePro Unified Driver Version 8.982.3 for Windows 7 64-Bit. After which we got right down to testing the user experience and running benchmarks to see how the W5000 does when it’s put through its paces and how it compares to AMD's consumer oriented Radeon HD 7970.

AMD FirePro W5000:

 AMD W5000 GPU-Z

As we can see from the GPU-Z screenshot the W5000 is based on AMD’s Pitcairn GPU that is used in the 7800 series, albeit slimmed down which has allowed for lower power consumption as the card has all its power supplied by the PCIe 3.0 x16 slot.

ASUS AMD Radeon HD 7970 DirectCu II TOP:

AMD Radeon HD 7970 GPU-Z

For comparison, we will be pitting the FirePro W5000 against the ASUS Radeon HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP.

SPECviewperf 11 64-bit

The first test in are benchmark suite is the SPECgpc project group's SPECviewperf 11 which was released in June 2010. It is an industry standard tool used by a great deal of companies to test the performance of professional graphics cards. SPECviewperf 11 tests various viewsets that are taken from todays most used professional applications. Using large models and advanced OpenGL functions, it really stresses the professional series GPUs in many ways. The benchmark is run at its default settings with a resolution of 1920x1080.


SPECviewperf 11

SPECviewperf 11 Viewsets:
SPECviewperf 11

A quick look at the chart tells us that while the Radeon HD 7970 might be a high end desktop GPU with the superior specs, it just can't get the job done compared to the FirePro W5000; which, due to drivers, ECC memory, and further tweaks all tailored towards this kind of software, allows it to simply walk away in these benchmarks.

SPECviewperf 11

In a more visually appealing comparison, we can see that the Radeon HD 7970 (in red) in almost all benchmarks except one gets slaughtered. In the Maya test, we see the FirePro W5000 really show a massive advantage to the tune of 315%. Overall, the FirePro W500 loses only one test by 18% the rest of the tests have it winning by 100-315%. It goes to show just how much drivers and optimizations matter when it comes to professional applications.

SPECapc Maya 2012

It was just a short while ago that the SPECapc Autodesk Maya 2012 benchmark was released and today we will be using it to give a more in depth look into the performance users can expect with the FirePro W5000 when using this particular software package. There are 50 individual tests in this benchmark which cover a wide range of scenarios such as modeling, rendering, deformation, animation etc. Some of the features included in the SPECapc Maya 2012 benchmark include:

SPECapc Maya 2012

We installed Autodesk Maya 2012 and ran the SPECapc Maya 2012 benchmark to see how the FirePro W5000 compares to the Radeon HD 7970.

SPECapc Maya 2012 benchmark

The trend continues with the little powerhouse that can, the FirePro W5000 slaughtering the Radeon HD 7970. This time the difference, while not as pronounced as it was in the SPECviewperf 11 results, is still staggering; with the FirePro W5000 being 97% faster than the Radeon HD 7970. With these results, it's easy to see that when using Autodesk Maya a FirePro series GPU really pays dividends.

Luxmark v2.0

The final benchmark will be Luxmark v2.0, which focuses on GPU compute performance via OpenCL. The benchmark is one of five used by AMD when they launched the Radeon HD 7970. The benchmark itself is a great test of a GPU's compute performance and we will be running all three possible scenes to get a good grasp on where the FirePro W5000 stands in terms of GPU compute performance and whether or not the FirePro cards offer a performance advantage in this particular situation.

LuxBall HDR

The first test is the simple benchmark: LuxBall HDR, which is a simple 262,000+ triangles scene.

LuxBall HDR

It’s obvious in this test that more cores is better, with the Radeon HD 7970's 2048 GCN stream processors simply dominating the FirePro W5000’s 768 stream processors. The performance difference here is massive, with the HD 7970 being 133% faster than the FirePro W5000.

LuxBall Sala

The second test is the medium benchmark: Sala, a scene comprised of 488,000 triangles that was designed by Daniel "ZanQdo" Salazar and was adapted for SLG2 by Michael "neo2068" Klemm.

LuxBall Sala

Again we see the Radeon HD 7970 dominate in this Open CL benchmark, outpacing the FirePro W5000 by 144%.

LuxBall Sala

The final test is the complex benchmark: Room, which is a 2,000,000 triangle scene that was designed by Mourelas "Moure" Konstantinos. This scene really stresses the GPU's compute performance. bringing weaker cards to their knees.

LuxBall Sala

Once again, the Radeon HD 7970 comes out on top in the most complex scene Luxmark v2.0 offers. The Radeon card outpaces the FirePro W5000 by 145% here.

It seems driver optimizations that gave the FirePro W5000 the advantage in previous tests don't come into play in this OpenCL benchmark. Simply put the W5000 just doesn't have the specs to overcome the Radeon HD 7970 when it comes to OpenCL, this is a job for the W9000 instead.

User Experience and Conclusion

The final bit of testing for AMD's FirePro W5000 is the most important. Benchmarks only tell you half the story. What really matters when it comes to professional graphics solutions is software support. After all, these solutions are expensive and if they don't deliver when they should its extremely problematic. Therefore we tested the AMD FirePro W5000 and Radeon HD 7970 in a typical 3D workflow. We started by creating a base mesh in Autodesk Maya 8.5, 2009, and 2012 in order to test compatibility across multiple versions of the software. From there we did some UV unwrapping so texturing could be started. After all that was accomplished, we exported the mesh for use in Autodesk's Mudbox 2013 where a high res sculpt was done on the base mesh. After which the final mesh had its subdivision level reset to zero and we exported it again. After doing so, the final normal, ambient occlusion and displacement maps are generated and brought into Autodesk Maya 2012. We applied the maps to the base mesh we exported and followed it up with further tweaking until we were satisfied. Through this process we really get to see if the AMD FirePro W5000 offered a better user experience over the consumer oriented Radeon line, and let me tell you it is a night and day difference.

AMD FirePro W5000

We had zero issues in all versions of Autodesk Maya that we used for testing this past month. It was also easy to see an improvement in work flow as the time to get a project moving and getting certain aspects done was easier and faster due to how much more responsive the FirePro W5000 was in comparison to the Radeon HD 7970. That said, up until a few months ago the Radeon HD 7970 we use as the regular GPU in this system was slow and cumbersome with extremely bad performance. Driver revisions have corrected this issue to an extent for the Radeon GPU, but performance is still far below that of the FirePro solution, which really shows how much drivers and support can improve performance and a person’s workflow. The change when unwrapping UVs for texturing for example was just far smoother on the FirePro with the selection of UVs having no noticeable lag compared to the Radeons.

One thing we do have to mention however is that after exporting our mesh from Autodesk Maya 2012 and bringing it into Mudbox for sculpting out normal maps, we noticed that on the Radeon HD 7970 ambient occlusion did not function as intended in the viewport, but this would be considered a minor issue. The said, the FirePro W5000 on the other hand had no issues rendering ambient occlusion in the viewport. Other than the extra viewport render options functioning better on the FirePro W5000, both cards performed nearly identically when it came to sculpting a high-res mesh for normal map generation. All in all, our experience with the AMD FirePro W5000 was a positive one, with it performing admirably in all tests.

AMD FirePro W5000

Overall, from a user perspective the FirePro W5000 really offers the better user experience when trying to get work done with professional applications. Not only that, but the 3 year warranty along with the ability to get driver fixes for issues far more rapidly is where the value of this product comes in. The fact all our software today worked flawlessly with the FirePro W5000 is impressive to say the least and this is huge, as many companies do not upgrade to the latest and greatest. This is because custom tools are hard to replace and when software changes custom tools must be recoded on occasion to work properly. The fact the FirePro W5000 from AMD performed so well in old and new applications, as well as its attractive street price of just $448 shipped, it truly is an outstanding value in the professional graphics market.

Legit Bottom Line: If you’re looking to improve workflow speed as well as performance in your professional applications, but don't want to break the bank, check out the AMD FirePro W5000.