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AMD Radeon Pro Duo bridges the professional-consumer divide

Fiji meets its dual-GPU destiny
— 8:00 AM on April 26, 2016

AMD first showed off its Radeon Pro Duo graphics card back at GDC, but the company's Capsaicin event left a number of unanswered questions about the newest in AMD's long line of single-card, dual-GPU solutions. The Radeon Pro Duo officially launches today, and we now know all of its secrets. One thing we unfortunately won't be discussing is detailed performance results. As you may have already read elsewhere, AMD didn't send Pro Duos to many of the usual suspects in the PC hardware press for review, ourselves included.

Some of our readers may want to put down their pitchforks after reading that last sentence. You see, AMD isn't positioning the Pro Duo as an enthusiast graphics card in the vein of the Radeon R9 295 X2. Instead, the company tells me the Pro Duo is intended as a multi-GPU development platform for VR content creators and other content professionals—people who game, to be certain, but whose time at the keyboard is mostly spent building those games (or using other professional applications that take advantage of GPU acceleration). In that sense, the Pro Duo is trying to be a bridge between the workstation- and consumer-graphics worlds, rather than the baddest single-card graphics solution around for gamers and enthusiasts.

That's not to say the Radeon Pro Duo isn't an exciting product—it is—but this card's $1499 price tag and professional bearings mean it probably won't find its way into any but the most dedicated of enthusiasts' desktops. Even if only a lucky few will be pushing pixels with a Pro Duo, it's worth touching on some of the achievements AMD has made with this product.

Double the Fiji, double the fun
First off, this card houses two fully-enabled Fiji GPUs, as seen on the Radeon R9 Fury X. Unsurprisingly, its spec sheet reads a lot like two of those cards smashed together: 8GB of HBM RAM, 8192 stream processors, 128 GCN compute units, and dizzying potential memory bandwidth of up to 1024GB/s, just to mention a few highlights. As we'll see in a moment, all those resources mean the Pro Duo has prodigious potential performance available.

One difference from the Fury X is that those Fiji chips only run at "up to 1000 MHz." That's 50 MHz down from the Fury X's peak boost speeds, and similar to the way AMD describes the performance of the fully-endowed Fiji chip in the Radeon R9 Nano. As a result, a pair of those diminutive cards in CrossFire might serve as a rough yardstick for the Pro Duo's performance. The card's thermal envelope of 350W is exactly twice that of a Radeon R9 Nano, too. While the Pro Duo will need three eight-pin power plugs to satisfy its thirst for energy, its board power specification is still well short of the R9 295 X2's monster 500W figure.

As it did with the R9 295 X2, AMD has once again turned to liquid cooling to keep the heat of those twin GPUs in check. We'd love to tear into some of the plastic shrouds covering the pumps and water blocks on this card, but all we can do is gaze from afar for now. Even in pictures, however, the Pro Duo's cooling system looks more sophisticated than the one on the Fury X. Going by appearances, I'm guessing the cooling system uses something like full-coverage blocks over the power circuitry, versus the simple copper coolant pipe running over the VRMs of the older card. Once the hoses leave the case of the graphics card, they run to a 120-mm radiator similar to that of the Fury X's.

The rest of the Pro Duo looks quite a bit like a lengthened Fury X. This card maintains the same fancy metallic frame, rubberized covers, and LED illumination as its sibling. We're betting AMD's board partners will have the same minimal room for brand-specific modifications as they did on the R9 Fury X. Expect manufacturer stickers on the fan hub and little else in the way of manufacturer customizations. AMD retained the "modular faceplate" of the Fury X on the Pro Duo, though, so crafty owners will still have some room for personal expression.

One minor change from the prototype shown at AMD's Capsaicin event is the removal of one of the card's four DisplayPort 1.2 outputs. That port has been replaced with an HDMI connector, presumably to improve compatibility with VR headsets like Oculus' Rift that require an HDMI port to plug into a host PC.