A little over seven months after the Radeon HD 5870's arrival, AMD has introduced a new workstation-class graphics card based on the very same DirectX 11 graphics processor. The FirePro V8800 has 1600 stream processors and Eyefinity capabilities, just like the 5870, and it marries those features with a clear professional pedigree.
Naturally, the FirePro V8800 supports DirectX 11, DirectCompute 11, and OpenCL 1.0. AMD has added support for OpenGL 4.0 through a beta driver release, too. On top of that, AMD says it "works closely with leading application providers to optimize ATI FirePro professional graphics." FirePro cards have received certification for "more than 90" professional applications for computer-assisted design, digital content creation, geographical information and visualization, and the oil and gas industry. We're not yet seeing the V8800 in many of the certification pages, though.
Under the hood, the V8800 has a slightly de-tuned Cypress chip with an 825MHz core clock and 2GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 1150MHz on a 256-bit bus. Those numbers are just a little bit lower than the 5870's. Still, AMD claims the GPU's 2.6 teraflops of floating-point power make it more than twice as fast as the previous-generation FirePro, and its 147.2GB/s of memory bandwidth also happens to be the "highest . . . available in any single-card professional graphics solution." The V8800's maximum rated power draw of 208W is a bit higher than the 5870's 188W, though.
Externally, the FirePro V8800's appearance mirrors the 5870's somewhat, but there are differences there, too. The port cluster on the card includes one three-pin DIN stereo output and four DisplayPort outputs, and AMD notes that the V8800 can drive up to four displays out of the box, one more than the 5870. FirePro V8800 cards support the FirePro S400 Synchronization Module for output synchronization via genlock and framelock, as well.
The FirePro V8800 should be "available for order today from AMD and its technology partners" with a suggested retail price of $1,499. AMD plans to release additional next-generation FirePro cards with Eyefinity support "in the coming months."
Today's launch gives AMD a leg up on Nvidia, which has yet to announce next-generation Quadro graphics cards based on its DirectX 11 Fermi architecture. That seems like a much-needed advantage. According to Jon Peddie Research, AMD's FirePro line made headway in late 2008 and early 2009, but it still had a teeny 14.4% market share in the second quarter of 2009. AMD (and, before the 2006 merger, ATI) has been in a similarly weak position for some time; its workstation graphics share only added up to 19.1% back in the third quarter of 2006. Nvidia, of course, continues to grab much of the remainder.