Professional graphics cards exist in a universe parallel to that of their consumer brethren, powered by the same GPUs but configured differently, subject to much lengthier qualification cycles, and distributed chiefly not at retail, but in pre-built workstations. In the consumer universe, AMD’s Cayman GPU has been powering Radeon HD 6900-series cards for over five months now. In the professional universe, it’s brand new—so new, in fact, that it’s only just debuted inside FirePro V7900 and V5900 graphics cards.
As you’ve probably guessed from its model number, the FirePro V7900 is the quickest of AMD’s latest two professional offerings. This model features 1280 stream processors, 2GB of GDDR5 memory, maximum memory bandwidth of 160GB/s, a 150W power envelope, quad DisplayPort outputs, and support for framelock/genlock and stereo 3D. AMD supplies this bad boy with four single-link DVI adapters, too, in case your monitors don’t have DisplayPort built in. Price tag: $999.
The $599 V5900 is a little more pared down, featuring 512 stream processors, 64GB/s of peak memory bandwidth, a 75W power envelope, and three display outputs (two DisplayPort and one DVI). AMD nevertheless outfits it with 2GB of memory, just like the V7900.
Both of these cards also have a feature AMD calls Geometry Boost, which is really a new marketing name for Cayman’s ability to setup and rasterize two triangles per clock cycle. The extra geometry processing capabilities should pay dividends in professional apps, though.
Incidentally, the extra RAM on the V5900 and the additional display outputs on the V7900 signal a move toward better value for the FirePro line. Getting more than a gig of RAM with the previous lineup involved stepping up to the V7800—the V7900’s direct predecessor—while only the more upscale V8800 featured quad outputs… and it launched at $1,499.
AMD tells us the FirePro V7900 and V5900 should be available today in the distribution channel, as well as in pre-built systems. AMD is expecting to see the new FirePro cards in machines from both HP and Dell.