Two chips are better than one (sometimes)
The big number AMD likes to throw around when talking about the Pro Duo is its 16 TFLOPS of theoretical single-precision (or FP32) compute performance. Nvidia doesn't have a comparable dual-GPU product on the market right now, so the fairest competitor here may be the green team's fastest single-card consumer product, the GeForce GTX Titan X. That card can deliver theoretical single-precision compute performance of 7 TFLOPS. For a different perspective, the Pascal-powered Tesla P100 can crunch FP32 data at 10.6 TFLOPS, but that's not a product any of us will be putting in our desktops any time soon.
AMD suggests a couple scenarios for putting all that raw performance to use. For one example, the company says applications using its FireRender SDK can get a big boost running on a single Pro Duo. Going by AMD's numbers, rendering a single example frame in Autodesk's 3DS Max on the Pro Duo takes 15 seconds on the fully-enabled dual-GPU card, compared to 26 seconds with one of the Fiji GPUs disabled and 228 seconds on the host system's Core i7-5960X CPU.
In another scenario (this time without FireRender), the company says Blackmagic's Davinci Resolve 12 color-grading suite could run twice as many nodes of radial blur on a Pro Duo-equipped PC while maintaining smooth preview playback when compared to a single Fiji GPU running the same task. Presumably, that means colorists or other video pros can slather on the effects during editing without sacrificing smoothness.
All that's well and good, but AMD calls the Pro Duo a card "for gamers who create and creators who game." The company isn't shy about calling the Pro Duo "the world's fastest graphics card," and that label may be justified. The company released some average-FPS benchmarks from a variety of titles running at 4K to justify this claim. By that measure, the card certainly puts some distance between itself and the Radeon R9 295 X2, not to mention the single-GPU Titan X. The graphics settings the company chose to demonstrate those results were pretty typical of what we'd choose ourselves, too, not the weirdly scaled-back ones we've sometimes seen in AMD's internal testing.
We'd exercise caution when drawing any major conclusions from these numbers one way or another, though, thanks to the inherent coarseness of the average frame rate measurement. We'd also like to have seen the card pitted against two Titan Xes in SLI, since AMD wasn't shy about using that exact setup for its Ashes of the Singularity testing. Still, the numbers AMD shared hint at the Pro Duo's considerable performance potential. Whether games take advantage of that potential is another story—many modern titles don't support alternate-frame rendering—so there may be a bit of a question mark hanging over the Pro Duo's value for the traditional 3D titles of the future.
The Pro Duo's real forte, then, may be its performance in VR. The card is the only product that's in AMD's "Radeon VR-Ready Creator" tier so far, and it seems a natural fit for use with the company's Affinity Multi-GPU feature (even if that technology isn't widely supported yet). For now, though, the company shared some numbers generated by the SteamVR Performance Test. The Pro Duo maxes out this test with a score of 11, followed closely by a single GeForce GTX 980 Ti with a score of 10.5. We won't dwell too much on that result, other than to say that the Pro Duo appears to live up to its billing as a capable platform for VR content production and playback.
In keeping with the "creators who game" theme, the Pro Duo comes backed up with an interesting driver support model. Content pros can install FirePro drivers for the Pro Duo, with all of the stability and vendor-certified credentials that software offers. Pro Duo owners who game can install the same Radeon Software drivers from consumer cards to get that software's game optimizations and cutting-edge support. It's likely one will need to uninstall and reinstall each driver package as needed to make this dual-driver support model work. We've asked AMD for more information regarding this setup.
AMD says the Radeon Pro Duo will be available from "select" add-in board partners and system integrators today for $1499. Depending on what Radeons you consider comparable to the Pro Duo, acquiring a pair of Radeon R9 Nano cards for use in CrossFire costs about $500 less, while a pair of Fury X cards narrows that gap to $250. For the extra money, the Pro Duo gets buyers two Fiji GPUs on one card, requires only one radiator mount for cooling purposes when compared to Fury Xes in CrossFire, and offers a distinctive value proposition: access to AMD's workstation and consumer graphics drivers alike. For folks who often need to move between the worlds of content creation and content consumption, then, the Pro Duo might be just the ticket. The rest of us might be better-served by keeping an eye on Polaris.
61 comments — Last by Mr Bill at 11:24 PM on 07/25/16
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