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ATI FireGL V7350: Closer Look

ATI FireGL V7100 has been ATI’s top professional graphics solution until today. Note that since this graphics card is over 1 year old already it hasn’t been a threat for the latest NVIDIA Quadro competitors lately. No wonder since FireGL V7100 is based on R423 architecture, which corresponds to the power of Radeon X800 XT.

So, ATI really needed to upgrade its top of the line professional graphics solution with something newer. Moreover, the developer has long had the opportunity to do so: new R520 and R580 GPU architecture has long been used for the gaming graphics solutions and has proven very successful. However, until recently, ATI didn’t dare move this architecture into the professional field, which requires a much higher level of reliability, while the typical working conditions for the solutions of this kind can usually be much more severe. Moreover, it takes much more from the software developers when it comes to launching a professional graphics accelerator. The work on the BIOS and drivers optimized for the most widely spread 3D modeling suites may take much more time and effort, which is one of the reasons why it takes the professional graphics solutions much longer than their gaming brothers based on the same architecture to finally make it to the market.

As a result, the second generation of FireGL V cards for the PCI Express x16 bus based on the 90nm R520 chip is coming to the market only today. The graphics cards for professionals based on R520 architecture will be available in two major modifications called FireGL V7350 and FireGL V7300 respectively. These graphics cards boast similar features and the difference lies only in the amount of onboard graphics memory. While ATI FireGL V7300 is equipped with 512MB of GDDR3 video memory, the ATI FireGL V7350 carries 1GB of memory onboard. As a result, ATI FireGL V7350 can be considered the industry’s first mass graphics accelerator equipped with so much video memory. In fact, the need for so much memory is arguable even for a professional graphics solution. There won’t be too many users today who would be interested in getting themselves one of the new ATI FireGL V7350 cards: there are still very few tasks that can really make use of all this memory for texture storing. So it looks like ATI FireGL V7300 will still become a more popular product in this family. Especially since its recommended price is about $400 lower than that of the top model.

All in all, the specifications of ATI FireGL V7350 and FireGL V7300 are very similar to those of ATI Radeon X1800 XT. So if you really want to refresh your memory and read more about the architecture and functionality of the new graphics accelerators, you should take a look at our previous article called ATI RADEON X1800 XT and XL Performance: Crushing NVIDIA's 7800? As for us, we believe it would make sense to repeat just a few key things here about the new ATI FireGL V7350 and FireGL V7300: these cards can lay 16 textures per clock cycle, feature 8 shader pipelines supporting Shader Model 3.0 and are fully compliant with DirectX 9 and OpenGL 2.0 API.

Also you shouldn’t forget that professional graphics cards also feature the Avivo video engine that ensures high quality video playback and allows H.264 hardware decoding supported by the new generation DVD. It is important to note that the Avivo version implemented on the mew professional graphics cards should also provide future support for Genlock and Framelock (professional technologies for output synchronization to an external source and cluster visualization). The daughter card for implementation of these technologies should be available in H2 2006.

It is important to mention that ATI doesn’t yet claim that the new FireGL V7350 and FireGL V7300 will support configurations with more than one graphics cards installed into a single workstation. At the same time, the competitive Nvidia solutions do offer SLI support in the professional field, too. Maybe the reason here is the fact that ATI doesn’t yet have any chipset solutions for the workstation platforms, so there are really no platforms that would allow implementing CrossFire technology with FireGL accelerators. At the same time it is essential to understand that there is no 3D modeling software that would be optimized for multi-GPU platforms at this time, and as for the full-screen work modes, these applications do not normally use them.

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