FirePro W7100

AMD’s main­stream pro­fes­sional graph­ics card could be the sign of things to come…

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Art Tools Hardware & Software -

Go from sev­eral sec­onds for ef­fects to be ap­plied, to it hap­pen­ing al­most in real-time

Artists work­ing in 3D know that if they want to build some­thing in­cred­i­ble they’ll need hard­ware to make it hap­pen in a timely fash­ion. There isn’t quite the same re­liance on hard­ware for 2D art, but as we head into a brave new world where graph­ics cards can also boost per­for­mance, things are about to get in­ter­est­ing. The AMD FirePro W7100 is a se­ri­ous slice of cut­ting-edge tech, but is it some­thing you ac­tu­ally need to cre­ate great art?

The FirePro is a mid-range card, for­go­ing the raw power of the W9100 and W8100 for a lower price point. It has 1,792 stream pro­ces­sors, or 28 com­pute units, which puts it on a par with the Radeon 285 (£150). There are a few dif­fer­ences, though: the FirePro has 8GB of mem­ory, can power up to four 4K screens at the same time and has im­proved soft­ware sup­port.

In­stal­la­tion is straight­for­ward, pro­vided you’ve got room in your case for a full-length card and that your power sup­ply has a spare six-pin con­nec­tor. To get the most from the card your cur­rent sys­tem should sup­port PCI Ex­press 3.0 (most mod­ern ma­chines do) and if it’s rel­a­tively mod­ern then the power con­nec­tor shouldn’t be a prob­lem, ei­ther.

Per­for­mance im­prove­ments vary greatly, depend­ing on what you’re do­ing, im­age sizes and whether the ef­fects take ad­van­tage of OpenCL. But it’s pos­si­ble to go from sev­eral sec­onds of wait­ing for an ef­fect to be ap­plied to it hap­pen­ing in pretty much real-time.

Should you buy the FirePro W7100? It’s a tricky call, even if you’re tempted to try a lit­tle 3D work on the side, have a bunch of fil­ters that use OpenCL, and dab­ble with some video-edit­ing work. It’s still early days for OpenCL and it isn’t clear how much de­vel­op­ers can eke out of the hard­ware. There are cheaper op­tions in the FirePro range, and if you’re not into 3D, they’ll make more sense. Es­sen­tially, you’d be buy­ing a pricy bit of kit for a po­ten­tial that hasn’t been fully re­alised yet.

The FirePro W7100 is a sin­gle-slot so­lu­tion that runs quiet and cool.

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