Saturday, March 25th, 2017

AMD Firepro W7100 Graphics Card Review


 November 2016 – Over the start of the holiday season, we had a chance to test out the new AMD Radeon Pro WX7100 Professional Workstation Graphic Card. The WX7100 represent the marketplaces first single slot 4 x 4K display capable graphics card with 8GB of on board GDDR5 memory.

The graphics card uses the WX7100 GPU designed with the AMD Graphics Core Next architecture. It features four graphics engines that allow it to process four primitives per clock cycle, a doubling of performance of the W7000 with a two triangles per clock cycle capability. This increase allows the card to address Ultra HD multimedia applications such as accelerating 4K video playback, editing, and transcoding. Correspondingly it enable improved FHD (1080p) video encode.

AMD Radeon Pro WX7100 Graphics card

There are a number of technical details that were updated to support improved memory access and decreased latency to the CPU as well as advances in software compatibility, but the real test is does the card improve the performance of the system for professional applications. We tested the product on two primary content creation platforms – DaVinci Resolve and Adobe Creative Cloud – Premier Pro. The base comparison is on a system with a standard quad core A10 processor with only on-board GPU. All tests were with Windows 7 Professional in nominal 16GB base memory computing system. The direct attached storage is a standard SATA interface HDD.

The main point we were checking out was the advantage from having the high capacity of 8GB of GDDR5 VRAM in a single slot card. The large memory size allows for smooth loading and playback of 4K content including 4K HDR content as well as clip loading over multiple resolutions. It also allows for smooth and predictable rendering of layered multi-sequence and multi-clip content. Most home editing consists of a single video stream that has cuts/deletions and needs to be re-rendered for final assembly. This typically requires just a single image frame of the to be in the video processing memory. For most professional content creation, the final frames are a combination of multiple full resolution simultaneous video streams (green screen elements) and high resolution still images for the background. As a result, the amount of data being included into the final render, significantly exceeds the size of the finished frame. While adding extra memory to the main CPU system helps with the realtime editing and manipulation of the proxy videos, the amount of memory available for the GPU is the gating item for the render speed.

The default testing with both the Adobe Creative Cloud (Premier Pro, Audition, After Effects – release 2017.0.01 v11.0) and DaVinci (Resolve v12.5 and Fusion) was on the base hardware platform. The addition of the AMD Radeon Pro WX7100 card brought the following results:

1) 30 min Single FHD stream (59.97fps) with edits,
a. before card render - Premier Pro = 1hr 45min
b. before card render – Resolve = 1hr 52min
c. after card render – Premire Pro = 22 min
d. after card render- Resolve = 25min

2) 30 min 4 FHD green screen stream (59.97fps) with 2 FHD background stills – all files local,
a. before card render - Premier Pro = 2hr 22min
b. before card render – Resolve = 2hr 15min
c. after card render – Premire Pro = 39 min
d. after card render- Resolve = 36 min

3) 30 min Single 4K stream with edits,
a. before card render - Premier Pro = 2hr 55min
b. before card render – Resolve = 2hr 50min
c. after card render – Premire Pro = 45 min
d. after card render- Resolve = 48 min

4) 30 min 4 FHD green screen stream with 2 4K background stills – all files local,
a. before card render - Premier Pro = 4hr 18min
b. before card render – Resolve = 4hr 32min
c. after card render – Premire Pro = 1hr 27 min
d. after card render- Resolve = 1hr 32 min

The card allows for similar throughput without the network congestion and load balancing needed to do an effective multi-machine render across CPUs. As a standard desktop editing station, it brings full workstation class performance and reliability for the render and multi-screen view tasks. While a full workstation with the ECC memory and SSD/NVMe drives offers the advantage of a 24/7/365 always on and error free operation vs consumer & business class machines, the W7100 card can bring a similar throughput and performance to existing hardware.

The card also features 4 Display Port 1.4 connectors on the edge. For editing tasks this allows for a comfortable 3 screen setup – (1) multi-viewer / media browser, (2) command and timeline console (3) editing/playback/assembly view. Most of the systems without the large GPU horsepower and memory can either provide a functional multi-viewer or assembly view with full 60fps video playback even at FHD. The W7100 card allows for smooth multi-source viewing and simultaneous assembly viewing, by offloading those tasks from the CPU which lets the command window operate at low latency. The end result is a real time editing workflow, even for 4K multi-camera or multi-source content, through 60fps.

Our testing environment did not allow for viewing 4K HDR content or HFR beyond 30fps, it is anticipated that the platform would scale well and support these with equal performance improvements.

The content as tested was also applicable to stereo image generation for VR and 3D applications. The 30min contents performance was equivalent to 15min stereo generation +/- 2 min for additional write latency on the encode/render.

In all, for the price point of the card, and the performance with the large amount of on board memory it is a very good upgrade card for Prosumer and individual user professional applications.

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