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Aug 7, 2012

AMD FirePro APU Breaks Intel Xeon E3 in First Official Benchmarks

The world’s fifth fabless IC designer, American company AMD, is finally enjoying the fruits of its ATI buyout from six years ago. AMD is now in the privileged position to sell workstation FirePro APUs that are perfectly tailored for the professional market.

Getting enough user-friendly applications that put Trinity’s GPU compute abilities to good use in the average desktop PC is quite hard these days. Practically there aren’t enough such applications on the market to allow the user to take full advantage of the APU graphics performance and also allow AMD to charge a price premium for this. In the professional workstation market, the scenario is completely different. Here AMD’s FirePro APUs based on the Trinity design can really shine. Most of the applications know how to take advantage of the GPU compute power inside those 384 VLIW units and the increase in performance makes it all worth the investment.

The success of the new FirePro APUs means that AMD can charge some serious money for the new processors and the supporting platforms as the performance is really “out of this world” in this price range.  Intel’s integrated graphics processing units (iGPU) have evolved quite a bit and they can be considered decent graphics adapters for the average office computer, but the reality is that these have no chance in casual gaming and considerably less of a chance in professional applications. The professional workstation market is extremely profitable and AMD got a serious 25% foothold in this field back in the K8 days when Intel’s Pentium 4-based Xeon was completely inferior. Since Intel launched the Core architecture in the summer of 2006, AMD has constantly been behind in x86 performance and only when the first APUs were launched, could AMD claim some performance superiority in certain scenarios.

AMD still enjoyed some serious server market share until 2010 or 2011, but the workstation market was almost completely taken over by Xeon systems. Today, Advanced Micro Devices is able to conquer a considerable piece of the workstation market with the new FirePro APUs. The performance is amazing when compared with the competing solution from Intel and the price/performance ratio is something that hasn’t been thought possible before Fusion. The performance advantage reaches an amazing 800% in BasemarkCL and over 600% in SPECviewperf 11 in the lightwave-01 test. AMD's FirePro A320 workstation APU is able to reach 184 GFLOPs of  double precision compute performance. Nvidia's K10 only manages 195 GFLOPs of double precision floating point compute peformance. Therefore we can safely say that, at least in the DP FP64 chapter, the performance is similar.

It really doesn’t matter how the new Opteron CPUs based on the improved Piledriver core will perform when launched this autumn. We believe workstations powered by AMD’s FirePro APUs will sell many times better than Opteron workstations ever did. The Xeon E3 processor and its iGPU actually fail in some tests as the driver is not able to offer proper compatibility with the software used and not being able to run various applications and games has always been a problem for Intel's iGPUs. It's quite difficult to talk about professional applications, performance and stability when your hardware solution is not even able to start the program. Intel thought it could make serious money with the Xeon E3 and it might still achieve its goal considering the marketing money and the market clot it has along with the indoctrinated corporate users, but AMD’s FirePro APUs will make a serious impact on Intel’s Xeon E3 workstation profits.

AMD Official FirePro APU Benchmarks
Images credits to tomshw.it
click for larger images


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