2017 might have just begun, but it’s a secret to no one that AMD has a massive year planned, one that could be integral to its future success.
Its Vega-based Radeon GPUs are expected to launch in the next couple of months, and the same applies to its hugely anticipated Ryzen processors. And, lest we forget AMD’s workstation focus: Radeon Pros will be an important part of AMD’s 2017, as well.
When AMD announced its Radeon Pro series last summer, you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief. Leading up to that point, many had wondered exactly what was going to happen with AMD’s FirePro line, as revolutionary releases were nowhere to be seen. With Radeon Pro, AMD ushered in a proper successor to FirePro, complementing its recharged focus.
A major new release for AMD’s workstation graphics is notable enough, but what makes all three of these new models stand out is their affordability. If you can’t shell out $2,000+ for a workstation card, AMD has got you covered with its $799 WX 7100, sporting 8GB of VRAM. At the bottom is the $399 WX 4100, a low-profile offering. The middle slot belongs to the $499 WX 5100, which like the WX 4100, doesn’t require a power connector.
We’ll be taking an in-depth look at the WX 7100 soon, but for this article, the focus will be on the bottom rungs: WX 5100 and WX 4100.
|AMD Radeon Pro Series||Performance||Clock||Cores||Memory||Length||Power|
|WX 7100||5.7 TFLOPs||1243MHz||2304||8192MB||9.5″||<130W|
|WX 5100||3.9 TFLOPs||1086MHz||1792||8192MB||6.8″||<75W|
|WX 4100||2.4 TFLOPs||1201MHz||1024||4096MB||6.6″ (LP)||<50W|
Considering the modest differences in price, and differences in performance, the Radeon Pro WX 5100 stands to be the most popular choice of these three for most users, although as I’m not a psychic, I could be a little off. One thing’s for certain: you stand to gain a lot when moving from the WX 4100 to WX 7100. It’s double the price, but it’s more than twice the performance. You don’t see that kind of performance / price gain too often in the workstation market.
That said, AMD squarely targets each one of these three GPUs at a slightly different market, so if you’re not sure which one best-suits you, you should have no questions left in a moment:
The WX 4100 is excellent for CAD work, with AMD even going as far as to call it “Best in Class” for that purpose. You should have no performance hassles whatsoever when designing your CAD environments.
The WX 5100 is suited for those who plan to do a fair amount of rendering. We’re not talking full-blown scenes here, but rather rendering of simpler scenes or perhaps of a complex object without a scene (sculpting would be a good example). As you’d expect with a GPU right in the middle of the other two, the WX 5100 is ideal for those who want better performance than what the WX 4100 can provide without going over $500.
The WX 7100 is the big gun, the one designed for all sorts of rendering, including VR. In fact, AMD calls this an ideal GPU for VR content development, as its gaming prowess is enough to let the designers test out their own content. Both the creation and playback performance on this card will be more than sufficient for most customers. For those with heavier needs, multiple WX 7100s could be installed in the same workstation (up to 4 – providing 20 TFLOPS+ performance for $3,200).
One thing worth noting is that while gaming is not the big focus of AMD’s Radeon Pro line, the performance you see on each card should be similar to one of the company’s gaming-focused Radeon RX line. The WX 7100, for example, is similar in design to the RX 480, but it has one cool trick under its sleeves: it’s single-slot.
That said, if gaming is an important feature of your workstation card, you’ll definitely want to opt for the WX 7100 for the best overall performance. It can handle 1080p games with ease, and 1440p with some settings tweaks.
On the topic of gaming, one excellent feature AMD ported over from its Radeon driver is ReLive, a software solution that takes advantage of GPU horsepower to record your display with minimal impact. While recording gameplay is an obvious use of this tool, AMD notes that it’s also ideal for recording video for later use in training. Or, if you’re as forgetful as I am, it’s also a good way to record a certain workflow for future reference.
Before jumping into the performance data, it needs to be mentioned that AMD offers two different Radeon Pro drivers for customers to choose from. The “Enterprise” version is the hardened version, designed for those who don’t plan to upgrade more than once per three months, and aim to make their environment as stable as possible. While the other driver, “Crimson ReLive”, is undoubtedly stable, it’s not likely to meet most corporate guidelines for production drivers.
If you have a say in which driver you can use, you’d want to opt for Crimson, as it will always offer the cutting-edge performance enhancements. Fortunately, the just-released 17.Q1 Enterprise driver just added ReLive, so enterprise users can enjoy it, too.
Testing The Radeon Pro WX 5100 & WX 4100
On the following pages, we’ll be putting AMD’s Radeon Pro WX 5100 and WX 4100 through a gauntlet of real-world and synthetic tests, utilizing apps from Autodesk, Adobe, SPEC, SiSoftware, and a handful of others (including light gaming tests for good measure).
All tests are run at least twice to produce an accurate result, and if for some reason an odd result creeps up, we do a third run. In the case of this particular review, no tests had to go that route, as most of the benchmarks are very good at delivering similar results with each repeated run.
Our Windows 7 Ultimate x64 test OS has a couple of key Windows services disabled (Search, Defender, Firewall, and Update), as well as Aero. During all testing, the display is kept in 4K resolution, with two exceptions: SPECapc Maya 2012 and SPECviewperf are run with a 1080p resolution. Further, Vsync, G-SYNC, and FreeSync are disabled.
Our test system is as follows:
With that all covered, it’s time to jump into the test results.