We were fortunate enough to get our hands on the new AMD FirePro W9100 video card, and tested it with a Dell Precision T7600 and the Dell P2815Q 4K Monitor (monitor review coming soon). The performance of the AMD W9100 in conjunction with the P2815Q 4K Monitor was impressive. Many effects were rendered real-time; and at times, the high-quality 4K display was the only reminder you were pushing loads and loads of pixels.
Diving down into the nitty-gritty, the 9100 represents a ⅓ performance improvement over it’s older brother (the D700), and roughly $1000 cheaper than the nVidia Quadro K6000. Sounds amazing, right? It is — but nothing is perfect.
Any software that uses Cuda to render, rather than OpenCL, will be left in the dust by systems running nVidia chipsets. The W9100 instead supports OpenCL (while nVidia supports both). What is Cuda? What is OpenCL? Simply put, command sets that video cards parse into 3D graphics. These are currently the two big boys on the block, and a lot of software (for instance Maya and the Foundry) uses OpenCL, while some prefer to support Cuda. So, all the benchmarks and scores in the world mean nothing if your video card doesn't support the command set your software is trying to use.
"But wait. I’m not a 3D artist!" Wrong. Believe it or not, if you use any post production software, you’re using 3D technology. Whether it’s for simple transitions, or highly intricate compositing; your computer is using 3D processing to do the heavy lifting. When you key out that green screen, and put your weather reporter in front of a map; your computer is literally putting the layer of your reporter in front of that map in 3D space. The better your card can accelerate this process, the more real-time output you can do with more layers of effects, transitions, and composites. Hence the need for a rip-roaring video card that can speak the same language as your software.
So… what video card is right for you if you have $4000-$5000 to spend? It completely depends on your software needs. We can tell you this: This card rips through 3D calculations like a mini-gun rips through bullets, obliterating lag time, and giving you all the performance you could hope for (provided those 3D instructions are OpenCL).
The final Luxmark score of 1306 will definitely make you happy though. In Premiere Pro CC, editing non-proxied RED R3D footage was as easy and fast as editing HD XDCAM footage. Our only suggestion is that prior to spending the $3999 (or saving the $1000 over the Quadro K6000), you may want to make sure you're optimized for OpenCL, and have no need for a Cuda-based card.
With little performance difference between this card working with 4K and an average editing bay working with 1080p footage, this number-crunching beast of a video card will leave you giggling, and working — not waiting for the machine to catch up with your creativity.
Ty Audronis is an expert in post production workflow. He’s consulted on workflow and technology for several global high-end post production houses.