The Interesting Tale Of AMD's FirePro Drivers
Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 30 December 2010. Page 8 of 8. 48 Comments

While we were pleased with the FirePro driver optimizations -- that were shared between both their Linux and Windows drivers -- when we benchmarked them upon their initial availability (the first and second times), it's unfortunate that these optimizations were largely not sustained and that the optimizations the second time around seemed to largely just restore the performance after the driver's regressed from the first set of optimizations. In some cases, these optimizations this year are only putting the FirePro V8700 back to where it was originally performing in the first half of 2009.

Both times though AMD's public relations department made this a well publicized event. In March their first press release was titled "Application Performance Increases By Up To 20 Percent with Latest ATI FirePro Graphics Driver" and then the July press release was "AMD Leads the Way at SIGGRAPH 2010 with Performance Gains and Comprehensive ISV Certifications," but these historical tests we carried out today really show this being just the same event that comes down to regression/bug fixes. "The new driver will offer users across the board performance increases for the latest generation ATI FirePro graphics on the LightWave 3D subset of the new SPECviewperf 11 benchmark, with the entry-level ATI FirePro V3800 achieving a 62 percent performance gain and the ultra high-end ATI FirePro V8800 achieving an 81 percent gain, compared to the previous driver."

It is sad though we were not able to discover this until now and bring it to light. Hopefully in 2011 we will see some real driver optimizations rather than just AMD trying to tackle the FirePro performance for a third time of temporary gains. At least since their Linux OpenGL team already uses the Phoronix Test Suite internally; they can (or anyone for that matter) just run phoronix-test-suite benchmark 1012295-IV-FIREPRO8508 to verify the claims -- in a fully automated and reproducible manner -- and going forward see when some of these regressions are actually fixed. With the FirePro V8700 still carrying a price-tag just under $900 USD (Amazon.com) almost two years after its release and the FirePro V8800 being almost $1,300 USD (Amazon.com) we would have thought AMD would have done better at genuinely optimizing their software stack and improving the performance over the longer-term, but I guess we can continue to be surprised.

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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.


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