Over the last decade, the market for home PC’s has seen a sharp decline. The primary reason for this is a massive smartphone and portable device market surge. However, one type of PC has a growing market share and that is the workstation PC. A workstation is the PC of choice for professionals in fields like science, design, and 3D. And the graphics cards for these workstations is very different than the type of GPU that is used for gaming. They are also much more expensive.
NVIDIA has had the lions share of the workstation market for some time, but AMD has been giving them a lot of good competition over the last several years. According to a recent Jon Peddie Research report, AMD has a current quarter market share of 27%. Some of that is due to their 7nm Navi GPU’s, but it’s also due to the fact that NVIDIA is still using 12nm GPU’s and is late in bringing out their own 7nm GPU’s.
AMD released its Navi-based Radeon RX 5700 series of GPUs for gamers not long ago. Navi is based on the new 7nm RDNA graphics architecture which gives the user increased performance and power efficiency. Now AMD is applying this cutting-edge technology to a professional workstation card - the Radeon Pro W5700.
Note that AMD is simplifying its GPU-naming conventions. Workstation cards will still have the Radeon Pro name but the WX will be dropped in favor of a simple W before the card number.
What is the Radeon Pro W5700 graphics card?
The design of the W5700 card is really quite beautiful with its striking blue color. It’s a large card much like their higher-end Radeon Pro WX8200. There are numerous heat sinks around the GPU and RAM with one larger blower fan near the back of the card where there are numerous vents. I’d prefer two fans, one in front and one in back, but the card never got significantly hot even under load, so the one fan is fine.
The outputs on the card are 5 mini-Display port 1.4 which makes multi-monitor setups quite easy to create. AMD adds 3 adaptors so you can fit them to DP and DVI ports. I had to use one for my Dell monitor DP input. Thanks, AMD.
Installing the card was relatively simple. I warn you though, like most professional graphics cards the W5700 is a large card (10.5" x 4" x 1.5"). I have a large full-size case, but it was a bit of a chore to fit the card and then snap it into place. The double-pcie power feeds at the back of the card add extra length so you should be sure your case can accommodate this card.
“RDNA is the architecture powering the AMD Radeon Pro W5700 workstation graphics card, delivering an average of 1.25x instructions per clock (IPC) compared to 5th gen GCN that powered the previous RadeonTM Pro WX 8200 graphics.”
The W5700 graphics card is equipped with GDDR6 Memory and is PCI Express 4.0 ready. This is the first AMD workstation graphics card to include a USB-C® ready connector with support for DisplayPortTM alt mode and up to 15W power delivery.
AMD has made an effort to make the W5700 card power efficient and better able to handle higher temperatures under load. There are also several additions to the software bundle like Image Boost and ReLive for VR, but they weren’t included in the reviewers package so I’m not reviewing them here. More info on the software side here.
GPU Test Number 1
The focus of this review is not so much on the technical specs and detailed performance of the W5700 card as there are many sites that focus on the tech side. Rather, I hope to share with you my own personal experiences as a video editor and media creator while using the W5700 card. Although AMD compares this card to the NVIDIA Quadro RTX 4000, I actually use the older Quadro P5000 in my self-built workstation. This is the card I’ll be testing vs the AMD W5700. Note that the AMD card is so new I had to fill in a few sections from the specs that AMD supplied.
Some obvious points are that the P5000 card has 16gb of video ram and is twice the price of the AMD card (among other differences). Here is a simple comparison chart using the GPU-Z app:
I decided to start by running two tests suggested by AMD that focus on multi-tasking and cooling. In this test, we run the Corona render benchmark which occupies the CPU fully with scene rendering while at the same time we run the SPECviewperf® 13 benchmark sw-04 viewset (the sw is for “solid works”, a CAD program). The results were quite surprising.
As you can see below, with the CPU unavailable the Quadro P5000 smoked the sw-o4 test with W5700 card showing significant speed advantage. On the basic Corona render the two-card speeds were pretty much the same. The W5700 card ran slightly cooler than the Quadro P5000 (76°F vs 79°F) on average.
GPU Test Number 2
The next series of tests cover basic rendering in Open CL. NVIDIA uses its proprietary Cuda technology but supports Open CL which is open-source technology. I ran a few game-related tests for fun along with video rendering. Here are the results:
One glaring issue I had with the W5700 card is that it didn’t play well with any of my Adobe CC suite of tools. Premiere Pro CC crashed twice before I could get a stable Premiere Pro CC opening, but even after opening the program felt sluggish and unresponsive even though I clearly set the mode to Open CL. Adobe just likes those Cuda cores better, I think.
(Update: the kind people at AMD contacted me about this Adobe problem after this review was published and I sent them info on my set up. They couldn't not reproduce my Adobe problem and suggested it was a conflicting driver problem. I think this makes sense. If you are moving from NVIDIA to AMD cards be sure to completely remove all NVIDIA drivers. You might even need a special driver removal application. Thanks, AMD, for the help!)
The new Blender test which focuses on Open CL showed predictable results considering the P5000 Quadro has twice the video ram and generally higher specs. Overall, the Quadro card was about 25% faster which is actually less than what I expected for a card that costs twice as much. But, then again, the P500 card is nearly 3 years old now. Other reviewers have tested the card against the more current NVIDIA RTX 4000 with the AMD W5700 matching results head to head and even exceeding the NVIDIA card.
I also ran several common workload scenarios that I go through every week and added an additional task of rendering large-sized video inside of Handbrake. For example, I’ll be editing video in Da Vinci Resolve while rendering in Unreal and editing images in Photoshop. Aside from the afore-mentioned Adobe slow down, everything else ran better on the AMD W5700 card. This is a strength of the Navi-based architecture.
"We really want to increase the value of the users investment"
-AMD pre-release press conference
I did a casual poll of the coordinators at Renderosky asking them what GPU they were using. It was evenly split between AMD and NVIDIA. Most coordinators commented that they liked AMD because of the low price. I suspect that will be the main attraction of the Radeon Pro W5700: it’s low price compared to NVIDIA. However, look at our testing results: the $799 W5700 was more effective on my system that the $1699 Quadro P5000. Which one would you buy if the price was lower and the performance was better? Answer: The AMD W5700.
Moreover, I really liked how well the Radeon W5700 performed in my system which is about 2 years old now (see specs below). Overall, the multi-tasking feats of the card really made a difference in maintaining a steady workflow. I also like how AMD is supporting the Open Source movement (Open CL) which is becoming increasingly popular even in Hollywood VFX.
AMD has a solid winner with the Radeon Pro W5700. Their competitive pricing and quality of their product puts it clearly in the best sub-$1000 workstation graphics card category. It will be interesting to see how their Navi 7nm technology will be featured in future workstation cards.