Author Topic: Radeon Pro vs regular Radeon cards - worth the price premium for POWER users?  (Read 1089 times)

pocock

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The RX 5700 came out last year and it was followed 6 months later by the Pro version, specifically the Radeon Pro W5700.

The W5700 is basically double the price of the RX 5700.  From the perspective of a POWER user, is this worthwhile?

Summarizing some of the key differences in the Pro version:

- AMD is testing the hardware and drivers more thoroughly: but do they test on any POWER9 systems?

- AMD is releasing driver updates for the Pro cards on a regular schedule: do these bug fixes appear in the amdgpu release for Linux users just as quickly?

- the marketing material describes various features, such as the AMD Remote Workstation (use your GPU remotely from a laptop) but is that relevant for a Linux user?  The software they offer is proprietary, so there are a large percentage of people in this space who would not use it anyway and we also have free software alternatives

- the last significant benefit I could see: the overall design is less aggressive, slightly less power consumption and lower clockrates than other cards so even ignoring the questions about drivers, maybe it will last longer and be more stable

- some people justified the purchase of Radeon Pro products when they included ECC RAM but in the W5700, it is not ECC, it is the same as the RX 5700

I've got an open mind about this: for example, an OEM built RX 5700 that has liquid cooling and isn't overclocked may be more relevant to some people than the W5700.  But if AMD is regularly testing amdgpu with W5700 on POWER9 then that alone would make me feel they are investing in this architecture.
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ClassicHasClass

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I don't think they are, and if you're price sensitive I wouldn't think the Pro parts are that big of a deal. I bought the WX7100 with my Talos II because it was convenient and it was to support Raptor, not because I think the card would be that much better than the equivalent prosumer part.

pocock

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In terms of the RX 5700 / Pro W5700, one of the most interesting finds is the Tom's Hardware review of the Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT.  There is also a long reddit discussion about which card is actually quietest.

The key points:

- the Sapphire has two BIOS chips and a DIP switch to choose one or the other.  One BIOS gives you gamer performance (higher clock rate, uses more power), the other BIOS gives you a conservative performance profile that looks almost identical to the Pro W5700

- the OEM cooling solution is more effective, so the fans run more slowly, more quietly and may last longer

- it is a little bigger than two slots.  On Talos II you definitely lose one slot but on Blackbird, where the slots are separated more, you might still lose the second slot and as there are only two slots on Blackbird, that would be a headache for many people.

In terms of supporting Raptor, I don't think the extra price of the WX 7100 goes into their pockets.  By saving $500 on this card, you are half way to buying another Blackbird board, you could give that money to somebody who does porting work, you could spend it on trips to events where you demo the product and these things would all do more to support Raptor and the OpenPOWER ecosystem.

For me, it is not about price sensitivity, it is about

a) identifying what features I actually need

b) do I need to buy a Pro version to get any of those features?  Or in the case of noise, it appears the OEM version is actually quieter, paying less gives me that feature.
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q66

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there are only three reasons for a normal person to get a pro card:

1) if you need a single-slot solution (doesn't apply to high end models)
2) if you're after lower power consumption (pro cards use binned silicon, lower voltages, lower clocks
3) you really need more than 3 displayports 1.4

so yeah, not worth the price premium most of the time.

there are actual two-slot versions of RX5700/5700XT which won't take away slot space on blackbird:

https://www.powercolor.com/product?id=1565953800
https://www.asrock.com/Graphics-Card/AMD/Radeon%20RX%205700%20XT%20Challenger%20D%208G%20OC/

I have the ASRock and it works well (and it's basically inaudible regardless of load). I have a 10G NIC in the second PCIe and it fits fine.

Of course, the reference versions are also 2-slot, but they're also noisy and run hot.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2020, 09:03:20 am by q66 »

pocock

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Another thing that comes to mind: AMD's Big Navi cards are coming later in 2020.  It may be wise not to buy any large GPUs, Pro or prosumer, if better cards will arrive in less than 6 months.  Key benefits of the Big Navi may be support for AV1 video decoding, which will be standard for Youtube and Netflix in the future, ray tracing and another step change in power consumption, heat dissipation and noise figures.

2) if you're after lower power consumption (pro cards use binned silicon, lower voltages, lower clocks

The RX 5700 vs the RX 5700 XT:
RX 5700 has the lower clocks and lower overall power use, much like the Pro W5700

3) you really need more than 3 displayports 1.4

Yes, this is another point I had noticed.  The W5700 has 5 mini-DisplayPorts and 1 USB C so you can build a six-screen configuration for a trader desktop using just one GPU.  Previously people would use 2 GPUs, 4 slots and a bigger PSU to create those systems.

so yeah, not worth the price premium most of the time.

Given that the specs vary with each new generation of these cards, that threshold is not always clear.  There are projects were I felt completely comfortable specifying the relevant Pro card (whether it was AMD or NVIDIA) but in the case of Raptor users, the criteria change even further.

there are actual two-slot versions of RX5700/5700XT which won't take away slot space on blackbird:

Thanks for highlighting these, that saves a lot of manual searching.

https://www.powercolor.com/product?id=1565953800
https://www.asrock.com/Graphics-Card/AMD/Radeon%20RX%205700%20XT%20Challenger%20D%208G%20OC/

I have the ASRock and it works well (and it's basically inaudible regardless of load). I have a 10G NIC in the second PCIe and it fits fine.

Of course, the reference versions are also 2-slot, but they're also noisy and run hot.

The 10G NIC is full height or half height?

A full height card would fully cover at least one of those intake fans.  Search results don't reveal anything helpful about the wisdom of doing that but for any Blackbird user, they have nowhere else to put the card, unless they have a case that is large enough to use a PCIe 4.0 compatible riser cable to mount the 8x card elsewhere.
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q66

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half height of course, they are rarely full height

and there is still a gap between the NIC and the GPU either way

shawnanastasio

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I originally purchased an RX 580 for my Talos but it never behaved properly. Frequent EEH errors, kernel panics, and black screens. After switching to a WX5100, I haven't encountered any issues.

I've heard people theorize that the consumer cards have less mature firmware that ends up tripping the PCIe DMA protections on POWER9 that don't exist on x86. At least anecdotally this seems accurate, since that same RX 580 works just fine in an x86 machine.

Of course, this probably doesn't hold true for all consumer cards, though for me the investment in a guaranteed-working WX-series card was well worth it.

pocock

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I originally purchased an RX 580 for my Talos but it never behaved properly. Frequent EEH errors, kernel panics, and black screens. After switching to a WX5100, I haven't encountered any issues.

I've heard people theorize that the consumer cards have less mature firmware that ends up tripping the PCIe DMA protections on POWER9 that don't exist on x86. At least anecdotally this seems accurate, since that same RX 580 works just fine in an x86 machine.

Do you have the option to exchange the RX 580, did you try a replacement?

Many retailers will exchange or refund any product within the first 2 - 4 weeks, especially in Europe.  Is this enough time for somebody to detect a problem like that?

Of course, this probably doesn't hold true for all consumer cards, though for me the investment in a guaranteed-working WX-series card was well worth it.

I understand that in various ways the WX series (now the W series) cards are more tested by AMD but has either AMD or Raptor given any guarantee about them on POWER9 in general or on the Raptor hardware specifically?

If that is written somewhere then it provides an extra reason to prefer those cards for those who can buy them.

Thanks for taking the time to share your observations.
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shawnanastasio

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Do you have the option to exchange the RX 580, did you try a replacement?

Many retailers will exchange or refund any product within the first 2 - 4 weeks, especially in Europe.  Is this enough time for somebody to detect a problem like that?

While the card was definitely intermittent from the start, it was still usable, and the issues I encountered towards the beginning could just as well have been unrelated driver bugs.
It started getting really bad after about a year of use, which is well outside the return window. I didn't bother requesting an RMA, since I needed a working card as soon as possible and just decided to buy a WX.

I understand that in various ways the WX series (now the W series) cards are more tested by AMD but has either AMD or Raptor given any guarantee about them on POWER9 in general or on the Raptor hardware specifically?

If that is written somewhere then it provides an extra reason to prefer those cards for those who can buy them..

Of course neither AMD nor Raptor provide official guarantees about hardware compatibility - AMD doesn't care about POWER9 and Raptor couldn't audit the firmware/drivers to ensure complete compatibility even if they wanted to. That said, the fact that Raptor's prebuilt machines all ship with WX cards is a pretty strong vote of confidence I'd say.

pocock

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AMD doesn't care about POWER9

they have a wealth of knowledge about POWER9 in AMD.

Whether they will apply it or support it is another thing.  NVIDIA provides POWER9 binary only drivers for a couple of their cards.
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FlyingBlackbird

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The german computer magazine "ct" (www.ct.de) did test the Blender raytracing performance with different graphics cards including a Radeon RX 5700 XT und Radeon Pro W5700 in ct 01/2020 pages 100 - 101.

One finding was (my personal translation):

Quote
During the test AMD's Radeon Pro W5700 showed incorrect lighting and streaking artifacts using the pro driver 19Q4 - with the standard driver and an RX 5700 or a Radeon VII (Vega) this was not the case.

IMHO this is just a "spotlight" test and may be caused by a bug in the pro driver but it shows that the standard driver and the cheaper RX 5700 (XT) are working quite well...
« Last Edit: June 16, 2020, 05:11:46 am by FlyingBlackbird »

pocock

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This generation of cards doesn't have full hardware ray tracing support, I don't know if that is also a factor in that particular issue.

Many of the reviews of the RX 5700 and W5700 mention that the current NVIDIA cards may be better for people who need ray tracing.  But the NVIDIA drivers are less open than the AMD driver and may not work on POWER.

The previews of the next generation AMD Radeon "big navi" cards suggest they plan to add full ray tracing support and close the gap with NVIDIA but we may not see any cards like that until the end of the year.  That may eliminate the type of issue described in CT magazine.

For me, that means I'm tempted to use cheaper cards, such as the RX 5500 with 4GB or even something older from ebay as a temporary solution for six months.  I don't specifically need ray tracing but would like to have the overall combination of features, for example, AV1 support and lower power consumption.
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MPC7500

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I wonder what happened to nVidias OpenSource announcement?

pocock

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I created a separate thread with some observations about NVIDIA, maybe it would be better to discuss specifics of their drivers there.
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pocock

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As there are multiple threads about this, I felt it would be useful to create a wiki page about GPU selection criteria

Feel free to improve it.  A shortlist of products tested by Raptor and other experienced users might be useful too.
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