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The Mac Pro: So what’s a D300, D500 and D700 anyway? We have answers

We have more details on the new Mac Pro D300, D500 and D700, including their architecture class

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[Edit. note: We discovered a typo in our in-line sub-title in "Southern Islands" below. It was originally "Southeast" which is incorrect. 4 Nov 2013.]

 

In Schiller’s presentation he remarks that “if you know what D300′s cost and high speed flash you are actually super impressed with this pricing…”

With the D300 he was referring to the new dual FirePro GPUs in the new Mac Pro. But the funny thing was…he was referencing a product name that is unknown because it was created only for the new Mac Pros themselves. So how could anyone know what a D300 cost? You would need to know what it is based on.

Well, we think we have that pretty well figured out.

Southern Islands

We have done some homework and correlated the available information out on the Net. Here’s what we know and why you should care.

01 - Apple's Mac Pro features D300, D500 and D700 dual FirePro GPUs that roughly equal W7000, W8000 and W9000 existent graphics cards. They are Pitcairn and Tahiti-based GCN Architecture units offering stunning power and range.

01 – Apple’s Mac Pro features D300, D500 and D700 dual FirePro GPUs that roughly equal W7000, W8000 and W9000 existent graphics cards. They are Pitcairn and Tahiti-based GCN Architecture units in customized configuration offering stunning power and range.

AMD’s current latest fastest FirePro workstation class graphics units are based on the Tahiti and Pitcairn architecture, the 28-nanometer Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture that, from our AMD information given to us in a recent AMD GPU review, is highly tuned for OpenCL performance. So which of the latest FirePro GPUs correspond to the D300, D500 and D700? That’s the 64,000 dollar question.

D700

So here’s the easiest part. The D700 has exact spec matches to the FirePro W9000, AMD’s highest performing workstation class GPU. Notable specs for both the D700 & W9000 include:

  • 2048 Stream Processors (texture mapping units/unified shaders)
  • 384-bit memory bus width
  • 264 GB/s memory bandwidth
  • 6 GB Vram GDDR5

The W9000 specs at 4 teraflops single precision while Apple has the D700 at 3.5 teraflops. This could be because of a frequency delta for the core clock. On the W9000 it specs at 975 MHz core clock speed. Perhaps on the D700 it runs at 900? D700 is a Tahiti-based GPU.

Amazon has the FirePro W9000 at 3,158.USD. Apple is providing two D700′s in all Mac Pro configurations as options. That’s over six grand in GPU costs alone.

D500

The D500 is a bit harder. What we know for certain is it too is Tahiti-based. Although it has a 384 bit bus and more memory bandwidth than AMD’s W8000–the next best ranked FirePro available–it has 2.2 teraflops of performance compared to the W8000′s 3.2 teraflops.

Because this is also a Tahiti-based unit it could be based on the W8000 or the W9000, though its memory bus is matched to the W9000. We just don’t know? Here are the key specs:

  • 1525 Stream Processors (texture mapping units/unified shaders)
  • 384-bit memory bus width
  • 240 GB/s memory bandwidth
  • 3 GB Vram GDDR5

The D500 on a teraflop rank basis is just slightly more powerful than the Pitcairn-based W7000, the third best ranked FirePro card. But as we said above it is a Tahiti-based GPU. And in terms of streaming processors it ranks closer to the W8000 than the W7000.

The D500′s memory bus is not 256-bit like the W8000 but it ships with 1 GB less VRAM. Apple seems to have cleverly balanced various performance metrics to create an upper-mid level workstation class option while decreasing streaming processors (1792 down to 1525), decreasing VRAM (4 GB down to 3 GB) and possibly frequency on the core clock to result in a slightly less teraflop-performing mid-level option. The result is a reasonable price increase over the D300 for this Tahiti-based D500.

Amazon has the W8000 retailing at 1,308.USD. Apple is providing roughly two of these or just about 2,500.USD of GPU value. But because of the strategic decreases as noted above the real value Apple is providing may be much closer to just under 2 grand. (see below or next page)

D300

The D300 is a Pitcairn-based GPU, just like the AMD FirePro W7000. Of the three GPU options on the new Mac Pro only the D300 features a narrower 256-bit memory bus with a 160 GB/s memory bandwidth.

We feel that the D300 is in essence the W7000 but with half the VRAM. The actual W7000 comes with 4 GB not 2 GB like the D300. Essential key specs include:

  • 1280 Stream Processors (texture mapping units/unified shaders)
  • 256-bit memory bus width
  • 160 GB/s memory bandwidth
  • 2 GB Vram GDDR5

The D300 provides 2 teraflops of single precision compared to 2.4 for the W7000. Could this again be because of core clock differences? Has AMD provided D-series FirePros with slightly dialed down clocks for thermal temperature reasons?

Amazon has FirePro W7000 cards retailing at 649.USD. Apple is providing essentially two of these or approximately 1,200.USD in GPU value in the baseline Mac Pro.

Importantly, although the D300 is Pitcairn-based while the other two are Tahiti based, both are apart of the 28-nm architecture series and both are Graphics Core Next (GCN) Architecture.

next page: The Value Discussion

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