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AMD increases power for CG artists

By Henry Winchester

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Date Added: 20th September 2013

The FirePro graphics card company, AMD, explains its latest updates – and what they mean for graphics applications.



NVIDIA versus AMD is an ancient and ongoing battle between two giant tech companies, much like Android versus Apple or Sonic versus Mario. These fights for dominance are a good thing: they mean that the market never stagnates because they're always trying to outdo one another – but they also inevitably result in one of the two companies becoming the underdog.

Historically, AMD has played second fiddle to NVIDIA's graphics supremacy. However, the Californian graphics and processor chip company appears to be on the up: its GPUs will power gaming on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and its FirePro graphics cards are exploding (not literally) in the professional sector. We met with the company's head honchos in a plush London hotel to talk about the future of the latter.

As well as providing the cards that power entertainment such as games and films, AMD plays a crucial role in medical imaging and architecture

"We've gone from 60 applications to 170 that have been ported to OpenCL”

The OpenCL key

Key to AMD's planned success is OpenCL, a programming language which allows developers to make use of graphics chips' parallel processing technology. It works a little like NVIDIA's CUDA software, but while CUDA is locked down to NVIDIA cards, OpenCL is open-source and available to all. Its industry-wide adoption is staggering, with many tech and software companies looking to implement the groundbreaking tech in their programs and hardware.

AMD has its fingers in most contemporary tech-pies, from small laptops to whopping great servers

"We've gone from 60 applications to 170 that have been ported to OpenCL,” said Ed Caracappa, AMD's director of global sales and business development. "It bodes very well for us – people want to use our technology, and do it in an open environment, not the locked-down proprietary environment that the competition offers. We intend to continue to move in this direction with a number of other partners.”

AMD claimed that OpenCL on a FirePro card leads to eight-times the performance you'd get from running Premiere Pro on a standard CPU, and that the system is 40% faster than NVIDIA's CUDA. "The fact that Adobe has come on board, adopted OpenCL and actually ported CS as OpenCL-accelerated – this is a big deal, because it really opens the door for us to have other people take this on,” said Caracappa.

Realview adds ambient occlusion and shaders to 3D models in realtime so previews look more realistic

"These are performance enhancements that you'll only get right now with a FirePro graphics card”

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Luciano on Wed, 25 September 2013 12:44pm
They do need to take care of drivers, programming tools and their opencl port in linux (and take a look at freebsd please?) before I buy their cards again. In windows it is fine, but in linux I prefer to go nvidia, last time I built a workstation rig using their cards the result was ludicrous, and they killed support for that card generation sooner than I expected. I used entry level FireGL though, but it killed my will to look at their hardware again. Nvidia, although closed tech, had better support at the time (and keeps good now). I hope amd improves their support in these other OSs, I like their hw specs and openCL, it was the software and drivers that made me look elsewhere.
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