At Siggraph this year, ATI announced its line of super-powered, new generation, 3D whooping, FireGL™ graphics cards. With features that lends itself to perform better with 3D applications, you would think it’s what everyone with slow graphics performance would want. So what kind of KILLER video card is this going to be?

Here’s what Efrat Ravid, director of Marketing and Alliances for SolidWorks, had to say,

“Given the new realistic rendering effects built into SolidWorks 2008, AMD’s release of the new ATI FireGL™ workstation graphics accelerators gives SolidWorks customers the power and advanced rendering capabilities to boost their productivity and creativity. The innovative unified shader architecture and larger frame buffers of the ATI FireGL accelerators can remove past constraints when working with large data sets, while enabling real-time rendering of more complex assemblies.”
Bios Magazine

Wow, that’s a mouthful.
I’d like something to boost my productivity and creativity. I tend to draw inspiration from nature or cool designs, but that would be cool if this card’s graphic accelerator granted me the power to summon productivity.

I’ve always liked AMD (who owns ATI), but have preferred nVidia to ATI. However, if this card does what it claims, you may be looking at a fast AMD system with a fast AMD video card.

What to like and not like
I like the amount of available memory, unified architecture, CAD certifications, multiple core usage and the mid-range price isn’t too bad ($599 for 512MB). Basically I’m expecting SolidWorks to run and look like Gears of War on the Xbox 360…without the scary monster.

But then, the first MCAD test I read shows it performing slower against the nVidia FX 1500 (my current favorite) in SolidWorks 2007. And then again, other reviews have shown ATI socking the snot out of nVidia’s best. Granted those were on games. I think some more testing needs done against SolidWorks 2008 and Vista. It will also be interesting to see if nVidia tries to release something to compete.

ATI FireGL Pricing information
ATI FireGL V8650 – 2GB $2799
ATI FireGL V8600 – 1GB $1899
ATI FireGL V7600 – 512MB $999
ATI FireGL V5600 – 512MB $599
ATI FireGL V3600 – 256MB $299

From the news and reviews that have been generated about the video card, I’m beginning to think about switching parties, but there’s still something that’s telling me to hold back. I just may be hoping for too much, but it’s cool to see what’s coming out.

If you’re waiting like me till next summer, when Vista should be at SP1 and SolidWorks 2008 is well past pre-release, to get a new card, there should be some more info on this card’s performance and possibly a price drop. The first ones on the counter will be the entry-level FireGL. Look for the V3600 to be released in September/October this year.




Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.