Clock Speeds, Power Consumption, Pricing and Conclusions

An interesting data point I wanted to compare was the actual clock speeds of the Radeon Pro Duo, versus our R9 Nano cards in CrossFire. If you remember back to the launch of the R9 Nano, we had some issues with highly variable clock speeds that we attributed as the cause of SOME of our frame time variance. The question of whether the dual-GPU PCB would cause the Fiji XT chips to throttle slightly more than the single GPU on each Nano card stuck with me as well, even though the Radeon Pro Duo is water cooled.

As it turns out, thanks to a water cooling setup that keeps the Fiji XT GPUs on the Radeon Pro Duo at around 50C (nice!), the resulting average clock speeds for the GPUs on it are higher than the clock speed on the Radeon R9 Nano cards running separately. The difference isn’t great, only about 40 MHz, but it likely is the reason the Radeon Pro Duo was consistently a SMIDGE faster than the R9 Nano’s in CrossFire.

Power Consumption

The Radeon Pro Duo power consumption test results in a maximum draw rate of 498 watts in The Witcher 3. This is total system draw from the wall, not the card alone. If you compare that to the Radeon R9 295X2 from a couple of years back, which hits 615 watts at the wall, the dual-Fiji uses 117 watts less while performing 30-40% faster! That shows the impressive efficiency improvement from Hawaii to Fiji in AMD’s graphics portfolio. The pair of Maxwell-based GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards pull 452 watts, giving them a 45 watt advantage.

Pricing and Availability

The Radeon Pro Duo has an MSRP of $1499, and you can expect that price to stick for the foreseeable future, especially with the professional angle from AMD.

Remember back to the launch of the Radeon R9 295X2, which also had a starting MSRP of $1499, it’s easy to see how the Radeon Pro Duo could start where it is. If you also remember though, the 295X2 rather quickly dropped to as low as $799 before it finally sold through on the market. The 295X2 was incredibly power hungry, had massive power supply requirements and had unique competition from NVIDIA. The Radeon Pro Duo, in theory, is better positioned as a piece of hardware, but it may be that the software ecosystem around it isn’t so agreeable.

If you have that kind of dough to spend on GPUs, and you are okay with buying into a hardware solution that might be superseded in the very near future, a pair of GTX 980 Tis is actually going to save you $250 (or so) and will give you a smoother gaming experience. Maybe even more directly, if you want to stick with AMD hardware, a pair of R9 Nanos will offer an identical performance scenario but will save you $500 if you have available/can suffer through the additional hardware space required.

Closing Thoughts

AMD started out our most recent conversations about the Radeon Pro Duo by telling us that it wasn’t aimed at the PC gaming market. And I agree – it would be very hard to recommend this card to any PC gamer, including those with a limitless budget. CrossFire still lags behind SLI in the user experience side of things and our Frame Rating capture-based performance comparisons clearly show that is the case. While the Radeon Pro Duo has some impressive raw, average frame rates, the frame time variances are higher and can often be readily felt by the gamer.

What the Radeon Pro Duo can offer is R9 Nano CrossFire-class performance in a smaller form factor that only requires two slots and an open 120mm radiator location in your case. From a pure performance per dollar metric, the RPD won’t beat any single GPU cards running in SLI or CrossFire, but that has never been the goal of multi-GPU cards like this. It’s about size, space, sexiness and having the best hardware that exists in your machine.

For professionals looking to get an AMD multi-GPU configuration in their machine for development and offline rendering, the Radeon Pro Duo is an ideal solution. It takes up less space but also offers the same performance capability, and it might be easier to talk your CTO into a single expensive GPU than a pair of less expensive ones! With no similarly high-performance option from NVIDIA on the market, as there was never a dual-Maxwell solution sold, AMD has this market all to itself (for now). I do hope that developers find a way to integrate this card or any multi-GPU combination into their boxes; that is what it will take to get multi-GPU into DX12 and VR games. Experience with multiple graphics cards will undoubtedly equate to better solutions for gamers in the future.

So there you have it, the review you all wanted on the Radeon Pro Duo. Just as AMD predicted when it decided to not sample the cards to typical hardware enthusiast media, it just doesn’t have a compelling place in the market for gamers today. As a result of delays, the dual-Fiji monster that I hoped would be in our hands early last fall is launching at a time where multi-GPU technology is in a rut. It’s a rut that we will definitely get out of, but until then, the Radeon Pro Duo will remain a purely professional play.

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