Introduction

Ever since the introduction of NVIDIA's SLI, the world has anticipated the release of ATI's competing solution. Many questions and rumors have circulated over the past few months. Could ATI release a multi GPU solution that can stand up to SLI? We remember ATI's previous dual GPU solution with the Rage Fury Maxx, and the fact that 3rd party developers built a quad 9800 solution a few years ago. Would ATI launch a single card multi GPU solution, or a two-card solution that paralleled NVIDIA's offering?

Well, we have all the answers here.



In many ways, ATI's CrossFire launch parallels NVIDIA's SLI launch. ATI is bringing together the launch of a graphics technology and a motherboard platform to support it. Motherboards will support 2 x16 PCI Express slots for two cards. These cards will be linked together, and one will send its data to the other for final compositing and display. Some of the same multi GPU rendering modes are implemented as well.

These similarities aside, CrossFire is a very different solution by necessity. ATI is in a position where they need to augment their GPUs in order to support this technology. At the same time, the solution that ATI produces needs to have a distinct edge over SLI in order to fight its way into the market. Coming out more than 6 months behind SLI (a virtual eternity in the graphics industry), CrossFire has some ground to make up.

Can they do it?

ATI’s Answer to SLI: CrossFire (The Motherboard)
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  • yacoub - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    Is it just me or do several things about this scream "bottleneck" and "latency"? The 2PCI-E x8 slots instead of x16 slots. The extra Compositing Engine chip. The ability to pair different cards such that it will drop clock speeds and/or pipelines to sync them up. The lack of direct chip-to-chip interconnect.

    I'm curious to know just how much performance gain is realized if you pair, say, an X800XL and an X850-something, over just the X850-something. And also how much bottleneck and latency there is in this implementation over the NVidia offering of SLI.

    The only upside I can see is cost/upgrade since a user can own an X800-based card (assuming they have a Crossfire compatible motherboard) and go out and buy an X850-based card later and use BOTH cards together (assuming they are both Crossfire-capable cards). Then again with those assumptions I'm not sure it's truly any more cost-effective. =\
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    As usual, the fanboys of both sides come to the show to spout their comments.

    For everyone saying "Man, you have to buy a Crossfire that matches your card, and throw it away when you upgrade"...umm, don't you have to buy two of the exact same matching card for running nVidia SLI, and if you wish to upgrade, you have to sell both? Doesn't sound that different to me. One thing I think a lot of current ATI owners will be happy about is that they won't have to get rid of a card they already own and buy two of a new one; they can just buy a single Crossfire card (and of course a mainboard).

    On the other hand, to those thinking ATI has now "0wned" nVidia, it is WAY too early to tell. The solution looks promising, but if you have to sacrifice mainboard performance (i.e., SATA hard disks, memory bandwidth, etc.) it may be a hard sell. Benchmarks in Doom 3 are also not the end-all be-all. We'll have to wait for a more comprehensive performance review, including DirectX benches, and performance/quality with older games using this new AA method, as well as game compatibility reports. We'll also need to know what TRUE pricing is (we've seen claimed pricing vary quite a bit from what it has turned out to be at product release in the past two years).

    Do I hope it will beat nVidia's solution? You bet. I like ATI, but even more I like competition that drives the industry. Do we proclaim ATI the winner/loser on this one? Heck no, it isn't even a purchaseable product yet.
    Reply
  • ElMoIsEviL - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    23 - They ran Doom3.

    It's not an ATi game at all as we all know. And it still does REALLY well. And it's not in release stages yet.

    ;)
    Reply
  • ElMoIsEviL - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    hehehehe.. it's better then SLi... hehehehe

    Figures, all the NV on here prolly aren't too happy today.

    I can't wait to test out the new AA modes.. :)
    Reply
  • vertigo1 - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    This is insane, who on earth will buy this?! Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    30 - Yes. The PCIe bus likely provides slower performance, as it is used for lots of other things (like communication between the CPU, RAM, and GPUs). I believe NVIDIA SLI works without the dongle but at slower speeds - at least, I heard that somewhere, but I haven't ever had an SLI board so I can't say for sure. Anyway, since DVI is a digital signle, using DVI in/out seems about as good as the SLI bridge - at least in theory. Now we just need to wait and see how theories pan out. :) Reply
  • Jalf - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    I was under the impression they were going to use the PCI-E bus for transferring data between the cards. Is the external dongle going to handle that instead? Reply
  • Murst - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    I really don't see how the xfire is better than sli based on hardware compatibility. Sure, you don't need the exact same cards, but you will likely buy only one x850 type card per x850 xfire. It would be extremely unlikely that someone upgrades from x850 xt pro -> x850 xt pe.

    Basically, in the end, you will buy a specific xfire tailored to your gfx card, and throw it away with the next generation of cards.
    Reply
  • gxsaurav - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    Great this just means more heat, man, even a single 6800 nU playes everygame fine, while running cool Reply
  • ViRGE - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    #21, yes it is. This is what hurts ATI the most, Nvidia already had 4 release cycles of experience with motherboards(2 of those being highly popular, highly recommended boards) before attempting SLI. ATI has a previous launch for a board almost universally ignored. I would not use an ATI board at this time, so I would also not consider CrossFire. ATI needs to get CrossFire working on Nvidia's boards to have a fighting chance this round. Reply

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