Introduction

Four months ago, ATI officially announced their first multi-GPU solution called CrossFire.

Two months ago, we previewed and benchmarked it.

And today, ATI lifted their NDA on CrossFire performance with the Radeon X850 XT.

Contrary to what we were all led to believe, CrossFire cards are still not available, so today, we have little more than what we had two months ago when we previewed the platform.

Obviously, drivers have improved tremendously since we first benchmarked CrossFire, but as you will soon see, the platform still isn't entirely perfect. You will also find that CrossFire performance is decent, however plagued by an unfortunate GPU limitation limiting current CrossFire setups to a 1600 x 1200 maximum resolution.

The timing of today's NDA lift is curious at best, given that ATI's next-generation GPUs are literally just around the corner. In fact, given things such as the current 1600 x 1200 resolution, we honestly wonder why this performance introduction wasn't delayed until ATI's R520 launch.

Meanwhile, NVIDIA has steadily been improving the quality and availability of their SLI platform, which was announced over a year ago. Across the vast majority of their product lines, ATI is playing a seemingly never-ending game of catch-up. From the delayed release of the R520 to CrossFire, things haven't been looking up for ATI. Let's see if the trend continues here today.

The Details of the Resolution Limit
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  • waldo - Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - link

    wow, that commment sure brought a lot of attention.

    I would agree that Thom's appears to be "outright-bought" in this article as they don't post the limitation of hte card at 1600x1200 @ 60hz, or at least not as clear as Anand, but they do make some valid comments that Anand's article didn't post either.

    Perhaps they are targeting different audiences? No idea, but why are their numbers on par with the 7800 SLI in many situations? That sounds fishy somewhere.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - link

    Just to cover what others haven't yet --

    Adding an X8xx card to an R520 CrossFire card would either not perform well at all or would not work.

    Personally, dual-GPU as an upgrade solution is not really a plus unless you are just deffereing purchase for a couple months while prices drop and your wallet heals from the first GPU purchase. If your personal upgrade cycle is a year or more, you'd be much better off just buying a new card from a new architecture.

    Everyone else has pretty well hit it on the head. The 1600x1200 limit is a killer. We also have no availability and we are butted right up against the launch of ATIs next gen parts.

    I wouldn't recommend SLI either -- as I said -- unless you want absolute maximum preformance. My recommendation may change to CrossFire after the R520 comes along. But who knows what the results of that comparison will be :-)

    Mixed modes would perform slightly lower than the dual x850 xt setup and still at most 1600x1200@60 ... Yes, the X850 XT CrossFire does well in performance, but if I'm not going to recommend the X850 XT CrossFire, I'm certainly not going to recommend a mixed solution that will perform worse.
    Reply
  • waldo - Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - link

    I wasn't saying that you would recommend the other, but it would have been interesting for the readers (who attempt to be congiscent, autonomous beings, and only act at the whim and will of god Anand!) to be able to compare for themselves, per chance see what a mixed solution looks like as that is a selling point of ATI over Nvidia.

    I don't think SLI from NVIDIA is much of a solution. If you have $1k to shell out for graphics out of the starting gate, great. But you have to get the same manufacturer, the same card, and then the motherboard to match. But I won't be buying an ATI Crossfire setup just yet either.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 26, 2005 - link

    Here's my personal take:

    1) If the 1600x1200@60 Hz problem doesn't bother you, that continue. For me, it's a deal-breaker.

    2) Do you already own an X8xx card of some form?

    3) Do you have a motherboard with two PCIe X16 slots?

    4) Using the ATI Crossfire chipset?

    If all of those are true, X800 Crossfire is worth consideration. Personally, 1, 3, and 4 eliminate it from contention. That said, this is current X8xx Crossfire we're looking at. We're not reviewing R520 Crossfire yet, and it will address at least the first point in some fashion.
    Reply
  • Brian23 - Monday, September 26, 2005 - link

    pwned Reply
  • fishbits - Monday, September 26, 2005 - link

    quote:

    realize that it seems attacking

    Yeah, accusing a site of corruption could seem like an attack.

    1600 res limited to 60 hz is a deal-breaker for me right away. I can't tolerate playing at 60 hz for any length of time. I'm not a snob about this, it makes me physically feel ill. Pairing two powerful and pricey cards in one system should offer better, easily. I would not plunk down that kind of money to not be able to play at 16x12 when others do it at liveable refresh rates. Nvidia has better price-to-performance single and dual card solutions available right now. ATI should have the same shortly. The mega AA sounds great, but if as soon as you turn it on you say "I need to upgrade now," then what's the point? While the reviewed Crossfire is certainly nice in performance, there's better to be had for the money from both GPU suppliers. It would be irresponsible to recommend it at this time at the current price.

    Now if there's a confluence of specifics where this setup makes gaming and financial sense to a handful of people out there, more power to them, they should enjoy this. For the teaming masses of readers though, you shouldn't be suprised by the lack of recommendation.
    Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Monday, September 26, 2005 - link

    LOL... attack an enthusiast site? Say it isn't so!

    How about the THG article? They review the platform as a whole, so that's a bit different. I won't comment much on their review, but consider a few points.

    They have a page entitled, "Advantages Of CrossFire Over SLI" that reads like marketing hype, and yet they make no mention of the resolution limitation or "Advantages of SLI Over Crossfire". Clearly, they know the limitation exists - ATI hasn't tried to hide this fact, and the lack of any benches at higher than 1600x1200 is telling in and of itself. You do the rest of the math. (Also, some of the results are at best suspect.)

    IMO, the writing of the THG article was a bit higher quality, but the content was far more suspect. They come off making everything sound rosey for ATI, and only a fool or a marketing department would believe that. ATI isn't dead yet by any means, but Crossfire is doing little for me right now. Did you realize that it's still not available for purchase at retail? Hmmmm.....

    Oh yeah, Catalyst Control Center is pure garbage. Slow, clunky UI, memory hog, and causes as many problems as it fixes. Anyone that tries to tell me how great CCC is (i.e. THG) is immediately under suspicion.
    Reply
  • fishbits - Monday, September 26, 2005 - link

    Oh, I wasn't making a blanket statement that a review site couldn't be accused of corruption. Just that if you're going to do it, don't then wuss out and pretend it's not an attack :)

    My experience with THG is mostly second-hand, so I don't say much about it. That they chose to not mention the 16x12 refresh rate limitation, especially with all the debate over it before today, well... that's scandalous.
    Reply
  • erinlegault - Monday, September 26, 2005 - link

    The TechReport review was the best. Anand seems to give poor Graphics reviews, and definately not up to par with their CPU, motherboard and memory reviews. It must be the authors differences of opinion. Reply
  • overclockingoodness - Monday, September 26, 2005 - link

    Could you clarify why Anand's video reviews suck? Just because Anand doesn't benchmark and show 100 diff. graphs of the cards based on the same architecture doesn't mean AnandTech's video reviews suck. TR is quite redundant from one article to another, if you didn't notice. Reply

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