Introduction

The Multi-GPU market is a very important one to a number of companies, yet it is presently only dominated by one: NVIDIA.

We have to hand it to NVIDIA, even though they had some problems with SLI early on, they managed to turn a slightly bumpy start into complete dominance of the Multi-GPU market in a year's time. And NVIDIA couldn't be happier; the incredible attraction to SLI, either from an upgrader's perspective or from the desire to have the absolute best in performance means that NVIDIA gets to sell one of their most expensive chipsets, and a potential of two GPUs to each customer. Three chips from one company in a single system? Only Intel had been able to accomplish such a feat in the past.

But what about ATI and their fabled CrossFire solution? Historically ATI hadn't done well at all at getting any sort of end user penetration with their chipsets, but they finally got somewhere with their latest CrossFire chipsets. What's even more amazing is that it wasn't the support for CrossFire that sold the motherboards either, it was the excellent overclocking features and end-user centric nature of the reference platform. CrossFire too might have been a success, had ATI done more copying of NVIDIA rather than taking a different approach this time around.

While the performance of the CrossFire X850 XT was respectable, the total package didn't make any sense. What we wanted was an ATI version of NVIDIA's SLI platform, instead we got a mess of master cards you couldn't buy and dongles that gave us more problems during testing than even the earliest SLI testing we did. And to make matters worse: there was a not-so-nice resolution limitation of 1600 x 1200, which is fine for mid-range offerings, but for a pair of Radeon X850 XTs running in parallel, you really need to be at higher resolutions to truly get the benefit of (at the time) $1000 worth of graphics cards. Even if you didn't heed our warnings, ignored the fact that NVIDIA's GeForce 7800 GTX was a better buy and still wanted a pair of X850 XTs on a CrossFire motherboard - you couldn't: the required master card wasn't available.

You know what they say, if at first you don't succeed... So we're back here today with the CrossFire solution that should have been: the ATI Radeon X1800 CrossFire Edition. The dongle is still there, as is the master card, but the resolution limit isn't and ATI's finally using a GPU that is a worthy competitor to the 7800 GTX. This time around, ATI has a chance and now, more than ever, do they need it.

The success of CrossFire means much more than whether or not ATI ends up at the top of some silly graphs; it will determine whether or not ATI has a chance at stealing away some of NVIDIA's very profitable Multi-GPU business. And believe it or not, CrossFire's success is very important to Intel. Intel's soon to be launched 975X platform will ship with full CrossFire support, but NVIDIA hasn't blessed it with SLI support, so Intel's only chance to be taken seriously as a high end gaming platform is with ATI's assistance.

A successful CrossFire could mean that Intel would have added leverage against NVIDIA, maybe even pressuring them into bringing SLI support to Intel's chipsets, as they would no longer have the exclusive on viable Multi-GPU. With both ATI and Intel very interested in the success of the launch, we're curious to see how it turns out. And we're sure you are too.

ATI: The A is for Availability?
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  • tuteja1986 - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    i meant to say BF2 :( i know i am an idiot >>> Anyways please forgive me and i have a 7800GTX so don't call me a ATI fanboy , i can even take a screenshot if you want :! Reply
  • tfranzese - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    So were back here today with the CrossFire solution that should have been: the ATI Radeon X1800 CrossFire Edition.

    we're
    Reply
  • tfranzese - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    So lets all throw a shit fit about every company that ever announced a product only to have availability weeks to years from that announcement.

    Anandtech staff is just as bad as it's two year old readers who tie emotions in with silicon. Grow up and learn some patience - if you can't wait, buy someone elses product and stop your whining.
    Reply
  • tuteja1986 - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    crossfire does great in DOD source , Black and White 2 and it beats Nvidia 7800GTX 512MB SLI . how ever it doesn't great in DOOM 3 engine. FEAR and Chaos theory it manages to defeat the 7800GTX 256MB SLI easy but in high quality of chaos theory it keeps up with 7800GTX 512MB. X1800XT crossfire has only one problem and that it suck in DOOM engine benchmark but overall its great. Reply
  • jonny13 - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    "crossfire does great in DOD source , Black and White 2 and it beats Nvidia 7800GTX 512MB SLI "

    You obviously didn't read the article if you thought Crossfire did great in Black and White 2. It failed to get above 12 fps and was over 50% slower than a single x1800XT at times.
    Reply
  • BigLan - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    No x1800 master cards showing on Newegg or CompUSA's website as of 10AM EST. Really hope ATi make good on their availability promises this time. Reply
  • michaelpatrick33 - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    I think the R580 chipset and videocard will be the real crossfire shot at SLI. This feels a little early generation SLI to me and they seriously need to get rid of the dongle, LOL. I can't wait to see the R580 in relation to the 7800GTX 512 market edition card. Reply
  • radekhulan - Wednesday, December 21, 2005 - link

    Problem is that current ATI Crossfire setup is way inferior to NVIDIA SLI, despite big heading "ATI MultiGPU done right", and I do not believe this will change much with hyped R580.

    With NVIDIA I can:

    - mix any similar cards, being it 6800GS/GT, 7800GT, 7800GTX, 7800GTX-512, thus saving costs
    - get much better drivers
    - get support for user defined game profiles, thus when I purchase a new game, I do not have to wait a month or two for card producer to come up with new drivers and that game support (ie. with ATI I will play new games using SuperTiling with 0% to -50% "improvement", with NVIDIA I will create a new game profile using e.g. AFR2 and get immediate 90% improvement)
    - there is no huge external dongle, and I guess picture quality should be better as well with SLI
    - there is much better availibility of NFORCE4-SLI chipsets / motherboards
    - I can connnect up to 4 monitors to NVIDIA SLI, but I cannot to Crossfire
    - I can switch NVIDIA SLI on/off without restart
    - I get better performance with NVIDIA SLI

    ATI Crossfire seems still like an afterthought, nothing else, while NVIDIA SLI is a technology incorporated into the core. If I want to game on 1600x1200, the only real option is to get NVIDIA SLI.

    I understand that Anandtech cannot bash Crossfire too much, to keep good relations with ATI, free products, shows, trips, etc., but I belive that superiority of NVIDIA SLI is very clear here..
    Reply
  • Visual - Thursday, December 22, 2005 - link

    I don't know what you're talking about.
    - you can't mix any of the cards you listed with each other, except a GTX with a GTX512 (gotta use only 256mb from each, and run the 512 model at the normal GTX speeds);
    - dont see how drivers are better
    - dunno if a profile tool/editor for ati exists or is in the making, so cant comment on this; but you're overestimating the improvement on nvidia
    - its just a cable; your guess about the quality comes from what grounds? guess what, you guessed wrong.
    - point, unless you go intel; but i seriously hope both ATI and nVidia will release unlocked crossfire drivers that work on any dual16x board
    - last i checked, you can't use the outputs on the secondary card in SLI mode, you have to switch SLI off first; i might be counting on outdated information, but i doubt it.
    - yeah, and you do that how often? i bet its much fun and enjoyment... no seriously, you're right that this is a convenient feature as occasionally you'd have to switch it, but it doesnt seem too important does it? plus there's no telling if crossfire can't do the same eventually.
    - again an unfounded claim

    Indeed Crossfire seems like an afterthought to me too, and nVidia's superiority here is (atleast was, until recently) clear. But that's the good part of competition - nVidia forced ATI to "afterthink" something out, and it will be getting better with time. Crossfire is just as serious an option as SLI, and if you stick with your "the only real option is to get NVIDIA SLI" you're just purpously closing your eyes.

    Think what you want, I don't really care. But don't preach unfounded fanboyism without expecting to face differing oppinions.
    Reply
  • coldpower27 - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    However, 7800 GTX 512 is not the competitor for R580, that competitor is G71, which is supposed to be due in Early Feburary as opposed to R580's Late January. Reply

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