We previewed AMD's CrossFireX technology a couple weeks ago, but today a WHQL drier is available that supports more than two AMD GPUs. In order to do this, AMD employs Vista's Linked Display Adapter (LDA) technology to make the collective GPUs appear to the system as a single virtual device. While this allows for more flexibility in GPU configurations, there are some drawbacks that we will talk about shortly.

The new Catalyst 8.3 is a milestone release for AMD that brings, in addition to Vista LDA support for more than two GPUs, a number of new features. These are (from AMD's documentation):

ATI Hybrid Graphics Support: The ability to use integrated and discrete graphics in hybrid mode to support either power saving (disabling the discrete graphics card) or to enable the integrated and discrete graphics hardware to share the graphics load. This is only available with lower end graphics cards and integrated chipsets using the 3200/3300 series hardware.

Anti-Aliasing enhancements: AA support for all UE3 titles (Unreal Tournament 3, Gears of War, Rainbow Six, etc.) through the control panel. Support for edge detect filters plus Super AA was slated to be in this release but it was pushed back. Tent filters can be enabled with Super AA, but edge detect will be coming soon.

Digital Panel GPU image scaling: The option to enable image scaling for maintaining aspect ratio of a display has been added. Additionally, the GPU itself is now used to scale the image if the check box is ticked. NVIDIA has had this for a while and it's good to see AMD adding support for this.

Advanced Video Quality controls: An edge enhancement slider has been added to adjust the sharpness of the video playback, along with a noise reduction slider. Having variable adjustment for these kinds of features is a very welcome addition and something we've been wanting ever since noise reduction became a hot topic in video decoding.

HydraVision for Vista: Multiple monitor and virtual desktop manager with support for hotkeys and tools to help keep things organized.

Let's take another look at CrossFireX now that we are allowed to test it on Intel hardware and compare it with competing solutions.

Setting it Up …
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  • MAIA - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    "After rebooting a few times to let windows do its thing, we installed the driver and all was well."

    This sentence is soooooo microsoft windows !!! :))

    Sorry .... had to say it.
    Reply
  • dash2k8 - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    I'm just wondering: instead of piling on the number of GPU's, why hasn't a manufacturer just come out with ONE monstrous GPU that does away with the need of using multiple video cards? If someone is crazy enough to spend moola on 4 GPU's, I imagine that person would be equally willing to buy ONE card that has the same horsepower. Just saying. Reply
  • punko - Monday, March 10, 2008 - link

    Thanks Derek for a good review. As you indicated, this may be the future and its good to see the tech reach a point where it is ready for use and can be improved upon as all tech goes forward.

    It also sound like you had a lot of help directly from AMD on this one.

    Reply
  • gsellis - Monday, March 10, 2008 - link

    "but today a WHQL drier is available "

    Hey Derek, typo in the beginning. Still mirthful about this one. Water cooling and you needed it drier to work with all GPUs?
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Sunday, March 09, 2008 - link

    I'm just curious as to whether you've checked to see if quad channel memory has any benefit for multiple GPU situations? With 3 or 4 GPUs sucking data, I would presume the additional memory bandwidth provided by quad DDR2-800 would increase performance, especially since dual channel FB-DIMMs are not as efficient as the best dual channel DDR2 or DDR3 setups on desktop boards. It would be interesting to see the results of a 4x1GB setup on Skulltrail vs the 2x2GB setup you used. Reply
  • cerwin13 - Saturday, March 08, 2008 - link

    Would it be wise to try this upgrade without SP1 installed with Vista 32? I am currently using 2x Radeon HD3870 x2s and would like to benchmark with these new drivers, but apparently SP1 isn't officially out yet? Reply
  • DerekWilson - Saturday, March 08, 2008 - link

    other people had luck without SP1; it's not a requirement, but some of our editors did find that it helped with a lot of stuff ...

    you'll want to make sure you have hotfixes:

    929777-v2
    936710
    938194
    938979
    940105
    945149

    as a minimum
    Reply
  • Ananke - Saturday, March 08, 2008 - link

    XFX has Forceware 169.32, my guess it was added after 9600GT appear. On Nvidia official download site the highest ver is 169.28 Reply
  • Ananke - Saturday, March 08, 2008 - link

    XFX has Forceware 169.32, my guess it was added after 9600GT appear. On Nvidia official download site the highest ver is 169.28 Reply
  • Incisal flyer - Saturday, March 08, 2008 - link

    Derek, thanks for the very timely and detailed review. I'm going to be building a system for Flight Simulator X and have been trying to figure out the best graphics card(s) for that application. Have you considered benchmarking that sim? A lot of discussion right now on AVSIM etc on what to do in terms of GPUs for people building new systmes. There is a lot of back and forth on advantages and disadvantages of different configs. I realize FSX is a bit of a niche product. Would FSX use multiple GPUs like 2 3870 x2s and are the potential headaches of that configurtation worth it if you are a not a computer geek? Or am I better off just getting a couple of Nvidia 8800s in SLI or a single 3870 x2 and not hassling with the 4 GPU solution? Any help or advice would be appreciated. Thanks in advance for your time.

    Incisal Flyer
    Reply

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