Remember this slide?

The "Scalable design" block we already know about, that's RV770 - we reviewed it last month. The 150W TDP $300 part is the Radeon HD 4870, and the 110W $200 part is the Radeon HD 4850, the two cards that have caused NVIDIA quite a bit of pain already. The smaller $100 part has a name, and a release date, neither of which we can talk about at this point, but it's coming.

Today however, is about the 250W, $500 multi-GPU solution - internally known as R700. Hot on the heels of the Radeon HD 4800 series launch, AMD shipped out ten R700 cards worldwide, attempting to capitalize on the success of the 4800 and showcase the strength of AMD's small-GPU strategy.

We're assuming that AMD will call the R700 based cards the Radeon HD 4870 X2, and based on the chart above we're expecting them to retail above $500 (possibly $549?). Today's article is merely a preview as R700s won't be officially launched for at least another month, but AMD wanted to unveil a bit of what it's cooking.


ATI R700 ATI Radeon HD 4870 ATI Radeon HD 4850 ATI Radeon HD 3870
Stream Processors 800 x 2 800 800 320
Texture Units 40 x 2 40 40 16
ROPs 16 x 2 16 16 16
Core Clock 750MHz 750MHz 625MHz 775MHz+
Memory Clock 900MHz (3600MHz data rate) GDDR5 900MHz (3600MHz data rate) GDDR5 993MHz (1986MHz data rate) GDDR3 1125MHz (2250MHz data rate) GDDR3
Memory Bus Width 256-bit x 2 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Frame Buffer 1GB x 2 512MB 512MB 512MB
Transistor Count 956M x 2 956M 956M 666M
Manufacturing Process TSMC 55nm TSMC 55nm TSMC 55nm TSMC 55nm
Price Point > $500 $299 $199 $199

The R700 board is literally made up of two RV770s with a PCI Express switch connecting the two. The clock speeds are identical to the Radeon HD 4870, and memory size per GPU has been doubled to 1GB, which could help in hi res cases with AA enabled. In other words, R700 should perform very much like a pair of 4870s in CrossFire. Or should it?

Building a Better CrossFire

When AMD began talking about no longer building high end hardware using single monolithic GPUs a few weeks back, we let them know that improving CrossFire support would be incredibly important going forward. AMD told us that they are putting a lot into that but also that they have some exciting technology up their sleeves with R700 to help out as well. Unfortunately, we haven't gotten as much detailed information on how it works, but the new technology is GPU to GPU communication.

Until now, CrossFire has done zero GPU to GPU or framebuffer to framebuffer communication. As with the first iteration, each card fully renders the parts of the screen for which it is responsible (be it a whole frame in AFR, the top or bottom half of a screen, or alternating tiles). These results are sent to a combiner where the digital signals are merged and output to the screen. This is the only communication that takes place in CrossFire at the moment. R700 will change that by allowing GPUs to communicate.


RV770 has a CrossFire X Sideport...we assume that the two RV770s on a single R700 board somehow connect Sideports and make fast. AMD hasn't told us how yet.

It is not clear how extensive this communication will be, what information will be shared, or how much bandwidth requirements are increased because of this feature. And while it is a step in the right direction, the holy grail of single-card multi-GPU solutions will be a shared framebuffer. Currently both GPUs need a copy of all textures, geometry, etc., and this is a huge waste of resources. While the R700 has 2GB of RAM on board, it will still be limited in many of the same ways a 1GB RV770 would be as each GPU only has access to half the RAM on the card. Of course, since we don't have a 1GB RV770 yet, this card could show some advantages over the single 4870 regardless of CrossFire.

Regardless of where we want (and need) to see multi-GPU technology get to, R700 is the first part to follow AMD's official change in strategy, and as such it will be very important to establish their place in the market and will need to prove to gamers that they are taking the high end seriously. It's great that single-card multi-GPU solutions are capable of providing high end performance, but when spending the amount of money required to put a high end part in your system, people expect compatibility, reliability, and consistent performance. We can't really talk about how well they pull that off with prerelease hardware and prerelease drivers, but we can't emphasize the importance of this enough. We will certainly be putting the screws to it when the hardware does eventually make it out into the wild.

UPDATE: Our initial publication of this article indicated a 2x 512MB framebuffer for a total of 1GB on board. We have since learned that the R700 we tested has 2GB of RAM total for 2x 1GB framebuffers. This has affected some of our analysis and conclusion. We do apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

The Card
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  • Griswold - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    So, AMD needs to bring their drivers to the point where all games of the past benefit from multi-GPU? Are you sure we need to play 5-10 years old games (assuming they even run on todays systems) at 5000fps just to prove a point? :P Reply
  • Grantman - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    Very interesting to see the 8800gt sli outperforming the gtx 280 in two of the game tests. They can be had so cheap so I'm alwayes interested in info on them. Also pleased to see Oblivion as a test. The 4870x2 will has potential but as you said it really depends on the driver department. If ATI could come out with some solid reliable and fast drivers the 4870x2 should take off. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    THANK YOU FOR INCLUDING OBLIVION! I think that this graphic heavy title does NOT get enough attention sometimes! Sure it's not as new, but it still doesn't run at high FPS with everything on high at a high resolution! Keep including it! Reply
  • B3an - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    Will there be a 2GB version of this card???

    Because i've no idea how Derek gets these frame rates at 2560x1600 with only 512MB usable VRAM. I guess once again they are using a special magical version that magically fits all those textures PLUS AA into 512MB @ 2560x1600 res.

    From looking at dodgy charts like this before i got a 9800GX2 and that was a joke for this res, always running into the memory limit, where your'd then go into the realm of the slide show. It wasn't just me btw, every other owner of the GX2 with a 30" monitor i spoke to had this problem. As for GRID that wasn't even anywhere near playable with 2xAA, let alone 4 times @ 2560x1600 - again the memory limit. Yet anand and some other sites have these magical versions....

    Reply
  • Alexstarfire - Tuesday, July 15, 2008 - link

    It's a 2x1GB card, what are you babbling on about? Reply
  • ViRGE - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    "Today's article is merely a preview as R700s won't be officially launched for at least another month, but AMD wanted to unveil a bit of what it's cooking."

    This is starting to drift back in to paper launch territory, which makes me uneasy. It strikes me that allowing early previews is just as much about sinking the GTX 280 as it is showcasing a new product, which leads to the same kind of problems that we've seen in the past with paper launchers. While I love AT's CPU previews, those are both several months in advance and are for a product with a longer shelf life; I'm not sure GPU previews are necessarily as fair.

    I really don't want to see this becoming a habit, with companies previewing products early enough that it's always untenable to buy something because there's something better just around the corner (except that we don't know how far).
    Reply
  • hooflung - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    Meh, Nvidia's been doing it to AMD for the past 18 months. Time for some payback. Reply
  • toonces - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    Like the 9800GTX+ preview done 3 weeks ago coinciding with AMD's 4850 launch?

    I don't really have a problem with previews like this as long as AnandTech and the manufacturer can guarantee the GPU/CPU/PSU/WhateverU will be released in reasonable quantity in a reasonable amount of time.

    As long as AMD/NV can avoid another 7900GTX 512MB or X800XT PE paper launch debacle they should be given the benefit of the doubt, for now, IMHO.
    Reply
  • ira176 - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    Wonder when AMD will design dual core gpu with on chip memory controller. That should help significantly shorten the card. Reply
  • n7 - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    The huge gain in GRID would be due to the extra vRAM, as it chokes with only 512 MB.

    I am having a hard time believing AT is the only review site to get a 2x512 MB version instead of 2x1 GB.
    Reply

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