ATI made it clear at the launch of their CrossFire Xpress 3200 in March that it would be more than just a Socket 939 chipset. The new ATI dual X16 chipset would be launched for Socket 939, but it was designed from the ground up for AMD Socket AM2. ATI is now showing how well the CrossFire Xpress 3200 performs on the new AM2 socket with DDR2 memory.

The AM2 launch for ATI is also an important launch of new technology for ATI. AM2 is the first time we have seen the new ATI SB600 Southbridge, and it's coming to market none too soon. ATI's Rx480 and RD580 for Socket 939 were somewhat hampered by the outdated feature set of their SB400/SB450 Southbridges. Both were excellent in IDE and standard SATA performance, but they lacked SATA2 3.0Gb/s support featured in competing chipsets; SB450 also was criticized for lackluster USB 2.0 performance compared to the competition.

Most manufacturers who went to market with ATI's SB400 or SB450 were penalized with low sales, so much so that most manufacturers in the RD580 launch this past March went with the compatible and up-to-date ULi M1575 Southbridge. This solution worked well, but NVIDIA purchased ULi and ULi M1575 Southbridge chips have become scarcer in the marketplace. ATI has been promising for almost a year that SB600 was coming and would fix the Southbridge concerns. With today's launch SB600 is finally a reality. This is important for ATI since manufacturers can now use a full ATI chipset solution that should be well-received in the marketplace.

Through development the latest ATI chipset was called RD580. When ATI launched their dual X16 Northbridge for Socket 939 in March the official name became CrossFire Xpress 3200. RD580 for AM2 carries the same name - CrossFire Xpress 3200 - with the addition of AM2 to identify the board socket. This is in contrast to NVIDIA's launch of nForce5 which uses a die-shrink "Northbridge" MCP with added features and an existing "Southbridge" C51 to provide the second X16 PCIe video slot.

With the introduction of the SB600 Southbridge with the RD580 AM2, ATI has made revisions to their chipset lineup. The features listed in the chart below are not all provided by the RD580/SB600 chipset, but are ATI recommended configurations for the target market segments. The top-end recommendation is also the configuration of the RD580 AM2 Reference board. Page 2 provides details of the features you will find in the SB600 compared to competing chipsets.



Xpress 3200 now covers RD580 Socket 939 and AM2. RD480 is now combined with SB600 with the new name Xpress 1600. The integrated graphics solution, based on RS485, is now marketed as Radeon Xpress 1150.

At launch, ATI was hesitant to provide reference boards for testing since it will still be several weeks until retail 3200 AM2 boards will appear in the marketplace. ATI was preparing for the original AM2 launch date of 6/06/06 at Computex. Several weeks ago AMD decided to move the AM2 launch back to May 23rd, and directions could not be changed that quickly. Considering the date changes were by AMD, it is understandable why ATI will have a slight delay before retail AM2 boards appear on the shelves.

CrossFire Xpress 3200 for socket 939 brought dual X16 PCIe slots to the ATI chipset. This made the ATI RD580 fully competitive with the top NVIDIA chipsets for AMD with the exception of a few I/O features. Socket 939 RD580 was still paired with SB450, which had the disadvantage of no SATA II support and lackluster USB2 performance.

CrossFire Xpress 3200 AM2 aims to make ATI fully competitive in features with the top NVIDIA offerings for AMD. With AM2 comes the long-awaited SB600, with support for SATA2 and much improved USB performance. ATI would tell you, however, that RD580 is more than just competitive with the best from NVIDIA.



The new ATI dual X16 is the first of the type to implement dual X16 with a single chip. The NVIDIA solution uses two chips with a potential communications roadblock between the two chips that were really developed for other applications. NVIDIA states there is no performance loss in their design. However, NVIDIA is also planning to move to a single chipset supporting dual X16 PCIe video lanes later this year. NVIDIA states that move is for cost savings.

ATI SB600
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  • Saist - Friday, June 02, 2006 - link

    to quote

    "short life for AM2 dominance before the launch of Conroe"

    Um. Anandtech, if you actually do believe that Conroe's performance numbers are going to hold up in multithreaded applications that exceed 4megabytes of cache data, I think you need to redo you're calculations. After intel's showing of Conroe behind closed doors during E3, I think you should also be aware that the performance numbers are not adding up. Intel might finally be competitive, but even when Intel chips have been competitive in the past, AMD chips have won on price. AM2 may not be the only game in town come this fall, but to say it has a short life? Makes me wonder if you actually bothered even asking the game developers what they are getting out of the processors.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 02, 2006 - link

    ...multithreaded applications that exceed 4megabytes of cache data..."

    We believe in real world testing. I'm sure there will be applicaitons where AMD still comes out ahead, but synthetic scenarios don't really count. If http://techreport.com/etc/2006q2/woodcrest/index.x...">Intel wins in encoding tests, 3D rendering, gaming, office... and loses in a few specific benchmarks that require lots of memory and low latency RAM access, does it really mean AMD is competitive? I mean, there are still a few specific scenarios where P4 can beat A64, but you don't see us trumpeting those as being representative.

    What it comes down to is what most people will get out of each platform, and so far it's looking like a pretty clean sweep for Core Duo 2. Woodcrest vs. Opteron in HPC applications might be a different story (I doubt it), but that's really only relevant if you're running server workloads. As far as pricing, http://images.dailytech.com/nimage/1556_large_conr...">last I saw the $300+ prices of dual core AMD chips are going to have a difficult time competing with $185-$225 Intel chips. Overclocks are also looking promising as well, so a $185 chip running 2.8 GHz will be a force to be reconned with.
    Reply
  • R3MF - Friday, June 02, 2006 - link

    can you tell me the what and the when of this amzing revelation? Reply
  • Slaimus - Thursday, June 01, 2006 - link

    quote:

    In the end, if you want ATI CrossFire video you must choose ATI AM2 and if you want NVIDIA SLI you must choose NVIDIA nForce5.


    You can run CrossFire on 975X as well. It should be a competitive platform once the new CPUs come out.
    Reply
  • Axbattler - Thursday, June 01, 2006 - link

    Umm, the article made no mention of the Sil3132 performance on the A8R32-MVP, which I believe is bugged. Reply
  • Trisped - Thursday, June 01, 2006 - link

    http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=2767&am...">http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=2767&am...
    First chart, #1 is the Silicon Image 3132 SATA2 (ATI) performance rating.
    Reply
  • Axbattler - Thursday, June 01, 2006 - link

    I saw that. But if you look at the second graph, the performance of the Sil 3132 in the MSI board is considerably worse than in the ATI reference board.

    That is still quite usable, but the one from the Asus A8R32-MVP is basically unusable (slower than what modern drives are capable).
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, June 01, 2006 - link

    We retested Sil3132 on the ATI and some other controllers for this review, and the other 3132 data should have been deleted. Now corrected. We are not aware of the 3132 issue with the A8R32-MVP. The Sil3132 is one of the best SATA2 controllers on the market, and it is a much better performer than the Sil3114. Reply
  • Axbattler - Thursday, June 01, 2006 - link

    The result does shown in the review does suggest a solid performance from the Sil3132 controller. However, this is what I have been experiencing:
    - http://img267.imageshack.us/my.php?image=burst4dh....">http://img267.imageshack.us/my.php?image=burst4dh.... (Sil controller)
    - http://img71.imageshack.us/my.php?image=burst27ja....">http://img71.imageshack.us/my.php?image=burst27ja.... (ULi controller)

    Two motherboard bioses were tested (0311, 0404), as well as all the drivers from 1.0.9.0 (bundled with the motherboard installation CD, to the latest 1.0.16.0

    The poor HDTach performance is reflected in real world application too, gaming loading, file copying are all slowed down to horrendous level.

    I believe that Gary was able to replicate this issue (not sure if he eventually found a way around it), although I suppose that based on the result of the other board, it is an issue specific Asus board (perhaps the A8R32-MVP). Is there any chance you could run a test to confirm this?
    Very few people in forums that I've visited use the Sil controller, perhaps due to the positioning of the SATA socket (which is actually optimal to where my Raptor is installed: on a 5.25" drive bay).
    Reply
  • Trisped - Thursday, June 01, 2006 - link

    ATI AM2.jpg is a bit blurry when blown up. You might want to set the camera on the highest quality setting so that doesn’t happen.

    quote:

    CPU Clock Multiplier 4x-25x in 0X increments
    0X looks like a typo

    Why did the Audio Performance charts not have any NVIDIA solutions?
    Reply

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