ATI's Answer to SLI: CrossFire (The Motherboard)

As with NVIDIA's multi-card graphics solution launch, ATI is bringing to market their Radeon Xpress 200 CrossFire-Edition chipset. Motherboards based around CrossFire will feature 2 physical PCI Express x16 slots with x8 electrical connections. If the motherboard manufacturer implements it, the second PCI Express slot does not require a selector card and can be used with any other x8 or lower device. When only one graphics card is installed, the BIOS is capable of reconfiguring dynamically the number of lanes that the PCI Express slots run, provided that the motherboard includes support for this feature. Some vendors will sell motherboards set up just like NVIDIA's solutions (more on that later).

Limiting the cards to only 2 x8 PCI Express connections may be a bottleneck if a game makes heavy use of the bus. Of course, we will run into similar issues with NVIDIA's solutions when paired with games that are PCI Express intensive. Unfortunately, as none yet exist, testing of this category of application is very difficult.

The Xpress 200 CrossFire-Edition is also capable of supporting integrated graphics. One excellent feature of the Xpress 200 CrossFire system is that, on boards where the OEM has included integrated graphics and two display outputs, 6 displays can be driven simultaneously (two from the integrated graphics, two from the standard Radeon, and two from the CrossFire card). Having the ability to support so many displays, while also offering the speed up of multiple GPUs is quite compelling; especially if ATI allows multiple GPU operation alongside multiple display support.

The need to buy a new motherboard in order to upgrade to a multiple GPU solution will likely keep some people from upgrading, but NVIDIA's solutions have the same problem. The fact that CrossFire is only being offered for the X800 and X850 series does limit the upgrade potential at this point. We have been recommending against using multi GPU solutions as an upgrade path option, but offering that freedom is still a plus.

ATI has given us the indication that CrossFire should work on Intel Chipsets as well as their own. This could give new life to those Intel designs originally targeted at SLI. Though not explicitly stating that CrossFire will work in an NVIDIA SLI board, it definitely seems possible. From an adoption/compatibility standpoint, ATI is certainly "evaluating other options".

There is also no physical reason why SLI cards could not work in an ATI Xpress CrossFire-Edition motherboard. The only thing that should stand in the way of this combination is NVIDIA's driver support. With the price premium that NVIDIA charges for their SLI chipset, it is clear that they want to discourage users from going another route. As they had owned the market on multi GPU solutions until now, that was an option. Now that ATI is throwing some competition in the ring, it would not be smart to exclude potential customers from using SLI just because of their motherboard choice.

Index ATI’s Answer to SLI: CrossFire (The Card)


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  • Calin - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    "ATI should be focused on the overall platform, not necessarily building up support for their South Bridge. Although we do think it is a bit embarrassing to have to turn to another chipset vendor to provide working South Bridges for your motherboard partners. It would be one thing if this were ATI's first chipset, but it most definitely is not. "
    AMD first chipset (AMD 760 for Slot A Athlon, or Irongate, I think) had also non working USB support (or very buggy). Most mainboard manufacturers offered USB thru an add in PCI card, in order not to use the one included in the southbridge
  • Googer - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    In theroy since It connets to the other card through DVI, I could use my old 9700pro in Crossfire mode with the newer card; even better is what if I could use an NVIDA card and ATI card in Crossfire! All I need is that moterhboard (if forgot the make and model) that supports PCI-e and Ture AGP! (not pci based agp) Reply
  • FakeName - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    This is bogus, remember accelerator cards, mid-90's... poor solution then, same poor solution again... don't waste your hard earned money on this cerebral shortfall, the next gen will soon be upon us... Reply
  • Shinei - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    Performance looks promising, sure, but I wonder what will be shown when AT gets hold of a sample for longer than a few benchmark runs--an 85% improvement at 1600x1200 seems a bit strange, particularly for hardware known for wheezing in the benchmarked game... Reply
  • CrystalBay - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    Very sophisticated approach ATI...Hopefully the Composter doesn't turn to sh!t later on... Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    Hmmm, isn't the current SB on existing Radeon Express 200 boards buggy too? Reply
  • overclockingoodness - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    #15: Regardless, what difference does it make? The performance would still be closer to what's presented in the article. Reply
  • overclockingoodness - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - link

    #15: You need to read more carefully. Notice how they said that it was the vendor's PC and not their own. So, obviously they had no choice. They had to go by whatever the vendor was offering at the time. Reply
  • flatblastard - Monday, May 30, 2005 - link

    I was a little bummed after reading that the Crossfire + Xpress 200 would also have 2xPCI-e slots instead of just one like the current msi rs480m2-il. I was even more disappointed to here about the current state of the sb450. I thought the sb450 was supposed to fix the bugginess of sb400 which it is replacing? Oh well, no big suprise I guess considering their history in that department. So here's hoping for another save from uli. Reply
  • bob661 - Monday, May 30, 2005 - link

    They weren't listed so I would imagine that they won't be compatible.

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