ATI RD580: Dual x16 Crossfire Preview

It took a very long time for ATI's Rx480/482 chipset to make it from Engineering Samples to motherboards an AMD enthusiast would actually buy. However, enthusiast boards are finally in the marketplace from DFI, and we have ATI Crossfire review samples from Asus, MSI, and Gigabyte that indicate boards from Tier 1 makers are finally on the way.

We think you will be particularly interested in a review that will appear in the next few days of the Asus A8R-MVP. It's a mainstream board with mainstream pricing, but the features and OC capabilities will probably surprise many - and it is also the first production board which uses the ULi M1575 South Bridge with SATA2 and fixed USB. Abit also tells us they will have review samples of their ATI Rx482/ULi M1575 available within the next 2 weeks. Abit blames their launch delays on constrained shipments of the same ULi M1575 south bridge.

All of this is good news for those looking for an alternative chipset in the AMD Athlon64 market. You will finally be able to choose Socket 939 motherboards from major manufacturers, targeted at the AMD enthusiast, and based on the ATI Rx480/482 chipset.

The ATI Story on the X1800XT Delays

We took the opportunity while talking with ATI to ask about the crippling delays of the ATI X1800XT and the X1xxx family. There are so many rumors in the market place; we wanted to hear ATI's explanation of why it took so long for X1800XT to make it to market. Was the problem the 90nm die-shrink as many had speculated?

ATI told us emphatically the delays with X1800XT were NOT the result of the die-shrink to 90nm. We were told the issue was a defect in a third-party IP (Intellectual Property) that was used in the x1800XT GPU die. It took ATI quite a while to find and correct this design flaw. Why does this matter? Since this flaw was specifically related to the X1xxx family, design work continued on future video cards, and there were no delays on that front. Development continued on introductions that will follow R520, which means the R580 GPU is still scheduled for launch in January.

Looking Ahead - RD580 & Manta

Even though ATI RD482 chipset Crossfire boards are just appearing in the market, ATI is already far along in the development of their next chipset, called ATI RD580. We recently had an opportunity to spend two days testing the new RD580 Crossfire motherboard, code-named Manta, and to directly compare the RD580 Dual X16 chipset with the recently reviewed Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe featuring the nVidia Dual x16 chipset. The comparison included both single and dual video card head-to-head testing with 7800GTX SLI (running 81.87 drivers) and X1800XT Crossfire (running Catalyst 5.11).

Because X1800XT Crossfire and The RD580 chipset have not yet officially launched, ATI has asked that we not publish hard benchmarks of our results, since they will likely change in final release versions. We can, however, talk in general terms about performance. Those of you who believe ATI is far behind nVidia are in for a surprise.



View All Comments

  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    It would have been a heck of a lot easier to differentiate the cards if NVIDIA had gone and named the 512MB card the "Ultra" like everyone was expecting. *Grumble* ;) Reply
  • shabby - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    Where is this $499 x1800xt you speak of, is this the 256meg card by any chance?
    If it is, then i dont see anyone buying it since for 50 bucks more *cough* you can get the 512meg one.
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    No one said there was a $499 X1800XY yet, as in the first wave the past week everyone was selling at $599 suggested retail price. The MSRP of the nVidia 7800GTX is also $599, but it is selling at most places now for $499 - even less if you shop. My point was the price of the X1800XT will likely drop once the retail pipelines are filled - just as the 7800GTX prices have dropped the longer they are on the market. Reply
  • shabby - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    My bad, i read that as the $499 x1800xt.
    Anyway while ati can believe the cheaper gtx is its competitor, its msrp doesnt suggest that unless they lower it.
    Does ati also believe that the x1600xt is a competitor for the 6800gs? Same price right, but its half a slow.
  • fxrron - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    I couldn't agree more with allnighter. Companies tweak their product for weeks and send them to be reviewed. The reviews are worthless and a waste of time to read. I remember Falcon Northwest sent Tom's Hardware Guide a system to review. The 7800 GTX was overclocked alot and it would not even run the benchmarks. You can't order the same system so what good was the review in the first place. Spend your time reviewing retail products in the future.

  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    This was a PREVIEW, not a review, and I am still looking for the benchmarks you so roundly criticize - since there are no benchmarks in the preview. I have described relative performance that I personally found with my components on the ATI Manta board.

    I can't speak of how other review sites test, but I can tell I used known processors, memory, hard drives, and 7800GTX cards in my preview tests. I also did all the setup myself to make sure everything was as fair as I could make it. I also ran ALL the benchmarks myself - side-by-side - with the nVidia and ATI boards and video cards. This was not a canned set of numbers, or a canned demo, these are results I personally found in 2 days of testing.

    Last, the DFI Retail is performing exactly as I found in my review in the retail samples. I found 305 max, lower than the Reference Crossfire - and retail buyers are finding 295 to 310 max.

    I have suggested that any manufacturer who wants to duplicate ATI Reference results should copy the Reference Board, and other review sites have also said the same thing. Eventually someone will actually copy an excellent ATI Reference Design, and when they do buyers will do even better in performance than I have achieved in the AT reviews. The ATI Reference boards are not tweaked to oblivion - it's just the designs are that good.
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    First - ATI is not the only chipset maker with HD Audio support for AMD. Nvidia has this as well with the 410/430 southbridges.

    Second - "However, ATI clearly believes the competitor for X1800XT is the $499 7800GTX and not the $700 7800GTX 512MB."
    Boy, does ATI need to get a clue. X1800XT cards are currently going for $599, while the 7800GTX boards are in the $450 range. Why would I want to spend $149 more for a card that performs slightly better.
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    When 7800GTX launched they were $600 or more, but they have dropped to around $499 at most e-tailers and you can find them even cheaper if you shop carefully. The X1800XT shipped first wave last week and instantly sold out. Prices will drop as soon as the supply line is filled - just like the 7800GTX. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    HD Azalia audio is just an option on the high-end versions of the nVidia integrated chipset, which have just started shipping. You also have to buy a high-end integrated video micro ATX board to get an nVidia HD audio solution, as this option is not available on any nForce4, SLI, or SLI Dual x16 board. Reply
  • haelduksf - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    Thanks guys, way to tease me!

    One question though; is there a big difference between x8 and x16 Crossfire? Can an RD480/482 owner expect similar Crossfire performance to an RD580?

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