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

  • michal1980 - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    ati has been late for 2 years now. the 6800gt vs the 8xx series, the 6800 series out first.
    with the 7800 series they got killed.

    the promised crossfire last year... were only starting to see it work.. on boards that cost 2x that of nivdia entry level sli (they said theres would be cheaper) the said the x18xx series would be out months ago... well about 6 months later and ur finally starting to see the 1800xt..

    there crossifre boards are still running with ethier the amputated southbridge, or a uli southbridge.

    ati has lately given alot of promises, but not alot to play with.

    oh and the big news that the 1800xt in cross fire can beat the 7800gtx(256) in crossfire. NO DUH. i mean it beats the 7800gtx in a single card test, so why would 2 magically be slower.

    plus why are they so dumb. isn't there next grahpics card core the 580? now there next motherboard is a 580? WOW talk about confusion... or maybe they've lost there minds and the whole time we thought the 580 was the next gen card, but in fact its just another motherboards.

    WOW ati... i owned your stuff, but right now your on the suckage path

    a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

    i can play with 7800gtx sli, or gtx512 sli. i can play with a 32lane motherboard (a8n32)...

    i can only dream of ati xfire
  • MDme - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    I think the article was meant to show that ATI still has a fighting chance considering that the X1800XT exceeds the 7800GTX in ALL benchmarks (including nVidia strongholds like doom3 and quake4). Obviously it will also win in the SLI/CF tests. I think this is really quite some news in the ultra-highend segment where most enthusiasts play.

    It also gives us the question of will the X1800XT PE beat the 7800GTX 512, head to head.

    Now, if only ATI can actually get the products to the market before nVidia comes up with something faster.

    Competition is good. If not for competition, we will still be typing on our AMD K6-III 700MHz with 512MB SDRAM and a GF2 with 64 mb VRAM. :)
  • Megatomic - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    Wesley, do you know if ATI is planning to release an analogue to the NF4 Ultra, i.e. a high performance motherboard with only one slot for PCI-e graphics cards? Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    The Sapphire "Grouper" we reviewed is on sale in Europe, buit it never made it to the US. It is also very expensive - more expensive than the Asus Crossfire whose review will post early next week. We are told there will likley be a couple of more "Grouper" boards, but we haven't seen them yet. MSI will release a full range of Crossfire chipset boards from full blown to basic - but we do not know yet which boards will reach the US and European markets. Reply
  • Megatomic - Thursday, November 17, 2005 - link

    Well, I'd dearly love to see a highend RS580 mobo. I might even go for an RS480 if it ever gets paired with SB600. Reply
  • tuteja1986 - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    I think ATI will take lead next year... This year was totally bad for them! just like NVIDIA had a bad year with Geforce 5800U.. Anyways ATI is good position for the future and we should see some great competition.
  • Jedi2155 - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    If it can beat the 7800 GTX in all tests then it certainly peaks my interest in the duo. Although if this is what they can do with their *failed* (my opinion) R520...just imagine the R580 :O. Reply
  • Cygni - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    ATI just seems a little late to the party with each of their releases, and then once finally officially launched, even later to actually get to market.

    I wish em the best, but i dont even think the (possible) overclocking abilities and x16 Crossfire option will truly get people up to buy the board unless it dips into the $100 range that the SLI boards are now sitting in.
  • n7 - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link


    The more competition, the better.

    Also, i really do think that it's only a matter of time before the ATi chipset is superior to nVidia's offerings.

    Now we just have to wait, something no one likes to do...
  • Calin - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - link

    because the nVidia will develop new things for themselves. nVidia won't stay idle when ATI chipsets (graphic or otherwise) eat at their performance advantage Reply

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