A lot of you are just like we when it comes to new product. You cannot wait to get your hands on the latest and greatest technology when it's released. Early previews of the next great technology are shown and shortly afterwards performance numbers are leaked on various forums. These numbers almost always show the product in its best possible light and performance records are consistently being broken. User hysteria kicks in, credit card limits are extended, fastest shipping routes are checked and rechecked, you beg your significant other for purchase approval, and then a wave of anticipation builds until that fateful day the product finally arrives.

In the meantime, you sneak a peek at the latest forum posts about the product throughout the day instead of finishing that analysis, presentation, class assignment, or uATX article that was due by 8 am. The marketing pitches continue in waves with professional pictorial layouts, more earth shattering performance numbers are leaked, rumors spread about the product curing cancer and saving the earth - never mind if any of the information can be substantiated; for goodness sakes it's on the Internet so it must be true!

And then the day comes when previews or reviews of the product start showing up at various websites or user reviews start coming in from those lucky enough to live near the first reseller to have the product in stock. All of a sudden those early results from people already praising the next great product are not starting to look like reality. Doubt sets in if you made the right decision, but more importantly did you just exhaust your last kitchen pass with the significant other or miss an outing of a lifetime with friends to purchase what now appears to be a fairly ordinary product?

You shrug it off; after all, those product reviews cannot be correct as the reviewer missed something or the setup was incorrect (editor's note - believe me we are not always perfect but we do admit when we are wrong). Worse yet, they must be on the payroll of the competitor as there is no way those early forum results could have been so far from the truth. The thought process continues - those actual users with the product reporting less than stellar results are probably just newbies' who have no idea how to setup much less use a computer system.

It is at that point the doorbell rings and you hug your favorite delivery person as the anticipated package has arrived. It's time to set the world straight. The product is installed, everything is setup perfectly, and wham bam... the product fails to deliver on those early promises. You try everything, you desperately ask for technical assistance from those who posted the early glowing reports only to find out they are already singing the praises of the product that will replace the one you just bought.

Sound familiar? We have all been through it at one time or another. Some of us (clears throat) are even guilty of getting caught up in the hype machine at times. In fact, it happens more often than not it seems with major new product releases. While our example is usually the worst case scenario, we are starting to see more and more stories like this. The rapidly growing number of emails in our inboxes asking for additional information or test results is a testament to the current trend of early product previews in the forums. This is not necessarily a bad trend or practice as we at times find out about new products before the manufacturer has even notified us.

Our interest and curiosity is right up there with others when it comes to seeing how well a new product performs before release along with what new features will be available. In fact, we sometimes wish that we could post our first results in the forums to give our readers a first look at the product, only outlining the positive and negative aspects about our early experiences instead of just glowing marketing speak. Alas, the NDA gods will usually not allow it, although we are starting to see some wiggle room by the manufacturers in this area.

You might be wondering what any of this has to do with our article today but we find it to a be an excellent segue into our initial CrossFire test results with the new ATI HD 2900XT GPU and Intel P35 chipset. We are posting early results so you can have some additional information and/or alternate perspective before making a significant purchase decision. We also hope this answers questions we have received about CrossFire performance on the P35.

If you have decided like us to take a leap of faith in ordering a pair of ATI HD 2900XT cards for a CrossFire setup then the information that follows might be of interest to you. If not, it might still provide an example of what happens when a product is released to a different set of expectations. After going through our checklist which includes ensuring we had the proper OPEC friendly power supply and PCI Express 2.0 (8-pin) connectors, additional A/C cooling, noise canceling headphones, and a bevy of alpha and beta drivers, we decided it was time to see how these newly released cards perform in CrossFire for our upcoming P35 chipset article. Let's take a look at the early results and see who gets knocked out in the first round.

Test Setup


View All Comments

  • vailr - Thursday, May 17, 2007 - link

    miss an outing of lifetime with friends
    [outing of a lifetime]
    We are not here to single handily knock AMD

    System Platform Drivers Intel -
    [Version Beta:
    Note: running the .exe installer may NOT update existing installed drivers. Must be manually updated for each device in Device Manager. See the readme.txt file:
    "INF files are copied to the hard disk [Program Files/Intel/INFInst folder] after running the Intel(R) Chipset Device Software executable with an '-A'
    flag (i.e., "INFINST_AUTOL.EXE -A"]
  • Paradox999 - Thursday, May 17, 2007 - link

    Wow, who would have thought ATI might have *immature* drivers for the x2900 at this point ? Duh. Moreover, why even try Crossfire when the cards in single configuration have been little more than a major league flop (don't bother spamming me, I'm an ATI fanboy). Given the poor performance (vs a much cheaper 8800GTS) and insane power requirements of a single card, you might be able to count on one hand the people eager to rush out to get a Crossfire setup. This kind of article is more in the category of 'curiosity' (like those guys that tried overclocking an x2900 with liquid nitro). Anand should be publishing more articles of a practical nature. If you want to try Crossfire and the x2900....at least wait for a few driver revisions AND then a head-to-head against the 8800gts. That *might* provide more useful information, albeit, for a very small segment of the enthusiast market.

    I have to totally agree with some of the previous posters and say SLI and Crossfire is overkill and a waste of money. Buy the best card you can afford now. When it doesn't work for you any more replace it with the best NEW generation card you can buy.

    I'm still annoyed that the better motherboards (like my P5B Dlx Wi-Fi)come with 2 PCIE-16 slots. I use 1 x1900XTX and I'll replace it one day with one (1) much better card. The way I see it,ASUS robbed me of a PCI slot for my many expansion cards.
  • lopri - Thursday, May 17, 2007 - link


    I'm still annoyed that the better motherboards (like my P5B Dlx Wi-Fi)come with 2 PCIE-16 slots. I use 1 x1900XTX and I'll replace it one day with one (1) much better card. The way I see it,ASUS robbed me of a PCI slot for my many expansion cards.

    You must be joking, I assume? I think all PCI-E slots should be full length (x16) even though they are not electrically so. The only PCI card worth buying (for who needs one, that is) at this time would be X-Fi and that's just because of Creative's incompetency and monopoly in the market. I've ditched my X-Fi and refuse to buy Creative products until they get their act straight.
  • TA152H - Thursday, May 17, 2007 - link

    I ready stuff like this and I wonder what people are thinking. Why would Creative make such a mistake as you suggest?

    Let's see, every motherboard comes with PCI slots, and there are tons of motherboards that people use that don't have PCI-E slots. They are selling upgrade parts, and PCI-E does NOTHING for these parts that they can't get from PCI. It's not like if they were using PCI-E they would get better performance or it would work better in some way. So, naturally, they are making PCI cards. Duh.

    Maybe down the road when Intel stops supporting PCI, or when motherboards come out without PCI slots Creative will start making PCI-E, but until then, who needs them? They don't hurt in any way, not in performance, not in reliability. If they made them PCI-E so soon, they'd invest money in a product that currently makes no sense, and it would just jack up the costs.
  • lopri - Thursday, May 17, 2007 - link

    I somehow doubt that those 'tons of' folks with mobo without PCI-E wouldn't mind on-board sound. Heck. I have an SLI board and I rather make do with on-board sound than dealing with Creative garbage. X-F.. what? I also doubt X-Fi's target market is folks using 5 year old motherboards. Don't get me wrong. Their SB Live! is still decent and perfectly suited for older motherboards.

    And.. Mistake? Umm.. I wouldn't argue about PCI-E vs PCI here, but It's not exactly the case that Creative's PCI products and supports (which is non-existent, btw) are spectacular. They didn't even have a full driver download link until very recently. (They had no choice but to upload the drivers thanks to Vista)
  • TA152H - Friday, May 18, 2007 - link

    I'm not sure we're on the same page here. I thought you were implying that Creative needed to get their act together and get on the PCI-E bandwagon since that was what you were talking about. Apparently, you just don't like Creative and that was just kind of thrown in without respect to PCI-E.

    If so, I agree, they blow. Their software is horrible, and their hardware is overpriced. I don't know I'd go as far as to say that they are a monopoly; there are a lot of choices in the low end, but at the high end you can get a card from any maker you want - as long as it's Creative. I am really, really particular with respect to sound too, I have no tolerance for bad speakers or noisy computers because I listen to music on my computer, so it's extremely quiet. Unfortunately, I have to buy Creative and I have a love/hate feeling towards them. They do make the best stuff, but it's expensive, difficult and buggy. So, I know where you're coming from. Maybe NVIDIA should move into that market too. I think they'd eat up a half-rate company like Creative. How about AMD? Hell, if they're going to get into Fusion, why not do it right and put the sound processor there too? It's probably a matter of time. Sound is very important to gaming, and of course to watching TV and listening to music. Makes you wonder why more attention hasn't been placed on it, and substandard companies like Creative are given free reign.
  • PrinceGaz - Thursday, May 17, 2007 - link

    Although it was a nicely presented article on a product which is not exactly revolutionary, I must take issue with the game benchmarks which were included.

    Out of the seven games tested, only two of them had any results where the average was below 60fps; one where the lowest was 54fps and the other (which was the only one with meaningful framerates) being Supreme Commander where the P35 Crossfire configuration had driver issues.

    I know you might say that results of 80 vs 100 vs 120fps do still provide useful information regarding likely performance in future games, but the fact is that they don't as the demands made on the CPU, mobo, and graphics card of a much more demanding game running at 40fps tends to be quite different to that of a current game running at 120fps. I appreciate you must have spent an awful lot of time running them all (five times each for every setting, no less) but at the end of the day they didn't really provide any meaningful information other than that there are driver issues which need to be resolved (which is what we would expect).

    By the way, since you already went to the trouble of running every test five times, and discarded the two highest and lowest results to prevent them from unduly affecting an average; wouldn't it be a good idea to run the tests a sixth time so that the score you used is based on the average of two results rather than just the one in the middle? I imagine the 2nd-3rd-4th places were pretty close anyway (hopefully almost identical, with 1st place being very similar, and only 5th place somewhat slower because it was the first run), but for the sake of an extra 20% testing time a sixth run would involve, the statistical accuracy of using the mean of two results would be significantly improved.

    I will reiterate though that overall the review was informative and well written; it was only the benchmarks themselves which were a bit pointless.
  • DigitalFreak - Thursday, May 17, 2007 - link

    This is yet another perfect example of why ATI needs to open up Crossfire support to NVidia chipset motherboards. In the Intel space, the only supported chipsets that actually give them the bandwidth they need are the 975X and X38. I would think they would want to sell as many cards as possible. Reply
  • OrSin - Thursday, May 17, 2007 - link

    SLI and Crossfire as far asIi can see are not needed for almost anything. I have a 6800 and 7900 and when I was shopping around I could not find a single reason to get another 6800 and go SLI instead just of getting a 7900. Thats the same for crossfire. SLI and crossfire support in games are just not good enough. The 6800 would have been 30% less then the 7900, but the gains would have been 60% less on a good day and no gain at all for several games.

    With all that rambling it just means that the P35 is a great board, so unless you need crossifre (and most should not) get it. And dont wait for the next over-hyped product (X38). Hows thats :)
  • PrinceGaz - Thursday, May 17, 2007 - link

    SLI/Crossfire is never needed a good upgrade path if the next-gen product is already out. You're almost always much better off selling your old card and buying a new one from the current generation as it works out no more expensive, but provides better performance, uses less power and makes less noise, and has none of the compatibility issues associated with twin graphics-card configurations.

    However, that does not make SLI and Crossfire useless. They are needed for bragging rights by people whose weekly shopping list includes having a large tub of liquid-nitrogen delivered, and by those who are worried about the size of their ePenis. The rest of us have no need of going the twin graphics-card route unless the money is burning a hole in our pocket anyway and we've nothing better to do with it.

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