We previewed AMD's CrossFireX technology a couple weeks ago, but today a WHQL drier is available that supports more than two AMD GPUs. In order to do this, AMD employs Vista's Linked Display Adapter (LDA) technology to make the collective GPUs appear to the system as a single virtual device. While this allows for more flexibility in GPU configurations, there are some drawbacks that we will talk about shortly.

The new Catalyst 8.3 is a milestone release for AMD that brings, in addition to Vista LDA support for more than two GPUs, a number of new features. These are (from AMD's documentation):

ATI Hybrid Graphics Support: The ability to use integrated and discrete graphics in hybrid mode to support either power saving (disabling the discrete graphics card) or to enable the integrated and discrete graphics hardware to share the graphics load. This is only available with lower end graphics cards and integrated chipsets using the 3200/3300 series hardware.

Anti-Aliasing enhancements: AA support for all UE3 titles (Unreal Tournament 3, Gears of War, Rainbow Six, etc.) through the control panel. Support for edge detect filters plus Super AA was slated to be in this release but it was pushed back. Tent filters can be enabled with Super AA, but edge detect will be coming soon.

Digital Panel GPU image scaling: The option to enable image scaling for maintaining aspect ratio of a display has been added. Additionally, the GPU itself is now used to scale the image if the check box is ticked. NVIDIA has had this for a while and it's good to see AMD adding support for this.

Advanced Video Quality controls: An edge enhancement slider has been added to adjust the sharpness of the video playback, along with a noise reduction slider. Having variable adjustment for these kinds of features is a very welcome addition and something we've been wanting ever since noise reduction became a hot topic in video decoding.

HydraVision for Vista: Multiple monitor and virtual desktop manager with support for hotkeys and tools to help keep things organized.

Let's take another look at CrossFireX now that we are allowed to test it on Intel hardware and compare it with competing solutions.

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  • mmntech - Saturday, March 8, 2008 - link

    I'm running an HD 3850 256mb and I get 40fps average in low density areas, 12.4fps in London. Ultra quality of course with no AA and in game AF at 1440x900. That's DirectX 9.0 performance, which is all I could test since I don't run Vista. Flight Simulator has always been very CPU dependent, particularly concerning autogen scenery, and AI traffic along with the complex physics engine. Since FSX with SP1 can take advantage of up to four CPU cores, it might be worth starting off there. I did my tests using an Athlon 64 X2 3800+, everything at stock speeds with 2gb PC3200. If I were you, I'd go with the single 3870 X2 card. Cheaper than buying two separate 3870s. For nVidia, maybe two 8800GTS 640mb cards in SLI or better if you want the best performance. I'd wait for nVidia to release the 9800GX2 first though to see what cards offer the best performance per dollar.

    As for the article, I really wonder if using more than two cards is really practical. You can get almost the same performance with two 9600GTs as with three or four HD 3750s but the two 9600GTs are far cheaper. This begs the question, is spending the extra $400 really worth it for such minimal gains? I know for some it is but then why buy mid-range cards when a couple 8800GTXs will cost the same in the end. Plus there's also the increased heat and power consumption from using four cards instead of two. I'd like to see more info on that.
    Reply
  • Incisal flyer - Monday, March 10, 2008 - link

    Thanks for the replies derek anm mmntech. Mmntech, yes my feelings exactly about quad (basically) crossfire. I'm no computer geek (more like a newbie really - I don't understand understand most of what I read in the forums and couldn't overclock a toaster if you held my mother hostage). Multiple crossfire sounds just too exotic at this point and would be more headache than it is worth. Thanks for your feedback and happy flying.

    The Flyer
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Saturday, March 8, 2008 - link

    i'm looking at fsx acceleration for future graphics articles ...

    no promises, but i've been testing it internally.
    Reply
  • Sundox - Saturday, March 8, 2008 - link

    isn't multi GPU the cheap way to go?
    I'm asking this because I can't figure a car race won by two slower cars, against the faster car, or two knifes cutting my steak smoother.
    to me, it looks like the problem is,... coping with the problem, the companies just want to have the most powerful GPU, not the most efficiant.
    I might be totaly wrong.
    Reply
  • coldpower27 - Saturday, March 8, 2008 - link

    It's more like a delivery race rather then a car race, who can deliver the total shipment fastest?

    Two smaller trucks pulling half the load each, or a single truck pulling a larger load, the larger truck's engine is more complex, and hence more difficult to build, vs the smaller trucks which have smaller engines which are easier.

    Reply
  • Griswold - Saturday, March 8, 2008 - link

    Analogies like that do not always work just like that.

    Besides that, the car race example isnt that simple anyhow. Imagine a 24h race which could easily be won by even one slower car, as long as it is more reliable than the faster one. Remember, in order to finish first, one must first finish. This, of course, has little to nothing to do with video cards, hence, analogies dont always work.
    Reply
  • legoman666 - Saturday, March 8, 2008 - link

    analogies almost never work. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Saturday, March 8, 2008 - link

    "Like a balloon, and... something bad happens!" Reply
  • Simon128D - Saturday, March 8, 2008 - link

    I love the reviews and benchmarks here, I really do but I'm getting sick and tired of seeing the test system being only a super high end machine with hardware that the average person can't afford and I think benchmarking with skull trail on its own is silly. Tis applies to other site as well.

    Don't get me wrong, I enjoy seeing benchmarks from a high end system like skull trail but how many people actually have or can afford a system like that. I'd like to see more of a mid range setup inculded in graphics benchmarks - that will give a more realistic view point. A system say with a 780i or X38 chipset with a Q6600 and 4GB DDR2 800Mhz etc.

    Just my thoughts.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Saturday, March 8, 2008 - link

    It's really the only way to make sure the games they're testing with aren't CPU limited. Reply

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