The talk of Computex was ATI's new Crossfire dual-video solution for AMD and Intel, but those of you who have been following ATI's chipset development realize the road to Crossfire has been a long one - and one that continues. When AnandTech looked at the introduction of RX480/RS480 chipsets for AMD last November, we found the performance of the new chipsets very impressive. ATI had done a particularly excellent job targeting the enthusiast for the new chipset launch, but that realization seemed to come late in the chipset development process. This meant that this excellent chipset was largely ignored by motherboard manufacturers who had already pegged the new ATI parts for Micro ATX integrated video parts for OEMs.

To ATI's credit, they have stayed the course of targeting the enthusiast, with a firm conviction that they could win the enthusiast with the right stuff, and that with the enthusiast would come penetration of the AMD market. Along the way, we have seen the original Bullhead board give way to today's Grouper (Sapphire PURE Innovation PI-A9RX480) and the upcoming Halibut (Crossfire AMD). Enthusiast-Level performance was an add-on for Bullhead, but Grouper and Halibut were designed from the ground up to satisfy the most demanding enthusiast.

The Intel side of the Radeon Xpress 200 came later, but ATI has also introduced, with little fanfare, the recent Jaguar board for Intel. This design will culminate in Stingray (Crossfire Intel), which ATI expects to introduce at the same time as Crossfire AMD. At that point, AMD and Intel will be equivalent ATI chipset options. While this chipset performance review talks about four main chipset solutions - AMD single GPU/Dual GPU and Intel Single GPU/Dual GPU - keep in mind that there are potentially 8 new chipset board combinations with the new ATI chipsets. There may also be an integrated graphics solution with any of these four combinations. Why would anyone want integrated graphics with this combination? Because you can run additional monitors simultaneously with the add-on graphics. This opens many interesting possibilities for multi-monitor solutions.

The Sapphire PURE Innovation is the first production Radeon Xpress 200 board that is clearly targeted at the AMD enthusiast, but there are other ATI Radeon Xpress 200 chipset boards on the way from Asus, MSI, DFI, ECS, Abit, TUL, ECS, and others. Our performance tests here are of the latest production Sapphire single-GPU RX480, but Sapphire and ATI tell us that performance of the Crossfire ATI should be exactly the same in single GPU mode. We will talk more about Jaguar/Crossfire Intel performance later in a Part 2 of this article. We also will ignore integrated graphics from a performance viewpoint, even though all options can provide integrated graphics if the necessary Radeon Xpress 200 north bridge is used. The integrated video solutions basically combine on-board ATI X300 graphics on either the AMD or Intel Radeon Xpress 200 chipset. You can read more about the performance of these integrated solutions in our review comparing ATI and Intel integrated graphics solutions.

Several days ago, we published benchmarks comparing Crossfire AMD to NVIDIA SLI and found Crossfire X850 XT to be very competitive with NVIDIA 6800 Ultra SLI - even with pre-release hardware and drivers. Today, we look more deeply at a production version of the ATI Grouper that will be launched by Sapphire next week. Grouper is the single GPU version of the Crossfire chipset, but it is otherwise identical to Crossfire AMD. The Sapphire PURE Innovation should perform as a chipset exactly the same as Crossfire AMD. How does Grouper perform compared to the best AMD chipsets on the market? What features will be available on ATI chipset boards? Of course, ATI has clearly targeted the AMD enthusiast with their new chipsets. With that in mind, the biggest question is whether or not the Sapphire Pure Innovation is worthy of consideration by AMD enthusiasts.

The ATI Xpress 200 Chipset Family


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  • QueBert - Saturday, July 30, 2005 - link

    I like the white, but not a big fan of red. As for it being the "first white motherboard we've seen" There was a really sweet looking one by I believe, Epox. Platinum colored PCB with blue and gold on the board. The color scheme of this Sapphire is different, and different is good. I hate green/red PCB's.
  • beorntheold - Saturday, July 30, 2005 - link

    Under Gaming Performance:
    "... If you keep in mind that the orange bar represents the same NVIDIA 6800 Ultra used to test the other boards in this review, you can clearly see that the Sapphire ATI is at or near the top in most game tests..."
    There is either an error in the graph or in the text - because the orange bar clearly says
    nV 7800 GTX.
  • Olaf van der Spek - Saturday, July 30, 2005 - link

    > This number is meaningless as far as hard disk performance is concerned as it is just the number of IO operations completed in a second.

    What exactly is meant here?
    Isn't more completed operations per second better?
  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, July 30, 2005 - link

    I meant that the operations per second is meaningless as a SPECIFICATION of hard drive performance. Yes, more operations per second is better, but you will never see iPeak ops/sec quoted as a specification. Reply
  • roel - Saturday, July 30, 2005 - link

    And what about support for linux?
    Will it boot? Will it be fast as well?
    I'd like to know.

  • kevykev - Friday, July 29, 2005 - link

    What is with the stupid fish names though? How ridiculous. Reply
  • TheInvincibleMustard - Saturday, July 30, 2005 - link

    Actually, that was one of the first things to catch my eye ... Not the fish, but the jaguar, with the silkscreened logo looking almost exactly the same as the automobile company (Google Images if you're curious). The actual leaping cat is positioned slightly differently between the two, but the similarity is remarkable.

    If I had better image manipulation on this machine I'm at, I'd whip up a side-by-side comparison to better illustrate (hehe) my point.
  • shoRunner - Friday, July 29, 2005 - link

    All i can say is drool, this definately looks like a very promising board, if they can fix the issue with the USB transfer rates(even without a fix its will still be very competative, how often do most ppl transfer huge amounts of data over USB?). What i still want to see is one of these boards with the integrate graphics and a DVI port. Reply
  • Stas - Friday, July 29, 2005 - link

    Just as I expected: nVidia is whooped. ATi + AMD = Performance Reply
  • Zebo - Friday, July 29, 2005 - link

    Looks great Wes..cept for memory is to close together and not staggard and may present cooling problems between the the board looks like green snot, much prefer blacks, reds and blues. Reply

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