All of the ATI Crossfire attention seems to have concentrated on Crossfire Graphics performance. Most everyone found the X850 Crossfire to be roughly equivalent to NVIDIA 6800 Ultra SLI. However, the biggest story is not Crossfire graphics, but the launch of one of the most enthusiast-friendly chipsets ever produced by any manufacturer.

Those of you who have been following ATI's chipset development realize that the road to Crossfire has been a long one - perhaps too long. When AnandTech looked at the introduction of RX480/RS480 chipsets for AMD last November, we found the performance of the new chipsets to be 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.

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 would mean penetration of the AMD market. Along the way, we have seen the original Bullhead board give way to Grouper (single GPU) and today's launch of Crossfire AMD (Halibut). 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 culminates in Stingray (Crossfire Intel), which ATI also introduced today. While ATI did not provide Reference boards for Crossfire Intel testing, Crossfire Intel will ship at the same time, or shortly after Crossfire AMD. The AMD and Intel Crossfire solutions will be equivalent ATI chipset options. While this chipset performance review talks about ATI Crossfire AMD, keep in mind that there are potentially 8 new chipset board combinations with the new ATI chipsets. There are single video and dual video (Crossfire) versions for both AMD and Intel. 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 talk of Computex in early June was ATI's new Crossfire dual-video solution for AMD and Intel, which was on display for the world to see. However, it is now late September, almost 4 months after Computex, and we are finally seeing the ATI Reference boards for Crossfire. ATI tells us that they decided to wait for Crossfire release until boards and cards were ready for market. We have been able to confirm this, since we know from recent conversations with ECS, Gigabyte and Asus that Crossfire boards will appear very soon from these vendors. DFI will also have a full-blown performance oriented Crossfire released in October. There are also many other ATI Crossfire motherboards that will appear in the market very soon. Motherboards will definitely be available, but we have yet to see a Master video card for sale.

We have concentrated in this Reference Board review on the AMD side of ATI chipset performance with add-on graphics cards. We will talk more about Intel Jaguar/Crossfire Intel performance in a future 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 limited to 2 pixel pipelines 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.

About two months 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 prerelease hardware and drivers. Of course, NVIDIA has since released the 7800GTX, which performs as a single card about the same as two 6800 Ultra cards running SLI. ATI does not have a comparable video card today that will compete with the 7800GTX, but ATI will be releasing the X1800 in the next couple of weeks. Keep this in mind when looking at any Crossfire reviews, as X1800 video cards in Crossfire mode will likely bridge the performance gap to single/dual NVIDIA 7800GTX graphics.

Yesterday, our Derek Wilson took a close look at the release Crossfire Graphics performance compared to NVIDIA SLI. However, this article will look more deeply at ATI Crossfire as a chipset. How does Crossfire 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 ATI is worthy of consideration by AMD enthusiasts?

The ATI Xpress 200 Chipset Family


View All Comments

  • Starcraftfreak - Friday, September 30, 2005 - link

    So you are saying, the Board supports the dividers for DDR500 also on a Revision C core? I can remember when you published an article explaining it's a new feature of Revision E. Please clarify. Reply
  • SLI - Wednesday, September 28, 2005 - link

    Everything I have seen thus far on the ATI chipset points to the FSB dropping to DDR333 *IF* you populate all 4 DIMM slots (with DDR400 RAM) This was an issue at the CPU level with AMD Athalon on board memory controller (at first) but has been addressed with the newer steppings. VIA and Nvidia chipsets have support for DDR400 with all 4 slots populated. This is a very important aspect to me and it needs to be addressed. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, September 28, 2005 - link

    It was addressed in tRAS and Memory Stress Tests in the review - p.5. We had no trouble with 4 dimms at DDR400, though we did have to drop to 2T with 4 dimms as we do on every other AMD chipset. This is more a function of the on-CPU memory controller. Reply
  • sxr7171 - Wednesday, September 28, 2005 - link

    I don't get it. We switched to SATA to get worse performance? SATA performed worse than IDE in every single benchmark. Reply
  • Scarceas - Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - link

    I'd like to know what happens when you try two 6800s in a crossfire motherboard...

    I'm also curious about what happens why you try crossfire graphics cards on an NF4 SLI motherboard...

    Early on I heard rumors that the motherboard implementation would be similar between the two and that mixing motherboard/graphics manufacturers *might* be possible...

    Now the hardware is showing up and no one has tried it?
  • vailr - Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - link

    Check: page 11 "Ethernet Performance" has format errors:">
    Copied & pasted:
    It will almost always be <em>much</em> lower than what we have measured.<br /> <br /> </span> </div> <div class="adcontainer"></div> <table border="0" width="100%"> <tr> <td align="right" colspan="2"> <table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"> <tr> <td><strong><a href="showdoc.aspx?i=2542&amp;p=12" class="smalllink">Audio
  • tanekaha - Wednesday, September 28, 2005 - link

    Ethernet page has same problem as b4 here
    I`m using firefox latest beta and the browser considers the page done after this line.

    Ntttcpr - m 4,0,

    I guess u use a template for these reviews I had exactly the same prob with ( and commented similarly ) with I think the asrock dual article.
    I guess not many others are getting this prob but I`m glad 2 see some! else has a prob and not just me.
    What browser are u using ?
    Wesley have u tried 2 view the article with firefox beta ? or even firefox ?
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, September 29, 2005 - link

    Articles are created in a document engine by our Web Editor, from basic information layouts we send the Web Editor. The engine generates HTML code. We don't individually generate the code for articles. Any problems with viewing the pages should be emailed to our webmaster Reply
  • tanekaha - Thursday, September 29, 2005 - link

    Thanks for the replies gents
    I am not using any blockers or extentions .. apart from FF default pop up blocker.
    I will mail jason with the facts (as I see them)
    I`ll also send the info to the FF team
    THX again
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 28, 2005 - link

    If you're using any extensions to block ads or other content, you might want to try disabling those. I've been using Firefox for over a year now, and I don't have any issues with the pages. (Some pages render improperly the first time and I need to hit refresh, but that's generally only on long pages, and it seems more of a FF bug than anything.) Reply

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