Final Words

With the introduction of ATI Crossfire, everyone found that Crossfire X850 is roughly equivalent in graphics performance to two NVIDIA 6800 Ultra cards in SLI mode. Of course, the NVIDIA 7800GTX is a more recent card that performs better than any current ATI video card. That conclusion will likely be tested again within the next two weeks when ATI X1800 is introduced to compete with the 7800GTX and the resulting new rounds of ATI X1800 testing.  All of this is much as expected. However, the focus on Crossfire should not detract from the fact that ATI has arguably produced the best AMD enthusiast board that we have ever seen.

The ATI Crossfire AMD has every option a serious overclocker could wish for. This extends from CPU voltages that will even excite water cooling and phase-change enthusiasts, to memory voltages that will give an overclock voltage reserve to the most demanding OCZ VX and Mushkin Redline memory. In between are voltage adjustments for the chipset, HT Link, PCIe 1.2, and PCIe 1.8. Add a CPU clock frequency adjustment range of 200 to 500, PCIe from 100 to 200, a slew of memory settings from DDR200 to DDR500, and every memory tweak known to exist and you have an incredibly serious board for the overclocker and computer hobbyist.

The only real problem with this kind of board is that it sometimes is confusing and intimidating for those who don't eat, sleep, and breathe computers.  Boards that can be tweaked to squeeze the most out of every kind of memory and every AMD CPU can be a beast for the uninitiated to control. ATI even thought of them with an "Auto Overclock" feature that allows the intimidated or frustrated to dial in an overclock %, up to 15%, and have the board handle all the details. Purists will scoff at this feature, but it wasn't designed for them anyway; it works quite well, and it allows new enthusiasts a cushion for the learning curve.

Of course, every adjustment option that you can think of would still be meaningless if they didn't deliver on performance, and the ATI Crossfire does this in spades. The ATI Crossfire AMD chipset reached the highest stock multiplier overclock ever with our standard 4000+ CPU, at 23%. It was also close to the highest clock frequency overclock at 1:1 memory that we have ever achieved at a 315 (DDR630) setting. While we have not concentrated on the quality of the components in this review, those in the know will be pleased with the 6-layer construction, components, design, and execution that allowed these incredible results. The ATI Crossfire AMD was designed for rock solid overclocking and long-term stability at extraordinary performance levels. That shows in performance, stability, and temperature control.

The ATI Crossfire AMD is not the perfect enthusiast board, but it is very close. We are frankly disappointed in the mediocre USB performance. ATI tells us that will be corrected with SB600 in about 6 months, but the correction will likely come much sooner with the ULi M1675 Southbridge that features decent USB and full SATA2 support. There is, however, little else to complain about from a performance standpoint. IDE, SATA, and Ethernet performance are exemplary, and some of the Reference Boards in the ATI series even came with integrated graphics just to prove that you don't have to compromise board performance just to have an integrated graphics option. The boards even pioneer Azalia High-Definition audio to AMD users with very low CPU utilization with the HD audio codecs.

In the end, the ATI Crossfire AMD is without a doubt the best enthusiast-oriented Reference Board that we have ever seen - with performance to match. Unfortunately, that does not mean that the retail boards that you will see with this chipset will be similarly endowed. Our advice to manufacturers is that this is one Reference Board worth copying. A manufacturer who faithfully copies this Reference Board and delivers the same performance as the Reference Board will have a winner on their hands.

Some manufacturers like DFI have committed to deliver a board as good or better than the ATI Crossfire AMD Reference. Others like Abit, Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, ECS, and Jetway will likely deliver exciting ATI Crossfire boards loaded with enthusiast features that may well match the ATI Crossfire AMD Reference performance.

In case the message is not crystal clear, it doesn't matter whether you want ATI Crossfire or not when you are considering buying an ATI chipset motherboard. Crossfire is slated for mainstream pricing, so it is definitely worthwhile to consider an ATI Crossfire AMD motherboard to drive your nVidia 7800GTX or 6800 Ultra or ATI X850 or the upcoming ATI X1800. They will all perform very well with any Athlon 64 processor on the ATI Crossfire AMD motherboard.

Yes, ATI Crossfire AMD is the first ATI motherboard to support dual-GPU graphics. However, the most important feature is the enthusiast level board supporting that option. NVIDIA captured the AMD market by catering to the AMD Enthusiast. The ATI Crossfire AMD is the first serious challenge to NVIDIA's dominance with the AMD Enthusiast. The bang may be late, but the message is clear - ATI is definitely for real in the AMD chipset market. In fact, they are clearing aiming for "Best-in-Class".

Audio Performance
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  • 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?
    Reply
  • vailr - Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - link

    Check: page 11 "Ethernet Performance" has format errors:
    http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...">http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...
    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
    Reply
  • 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 ?
    Reply
  • 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 Jason.Clark@anandtech.com 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
    tanekaha
    Reply
  • 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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