ATI RD580: Dual x16 Crossfire Preview

It took a very long time for ATI's Rx480/482 chipset to make it from Engineering Samples to motherboards an AMD enthusiast would actually buy. However, enthusiast boards are finally in the marketplace from DFI, and we have ATI Crossfire review samples from Asus, MSI, and Gigabyte that indicate boards from Tier 1 makers are finally on the way.

We think you will be particularly interested in a review that will appear in the next few days of the Asus A8R-MVP. It's a mainstream board with mainstream pricing, but the features and OC capabilities will probably surprise many - and it is also the first production board which uses the ULi M1575 South Bridge with SATA2 and fixed USB. Abit also tells us they will have review samples of their ATI Rx482/ULi M1575 available within the next 2 weeks. Abit blames their launch delays on constrained shipments of the same ULi M1575 south bridge.

All of this is good news for those looking for an alternative chipset in the AMD Athlon64 market. You will finally be able to choose Socket 939 motherboards from major manufacturers, targeted at the AMD enthusiast, and based on the ATI Rx480/482 chipset.

The ATI Story on the X1800XT Delays

We took the opportunity while talking with ATI to ask about the crippling delays of the ATI X1800XT and the X1xxx family. There are so many rumors in the market place; we wanted to hear ATI's explanation of why it took so long for X1800XT to make it to market. Was the problem the 90nm die-shrink as many had speculated?

ATI told us emphatically the delays with X1800XT were NOT the result of the die-shrink to 90nm. We were told the issue was a defect in a third-party IP (Intellectual Property) that was used in the x1800XT GPU die. It took ATI quite a while to find and correct this design flaw. Why does this matter? Since this flaw was specifically related to the X1xxx family, design work continued on future video cards, and there were no delays on that front. Development continued on introductions that will follow R520, which means the R580 GPU is still scheduled for launch in January.

Looking Ahead - RD580 & Manta

Even though ATI RD482 chipset Crossfire boards are just appearing in the market, ATI is already far along in the development of their next chipset, called ATI RD580. We recently had an opportunity to spend two days testing the new RD580 Crossfire motherboard, code-named Manta, and to directly compare the RD580 Dual X16 chipset with the recently reviewed Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe featuring the nVidia Dual x16 chipset. The comparison included both single and dual video card head-to-head testing with 7800GTX SLI (running 81.87 drivers) and X1800XT Crossfire (running Catalyst 5.11).

Because X1800XT Crossfire and The RD580 chipset have not yet officially launched, ATI has asked that we not publish hard benchmarks of our results, since they will likely change in final release versions. We can, however, talk in general terms about performance. Those of you who believe ATI is far behind nVidia are in for a surprise.



View All Comments

  • aepurniet - Friday, January 27, 2006 - link

    all these crossfire motherboards (480 / upcoming 580), look like they are gonna only support one processor. is there ever gonna be a dual processor crossfire enabled motherboard? ive been holding out on a puny laptop for a while, but it looks like im not going to be running crossfire anytime soon. my plan was to get tyan 2895, dual 7800gtx's. the x1900 looks like a good competitor but might sit all alone in that box, with having the chance of its crossfire brother ever dropping by. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, November 18, 2005 - link

    A reader has sent me links to press releases that show ULi pioneered HD Audio on the AMD Athlon 64. We made a couple of corrections in the article to reflect that information. Reply
  • Clauzii - Thursday, November 17, 2005 - link

    Man - it´s amazing to see how many can get over xited of a preview .. Geeeeezzzzzz.
    Nice preview and then we aaallll wait for the card to settle to market and in january the world will change!
  • Kiwi - Monday, March 6, 2006 - link

    What strikes me about all of this is that it's now March, and some actual MB's are in the market with 939 sockets, but the article about the release version of the Chip Set, now named "Express 3200" can't seem to get out of Purgatory.

    I think that I've seen the article posted three times over the past month, but it is always removed again in less than a single day. I wonder what the problem is? Anything to do with a majority of MB makers holding off to use the new chip sets with AM2 sockets instead of 754/ 939?


  • tajoh111 - Thursday, November 17, 2005 - link

    I have a ati card in my laptop, my desktop, even my pocket pc. Heck even my gamecube has a Ati card in it. The only nvidia product I own is in my xbox and thats it.

    I just believe ATI should be punished for their idiocy this year.
    - Lack of products.Besides the 1800XL what have they brought to the table.
    - Lack of availiblity(out of stock).
    - Lack of warrenty.
    - There only competent product that beats nvidia in any sense, is the GTO2, and even that is a result of their idiocy, to improperly lock pipelines.
    - A inferior product at every pricepoint.
    Midrange 800 xl nvidia 6800 gs, 1800xl, 7800gt, and 1800xt, 7800 512 gtx.

    ATi just has an excuse for everything and anandtech just believe it all. Like the lack of the ATI cards is because of memory(bull), or the performance problems are a result of immmature drivers(shouldn't a product in development for the longest time have decent driver, rather then a buy now fix later idea).

    Really those now, Wes, it not like we have to shop around for a 450 dollars 7800 gtx. Pretty much everyones sells the evga for 450.
    Which offers a lifetime warrenty and the a step up program.

    With the 1800 xt, you get a slightly better performing product, that uses lots more power and produces alot more sounnd. Could you imagine a crossfire 1800xt, you probaly grow mentally deaf in the process. Which cost you 150 dollars more. With a one year warrenty.

    Atleast with the 7800 gtx 512, which cost a hundred dollars more right now you get a much better warrenty(In my opinion worth the hundred dollars), more power usange(arguable as tomshardware got lower energy usage), definitely more quieter and most importantly braggin rights to the fastest card on the market.

    I believe people should stop buying ati products this years, to let ati know that they can't pulled the crap they did on people this year. So like a cornered dog, Ati has to fight for their survival or perish.

    p.s Anandtech should mention in there videocards buyer guide, the presence of a 1 year warrenty from ati build cards. Especially at the lower price levels where performance is just as important as reliability and customer care.
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, November 17, 2005 - link

    I fully understand your angst regarding ATI Video solutions (or lack thereof) this year. However, I do believe the ATI chipsets for AMD to be excellent introductions this year. Availability of motherboards with ATI chipsets has been a problem, but that has not been because of availability. ATI chipsets have been readily available, but as a new AMD player it has taken time to convince manufacturers to build high-end boards with ATI chipsets. A south bridge without problems would also have been a huge help, but that is also changing as the ULi M1575 is finally shipping.

  • gamara - Thursday, November 17, 2005 - link

    So was there a date for the x1800 Phantom Edition that would compete with the 7800GTX 512? I like the competition, as it makes the Nvidia board I buy in the future better as well, but I do have to agree this came off as ATI Fanboy. Was the IP the 7800GTX? Did ATI hold back the x1800xt until they had enough chips that would ramp fast enough to beat it?

    I checked NewEgg, ZipZoomFly and AllstarShop. The only one that had x1800xt's was Allstarshop which was selling them at 680 and 700. They had a 7800GTX 512 for 799. Go figure they are the only one with stock. At 'retail' price points, it looks like both are the XT and GTX are short stock. ATI's x1XXX release has been a bunch of smoke and mirrors on the consumer end while Nvidia has actually had stock on shelves. A friend bought a 7800GTX and loves having a card he can actually put in his system. It runs games pretty well too.

  • 3DC - Thursday, November 17, 2005 - link

    It just seems ironic how after the 7800GTX 512Mb launches we see this ATI preview. ATI must of said, "Hey Anandtech, can you run this preview for us so it looks like we are still around". The fact you don't use any results but say it's faster then a 256Mb SLI setup and then casually say, "Oh the 512Mb version still beats it" seems to me you didn't want to make the article 100% pro ATI. Even though I assume ATI wanted to show your viewers what they have up their sleeve.

    Seems to be a shady article enticing people NOT to by a 7800GTX 256Mb. Instead of a preview I get a ATI PR driven advertisement on their up and up and up and up coming products that no one knows will see the light of day.
  • allnighter - Thursday, November 17, 2005 - link

    First of all I'm not against ATi, any of their products or pre/reviews of those at AT at all. Quite the contrary. Second, as I clearly pointed out, I did not doubt Wesley's or any other AT editor's competence, again quite the contrary. I am using plain common sense and am doubting that any company will send a run-of-the-mill engineering sample for preview to Anandtech, without tweaking the board to achieve the best possible perf in order to present itself in the best of light. Not that there is anything wrong with that but my point is - remember the "Bullhead" (another ATi mobo mind you). I'm trying to dig out that piece but I think I don't have the time for it right now. Long story short it was to be an nForce killer and the ultimate enthusiast board yet today, when you can actually buy one, not even ATi considers it enthusiast level, more a value board if anything else.
    Again, I'm not doubting Wesley's competence to put together a quality review set-up or run a battery of quality tests but how can you really know that the board in your hands is not on steroids but simply a great design. Again, not so long ago there was an overclocking extravaganza thrown up by ATi, where iirc they were introing the x850 (someone correct me if I'm wrong please, might have been a different card, my memory isn't perfect) where they had a guy literally hand tuning bios'es on the spot for people yet "Bullhead" failed to yield earth shattering results.
    And since I'm being given a lesson in semantics - well sure every article is a "pr piece" in essence. However my perception of my fellow AT readers was always that majority of us are the actual computer enthusiast that pay attention to more things than just company names, so unless something has dramatically changed (the structure of AT readers or editor's opinions about those readers)I think statements of "...but just wait 'till such & such pulls out the ace out of their sleeve.." is a type of sensationalism I'm unwilling to accept from AT. We have Inquirer for that.
  • Artuk - Thursday, November 17, 2005 - link

    I hope that the vendors will create a layout that allows at least one regular PCI slot to be used. With a pair of two slot cards in crossfire, I dont think I could get my x-fi into a board laid out like the reference design. The nforce sli and crossfire boards I have seen from this generation havent given much thought to paired two slot graphics cards.


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