The Multi-GPU market is a very important one to a number of companies, yet it is presently only dominated by one: NVIDIA.

We have to hand it to NVIDIA, even though they had some problems with SLI early on, they managed to turn a slightly bumpy start into complete dominance of the Multi-GPU market in a year's time. And NVIDIA couldn't be happier; the incredible attraction to SLI, either from an upgrader's perspective or from the desire to have the absolute best in performance means that NVIDIA gets to sell one of their most expensive chipsets, and a potential of two GPUs to each customer. Three chips from one company in a single system? Only Intel had been able to accomplish such a feat in the past.

But what about ATI and their fabled CrossFire solution? Historically ATI hadn't done well at all at getting any sort of end user penetration with their chipsets, but they finally got somewhere with their latest CrossFire chipsets. What's even more amazing is that it wasn't the support for CrossFire that sold the motherboards either, it was the excellent overclocking features and end-user centric nature of the reference platform. CrossFire too might have been a success, had ATI done more copying of NVIDIA rather than taking a different approach this time around.

While the performance of the CrossFire X850 XT was respectable, the total package didn't make any sense. What we wanted was an ATI version of NVIDIA's SLI platform, instead we got a mess of master cards you couldn't buy and dongles that gave us more problems during testing than even the earliest SLI testing we did. And to make matters worse: there was a not-so-nice resolution limitation of 1600 x 1200, which is fine for mid-range offerings, but for a pair of Radeon X850 XTs running in parallel, you really need to be at higher resolutions to truly get the benefit of (at the time) $1000 worth of graphics cards. Even if you didn't heed our warnings, ignored the fact that NVIDIA's GeForce 7800 GTX was a better buy and still wanted a pair of X850 XTs on a CrossFire motherboard - you couldn't: the required master card wasn't available.

You know what they say, if at first you don't succeed... So we're back here today with the CrossFire solution that should have been: the ATI Radeon X1800 CrossFire Edition. The dongle is still there, as is the master card, but the resolution limit isn't and ATI's finally using a GPU that is a worthy competitor to the 7800 GTX. This time around, ATI has a chance and now, more than ever, do they need it.

The success of CrossFire means much more than whether or not ATI ends up at the top of some silly graphs; it will determine whether or not ATI has a chance at stealing away some of NVIDIA's very profitable Multi-GPU business. And believe it or not, CrossFire's success is very important to Intel. Intel's soon to be launched 975X platform will ship with full CrossFire support, but NVIDIA hasn't blessed it with SLI support, so Intel's only chance to be taken seriously as a high end gaming platform is with ATI's assistance.

A successful CrossFire could mean that Intel would have added leverage against NVIDIA, maybe even pressuring them into bringing SLI support to Intel's chipsets, as they would no longer have the exclusive on viable Multi-GPU. With both ATI and Intel very interested in the success of the launch, we're curious to see how it turns out. And we're sure you are too.

ATI: The A is for Availability?


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  • t3h l337 n3wb - Wednesday, December 21, 2005 - link

    The only place you can get one is Ebay, where there are 2 listings, and they're like $700+... Reply
  • DjDiff - Wednesday, December 21, 2005 - link

    I'm curious whether crossfire would increase AVIVO performance or not. If not, will there be drivers in the future that will benefit from crossfire when using AVIVO? Reply
  • dualblade - Friday, December 23, 2005 - link

    referring to playback, or the hardware encoding feature?

    playback is already at 1080p with a single x1800 of any sort so i don't think that needs improvement. crossfire hardware assisted encoding might be a really good thing. i imagine a dual core crossfire setup could become a real encoding/rendering powerhouse
  • Scarceas - Wednesday, December 21, 2005 - link

    bleh no product... Why is it so hard to launch? Just don't announce your product until you've already shipped it. DURRR!!! Reply
  • Thalyn - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    While I'm still here, I thought I'd point out what seemed to be a strange anomaly in the Quake 4 benches to see if someone can provide an answer.

    Under 4x FSAA, the GTX 512 cards are listed as performing better in 1920x1440 than in 1600x1200. Oddly enough, the results are almost right in the middle of the 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 scores, though if you re-plot the graph with the 1600 and 1920 results reversed it doesn't match the trends set by any other hardware in the list.

    Is this a typo, or something more sinister? And, more curiously, why didn't Derek make any mention of it at all?

  • Leper Messiah - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    Yeah, I mentioned this a bit higher...haven't gotten an answer yet... Reply
  • Thalyn - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    One thing I would be curious to see is how the ATi cards fare with a small tweak done under B&W2. There's a setting which can be changed in one of the .INI files which makes the game run exponentially better on most hardware I've seen it "trying" to run on - including my own X800 Pro AGP, an two mate's 6600GT AGP and 5800 Ultra AGP.

    I believe the file is called "graphics.ini" in the data subdirectory - change the detail settings to be 3 1 3 instead of 3 0 3. It does disable two of the options in the ingame graphics menu (and I have heard it can result in "squares" under fields and such), but the performance increase is substantial, to say the least. Oddly enough, just disabling these two options on their own doesn't make anywhere near as much of a difference.

    Sadly, once it's running well you quickly find out that it wasn't worth all the effort, but I would still be curious to see the results from tests under such conditions. NVidia apparently fixed this bug with one of their post-release drivers (hence the disparity of scores), and there's also a 1.2 patch being prepared as we speak which will hopefully level things off somewhat, but in the meantime this is the best we've got.

  • Beenthere - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    ...card-of-the week mentality. So I finally decided to do some research to see what the B.F.D. was with having one or more $700+ video cards in a PC. I went out and bought the Lanparty UT SLI Mobo, (2) FX57s so I could find the fastest O/C'ing one, (2) Asus 7800 GTX 512s, (2) 520W OCZ Power Stream PSUs, 2 x 1024MB OCZ EB Platinum 4800 modules, a Corsair ice water-cooling system for the FX57 and Nvidia chipset (until I get to vapor cooling), an Antec P160 Performance case and an HP L2335 23" display.

    Everything went together fine and I spent several days overclocking the two FX57s until I was able to run almost stable at 3.9 Gig. @ 1.625V w/34 degree cold water. And to my surprise my 3Dmark 2005 showed an incredible 18,240 score !!! WOW, I was just blown away. I was starting to understand what the enthusiasm was all about for the latest-greatest-trick of the week PC hardware. After several weeks of tweaking I now have my system stable most of the time and it simply fly's !!! Not only that but the blue LEDs look so cool at night, and my friends are impressed as H*LL that for less than $6,000 I have a PC that will cook my breakfast, bring in the newspaper, make the utility company rich, heat my house, make Nvidia rich, clean my car, wash my clothes and even do word processing. I can even log on to the Net .00000000000000001 seconds faster than my old dumbazz Athlon 939 3000 that I spent $1,000 on total and which runs rock stable at 2.4 Gig. And at a resolution of 1920 x 1200 I'm able to get a frame rate in any video game of at least 60. This allows me to sit 6'-8' away from my monitor to minimize eye strain when I play video games for 18 hours or more at a time.

    Without a doubt I am one broke but very happy camper. NOW - now I understand the point of spending $700 or more on a Vid card and $1000 on a CPU and hundreds on memory, and PSUs, and trick PC cases, etc. And my friends think I am the coolest guy they know cause I got this BLING machine. Whatta life !!! If only I had known years ago...
  • AdamK47 3DS - Wednesday, December 21, 2005 - link

    You forgot the sarcasm tags <sarcasm> </sarcasm> Reply
  • dali71 - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link


    And for those who want the best of the best (and really can afford to burn money), that's still going to be the $1400 dual 7800 GTX 512 setup.

    Really? And exactly WHERE can I find this mythical $1400 setup?

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