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ATI MultiGPU Done Right: The Radeon X1800 CrossFire Edition
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Old 20th December 2005, 17:47   #1
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ATI MultiGPU Done Right: The Radeon X1800 CrossFire Edition

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 were 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, but 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.

http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=2649
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Old 20th December 2005, 17:51   #2
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Battlefield: ATI close loss
Black & White: 11 fps with ATI :/
Day of Defeat: ATI close win
Doom 3: ATI close loss
FEAR: ATI win over 7800GTX SLI, loses to 7800GTX 512Mb SLI
Splinter Cell: see FEAR
Quake 4: ATI close loss

SLI was not without its hiccups at the outset. Since NVIDIA launched its dual GPU solution a year ago, things have only gotten better. The first few months of CrossFire have shown us that ATI is struggling down the same road that NVIDIA set out on with SLI. The first version of CrossFire wasn't as refined as we had hoped it would be, but everyone has to start somewhere. The X1800 CrossFire Edition card shows that ATI is making significant progress in the multi GPU arena.
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Old 21st December 2005, 09:06   #3
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They stressed the difficulty of aligning a product launch with availability that very same day, but we countered with the fact that if they can put 330 million transistors to good use on a GPU, they can figure out how to make shipments arrive on time.
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