ATI CrossFire Preview

Today ATI announces their tandem video card solution branded CrossFire. Inside we will preview this new technology and tell you what you need to know from a gamer’s perspective.

Grammatical & Spelling Editor: Timothy Daniel

Introduction:

It seems in the fast-paced computer world we live in everything is being doubled. What seems to be the trend is to team up two pieces of hardware to increase performance. Weآ’ve got dual channel DDR memory, dual hard drives in RAID0, dual core CPUs, so why not dual video cards as well? Initially, you might think that doubling two pieces of hardware should equate to double the performance. However, from what experience has taught us, in the majority of scenarios, this is not actually the case. On the other hand, in certain situations and if utilized properly for hardware such as graphics cards, performance of dual hardware can come close to doubling the performance of a single setup at any rate, adding another piece of hardware alongside what you are already running in order to increase performance appeals to many enthusiasts.

Weآ’ve recently done a lot of coverage on NVIDIAآ’s multiple graphics card technology known as Scalable Link Interface (SLI). You can read about SLI here. We ran a couple of editorials here and here showing one of the downsides to SLI. Frankly, when SLI was announced support was quite scarce for games that actually showed a benefit with the technology. The main problem with NVIDIAآ’s technology has been the fact that it relies on driver profiles in order for a game to see any kind of benefit from SLI. These profiles are programmed with the best mode of SLI for each game to deliver the best performance without causing any problems. Unfortunately, NVIDIA has to test every single game to find these best modes and implement them into the drivers. They also have to stay on the backs of game content developers to make sure games utilize SLI correctly and to their best potential without breaking other things. As you can imagine, this can be a very long and daunting task. As such, the potential for long intervals between support for new games in new driver releases is a real possibility.

Thankfully, NVIDIA answered our prayers by implementing manual control for gamers so they can force an SLI mode and create profiles themselves. However, you still run the risk of a certain mode not working correctly since it hasnآ’t been tested, which means more trial and error that you the gamer must endure. There are older games that may never see official SLI support included in drivers, just think of how many thousands of games there are out there in existence right now. However you look at it, this is the largest issue facing NVIDIAآ’s SLI right now. It is getting better, definitely much better, than when it was first announced.

In a departure from NVIDIAآ’s driver-specific implementation of of dual graphics, the entire basis of ATIآ’s new multiple graphics card technology is a non-reliance on any type of driver game profiles. This is a huge burden off the shoulders of gamers and ATI themselves in that they do not have to rely on individual game profiles. Weآ’ll talk about this more later in the preview.

CrossFire:

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Welcome to CrossFire. Youآ’ll be seeing this new brand name encompass a whole ecosystem of components that need to come together. There are three main components that you must have in order to آ“CrossFire.آ” You must have a

آ· Radeon Xpress 200 CrossFire edition chipset

آ· CrossFire edition graphics card

آ· regular Radeon X850 or X800 series graphics card

Weآ’ll talk about each component in the following pages.