Asus recently contacted us with an interesting 3D graphics product that was intended to be nothing more than a proof of concept. The product was affectionately named Trinity and though it didn't necessarily conjure up visions of leather-clad vigilante-dominatrix-hotties for us, it certainly did have an intriguing design. The Asus Trinity prototype is built on a trio of AMD ATI Radeon HD 3850 GPUs in CrossFireX mode for tri-GPU performance on a single card.
Though perhaps that's not as interesting or innovative as how Asus went about cobbling this demo together. Instead of designing a custom PCB, they took a path of least resistance and pulled together ready-made notebook graphics modules slotted mezzanine-style on the top and bottom side of the board.
Looking at the bottom side of the board, you can see how the GPU cards are dropped into what essentially are MXM graphics module slots mounted horizontally on the board. There are two of these on the bottom and another on the top side of the board. Though we didn't pull the assembly apart (we didn't want to risk damaging the beast), we suspect there must be a PCI Express switch sandwiched in there somewhere to divide the lanes amongst a single PEG X16 slot. In addition, if you look closely, you'll see there are ATI CrossFire ribbon cables spliced into the assembly as well. Finally, Asus shipped the kit with a Thermaltake BigWater 760is cooling system in order to keep temps in line with all that GPU sandwich action going on.
Of course we just had to benchmark this puppy and here are the results...
As many of you probably would ask, the answer is yes, it does play Crysis relatively well. However, in all honesty we expected better, more linear scaling overall. As a reference point, in our Company of Heroes testing, a single Radeon HD 3850 would score somewhere in the neighborhood of 37 FPS at 1280x1024 with 4X AA, whereas Trinity scores nearly 55 FPS. That's a 48% increase in speed but three times the GPU horsepower thrown at the task. In reality, this quick and dirty triple-GPU showcase from Asus probably suffers more from lack of driver optimization than anything else; that and probably a shortage of PCI Express bandwidth and latency over the on-board switch.
Regardless, it's interesting to see this implementation come together and we wonder about the practicality of it moving forward. Think about a single slot card today that could possibly be upgraded in the future just by sliding a module in, thus leaving your other slots open for future functionality. In all candor of course, a product like most likely won't see the light of day for Asus but it's certainly interesting to see it in action.
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