Projected Performance & Our Conclusion
Below are performance metrics that were supplied to us by ATi in their presentation material. We make no claims of their respective accuracy in the frame of reference versus the competing ATi single card solution and certainly not versus competitive solutions. We fully expect to be testing ATi CrossFire products in the weeks ahead and will have real-world in-house performance data for your evaluation then.
Breaking things down here, ATi is claiming an approximate 25% performance boost in aging game titles like Unreal Tournament 2003. Further they are reporting a ~ 75% increase in the OpenGL based Return To Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. Lastly we see a near 100% increase in performance for Splinter Cell, which we assume to be the original title, as apposed to the recently released Chaos Theory addition to the series. The main take-away here is that depending on whether the game engine is CPU or Graphics bound, you'll see varying degrees performance improvements afforded by CrossFire Multi-GPU rendering. Again the flip side of that is, if you have a game already running at blazing frame-rates with a single card, with CrossFire you can turn up to new levels of 10X and 14X "Super AA" and see the benefits of the image quality, while multiple GPUs keep up high frame rate. This of course is all theoretical commentary for us at this point. We'll see how things really stack up in the lab here at HotHardware very soon.
ATi has a fairly sound strategy for CrossFire, from a hardware perspective and what seems to be a reasonable approach from a retail product and channel mix standpoint as well.
Above are model options and MSRPs for CrossFire Edition cards and their respective companion standard cards. As you can see, CrossFire is limited to only ATi X800 series cards at this point but those customers with mid-range X800 and X800 Pro PCI Express cards can drop in an X800 256MB or 128MB CrossFire card for $250 - $300. We were informed that the Radeon X800 CrossFire card is essentially a 16 pipe Radeon X800 XL GPU but with 128MB or 256MB RAM card variants. The high end solution is fairly straight forward with the X850 CrossFire Edition as a 16 pipe card clocked at an X850 XT's 520MHz core clock, and compatible with the entire X850 line-up. Graphics card partners are exprected to be Abit, Asus, Gigabyte, HIS, MSI, Sapphire and many others.
ATi informed us that the current offering was limited to the configurations above, since managing validation efforts across the myriad of ATi model types available is a huge undertaking. Regardless, we wonder where this approach leaves ATi competitively to a pair of NVIDA GeForce 6600 GT cards in SLI, currently selling at well under a $200 street price. We're hopeful that ATi will flesh out the lower end of their CrossFire Graphics line-up as well in the future.
In the end we've gotten a good feel for what ATi has in store for us in the weeks ahead as CrossFire products are expected to hit our labs sometime in the month of June. We hope this preview has given you this same level of insight as well. What's probably most compelling about ATi's new CrossFire technology is the claim that it will work for every game currently available and future titles that have yet to be released. If this is the case, and performance is competitive, CrossFire should give NVIDIA's SLI a run for its money. However, like you, we're waiting to see real hardware performing in some of these impressive Gaming scenarios very soon and we promise to report our findings in full detail for you here. For now, CrossFire looks to be very exciting on paper. We're looking forward to seeing what it's made of on the big screen as well.