Will NVIDIA SLi get caught in the ATi CrossFire ?Based on information from a number of sources, HEXUS can exclusively reveal details about ATi’s dual-card technology for Multi Video Processing units (MVP).
ATi seems to have had the technology to implement MVP for a long time, but saw the potential in the mainstream/enthusiast market last year with the launch of NVIDIA SLi, and what red blooded bloke wouldn’t like a bit of twin action now and again, eh?
Apparently the first solution available will be based on ATi RADEON X850 XT (R480) and therefore some of the good news promised is that any existing owner will be able to upgrade to ATi MVP goodness.
Some, perhaps mainly early, NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra cards have not been shipped ‘SLi ready’ – but it seems that any ATi PCIe 3D accelerator, based upon its R480 VPU, will be able to function as the ‘slave unit’.
Nothing kinky here folks, the ‘Master/Slave’ reference tells you which card is in control of assembling the final image in its frame buffer. Just like NVIDIA SLi, the ATi MVP solution will require a compatible mainboard (first seen by HEXUS on the ASUSTeK booth at this years CeBIT exhibition) and so it will be interesting to see which core-logic technology ATi will be supporting with its MVP.
Having developed military solutions based on up to 32 cards in the past, it appears that ATi has decided on a ‘tile’ based rendering approach as the default technology and perhaps the judgement was that this method offers the most ideal balance of speed and image quality (minimum size 32 pixels square). However it’s more than likely that the ATi MVP solution will be flexible to offer other rendering modes like AFR (Alternate Frame Rendering) as well.
So now you’re thinking how cool is this, and you want one…. well, erm… the thing is right now there aren’t actually any of these cards available, so although ATi have done us all a favour by building in a level of future proofing by maintaining the use of ‘older’ cards for us, we can’t actually go ATi MVP right now.
Despair not though, as our information is that ATi itself will be the first to market with these exciting new products, and it’s on the cards that its third party Add In Board (AIB) partners such as GeCUBE, Sapphire and TUL will follow suit – and our money’s on this being very soon after the start of the Computex exhibition in Taiwan later this month.
In a superb retro throw back to the 3DFX Voodoo 2 days of yore, the two ATi MVP cards are set to be connected via an external dongle, which will enable the cards to work together in a 3D accelerated fragging frenzy.
This solution has raised more than one or two eyebrows here at HEXUS, as ATi have been heard to slam NVIDIA’s connector between their 2 cards as being a 'poor solution'.
Though it’s obvious that this will allow a neat and cost-effective backwards compatibility with older ATi cards, one has to ponder on the external dongle issue, and you have to wonder if ATi were having a pop at NVIDIA’s neater internal connector just to give us hacks something to write about?
The other possibility is that a dongle will only be required for ultra-high-speed cards, where data integrity and frame timing is most critical.
Indeed, when ATi Technologies’ Rick Bergman announced the ATi RS400 (core logic for Intel processors) at this years CeBIT, there was a specific reference to ATI’s ability to set-up MVP between an add-in card and the mainboards integrated graphics accelerator.
The idea that combining an add-in ATi 3D graphics accelerator with a mainboard based upon an ATi chipset with integrated graphics, and automatically get scalable performance is very sexy and – if true (and we believe it is) - leads to the possibility of putting a pair of top-end 3D cards into a system with an ATI based mainboard, and having all three VPUs working on the output simultaneously.
It seems that the hardware to do this has been built into every top-end ATi product since the ATi RADEON 9700 Pro, and opens up interesting possibilities up and down the price range.
What kind of jump in performance would you get with an ATi HyperMemory card in an ATi RADEON Xpress 200G (RS480) based mainboard such as the EQS M56K9-MLF, if they combine graphics capabilities? Would that even work?
If ATi Master Cards are available from its partners in June, then it seems that NVIDIA’s glorious reign in the dual-card market could be under threat.
The advent of products based upon ATi’s forthcoming R520 VPU is likely to move ATi’s product stack – relative to NVIDIA’s – thereby creating the potential for some very uncomfortable matches for the green team…
ATi R520 is set set to be placed in direct competition with NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra (fastest card to fastest card). This could make the NVIDIA GeForce 6800GT product’s life rather difficult as it will be head-2-head with ATI RADEON X850 XT (R480). Working on the assumption that ATi will continue manufacturing all of these products, then will not a dual-card ATI R480 solution be competing directly with a brace of NVIDIA GeForce 6800GT in SLi mode?
The gap in performance between 6800GT and X850 is already measurably significant so it seems reasonable to presume that ATi MVP solution will cream existing 6800GT SLi rigs by more than 25%...
Whatever the outcome, the world of desktop performance graphics just became a hell of a lot more serious!
As HEXUS reported earlier this week, ATi Technologies has now demonstrated 512MB technology, and as we understand that its been working on physical R520 product since this Christmas - it seems highly likely that it will pull the covers back on MVP at Computex...
..which leads to the stunning possibility of not only a pair of 512MB ATi R520 cards smashing through games in tandem, but with an added extra boost from a mainboards onboard ATi graphics chip…
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The reports we have just had from a retailer in the UK infact state that all PCI-E 6800Ultras which came through retail were all SLi enabled, unlike the early samples seeded to press and partners.