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ATI Crossfire - Technology Preview

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 31 May 2005, 00:00

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Introduction

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Multi-participant 3D rendering (M3DR, to coin a creaky acronym), where the participants are discrete 3D graphics processors (GPUs), has come to prominence in recent times with NVIDIA's Scaleable Link Interface technology that allows you to place, currently, a pair of 6800 Ultras, 6800 GTs, 6800 standards or 6600 GTs into a compatible PCI Express-based PC system and when the conditions are right, experience a significant (nearly twice) performance boost in your game or 3D application.

That above paragraph contains some absolutely key points to digest and understand as I undertake explaining ATI's own M3DR consumer technology. Launching today, on the morning of the first day of the Computex 2005 International Technology Trade Show in Taipei, Taiwan, ATI's M3DR scheme comes under the marketing umbrella of Crossfire.

Crossfire allows much the same basic concept as NVIDIA's Scaleable Link Interface (isn't marketing great, it doesn't sound half as sexy if you expand the SLI acronym), in that you put - at them moment - two compatible graphics boards in the same system, each with a single GPU, and you increase performance. So without further ado, let me explain the important parts to you.

Before I do, though, I must stress that this Technology Preview has been done without access to a working Crossfire system for performance analysis, or validation of ATI's claims in their documentation provided to press for the Crossfire articles you'll see all over the web today. I'm interpreting what ATI have provided in terms of information, combining that interpretation with my own knowledge of how M3DR schemes usually work, how they've worked in the past for other systems using ATI hardware and what I think is correct information to present to you.

As soon as I get my hands on the hardware that'll let me build what I'm about to explain to you, you'll get the full gamut of performance and feature analysis, along with the logistics and costs involved in creating your own Crossfire PC system. So without further ado, let's forge onwards and digest all the relevant information.