Intel made a lot of noise last CeBIT about the ability to use Crossfire. This was in pre Conroe, Core 2 duo era when Intel was not the favourite of the gaming market. Now Intel is the hottest lad in the town and it wanted to give you a dual graphic card support.
Jensen, the king of the Nvidian kingdom didn't let Intel license SLI marchitecture for Intel's own chipsets but ATI was more than happy to share Crossfire with Intel, at least it was back then. Things are changing as ATI is an integral part of AMD and this trend it going to vanish. For the time being all ATI cards works well in Crossfire on Intel boards.
We had a chance to play with Asus and HIS and you can read all about their performance against each other on Athlon 62. That review is here.
The setup is rather easy and the cards won't work in Crossfire unless you plug the Crossfire ribbon cables. It won't work with a single ribbon cable, you need to plug at least two of them. You install the driver and after a reboot, Catalyst control centre reports that you have a crossfire. Without ribbons, the system will alert you that you have a Crossfire setup but that it won't work.
The ribbons come in each box with Radeon X1950 PRO. This card is based on RV570 the first chip that supports cable less Crossfire and is the first 80 nanometre chip from ATI. The red or light green company today has volume production of these cards for a while now, for more than a quarter. A single Radeon X1950 PRO costs around /$200 in etail and two cards will get close to /$400 - still cheaper than the Radeon X1950XTX and especially Geforce 8800 GTS.
Abit AWD9 MAX system with two X1950PRO cards
Intel Core 2 Duo E6700, 2x 2.67GHz, 266MHz FSB, 4MB Cache
Corsair Dominator TWIN2X1024-8500 at 5-5-5-15 at 800 MHz
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 400GB SATA NCQ hard drive
Akasa EVO AK 922 Blue Athlon 64/X2/FX cooler and Intel CPU's
OCZ 700W GameXstream power supply
A single Radeon X1950 PRO can keep up the race with two cards or Geforce 8800 GTS at first two resolutions but at largest two it drops significantly especially at 20x15. Radeon X1950 PRO crossfire clearly wins this test and leaves 8800 GTS in dust at 20x15. It is fifteen frames faster.
Far Cry with 4X FSAA and 8X Aniso again dominates at first three resolutions and wins over 8800 GTS but it gives a strange score at 20x15. This has to be a driver bug that can be fixed as we reckon that the card should end up faster.
A single card is clearly the slowest in Quake 4 but two cards still lose from Nvidia but at 20x15 came just three frames faster. Well the FSAA and Aniso on changes the picture. A single card is still the slowest while at 16x12 two cards are almost tie with 8800 GTS and Crossfire wins at 20x15. Crossfire is around fifteen percent faster than 8800 GTS at least at these settings.
In both scenarios, FEAR runs faster on Nvidia Geforce 8800 GTS card. It gets up to thirty two frames faster than Crossfire without effects but with effects on it come tie at 16x12 but loses at 20x15 again.
Crossfire X1950PRO dominates 3Dmark03 beeing 2500 marks faster than 8800 GTS. It is 800 marks faster in 3Dmark05 with much better single and multi texturing performance. In 3Dmark06 Crossfire loses by three marks, it's a tie score but its faster in HDR /Shader model 3.0 test by almost 200 mark, a slower by 200 marks in Shader model 2.0 test and tie at CPU test.
Crossfire is cheaper than 8800 GTS and without nasty cables it can give Nvidia run for its money. I could not necessarily say it wipes Nvidias bottom but it gives you an option. Two X1950 PRO are cheaper than 8800 GTS. A single X1950 PRO from MSI sells for 160. If you do the math two cards will costs 320 and you can check it here. The cheapest 8800 GTS from Sparkle costs 396 still 75 more expensive than two Crossfire cards. You can buy one here.
When it comes to performances Crossfire wins in many scores but Nvidia wins some. Crossfire still wins more so it can be recommended but then again Nvidia also has DirectX 10 support. I still hold my breath about G80 DirectX 10 support, as I still haven't seen it.
We don't necessarily say that the Crossfire is the way to go but it is certainly alternative. Excellent a dodgy score at 20x15 the system worked flawlessly and we didn't had any issues with it, but we didn't had issues with 8800 GTS either. The choice is yours our point was only to show that Crossfire works in such a setup. ?
Reviewed and tested by Sanjin Rados and Fuad Abazovic
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