Consumer market oriented multi-processor graphics technologies have gone a difficult and thorny path. Numerous attempts have been made to promote such solutions since 1997 when the late 3dfx proposed to join two Voodoo2 graphics cards to get more performance in 3D applications. ATI Technologies then released its Fury MAXX graphics card with two Rage Fury chips and XGI developed an impressive, yet unviable dual-processor Volari Duo.
Neither of the mentioned solutions ever really took off. They were all ruined by their high price combined with various architectural and software problems. To be specific, ATI could not make the AFR rendering mode work right on the software level, while XGI’s solution was based on two low-performance Volari GPUs linked with a narrow bus. One way or another, multi-GPU solutions left the scene until 2004 when NVIDIA decided to revive the concept that seemed to have been forever buried. We dedicated an in-depth review to NVIDIA’s SLI technology (for details see our article called NVIDIA Multi-GPU SLI Technology: New Approach to Old Ideas) and thought it promising enough, despite some drawbacks like its dependence on the software.
We were right in our suppositions. SLI-supporting systems have become quite popular among PC enthusiasts who want to have the maximum gaming performance whatever the cost. The technology has also matured since its release, getting rid of some “growth diseases” and transforming into a finished and trusted solution. On the other hand, SLI proved to be less efficient when applied to mainstream graphics cards. The possible compatibility problems with some games and the necessity to buy a special SLI-ready mainboard made such SLI configurations less appealing than the purchase of a single high-end card.
Thus, NVIDIA’s SLI got firmly established in the top-end market sector and its position was further strengthened with the arrival of the new generation of graphics cards from NVIDIA. Two GeForce 7800 GTX cards in a SLI system set new performance records (for details see our article called NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX: Monstrous Gaming Performance Unleashed). Although the market of multi-GPU graphics solutions is rather narrow and is in fact limited to high-end products, NVIDIA’s SLI was impressively successful there, with about 2 million nForce4 SLI chipsets already sold. Today, the market of multi-GPU-compliant chipsets almost wholly belongs to NVIDIA. Has ATI any chance to get a slice of that pie? To do so, the company must offer a technology which is at least no worse than NVIDIA’s SLI in every aspect. Can CrossFire be this technology? That’s exactly the question we are going to answer with this review.