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ATI CrossFire – the Gamers’ Dream?

ATI CrossFire presents everything needed for a premium class graphics solution: stunning image quality, broad compatibility and high performance, three things that gamers not constrained by budgets would pay attention to. Probably, ATI’s finest 14x antialiasing, which is only available on the company’s multi-GPU solutions, is a thing that should worth additional money spent on an extra graphics card, as blazing image quality may be even more important than extreme performance in currently available games.

By contrast, the competitor NVIDIA Corp. currently does not offer any additional eye-candy features with its SLI multi-GPU technology over single-GPU products (except of the fact that you can use 8xS FSAA with proper speed in high resolutions). Still, NVIDIA seems to be close to releasing its next-generation GeForce 7800-series product, which may present advanced antialiasing capabilities in addition to already existent advantages, such as Shader Model 3.0 and UltraShadow technology.

From technology standpoint ATI’s CrossFire seems to have enough potential for the future. Being based on a Compositing Engine similar to what is used in professional multiprocessor graphics applications, such as simulators, scalability of such technology is obvious and seems to be relatively cost-efficient.

Not having final hardware at the time of the announcement is undisputable drawback of ATI’s technology launch. While on the paper we do see some clear advantages ATI has to offer, including:

  • Astonishing image quality with Super AA modes (up to 14x);
  • Increased performance in pixel shader and fillrate limited games;
  • Broad compatibility;
  • Flexibility in graphics cards combination.

… in reality everything still needs confirmation and actual testing, as we still do not know:

  • Performance in Super AA modes in modern games, such as Doom III, FarCry and Half-Life 2;
  • Actual performance improvements in different multi-GPU modes;
  • Lack of any image quality and performance problems in games that are already on the market and that are yet to come;
  • Feasibility of certain graphics cards configurations

Furthermore, multi-GPU solutions naturally have their own disadvantages mentioned in our NVIDIA SLI Preview and Review: high price of two graphics cards and supporting components, power requirements, support of high resolutions (higher than 1600x1200) by games and relatively short time of being the top solution due to development of future visual processing units.

One thing the formal launch of the CrossFire technology shows is that there is no point to wait for better solutions like G70, R520, etc., as they are coming out constantly and there is always a seduction to add another board to receive even greater performance. If you want the best – consider something which is already on the market right here and right now (and keep in mind that CrossFire is not available right now) – new graphics technology is absolutely not something that you should actually wait for in general.

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