We can’t say definitely that AMD’s 3-way graphics solution is superior to its opponent. It was indeed faster than the GeForce GTX 480 SLI tandem in some tests but the gap was only large in a very few cases. And there were games where the third GPU did not help it outperform Nvidia’s solution. Besides, the 3-way CrossFire platform did not show high scalability as the summary diagrams indicate.
At the resolution of 1600x900, the 3-way CrossFire configuration wins 10 out of 19 tests and equals the GeForce GTX 480 SLI tandem in one more test. It loses 8 tests, too. The maximum advantage of 51% was observed in Resident Evil 5 and the maximum loss of 35% in H.A.W.X. We must note that this resolution is not really meant for such top-performance solutions as Radeon HD 5800 3-way CrossFire and GeForce GTX 480 SLI.
When it comes to 1920x1080, the score is 11 to 8, but the average advantage of the AMD solution over the GeForce GTX 480 SLI is only 4% now. The difference in the individual tests varies from +49% in Resident Evil 5 to -36% in Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. Compared with the dual-processor Radeon HD 5870 CrossFire tandem, the 3-way CrossFire configuration is an average 20% faster, the maximum advantage being 55%. This is hardly worth the $1000 investment into building and assembling such a configuration.
At the resolution of 2560x1600 the 3-way CrossFire wins 12 and loses 7 tests, the maximum loss to the GeForce GTX 480 SLI being no larger than 25%. This is a good result considering that such top-end solutions are meant for playing at the highest resolution, yet the average 6.5% advantage over the GeForce GTX 480 SLI is far from impressive. The scalability is good, the third GPU adding up to 85% to the performance of the AMD platform. The average performance boost is about 33%.
So, just as expected, the Radeon HD 5800 3-way CrossFire is only good for playing at high resolutions: 2560x1600, 2560x1440 or panoramic ATI Eyefinity modes. There is no reason to run such a fast, noisy and power-hungry subsystem in less resource-consuming modes. It must also be noted that the Radeon HD 5970 + 5870 tandem consumes far less power than the GeForce GTX 480 SLI tandem. As for the price factor, the Radeon HD 5970 costs $650-700 and the Radeon HD 5870 about $400. The total cost will be higher than that of two GeForce GTX 480 cards. The small advantage of the AMD solution in terms of performance can hardly justify this difference in price.