A little while ago AMD’s graphics department took the palm of technological supremacy from Nvidia’s hands releasing the ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 graphics card. Combining two RV670 cores on one PCB, this was the fastest single-card graphics solution that delivered higher performance than Nvidia’s best single-chip cards, GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB and GeForce 8800 GTX, even though not in every game. In our review we noted that the $449 card had a huge potential that was yet to be untapped. If ATI’s programmers did their job right, that card would soon become the best choice for a demanding gamer.
The ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 was not destined to become the true king of the 3D world, though. It only reigned until the announcement of Nvidia’s dual-processor GeForce 9800 GX2. This card couldn’t be an absolute champion due to the inherent drawbacks of the homogeneous multi-processor architecture, but it did beat the Radeon HD 3870 X2 where SLI technology worked just because the G92 was superior to the RV670. It’s like the single GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB beating the Radeon HD 3870. That is not a big problem because these solutions belong to different market sectors: the GeForce 9800 GX2 is more advanced and, accordingly, more expensive. Its release makes AMD a pursuer again, just like it had been pursuing Nvidia for a long time before the arrival of the Radeon HD 3870 X2. This also limits the user’s choice in the high-end category (over $599/$649).
The ATI CrossFire technology allows building asymmetric 3-way systems like ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 + ATI Radeon HD 3870. For comparison, the current implementation of Nvidia SLI supports only symmetrical configurations, including the configuration with three identical graphics cards. Thus, ATI adherents have got a means to compete with the Nvidia GeForce 9800 GX2: you can buy a single Radeon HD 3870 in addition to your ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 and enable 3-way CrossFireX mode. Having a combined price of about $640 ($449+$189), such a system could make a rival to the single GeForce 9800 GX2 whose price varies from $599 to $649. Of course, you’ll need an appropriate mainboard with two PCI Express x16 slots and CrossFire support, but purchasing one is not a problem today. There are a lot of mainboards based on Intel’s and AMD’s chipsets providing the required capabilities.
This review will show you how competitive ATI’s 3-way CrossFireX system is against the Nvidia GeForce 9800 GX2. The latter will be represented by the Zotac GeForce 9800 GX2 graphics card.