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Alienware, a well-known maker of high-performance desktops, laptops and workstations for demanding gamers and professionals today announced its new technology that will allow to install two graphics cards into single personal computers in order to run conventional 3D games even faster than presently.

Exclusive Technology or Ordinary PCI Express Feature?

The new technologies called Video Array and X2 will be available in the third or the fourth quarter this year in computers from Alienware based on an unnamed PCI Express chipset from Intel. The new Video Array Technology and X2 mainboards with two PCI Express x16 slots for graphics will enable users to run graphics intensive applications flawlessly at maximized settings thanks to a couple of graphics cards featuring twice more performance.

“Alienware has dedicated significant resources into our research and development team, focused on technology and innovation. We are confident that this new solution will dramatically impact the enthusiast market and further establish Alienware as the definitive high-performance leader,” said Humberto Organvidez, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Alienware Corporation.

“Our goal is to set the standard for all other performance-based PC manufacturers to follow,” Mr. Organvidez added.

Alienware did not outline any peculiarities of the technology.

While Alienware claims that a feature to install two graphics cards on a single mainboard is something exclusive and will be available only on its computers, the actual capability to plug-in a number of AGP 3.0 or PEG x16 graphics cards into single PC is something that is provided by the latest specifications of Accelerated Graphics Port as well as PCI Express for Graphics.

In order to make two graphics cards to work in parallel bringing high-speed 3D rendering, special drivers may be required. Alienware did not state whether the drivers will be developed by the PC maker itself, by graphics processors developers, such as ATI Technologies and NVIDIA Corp., or by Intel Corp., the maker of core-logic to power the computers.

Voodoo2 SLI Returns?

Letting two graphics chips or cards to handle 3D rendering is not something new for the industry of powerful personal computers. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of good examples for the capability, as graphics cards makers usually switched to dual-chip designs when their chips were seriously behind competition.

Historically there were a few consumer graphics cards with a number of graphics processors on them, those that are well-known are Obsidian Voodoo2 SLI, 3dfx Voodoo5 5500 and ATI Rage Fury MAXX. The Voodoo2 SLI was too expensive for general public and was not adopted by the mass market due to obvious reasons, though, Voodoo2 SLI was the fastest graphics solution on the planet when released. The Voodoo5 5500 was priced at $399, but it cost just too lot for 3dfx itself still being slower compared to the GeForce2 GTS. The Rage Fury MAXX was left behind by the original GeForce256, had massive issues with drivers and some other troubles. After the collapse of the MAXX, ATI dropped the idea of dual-chip RADEON 256-based graphics cards. The most-recent example of dual-chip graphics cards is XGI’s Volari Duo that were pretty much slower compared to single-chip offerings from companies like NVIDIA and ATI.

The approach described by Alienware resembles 3dfx’s Voodoo Scan Line Interleaving, as it requires two graphics cards. Actual details or the technology are not announced.

$1000 for Graphics Anyone?

Keeping in mind that today’s single-chip graphics cards powered by processors from two leading companies ATI and NVIDIA offer very high performance, installing two of them is likely to indisputably bring the speed up once again. But at what price? People who tend to have something mainstream would hardly go for dual-graphics card configurations, while offerings for hardcore gamers cost $399 or $499 nowadays, making dual solutions very expensive. The market for $800 - $1000 graphics sub-systems is pretty small.

The Alienware Video Array and X2 mainboards will debut later this year, exclusively through Alienware’s new ALX brand, a family of extreme performance systems catering to the demands of the most hardcore PC enthusiasts. ALX systems will be sold only in the USA.

Discussion

Comments currently: 11
Discussion started: 05/13/04 05:31:08 PM
Latest comment: 01/05/06 02:24:13 AM

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1. 
If this will work and make a big performance boost, say 75%+ with an extra graphic card then im convinced that more of these motherboards are to follow. Lets hope so, im currently not totally satisfied with my 5900 Ultra and if adding another one and getting lots of extra performance this would be an option i would consider. :-)
0 0 [Posted by:  | Date: 05/14/04 01:29:08 AM]
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2. 
I think there should be some market for such configurations. Graphics processors are not only capable of delivering fast frames in latest games nowadays, but can also accelerate other tasks, such as media encoding, multiple display configurations, Picture in Picture,...

Imagine having two graphics/video accelerators w/ built-in TV/HDTV tuner. This would give user a chance to record even two simultaneously broadcasted shows in real time. Since there are no other consumer level cards out there that would be capable of real time encoding of HDTV content (I'm talking full-resolution lossless encoding for 1080i) except for those few ones that are in some way linked to higher performance AGP/PCX bus, this and such platforms make an obvious choice (given, it will work?).

There are two drawbacks for such solutions, though:

Ideally, such systems should also support dual processors for dual AGP/PCX speeds to work. This makes AMD64 processors an obvious choice since they use built-in memory controllers and high-throughoutput north-bridge.

The second drawback is price vs. performance factor. If I'd be buying a new platform I wouldn't hesitate much in buying such system for say 20% more than my second best choice, if it would give me a true possibility to install a second GPU and a second CPU latter on that would increase total system performance to at least 80%.
0 0 [Posted by:  | Date: 05/14/04 05:15:04 AM]
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