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After months of waiting after the announcement and approximately a year after competing multi-GPU technology from NVIDIA Corp. made its commercial debut, manufacturing partners of graphics chip designer ATI Technologies have finally started to emerge for sale across the globe. But while the prices are not really high, the demand may be sabotaged by anticipation for next-generation ATI RADEON X1800-series products.

In Europe, Japan and United States various retail and online stores initiated supplies of RADEON X850 XT CrossFire Edition graphics cards that are equipped with the so-called Compositing Engine. Some stores in Japan also offer ATI RADEON XPRESS 200 CrossFire Edition mainboards from Sapphire Technology, another corner stone of ATI’s multi-GPU platform. Several stores in Europe are ready to ship CrossFire mainboards from DFI and ECS.

A store in the United Kingdom sells RADEON X850 XT CrossFire Edition graphics card from Club 3D for $417 (?346, ?242) without value added tax (VAT). Another e-tailer is ready to supply DFI LanParty UT RDX200CF-DR CrossFire mainboard for $248 (?206, ?140) without VAT. Yet another UK-based online shop is selling ECS A72K9-CrossFire mainboard for $138 (?114, ?78) without VAT.

Numerous stores in the United States also sell ATI RADEON X850 XT CrossFire Edition graphics cards at the price starting at $357. At press time none of U.S.-based e-tailers, at least, among the well-known, provided RADEON XPRESS 200 CrossFire Edition mainboards.

In Japan Sapphire PC-A9RD480Adv (http://www.sapphiretech.com/en/products/mainboards_overview.php?gpid=129) mainboard for multi-GPU ATI RADEON-based CrossFire platforms is available widely and costs starting from about $160 (?18 343). None of the stores in the country had CrossFire Edition graphics cards for sale, according to Akiba PC Hotline web-site.

ATI CrossFire platform requires a compatible chipset in addition to a pair of ATI RADEON X800/X850-series graphics cards, one of which equipped with Compositing Engine, a special set of chips that blends parts of frames rendered by different graphics cards. When unveiling the CrossFire technology in late May, 2005, ATI said that it had validated only its own RADEON XPRESS 200-series chipsets to enable multi-GPU systems with RADEON X8-series visual processing units (VPUs). The company, however, recently added Intel 955X chipset to the list of supporting platforms, which means that every mainboard supporting two PCI Express x16 slots can also enable ATI’s multi-GPU technology.

ATI’s CrossFire hardware was expected to emerge in late June and become the choice of enthusiasts who prefer products developed by ATI Technologies. But the company decided to take additional time creating the drivers and testing the whole platforms which delayed the release. Currently the firm ships RADEON X1800 XL-based graphics cards which provided better functionality along with higher performance compared to the RADEON X850 XT, which is likely to make enthusiasts who were planning to acquire dual-RADEON X850 XT configurations to wait till the company enables CrossFire for new generation graphics products and not acquire a one year old technology. Furthermore, the RADEON X1000-series incarnation of the multi-GPU technology is projected to correct certain issues found in the initial flavour of the technology.

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