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Even though ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT and ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics cards may show performance relevant to their pricing, neither of those boards have managed to capture performance leadership within their market segments. But ATI, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices, does have a solution: the multi-GPU CrossFire technology.

For years multi-GPU technologies served the premium, or ultra high-end, space where end-users hardly have limits in terms of pricing, power consumption, heat-dissipation and so on, but have an invincible desire to have the fastest three-dimensional graphics solutions. But this year multi-GPU technologies will be crucial for ATI, who has been downplaying their importance for the mass market for years, as the company not only has to compete against Nvidia’s GeForce 8800 Ultra with two ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT graphics cards, but will also strike the GeForce 8600 GTS with dual-chip Radeon HD 2600 XT product.

“Right now, our plan is to target the high-end performance level with the R600, and the ultra high-end will be covered by the Crossfire configurations. Today, the Crossfire ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT beats the high-end ultra-super-expensive [Nvidia GeForce 8800 Ultra] competition, by a significant margin, while being cheaper,” said Eric Demers, a senior GPU architect at AMD, in a recent interview with Beyond3D web-site.

Not only the ultra high-end market will be served by a dual-chip graphics configuration this year, according to AMD’s product positioning documents. ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT currently does not have a clear lead against Nvidia’s GeForce 8600 GTS when it comes to 3D games and benchmarks, therefore, to fight Nvidia’s performance-mainstream product a number of AMD’s add-in-board partners, including GeCube, Sapphire and some others, will offer dual-chip graphics cards with two ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT chips that will operate in CrossFire mode to boost 3D graphics performance. The so-called Gemini Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics boards will have suggested e-tail price from $189 to $249.

Performance of multi-GPU graphics solutions fully depends on drivers that should contain a profile for nearly all video games to demonstrate performance increase compared to single-chip solutions. Moreover, dual-chip graphics cards may not be compatible with certain mainboards.

Nvidia Corp. already used dual-chip approach with its GeForce 7950 GX2 product last year to offer highest-performing graphics solution.  Unfortunately for owners of such products its support now that the company pushes its GeForce 8-series to the market is not consistent at all with rare updates for Windows XP drivers and potential issues with Windows Vista drivers.

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