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Digital-Daily : Video : amd_hd3000

AMD HD3000 CrossFire: not yet a radiant future

AMD HD3000 CrossFire: not yet a radiant future
Author: Anton Rachko
Date: 04.02.2008

To start with, we say that the full name of the technology in question is AMD CrossFire X. The card has acquired the "X" at the end quite recently when the newly-fledged manufacturer of video cards decided that two video cards in a combination may not be enough and there should be more of them. This is how the CrossFire X came about - a technology that allows merging not only two, but even three or four video cards. However, today we are reviewing a combination of two video cards, the most affordable and simplest option. We start our narration of the CrossFire technology looking back into history. Far back in 2004, NVIDIA announced the SLI technology which allowed two video cards (nowadays - even more than that) operating with the PCI-Express interface and the MIO connector in combination, which could substantially increase the speed in 3D graphics.

The then ATI, currently incorporated into AMD, could not remain indifferent to the competitor's technology and, so as not to be left in the basket, announced its own technology for merging video cards, codenamed ATI Multi-Rendering (AMR). That was followed by a lot of rumors over the Internet, so there appeared many photos of video cards and motherboards designed for a different technology. Of course, not all the novelties have seen the light like, for instance, a motherboard based on the VIA chipset with two PCI-Express x16 slots, whose photos twice appeared in the Internet. Finally, the rumors died in the first half of 2005, and ATI Multi-Rendering was renamed to ATI CrossFire, a lot of praising speeches were delivered, e.g. that it was better than that offered by the competitor, etc. Indeed, both ATI and AMD had something in common because both sometimes promised a revolution which in the end turned out to be a mere demonstration with lots of slogans shouted around. In the end, the CrossFire technology failed to conquer the masses and did not acquire a popularity like that of the NVIDIA SLI.

That is because the novelty put forward by ATI required two different video cards - the master with a special connector and extra components for matching the resultant image, and the slave card. As you must have guessed already, the leading video cards were more costly and rarely shipped to the retail than "slave" video cards. Unlike NVIDIA's video cards, only two identical video cards were needed to create a combination. Moreover, the CrossFire technology suffered from serious issues with drivers, and the issues were resolved much slower than similar problems at the competitor's. For details of how it was, read our review of those times, but we are now moving on. The emergence of ATI Radeon 1950Pro and ATI Radeon 1650X in 2006 has made the CrossFire come close to the public, because new video cards were no longer divided into masters and slaves and became absolutely identical, so they required two junction bridges like NVIDIA SLI for merging. But to make the CrossFire work a motherboard with a certified chipset is required. However, the same story is with NVIDIA, so ATI proved not to be a black sheep at that. The list has not been confined by ATI's and Intel's chipsets so far. Then, the famous deal of AMD's merging ATI completed, which to all appearance caused some problems in the new graphics division of AMD, i.e former ATI.

The time was passing by, and the maximum what we heard from AMD were the photos of engineering samples of a video card based on the "revolutionary" graphic processor R600 (with AMD's first chip with support for DirectX 10) and subsequent delays of its announcement. Then NVIDIA announced GeForce 8800GTX, a video card based on G80, the world's first top performance product with support for DirectX 10. In fact, GeForce 8800GTX is still taking the leading positions, so there is no wonder in that it has given up all AMD's Hi-End video cards. Even the release of AMD Radeon HD2900XT, a long-awaited flagship of the company based on R600 with support for DirectX 10, has not anyway changed the situation, having proved to be weaker than the competitor by NVIDIA. However, AMD decided to win in quantities and came up with the contrasting CrossFire combination.

Radeon HD2900XT has not gained popularity anyway; not only because of its "voracity" and excessive heat emission but also because of the high price. The new Radeon HD3000 family that currently includes Radeon HD3850 and Radeon HD3870 video cards offering a modest power consumption and heat emission, not inferior to the predecessor at performance, has proved to be a breakthrough for AMD. Of course, the price has also gone down, which let AMD to win back a certain part from the competitor. Of course, the inexpensive video cards proved right on the button for the CrossFire concept as a competitor of NVIDIA - for instance, a pair of Radeon HD3850 costs cheaper than GeForce 8800GTX, and even theoretically can take a lead at performance. But such technologies strongly depend on the drivers, so in practice all may turn out not so good as was planned, and we'll verify that.

In our today's tests, we'll be using the following video cards:

AMD Radeon HD3870 by Sapphire which we already examined earlier and by Gigabyte of which we'll tell a few words below.

We received Gigabyte HD3870 in an ordinary antistatic package, so we can't introduce you to its version in a retail package and bundled items. However, despite that, the card is worth consideration.

This is a reference Radeon HD3870, with the only difference that there are a few Gigabyte stickers on it. Judging by the sticker on the cooling system, the card must come bundled with a Neverwinter Nights 2 game CD.

The reverse side of the video card has no distinctions from the reference at all. The green sticker displays the name and specifications of the video card, i.e. Radeon HD3870 with 512 MB of DDR4 video memory.

Going on with our talk about the participants of the tests. Apart from the top-end Radeon HD3870 whose prices sometimes do not meet the recommended, we are having a pair of much cheaper Radeon HD3850 video cards, and as an experiment we'll try merging one of the new cards based on Radeon HD2900XT 512 MB. They say, that should work, which we'll verify.


  • Стр.1 - Exterior. Features
  • Стр.2 - Benchmarking. Final Words

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