Markham (ON) - Yesterday ATI opened its multi-graphics-processor platform "Crossfire" to the rest of the world by lifting its embargo for reviews. With the reviews, some readers were concerned when they learned that the X8xx series of cards could not display images past a 1600 x 1200 pixel resolution at a refresh rate of 60 Hz. But ATI promises to remove that limitation with its next-generation graphic chip.
This may be true of the current cards but this will not be the way of the future. In discussions with ATI regarding this drawback to the X8xx Crossfire Edition cards they stressed that they could have made the maximum resolution and refresh rates higher but chose not to in order to support current customers.
ATI stated that in order to "support higher resolutions than 16x12 we would have to add to the cost of the slave cards, and abandon our customers that have already bought Radeon X8xx hardware." When confronted with alienating customers, ATI officials said that Crossfire was intended as a solution that "balances everything" from the feature set, component support, application support, and performance.
We took the opportunity to ask ATI about the reason for implimenting the DVI connecton instead of an internal hardware link like the nVidia product. The company stated that an internal connection would also have alienated existing X8xx series customers. If the new cards had such a link, then the existing cards would not have a way to interface with the new cards. Going forward, ATI felt that a DVI connection was the "best solution for all existing and future card owners."
As it stands, Crossfire will continue to support up to a 1600x1200 resolution at 60Hz with the current hardware. However, the company said that future cards, including the X1800 (R520), X1600 (R530), and the X1300 (R515) will not be limited to this maximum. According to ATI, this current maximum is necessary to support as many current customers as possible and that the dongle (external cable) would not be replaced any time soon.
There is one major drawback to CrossFire it that in the current form. The X8xx CrossFire Edition boards are equipped with a SiI 1161 PanelLink Receiver. This device takes this incoming data from the secondary (slave) card and processes it on the primary (master) card. The limitation is that it can only handle a maximum resolution of 1600x1200 at 60Hz. While this will not affect everyone, but for those that like to view everything in higher resolutions, they would be directly impacted. This was a short term fix to a long term solution. ATI felt that they needed to get CrossFire before the R5xx launch and certainly before the R5xx CrossFire Edition card launches. While annoying now, ATI stated that this limitation would not be an issue on the next generation of cards.