ATI announces dual x16 Crossfire 3200 chipset

Markham (ON) - ATI today introduced its Crossfire 3200 chipset, which was formerly code-named RD580. The dual-graphics chipset offers two x16 PCI Express slots and allows users to install two graphics cards without the need for a master/slave configuration, at least if they are not X1800 or X1900 versions.

The new Crossfire chipset pushes ATI deeper into the high-end of the gaming market, with the promise that the chipset enables a 60% overclocking capability while offering "maximum stability." The Northbridge, which is the first single-chip devices to include dual x16 PCI Express slots, integrates a total of 40 PCI Express lines. 32 of those are dedicated to graphics bandwidth; the remaining eight are kept for general availability.

ATI has been offering its Xpress 200 Crossfire chipset, but so far has lived in the shadow of Nvidia's SLI technology, which has been available with dual x16 capability for some time. According to sources, SLI will also be available in a Quad-SLI variant within four weeks. Compared to the first Crossfire chipset, the Xpress 3200 brings a bit more flexibility for users, as X1300 or X1600 graphics cards do not require a dedicated master card to enable dual-graphics functionality. X1800 and X1900 cards will still need a master card to run in tandem. Also, there is no mix and match capability - users will still need to run same-level cards in Crossfire configurations - a Crossfire X1900 card will only work with a regular X1900 card, for example.

Other features of the Xpress 3200, which is available for AMD Socket 939 platforms only, include eight USB ports, a Serial ATA controller with RAID o,1 support, four parallel ATA 133 interfaces, HD audio as well as support for trusted platform module versions 1.1 and 1.2.

ATI says that the Xpress 3200 is available for purchase today on Asus' A8R32-MVP motherboard. At the time of writing this article, we found several merchants listing the board for prices between $205 and $225; however, none of the etailers could confirm that the board is in stock.