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ATI Puts NVIDIA's SLI in the CrossFire

Conclusion

With CrossFire, ATI has seemingly done most - but not all - things better compared to NVIDIA's offering. ATI's CrossFire, for example, offers the freedom to choose different card configurations, such as the possibility to combine X800 with X850. CrossFire also offers more dual rendering modes and SuperAA to enhance picture quality. What's more, CrossFire supports all DirectX and OpenGL games.

Provided you have the matching motherboard, you can upgrade effortlessly to a CrossFire system with a second card. NVIDIA's SLI falls down here because it demands an absolutely identical second card. Some ATI fans will still be a little disappointed - they had expected that they would be able to combine any Radeon card without additional measures.

The only area where NVIDIA's SLI comes out ahead is its price. Given that the CrossFire Edition models are practically full-blown XT-PE variants, the X850 for one is comparatively pricey. If you already have a Radeon X850 Pro for $350 (€299), for example, you will have to add $460 for the X850 XT PE CrossFire option. So instead of paying $700 (€600) for two X850 Pros, you would hand over more than $800 (€800)- without even being able to take advantage of the added performance of the second card (16 instead of 12 pipes). Owners of a fast X800 model will come off lighter. A target price of $299 (€279) for the 256 MB model and $249 (€229) for the 128 MB version of the X800 CrossFire Edition is comparatively good value compared with a Radeon X800 XT PE.

How ATI's CrossFire fares in direct comparison with NVIDIA's SLI must await the former's completion of hardware and drivers - apparently not far off now. Until then ATI will hopefully also decide to give users more options to influence the various CrossFire modes.

Update

ATI's latest pronouncements put the Radeon X800 CrossFire Edition on a par with a X800 XL (R430) graphics card and not as originally reported with a X800 XT (R420). The dual performance of an X800 XT (slave) card can only be exploited with a connection to the Radeon X850 CrossFire Edition.