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ATI's announces the latest perk of CrossFire

Two's company, three's a crowd -- that is a saying around these parts. ATI is looking to make "three" the magic number when it comes to physics on desktop PCs. ATI today announced at Computex an asymmetric CrossFire configuration that allows gamers to pair two graphics cards in a traditional CrossFire mult-GPU setup with a third graphics card dedicated solely to handling physics. This would also explain why ATI has been winking and nodding for manufacturers to include three physical 16x slots on their new motherboards according to our well-placed sources.

This opens up a whole new level of possibilities when it comes not only to physics in current and future games, but also has the potential to shape how a gamer chooses to upgrade his or her rig. Take for example a gamer that is using a single Radeon X1600 Pro graphics card right now and decides that they want to kick it up few notches and go with dual Radeon X1900 class graphics cards in CrossFire mode for maximum performance. Instead of simply tossing the Radeon X1600 Pro aside to collect dust in a corner somewhere or selling it for much less than you paid for it, you can now (if you motherboard supports it) use that “odd man out” to do some actual work.

ATI is of course thrilled with the possibilities that this opens up for gamers (along with the possibility of gamers going out to buy yet another ATI-based graphics card) and is throwing more resources into its CrossFire certification program. This latest move in CrossFire physics is an intriguing solution and one that could be quite a bit cheaper than a dedicated physics solution for gamers who already are packing dual ATI graphics cards. Here's a statement from ATI's press release:

"The addition of physics to the CrossFire platform, and the continuing evolution of CrossFire is based directly on the feedback of hardcore gamers - CrossFire is not ATI's platform, it's gamers' platform," said Godfrey Cheng, Director of Marketing, Platform Technologies, ATI Technologies Inc., responsible for ATI's CrossFire strategy. "Asymmetrical physics support, broader certification, and untouchable overclockability are a direct result of gamers' input. CrossFire will continue to evolve to be more open, flexible and easy to use without sacrificing performance, and it starts with boundless gaming."

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Two problems I see...
By segagenesis on 6/6/2006 8:18:04 AM , Rating: 3
For starters, why not just copy nVidia and make a stacked double card for the first slot and then give the option for the 2nd slot being useful for other tasks? Having 3 graphics slots on a board rather than 2 or 4 makes about as much sense as demanding Microchannel slots. Why not just have the 2nd card do physics in a 2 slot configuration?

Given the Phys-X and its technically important yet rather unimpressive debut, is all this fuss about accelerating physics really that big of a deal? I can only keep thinking back to 1995 and the year of the 3D decelerator when having hardware 3D was slower than software.

RE: Two problems I see...
By phatboye on 6/6/2006 8:34:02 AM , Rating: 3
The 3 slot configuration is for people who upgrade their computers down the line like he said in the summery above. Yes putting two GPUs on a single card would be great but not everyone could afford such a card. Instead what ATI is suggesting is that customers could buy one card at a time until they have 3 cards in total, two dedicated for GFX processing and one dedicated for physics processing.

Your solution would be better though if GPUs weren't so expensive.

as far as your second point is concerned, this is AGEIA's first product so don't expect it to be great. As time goes by and the AGEIA engineers get more time to perfect their product I'm sure their PPUs will get substantially better.

RE: Two problems I see...
By goku on 6/6/2006 1:36:53 PM , Rating: 2
Actually no, his idea really DOES make sense. If you've got the money for two X1900XTX etc.. then they should just allow the consumer to just stick with dual slot motherboards, turn that old X1600 into a phyiscs card, and then purchase a dual X1900XTX card instead of buying two cards so that you need three slots and a redesigned motherboard. Sticking with two slots is a better idea, just use the second slot for the physics card and the first slot for a dual video card. If they do get three slots boards, it would be for quad card crossfire+physics. Eitherway I'd still rather have a company like ageia become successful with their physics card as it's not easy to pioneer in a technology like this, plus I don't have to buy another motherboard just to get physics which I would have to if I were to go with the ATI idea. Physics card+PCI/1X/2XPCIe slot IMO makes more sense, you don't really need all that bandwidth, it's not like they're textures or anything..

RE: Two problems I see...
By randomlinh on 6/6/2006 8:45:58 AM , Rating: 2
hey, w/ 3x16xPCI-e... we can have sextuple cores driving our games!

The power requirements of video cards have become insane very quickly

RE: Two problems I see...
By Master Kenobi on 6/6/2006 8:57:47 AM , Rating: 2
Yea, can anyone give me a figure of how much ampage I would need on my 12v Rails to sustain this kind of monster? I know the current crossfire needs around 35A or 38A on the 12v Rails, now add in a third?......... 45-50A?........................... Think I'm gonna have to pass, I don't know of ANY single PSU that has that much ampage. Might be time to look into that second mini-PSU for gfx cards.......

RE: Two problems I see...
By Hypernova on 6/6/2006 9:47:40 AM , Rating: 2
Can't help but feel sorry for the power supply designers, their work is gonna be a living hell come next year.

RE: Two problems I see...
By peternelson on 6/6/2006 1:19:58 PM , Rating: 2

As a recent anandtech story pointed out, the next generation graphics cards will take even more power.

They said that psu makers were already working on 1000W, 1200W maybe 1400W to supply the needs of such monsters.

Therefore 3 current gen video cards should be powerable off those new psus when they come.

RE: Two problems I see...
By rrsurfer1 on 6/6/2006 10:04:27 AM , Rating: 2
I can't believe what some of the power requirements are. Competition certainly is causing ATI/NVIDIA to increase performance at any cost.

Just FYI - current is the correct word to use rather than "ampage". Current is measured in amps, and ampage sounds like voltage, so this is a common mistake.

RE: Two problems I see...
By schwinn8 on 6/6/2006 3:31:15 PM , Rating: 2
"ampage" is certainly wrong... but it doesn't have to be "current"... amperage is certainly a viable term, and a real word.

RE: Two problems I see...
By Thrawn on 6/6/2006 10:57:52 AM , Rating: 2
PC Power and Cooling makes a 1 Kilowatt PSU that could handle it as it supports 66A but it costs $500 so I don't think it is something that many people will use. I think their 850W unit could also barely support the setup.

RE: Two problems I see...
By ET on 6/6/2006 12:00:04 PM , Rating: 2
Frankly, the 3D decelerator was still the thing that impressed me most, for some reason. I'd seen Quake on SGI machines, and later I loved the Unreal graphics (including when running at 320x200 at 9fps on a Rage II+), but nothing to me was as impressive as seeing Tomb Raider bilinear filtered on a ViRGE.

RE: Two problems I see...
By ViRGE on 6/6/2006 4:47:10 PM , Rating: 2
I like your thinking.

RE: Two problems I see...
By fenderkb76 on 6/6/2006 6:54:09 PM , Rating: 2
The problem with two cores on one card for the purposes of SLI /Crossfire on one card is that it basically borrows PCIe lanes from the 2nd PCIe slot. I'm not sure that you would have full bandwidth on the empty PCIe slot. Some of the lanes would be used wouldn't they. I believe this will also depend on the chipset involved...dual 8x PCIe vs. dual 16 PCIe

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