I've given quite a bit of thought to the issues raised by AMD's new strategy of pairing up two mid-range GPUs to serve as their only high-end product. I've already said that, given the choice in a vacuum between one big GPU to two smaller ones, I'd rather have the single, big GPU. Our experience with the Radeon HD 3870 X2 in GRID is but one example of a problem we've seen time and again with multi-GPU cards: without a profile in the drivers, you're usually stuck running on just a single GPU. Infuriatingly, you're most likely to run into this problem when playing a brand-new game, right when you want that GPU power the most. Ugh.
However, playing with this early sample of 4870 X2 is a vivid reminder that we don't make these choices in a vacuum. The reality is that a single Radeon HD 4870 GPU is nearly fast enough to keep pace with the GeForce GTX 280. Even if you're running a game that lacks a driver profile or simply doesn't scale well with more than one GPU, the 4870 X2 ought to perform awfully well. And when it does get both GPUs going, as our results show, it's by far the fastest single video card we've ever tested. If this is how AMD rolls, it's hard to complain.
Of course, now it's up to AMD to deliver the final product, to price it right, to get its power saving mojo going, and to keep its drivers updated with CrossFire profiles for all of the latest games in a timely fashion. We'd really like to see AMD work more closely with game developers to implement profiles before new games are releasedsomething Nvidia has historically done much better than AMD. One would hope that committing to this dual-GPU path for high-end products would force AMD's hand a little bit in this regard, but we'll have to wait and see.