DFI, Asus demo CrossFire boards

COMPUTEX — I was a little bit surprised to see that not too many motherboard makers are showing off ATI CrossFire-ready motherboards here at Computex. Gigabyte, Abit, Shuttle, and Foxconn don’t have theirs out to show, although Abit does have a ATI reference board running in its booth. Two of the motherboard makers we met with yesterday, however, did have live demos of their CrossFire mobos running. The most prominent of those demos was from Asus, which has it Pentium-oriented LGA775 board encased under plastic at the center of its booth for all to see.

This board is called the P5RD2-MVP Deluxe, and it combines the ATI Radeon Xpress 200 CrossFire north bridge with the ULi VT1573 south bridge. Asus says the demo system is running a Pentium 4 670 3.8GHz, Kingston DDR2 DIMMs at 750MHz, and a pair of Radeon X850XT cards. Note that all cooling on the board itself is passive. That should keep onboard noise limited to two screaming video cards and the massive CPU cooler, thank goodness. Asus told us this would be the only live demo of a CrossFire board that we would see at Computex, and they were right—for about 30 minutes.

Then we visited DFI, who is working on a LANParty version of ATI’s Radeon Xpress 200 CrossFire chipset for the Athlon 64. They have this Socket 939 board hanging on the wall in their booth, like so:

This is a six-layer, Socket 939 board that boasts an ATI south bridge with High Definition Audio support, a Promise SATA controller with four ports of 300MB/s SATA, PCI-E switch chips to redirect PCI Express lanes to one or two video slots (one x16 or two x8) without jumpers, and DFI’s nifty mag-lev fan to keep noise levels low.

We were whisked away upstairs in DFI’s booth, away from the show floor, where this mobo was running in a live demo with a pair of graphics cards.

Curiously, the first thing DFI showed us was what they described as a pair of slave cards running together cooperatively. The DVI output to the LCD display was only hooked to one of the two video cards, and the system was running 3DMark05. I asked how the cards were sharing data, and the gent pointed to the north bridge chip between the two cards. When 3DMark finished, the score came out like so:

So, uh, I suppose a CrossFire master card with an image compositing engine isn’t strictly necessary for multi-card acceleration. He said that you could hook up the monitor to the DVI output on the secondary slave card and see only half of the frames when the cards are rendering in alternate-frame mode, but I utterly failed to force him to show me out of foolish politeness. He also told me that the two cards must be an exact match in order to run in dual slave mode.

The dude from DFI then swapped in a true CrossFire master card from ATI alongside one of the the X850 XT PE cards and proceeded to flash the slave card to what he said was a Radeon X800 BIOS, so it would match the CrossFire card. Both had dual-slot coolers that looked for all the world like X850 XT cards, but whatever. He then ran 3DMark for us again, this time with the video cables daisy chained as one would expect for a CrossFire config:

This master-slave configuration with slower cards produced a slightly lower score than the dual-slave X850 XTs, but it was still crazy fast. I noted, as 3DMark’s Game 3 test ran, that there was some slight frame-to-frame jumpiness that seemed rather out of place, since everything else looked so very smooth and fast. Apparently, this setup still isn’t working 100% as it should, but the performance promise is obvious.

Comments closed
    • albundy
    • 16 years ago

    man, 4 slots? is ati freakin crazy? What about my scsi card? HDTV tuner card? high end sound card?

    I have slightly turned my head to the gigabyte GV-3D1-68GT dual GF 6800 ultra 512mb dual 256bit card. Unfortunately it probably costs more that my whole system. Head turning towards a wildcat…

    • d0g_p00p
    • 16 years ago

    meh… where the hell is that damn Saphire board at. My dual cascade system is almost a go. must have mobo now.

    • sigher
    • 16 years ago

    This is silly, just slam a few gpu’s on one card, or make a dualcore gpu already.

    • ieya
    • 16 years ago

    Kyle doesn’t seem to think the dual-slave setup is a goer:

      • Krogoth
      • 16 years ago

      Duh, that’s pretty darn obvious considering that D3 has a 60 FPS cap and ATI’s OpenGL drivers are still quite a step away from Nvidia’s own level.

    • DukenukemX
    • 16 years ago

    Nvidia’s SLI only works with supported games. Is this the same with ATI’s version?

    • rei
    • 16 years ago

    did you see any fully-featured mATX boards? ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Zenith
    • 16 years ago

    Hahahh, that DFI board has no room for either PCIe 1x or regular PCI cards. Good going SLI/Crossfire.

      • Corrado
      • 16 years ago

      You can use one of the PCI slots, they have a diagnostic card in it. And I’d be upset I can’t use the PCIx1x slots with all of those cards that are on themarket.

    • rgreen83
    • 16 years ago

    Why the heck wouldnt ATI be screaming this from the rooftops if it were generally doable? It sure would be nice to have the option of either two cards, no bridge; or one card and another different card later with a dongle, if you cant find the same card as the first anymore.

    hehe, that word dongle just makes me giggle! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • lindy01
      • 16 years ago

      Yawn…..and what will you do with all of that power……….run 3dmark all day???

      I mean if one of these cards can make the latest graphically heavy games……(all of which are stale games now) run really good then WHY would anyone need this?????

        • Krogoth
        • 16 years ago

        to compensate for the lack of size in certain body parts. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          • samadhi
          • 16 years ago

          I just typed this leaning back with my hands behind my head, does that mean I should forget CrossFire?

    • PRIME1
    • 16 years ago

    Did you guys get any pictures of the dual gpu cards…..I know they are not from ATI but you could still post em.

    • FireGryphon
    • 16 years ago

    I’m liking the direction in which all this ALI/CrossFire technology is moving. Keep up the hot reporting.

      • thanatos355
      • 16 years ago

      hell yeah! ati is doing this right! none of that “you have to do it our way or no way” BS that nvidia did! that dfi ati board will be the next board i own. next feb, that board and an x2 4400 will be the heart and soul of my rig! cant fudging wait!!!

      edit: or i should say, so long as it oc’s well. ๐Ÿ˜‰ being a dfi lanparty board though, it will HAVE to!

      • Ricardo Dawkins
      • 16 years ago

      I think it’s ATI

        • SonicSilicon
        • 16 years ago

        Since you’re nitpicking, it’s ATi
        Capital A; Capital T; lowercase i

          • indeego
          • 16 years ago

          What are you smoking? Their logo may have a lower case I but their corporate name is all uppercaseg{<.<}g

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 16 years ago

    nifty…DFI must like you guys ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Skyline57GTR
    • 16 years ago

    Whoa….it would smoke those 6800 SLI. ๐Ÿ˜€

    EDIT: I found Doom 3 benchmark also
    ยง[<http://www.anandtech.com/printarticle.aspx?i=2432<]ยง it was running on double X850XT PE

    • BooTs
    • 16 years ago

    I’m a little too tired to figure this out for sure, but does this mean I can buy a new xfire mobo, and then make my X800 XL, and X700 Pro play nice?

    Edit: First! woot. P.S. I love it when you say dude.

    Re-Edit: Oh, guess I’d need another X800 XL. Hmm.

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