IDF ATI confirmed today at the Intel Developer Forum that they will be validating Intel's D955XBK motherboard for use with the CrossFire dual-graphics solution, and their presentation says that "ATI CrossFire on Intel 955X platforms provide superior graphics performance." This is a big departure from NVIDIA's current practice, which effectively limits GeForce SLI configurations to NVIDIA's own nForce4 SLI chipsets.
This development is also noteworthy because the Intel D995XBK motherboard is already selling in the market, and has been for some time now. This board will work with CrossFire without modifications to the motherboard design or to the chipset silicon. Only a BIOS update is required. In fact, there is a live demo of CrossFire running on the D955BK motherboard on the IDF show floor.
The D955XBK motherboard features a pair of physical PCI Express x16 slots, but the PCI-E lane allocation is a little bit unique. Slot 1 has a full sixteen lanes of PCI-E connectivity attached directly to the chipset's north bridge. Slot 2, however, has only four PCI-E lanes, and those lanes come from the Intel ICH7 south bridge chip. Graphics data going to a card in slot 2 will have to pass across the chip-to-chip interconnect between the north bridge and south bridge, causing possible latency and bandwidth constraints. This arrangement is apparently good enough for ATI, despite NVIDIA's continued reluctance to give its blessing to what it considers less-than-optimal PCI Express configurations on third-party chipsets.
Of course, all of this is just theory until ATI ships its long-expected CrossFire-enabled graphics cards to consumers. While we wait, perhaps we'll find out whether NVIDIA plans to follow suit and open up its SLI platform to third-party chipsets.
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