We?ve seen that with CrossFire you gain some great performance but
the application is not without some annoyances. CrossFire is still more
difficult to get up and running than SLI, and the Catalyst Control
Panel has a slower response time when CrossFire is enabled. Having the
extra cabling behind the PC is only frustrating if you spend a lot of
time changing things around, and of course needing a special master
card can add some confusion when it comes time to make your purchase.
Looking back though, NVIDIA?s SLI had its fair share of problems when
it launched over a year ago but now is an extremely mature platform.
Overall we?ve encountered no issues that we?ve seen in other reviews,
CrossFire simply worked. Considering that 6 months ago CrossFire was
something that only existed behind closed doors, this second generation
has a lot going for it, and you can be assured CrossFire will continue
to improve. A dual card solution is not for everyone. Spending
$600-$1000 on video cards alone is not enough because you also need to
keep in mind that it requires a robust power supply to run these cards.
A 500w power supply is a requirement for running this kind of system
but I think very soon we’ll see that even these power supplies might not be enough.
Sound is another factor in a dual card system. I found a pair of
7800GT’s in SLI on the DFI NF4 board to be annoyingly loud. The three
fans (chipset and video cards) working against each other was simply too much for me to deal with
while not gaming. CrossFire at times was found to be even worse. When first
installing Crossfire, before the driver detects the second card, the
card fan runs at 100%. When you have a pair of X1800XT’s this is
extremely loud. Thankfully after the drivers are installed everything
is quieter, much more so than the SLI’d 7800GT’s. ATI’s chipsets are
passively cooled which makes for a quiet running system.
Heat is another thing to consider. A single graphics card does a
fine job of dumping heat into your system as it is. When you put two in
the system air flow in the case becomes very important. The X1800XT has
an advantage here as it moves most of the heat to the outside of the
case. It also draws the air to cool the card from the side rather than
sucking hot air off of the other card when in CrossFire.
As we mentioned at the start of this article, you need a CrossFire
capable motherboard which includes Intel motherboards. Nvidia is still
not allowing Nforce4 support for CrossFire so you will need to buy a
motherboard. There are many Intel users that will not own a board without an Intel chipset so CrossFire is the only
The best bang for the buck as far as dual video cards go is the
7800GT. A single X1800XL is nearly the same price but having to spend
more for the master card is the deal breaker. The X1800XT CrossFire is
easily the fastest system in our tests and of course that performance
comes at a price. The $599 CrossFire Master Card and $550 MSRP for
the standard XT put this pair of cards at a price higher than most
complete systems you will see at a LAN party.
Legit Bottom line: A single mid to high-end video card
will give you extremely playable performance in all of today’s games.
SLI and CrossFire have their own place as borderline excessive for most
people. Being able to play at high resolutions with in game settings
turned all the way up is something that is, for some, worth paying
extra for and ATI now has a competitive solution.