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ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset

Asus' A8R32-MVP Deluxe mobo probed

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Review The ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset has been a long time coming, but the bad news is that ATI is only halfway there. The CrossFire Xpress 3200 PCI Express bridge is ready and working, but ATI is still working on its new SB600 South Bridge. However, this isn’t too much of an issue for the time being at least, since most of ATI’s board partners have decided to use the ULi (or is that Nvidia?) M1575 South Bridge for now.

Xpress 3200 logo

The main selling point of the 3200 chipset is of course its dual x16 PCI Express interface – a first in a single-chip solution. Nvidia already had a single-chip solution for two x8 slots, but its dual x16 solution relies on a second chip for the extra PCI Express bandwidth.

Interestingly, in a Q&A email ATI sent out just before the launch today, ATI claimed to offer more bandwidth than Nvidia and that "this also means that future applications, such as using one graphics card as a physics processor, are also impractical on Nvidia’s platform". So one can only presume that ATI is working on some kind of physics processor solution were one of the two graphics cards will be doing the physics calculations, leaving the rendering to the other.

According to ATI, the 3200 has been redesigned from the ground up and has the smallest North Bridge die on the market - it only measures 39mm². It still packs 22m transistors, thanks to the 110nm manufacturing processes. This also makes for a cool-running chip, and ATI’s TDP for it is a mere 8W.

All of this might be impressive for those that have knowledge of the technological aspects of integrated circuit manufacturing. However, for most of us the important stuff is how well it performs and how much it will cost. Although I’ve only had a couple of days to evaluate the platform so far, it is looking promising. The first board to become available in most of the world appears to be the Asus A8R32-MVP Deluxe, and this is also the board that ATI has been promoting as the launch platform.

Abit, DFI, Sapphire and PC Partner should also have boards ready shortly, although it seems like Asus has something of an unfair advantage here by being promoted by ATI. But let’s take a closer look at what is on offer from Asus and the A8R32-MVP Deluxe.

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