I had it all planned out, my last blog would go live before the weekend and then on Monday morning you'd be hit with a barrage of CrossFire benchmarks. But I guess this is one of the problems of dealing with pre-release hardware, it rarely works perfectly on the first (second, third or fourth) try, and it always gives you a tough time when you need it to cooperate most. Derek and Wes spent a lot of time debugging the issues with the platform, finally after a few days of despair they managed to get the system working and producing reliable results. So check out Derek's preview here.

As I alluded to in my last post, CrossFire is great and all, but with no R520 it's pretty much yesterday's news at this point. ATI isn't the only company to have botched up the execution of a product; if you'll remember back to NVIDIA's nForce launch, the chipset shipped several months after their initial Computex launch, but they haven't repeated the catastrophe in such magnitude since. If ATI is to be taken seriously as a chipset maker, this can't be the way they launch products like CrossFire. There's more to talk about on the chipset/motherboard side of CrossFire, but I'll let Wes address that next week.

I've been playing with Gigabyte's i-RAM all week and I've had the review done, except for a handful of questions that needed answering from GB's engineering. I just got those answers at around 3AM so I'm going to work on putting the final touches on this piece over the weekend, to go live Monday morning. It's an interesting little card but I don't want to spoil it for you all so I'm going to do that new paragraph thing right about...

This weekend there's a retirement party for my aunt (she's actually a new aunt, picked her up during the whole marrying into a new family deal) so sometime today Vinney and I are going to head down to NJ to kick off the weekend. It should be a lot of fun, especially since the last time (and the first time really) I saw most of these folks was at/around our wedding last August.

Now it's time to do the whole cooking for sustenance thing, have a great weekend folks :)
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  • Anonymous - Sunday, July 24, 2005 - link

    ive been one since my ti4400 ;) Reply
  • Jalf - Sunday, July 24, 2005 - link

    #12 Oh yay, now we can all become NVIdia fanboys instead of ATI fanboys... Who cares? Reply
  • anonymous - Saturday, July 23, 2005 - link

    #11 "but it's the benefits[for]of being, a home user that boggles the mind"

    I think there are many applications that the i-ram, ramdisk, would be useful for.
    some examples: - video editing, Uncompressed video is huge and the hard drive transfer rate is a bottleneck when moving\editing these files.
    - fast loading OS-windows xp
    - super quiet computer because hard drives make some noise, important data could be backed up on a USB flash stick or compact flash
    - load your current favorite game so loading is much faster and game-play is smoother (Half-life 2 stops during levels to load data, this is annoying and no fun waiting)
    HL2 is more than 4 GB's so 2 ramdisks would need to be in raid 0, unless you can connect them directly \ daisy-chained

    If i-ram is compatible with registered,ECC memory you could use much larger DIMMS 2GB,4GB but they are expensive. Maybe prices will drop soon with demand for ramdisks.
    I want this product and hope it works well.
    Reply
  • Daniel - Saturday, July 23, 2005 - link

    Hate to say it ATI fanboys - but told ya so.
    If you look at the performance increase with doom3 at 1600x1200 with 4xaa (a likely setting for doom3 on crossfire) the performance increase in the preview (with technology developed monthys later then the original computex) is 70.6%, from 40.5 to 69.1 fps. Look at the original anand "performance test" with the driver dropping odd frames that you all swore was just an example of crossfire performance. It magically saw an 86.4% increase, from 36.9 to 68.8 fps. see now how the driver was a lie? thats a 22.3% lie in how much performance would be gained (thats an entire fifth). im glad this has been exposed.
    Reply
  • Heron Kusanagi - Saturday, July 23, 2005 - link

    I seriously will wonder what can the i-RAM offer the home user, though. I can think of some situations in which the coporate user will have benefits, but it's the benefits of being a home user that boggles the mind. For me, anyway.

    I hope someone can enlighten me on how the AA modes on ATI's CF can match nVidia's SLI. Or even better, Anand, please write an article on different AA modes...
    Reply
  • Mark - Saturday, July 23, 2005 - link

    #8, thanks for telling me the trade-offs. I'm obviously not smart enough to know this myself.

    However, you are completely wrong to say that you won't be able to install much at all. Most people would put 4 1 gig modules on it. This is actually cheaper than high capacity hard drives used to cost. With 4 gigs, you could install XP, microsoft office, the full adobe suite, and still have space left over. This is a lot more than a *FEW* modern applications. In fact, it is likely all that most people use frequently.

    What you could not install on it is a lot of games.

    Of course, you would still have a hard disk in the system to store other info such as critical data, games and dvds. You would also have an image of the i-ram on the hard disk so you could quickly restore it if you should lose total power for many hours (not that this has ever happened to me). You wouldn't even need to update the i-ram image on the hard disk regularly once you have finished installing the applications you use.
    Reply
  • blah - Saturday, July 23, 2005 - link

    sorry Anand as this may be a little off topic, but if you could be so kind. Is increasing ILP or IPC better than going multicore. If i understand correctly it is not easy to increase ILP or IPC so therefore the alternative was to go multi-core if i remember ILP stands for information level parallelism but i don't remember IPC hopefully you remember all of this stuff so i don't have to worry about it. but if you could be so kind, thanks Anand. Reply
  • SV - Friday, July 22, 2005 - link

    #6, the trade-off there is that you'd have to actually install things on volatile memory (the problem with that is obvious). The arguably more significant trade-off is that you really won't be able to install much at all, and you'd have to pay through the ass to get enough space to install the OS plus a few (FEW) modern applications. Reply
  • OzzFan - Friday, July 22, 2005 - link

    Concerning CrossFire and SLI - I understand the whole point for the companies seems to be to sell more cards and get roughly double the performance, but wouldn't it make more economical sense to, say, build a larger PCB with two graphics processors, double the RAM, add in the PPU (Physics Processing Unit) capabilities and voila! have double the power with less hassles of configuration issues?

    I can't see a need for small graphics cards (especially the target demographic these setups are going after), and most users have plenty of space in their systems. I just think these companies could do better with their R&D by coming up with better cards without resorting to complicated dual-card setups. I would think the ROI would be much higher with a single card that's twice as powerful instead of two cards sharing the power.

    As for i-RAM, it's concept sounds interesting and I can see some uses for it. I'll just have to wait for the full reviews to see if it will be beneficial to me in theory. Although it sounds like having a better disk cache would be the more intelligent thing to come up with - after all, that's the point of a disk cache in the first place, to speed up system performance. I'll just have to wait and see.
    Reply
  • Mark - Friday, July 22, 2005 - link

    #4, it is a speed thing. With the os and major applications on the i-ram, loading up programs will be much faster. Disk caching doesn't help the speed the first time you start up a program since having rebooted the computer. However, it is also clear that disk caching doesn't work as well as you would like.

    Consider this. Reboot your computer and then start up Word (or even more Adobe Illustrator). Takes a while. Shut the app down, and then load it up again. Sure it is faster as some of the program is in the disk cache, but you still hear the hard drive grinding away and it isn't anywhere near instantaneous. This is presumably because the os still checks the hard disk to make sure that the application is the same. Hopefully the i-ram will get rid of this problem as the app itself will now be in ram.
    Reply

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