With so much going on I've become delinquent (as usual) in updating you all, but I'm hopefully at the turning point for that. Pentium D 805, Socket-AM2 and MacBook Pro were all very interesting, but right now the main thing I'm working on is performance under Bethesda's hottest title: Oblivion.

Oblivion is turning out to be the most stressful game I've run on the latest hardware, and its performance stats make that very clear. Even with a pair of Radeon X1900 XTs you are still unable to run at 1600 x 1200 with everything turned up and get smooth frame rates everywhere. Although the majority of my testing thus far has been with GPUs later this week I will start to look at the impact of the platform as a whole on Oblivion, eventually leading into CPU performance using the title.

The game itself is quite possibly the best I've played in several months at the least; that's a pretty big compliment coming from someone who historically isn't the biggest RPG fan, but Oblivion is accessible enough to make it fun for just about anyone.

My Oblivion testing put me in a situation where I had to deal with basically every GPU released over the past 2 - 3 years, which in turn left me with a handful of gripes that I don't think I've properly voiced here - most of them involving CrossFire/SLI.

Just so you all know what happens behind the scenes, whenever we write a story even remotely hinting at the idea of running SLI on a non-NVIDIA platform we usually get several angry emails from NVIDIA. And while I would never recommend purchasing a non-NVIDIA motherboard with hopes of running SLI on it, NVIDIA's reaction does highlight a much larger problem. NVIDIA, and to a lesser extent ATI, are far too focused on delaying the transition to a truly seamless multi-GPU environment in order to try and lock customers in to purchasing one chipset or another.

While in the mainstream, NVIDIA's policies don't really hurt it, at the very high end it is nothing but annoying. Although ATI's CrossFire Xpress 3200 (RD580) chipset is, finally, competitive with NVIDIA's SLI offerings the latter is simply found on more motherboards that have been around for much longer. So I can see why a lot of users would still prefer to go the safe route with a NVIDIA SLI platform instead of the ATI chipset. But if you're looking for the absolute highest performance in Oblivion, you'll want a Radeon X1900 XT(X) and if you can afford it and want even better performance you'll want two. Unfortunately that means that you've got to change your purchase around to either buy NVIDIA GPUs or an ATI motherboard, which may not be what you originally wanted to do.

It hurts ATI as well, take the example above. ASUS' RD580 board has gotten some great reviews and is a very solid motherboard, making it very good competition for its SLI x16 motherboard. But if you want to use NVIDIA GPUs with it in SLI (or with the hopes of someday upgrading to SLI) you're out of luck. Once again your GPU choice ties you into a particular chipset choice.

Although there is a lot of validation that goes in to testing and certifying SLI/CrossFire platforms, there's no harm (to the end user) in at least offering "at your own risk" support and seeing what sort of response there is. While publicly the problem is always stated to be about validation and guaranteeing an excellent user experience, the real goal is to force exclusivity within a computer.

With a tremendous install base of SLI platforms, NVIDIA is far less likely to just wake up one day and offer support for ATI and Intel chipsets (unless one of them ponies up and pays a lot of money) so instead I turn to ATI. ATI has already enabled support for CrossFire on Intel 975X platforms, and if it wants to gain further acceptance of its multi-GPU solution it should do the same on NVIDIA SLI platforms. While that could potentially hurt its chipset sales, it also has the potential of increasing GPU sales if ATI can be the only company to offer a multi-GPU solution that works on any chipset.

Ideally it would also push NVIDIA to do the same, and hopefully mean an earlier end to what is truly a silly situation. By not offering universal multi-GPU solutions that work on any platform equipped with the right number of PCIe slots ATI and NVIDIA are not working in the best interests of its customers and are rather publicly operating in the best interests of its own pockets. Although it's unfortunately rare for the customer to come first, the current multi-GPU platform situation is a bit more pronounced than usual.

ATI has already taken the first step by offering support for Intel 975X platforms, unfortunately at a time when Intel's platforms aren't very popular among gamers. While it's a nice (and perhaps calculated) gesture, I want more. The question is, will ATI go the rest of the way?

I'm headed off to the airport now, tomorrow Vinney and I have two meetings that should hopefully be the last two things that we'll need to sign off on before the house can be finished up. We're finalizing our hardwood floor stain color and I'm doing a final walkthrough with the structured wiring guy to make sure that the excessive amounts of CAT5e are where they should be. With those two things done, we hope to close on the house during the second week of May. The trip down to NC will be a short one because of work, I should be back on Wednesday with Oblivion as my top priority. If there's anything in particular you'd like to see, let me know and as always I'll do my best to include it.

Once again, I'm sorry for letting you all fall behind on updates as to what's going on but I hope to change that once this move back home finally happens. There's a lot of changes here at AT that are in the process of happening as well which I will update you all on at another time. Until then, take care and have a great week :)
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  • Turnip - Saturday, July 8, 2006 - link

    Anand has been really suspciously quiet for quite some time now.

    Anyone know what he's up to?
    Reply
  • creathir - Monday, July 10, 2006 - link

    Well, according to this blog, he is working on the house...
    (Not sure if he is building it himself... or maybe there are issues that need resolving?)

    The sad part is, getting to this blog from the mainsite is now impossible due to a bug in their code. I had to use the RSS feed to get the URL for this posting...

    Next monday will mark the 3 month point at which he last communicated with us here on his blog...

    I would say at that point the blog is "dead".

    June 5th was his last article that he wrote... He does have many other people writing for him, so that helps, but I still prefer his writing better than anyone else here on the site.

    Hopefully soon enough he will make his way back...

    - Creathir
    Reply
  • Turnip - Monday, July 10, 2006 - link

    Yeah, that's exactly how I got here too.

    I tend to prefer Anand's articles too. No offence to the others, but Anand's are, I guess, more... captivating.

    Wish I could afford to take three months off work! ;)
    Reply
  • cciesquare - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    The game wasnt that great for me. I was drawn in by the story line at first but playing it for a few hours I got bored easily.

    I guess to each his own.
    Reply
  • UlricT - Tuesday, May 16, 2006 - link

    Anand, this site seems dead without updates from you, and seems more impersonal all the time. You seem to be focusing your attention elsewhere, and I hope you at least let us know what is going on. Is anandtech becoming stale for you? I can understand that, since you have been at it since you were, what, 14? Anyways, best of luck with everything. Just felt I had to say this. Reply
  • overclockingoodness - Sunday, May 21, 2006 - link

    Just because he isn't posting on the blog doesn't mean AT is becoming stale for him. He is what he is because of AT. Reply
  • AndrewChang - Thursday, May 11, 2006 - link

    When are we gonna hear what you have to say about the Wii? We wanna know!!!! This thing looks like it'll be the consumer electronics phenomenon of the century... Haha, we maybe nopt of the century, but it looks like it could be huge. I'm kinda interested in what's running this thing, let us know!

    Love the site, as always - Peace
    Reply
  • AndrewChang - Thursday, May 11, 2006 - link

    Oops! Meant to say, "Well maybe not the... Reply
  • Crassus - Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - link

    Hi Anand:

    One thing I think I mentioned back in the days when the layout changed the last time: What do you think about expanding the Anand's Blog section to include the other main contributors to your site? Back in the days when you were the main contributer to this site it was great to know what you were after at that time - but some area seemed to have been handed over to your staff almost completely, so I think it would be nice if they had an easily accessible place to share their thoughts if they chose to participate.
    And one other thing: A rather longish time back I think you promised a more in-depth articles about the benefits/drawback of RAIDing HDDs. After the initial article this seems to have died a silent death or did I just miss the follow-up?
    Anyway, keep up the good work and I hope you will find the time to respond
    (sah32 (at) gmx.net).
    Thx.
    Reply
  • Sahrin - Sunday, May 7, 2006 - link

    CAT5e Anand? I thought you were a hardware guy. What happens when 10,000Base TX comes out and you can't run it because all you've got is UTP 5e. Psh. STP Cat 7 forever! Reply

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