Two graphics cards bolted together as one? Where have I seen this idea before?
Multiple graphics solutions seem to be the latest buzzword in the industry; if a third party isn’t hashing together an ATI x1950 with two GPU chips on board then nVidia is bolting two 7950s to each other and selling them for use in Quad SLI setups – albeit sans the needed driver support. The latest iterations of this concept include the recently leaked nVidia 9800 GX2 and the now-spotted-at-CES AMD Radeon HD 3870 X2.
As the name suggests, the card consists of a pair of 3870 cores operating in crossfire on a single PCB. As might be expected, this puts the specs in line with a single 3870 but doubled up. So we have two cores running at a 777MHz clock speed, two 256-bit memory interfaces connected to 512MB of GRRD3 RAM, running at 1.8GHz with 640 stream processors.
Power requirements are impressively low with one 8-pin and one 6-pin connector being used, as seen on the 2900 XT, an obviously much slower card. It is also worth noting that these cards can still be used in Crossfire setups, and if you’re crazy enough to want to, you could plug four of these in one system for an 8-GPU total – right before being committed to an institution.
Design wise the 3870 X2 is a far more aesthetically pleasing solution than one might have expected, basically looking like any other AMD card, if slightly larger. AMD is keeping release dates and prospective pricing quiet right now, bit I would suggest “not soon” and “quite a lot” as reasonable guesses respectively for each and I would expect the 3870 X2 and 9800 GX2 launches to coincide. Assuming driver support doesn’t become as much of a hindrance to AMD as it was to nVidia’s first dual-GPU card then this should make a decent high-end stop-gap, and of course those with Intel motherboards not able to use SLI or Crossfire will be happy.