What about our graphics contenders? We’ve been planning a "clash of the titans" story for a while now, intending to pit 1, 2, and 3-card SLI setups against 1, 2, and 4-card CrossFireX systems. This gaming comparison slowly morphed into that story—and it just so happened we had Core i7 and Far Cry 2 to add to the mix.
While AMD’s Radeon HD 4870s perform fantastically in a number of our tests
, the company has optimizations ahead of it yet. CrossFireX doesn’t always scale well, particularly where it’s needed the most—at 2560x1600. Understandably, there aren’t many gamers with 30" displays. However, we have to assume that anyone willing to buy a $1,000 CPU, $1,000 worth of graphics hardware, and a $300 motherboard wouldn’t have much trouble dropping another $1,300 on a super-sized LCD. We’re currently working with AMD to hash out some of the odd performance data we harvested, but until we have more information, we remain convinced that there is work to be done.
Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 280s fare better, though primarily at 1920x1200. Upon switching to 2560x1600, the cards seem to choke up
. Crysis, Supreme Commander, and Crysis: Warhead are all less than kind to Nvidia’s fastest boards. Nevertheless, the GeForce GTX 280 generally seems to be quicker on its toes—no doubt thanks largely to the latest GeForce 180 driver package, which is required to enable SLI on Intel X58 motherboards.
The real winner here in this Core i7/SLI/CrossFire cage match is Intel’s X58 platform and the enthusiasts who now have a choice of multi-card rendering technologies as a result of Nvidia finally making SLI licensing available. Both graphics vendors still have work to do. But now, when favor flops from one manufacturer to the other, you’re able to drop in a pair of the fastest cards—and it won’t matter who makes them.