I frequent a few computer forums purely because it lets you keep up with what's happening on other sites and what the general thought is of the people who buy the products I review. There are two products in the graphics card market which are being talked about at the moment. The first is the new 9 series card from NVIDIA; the 9600GT has just been released, and now everyone wants to know what's going on with the new higher end 9800 series of cards due out later on.
The other graphics card is the HD 3870 X2 and its ability to run in Crossfire X for quad GPU action. However, we're all still waiting on an official supporting Crossfire X driver from AMD (said to come in next month's Catalyst 8.3 drivers).
During the usual rounds of checking out what's going on I ended up over at the OC Forums where someone found themselves with a pair of X2 cards. This isn't really all that uncommon as it's certainly not the first time that we've heard someone have a pair of X2 cards In hand.
The beginning of this month saw FPSLabs post an article about the scaling of Crossfired X2s which looked promising for drivers. Word began to leak about the drivers being on AMD's beta driver website; we tried to hunt down a set with very little luck.
Fast forward to the 14th of February and a post from the reviewer of FPSLabs popped up on OC Forums. He proceeded to write:-
"Hello, I am the reviewer from FPSLabs who tested the cards in Crossfire X. We were able to get our hands on the first Crossfire X driver directly from someone with access to AMD's ORC (Online Resource Center). A new version of the driver was posted simultaneously with Catalyst 8.2, and with any luck we should be getting some results for that one pretty soon as well.
Unfortunately, distributing this driver to the public would basically sever what little ties that we have to AMD, so I won't be able to do that.
AMD has stated the driver will be released in Q1 2008, and since it is already mid-February, I suspect that means we will see it sometime in March.
I feel like the drivers are already mature enough for a public release and that AMD is losing a lot of potential Crossfire X customers due to the lack of availability of drivers that enable the technology. Their loss I guess.
Good luck in your hunt!"
The interesting part of the above statement is that he mentioned how stable the driver was. AMD are not in a good state these days when it comes to graphics cards, let alone CPUs. While the HD 3870 is a great card, the green lights are turned right up making it hard to see any red.
It sounds like everyone is waiting for CeBit to do anything, but the problem is people are ready to buy now. AMD really needs to strike while the iron is hot and give people the chance to run the HD 3870 X2 in Crossfire.
It wouldn't be so bad if the driver team came out and said "Yes, the driver is fairly stable, but there are these issues at the moment." or any other form of status update. This is all too much of a familiar feeling as we really went through the same thing when NVIDIA released the GX2 , and their driver never really eventuated either.
AMD are going to run into a problem when they release the HD 3870 X2 driver. That problem is that the hype is going to be gone on the card and everyone will be waiting for the 9800 series of cards from NVIDIA. AMD needed to get the driver out there in line with the release of the cards so they can start cranking out the high 3DMark scores and get the attention of people.
It only takes a second to venture across to the Futuremark website and see what the top 10 Most Popular DX10 Graphics Cards is at the moment. Spot 1 - 6 and 8 are taken up by NVIDIA 8 series offerings while ATI have spot 7, 9 and 10. It's not even like AMD have 30%, as when you add up the % of results of the seven NVIDIA cards in the top 10, they actually accumulate to 85.54% of the total runs.
The strategy for AMD should have been simply to leak the Crossfire X driver out so people could get all excited about it coming. Without making it official, people really have nothing to complain about but everything to get excited about. Come March, everyone is going to be busy testing the new 9800 series of cards to worry about last-gen HD 3800 cards from AMD.
While we look forward to checking out the Catalyst 8.3 driver suite which will support Crossfire X, ultimately our focus will be on the new 9800 series of graphics cards from NVIDIA; and no doubt this is transitioning not only to other tech websites, but also the readers alike.