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ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 (RD580) —
Chipset for AMD Platform (Socket 939)

On March 1st, 2006 ATI Technologies has announced its new chipset for AMD Socket 939. The new solution is called CrossFire Xpress 3200.

It took eight months to design this chipset. It's codenamed RD580, but its engineers called it Skeletor after a comics character. The chipset has a successful design, as even its first revision became stable in 24 hours of fine-tuning CrossFire.

Note that CrossFire Xpress 3200 is a single chip, so called north bridge, which requires south bridge to get a full-fledged solution for motherboards. At least until early summer 2006, ATI will use the M1575 chip from ULi as a south bridge. Later on the company will offer its own companion chip to motherboard manufacturers. Actually, ATI manufactures its own series of south bridges. But these are quite ascetic solutions, which cannot compete with top rival solutions. But CrossFire Xpress 3200 is trying to do that.

Key features of CrossFire Xpress 3200:

  • Process technology: 0.11 micron
  • Chip size: 39 mm²
  • Number of transistors: 22 million
  • TDP: 8 Watts
  • 2 x PCIEx16 (two PCI Express x16 ports without an additional external bridge)
  • 40 PCI-E lanes in total
  • 4 lanes/4 PCI-E general ports (x1)
  • Alink2 interface (4 lanes/1 PCIEx4 port) for the south bridge

The main advantage of ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 is its support for two full-speed PCI-E x16 ports without additional bridges; this is the first chipset with such a feature on the market. The existing solutions (including Xpress 200 CrossFire Edition proper and competing chipsets) have either narrower graphics interfaces (8 PCI Express lanes, even though they end with slots of the PCIEx16 form factor), or they are based on two chipset bridges, which may bring some latencies into data transfers. Thanks to the unique implementation of two PCI-E x16 ports, motherboards on CrossFire Xpress 3200 may become a good choice for enthusiasts, who need maximum performance at all costs. It has everything necessary to use the power of two video accelerators: remember that in case of video cards based on ATI Radeon X1300 and X1600, CrossFire mode does not need a so-called master-card, which facilitates the process of building this system.

ATI emphasizes an important feature of CrossFire Xpress 3200 - a low level of heat release and stable operation at non-standard frequencies (in the overclocked mode). This makes motherboards based on the new ATI chipset attractive to overclockers, especially as the manufacturer paved all the way to overclocking. In particular, HyperTransport bus can be overclocked without raising its voltage and without any frequency divider. ATI promises that a system based on CrossFire Xpress 3200 will allow HyperTransport overclocking by more than 50% of its standard 1 GHz frequency; PCI Express bus — by 40% of the standard frequency. Such overclocking will not damage motherboard's stability. Nevertheless, any overclocking attempt is a sport, that's why the result may be higher or lower in each case.

The first motherboard on ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 is created by ASUS. The A8R32-MVP Deluxe motherboard is already in mass production, its shipments have started today. A tad later, in mid March, we can expect mass shipments of motherboards on ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 from Sapphire, DFI, ABIT, PCPartners.

March 1, 2006

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