The two new additions to the test suite, Age of Conan and Race Driver GRID certainly beef up the portfolio of advantages AMD has in the current generation. Not only that, but we got quite an interesting surprise with GRID. Yes, even with R700 the menu screens were slow, jerky and painful at 2560x1600. But gameplay showed amazing advantages over RV770 in crossfire. We will still see the upper limit at twice the performance of a single RV770, but the fact that R700 looks to offer at least the potential for much better scaling than two card solutions is a major unknown quantity that could significantly improve the value of R700 over competing single and multi-card solutions.
But as we've said many times before, the success of CrossFire is in the consistency of it's performance. We absolutely need to see AMD put everything they have into making all games past, present, and future scale well with CrossFire. There needs to not be even the inkling of a question that CrossFire might not improve the performance of a game. Until then it is very risky for AMD to put all of its hope for the high end business into a multi-GPU solution.
Maybe they've done it. Maybe their driver team, by the time 4870 X2 launches will have improved driver support to where it needs to be. Maybe the changes to the R700 hardware will be enough to fill in the gaps and bring performance up closer to the theoretical limit for many more games. The information we have here (especially GRID at high res) shows the incredible potential R700 has, but it will be absolutely necessary to wait until launch day to see if the execution behind the hardware has been enough to realize this potential across the board.
This isn't a case where the quality of the hardware, but rather the quality of the driver and programming style of modern game developers will be key in delivering value. For the launch of this card we will be looking at as large a cross section of games as we can, as the importance of broad testing has never been more clear than with AMD's first part after their declared strategy of using single card multi-GPU solutions to compete in the high end space. We will need to see more examples of improved single card multi-GPU performance over CrossFire, as well as improvements in CrossFire performance in general if AMD is to be taken seriously going forward in the high end space.
The 4870 X2 will be AMD's proving ground. This preview shows what might be, what could be ... but we must wait for final hardware and final drivers before we can honestly evaluate the card for what it is. Let us hope AMD knows how important having pervasive compatibility really is for this launch.