Originally Posted by Guspaz
I'm a bit skeptical about this report.
#1: ATI hasn't even released the Radeon X800 XT out yet, only the X800. Alienware debuting with X880s is quite unlikely
#2: The cards and drivers don't, to the best of my knowledge, support per-card SLI. In fact I doubt that method can even be used in modern games due to the way shaders work. The cards may support multi-chip processing, but not multi-card processing
#3: This is a hideously expensive method to increase performance. ATI chips have had multi-chip (Multiple GPUs on one card) for quite some time. That method would have HIGHER performance chip-for-chip than Alienware's method, in addition to being LESS expensive. And it would take up less room.
Three cards? In external inclosures? That's what, 399-499$ US per card, plus the cost of the inclosure (99$?)... Up to 1800$ just for videocards and related hardware. I bet you you could build a QUAD GPU videocard for less than that (Though it would be one large, hot videocard), and it would outperform this multi-card solution.
If this IS Alienware's new technology, then I'm extremely dissapointed. This sort of thing caused the downfall of 3Dfx, and at least THEY had the chips all on one card instead of in external boxes.
This has not been confirned by AW yet, for that we'll have to wait till Tuesday. But...
#1) Alienware gets all the hardware from the manufacturers very early. Alienware has such a reputable testing program, many manufacturers use their feedback in finalizing their designs and setting up production. When you read a review including brand new hardware, the review machine is submitted to the magazines up to three months in advance. Many times these are beta components with beta drivers, but I can assure you Alienware has had their hands on the 6800 and x800 now for months. This info mentions the x800, not the x800xt, and the x800 is nearly to market so I don't find it hard to believe that AW was able to get a few for E3, beta or not.
#2) Alienware has been working on this for more than a year. This new technology includes software and hardware, so there's no reason they couldn't have designed a solution to this issue. If you recall, back in 1998 they had the ability to install and use multiple cards, I believe tnt2 cards. The first machine I ordered from them I had to choose between that and the original GeForce card, but the GeForce outperformed even the multiple cards from other manufacturers. They can, and have made multiple video cards work in their systems.
Nowadays, gaming is all about video cards, and the limit is bandwidth. With PCI Express the bandwidth ability is improved, and with the video duties split between three cards with increased pipelines, this seems like a unique solution that should work well. It may be "inelegant" (your opinion), but nobody else has a solution like this to date.
#3) The people I've talked to have said that this will be an expensive setup. It will be offered only in the ALX line of machines that will be monster systems, not just with this component, but meticulously built and tweaked systems with unprecedented attention to detail. There have always been a small number of people that are willing to pay high prices for the best system out there, and this limited edition will address their concerns.
I'll bet the external video card enclosure has it's own power source...
As for your thoughts on multiple GPU's on one card, if they could accomplish that, I'm sure Nvidia and ATi would do that. Heat and power are huge concerns, as is the ability to get bandwidth to one card. For companies that just make components, it would be difficult to sell enough of those to get the price down, if they could solve the power, heat and bandwidth issues.
What Alienware has apparently done here is take what is available to them and come up with a limited edition solution that will appeal to the people that can afford it. This isn't meant to be a huge mass produced system. However, Alienware has patents on the technology, so in the future they may be able to license it to other manufacturers if it works out.
I'm sure some companies will try to copy this, everytime Alienware comes up with something new, the other companies rip off their ideas. First was the color range everyone now offers, then the unique case design that's being ripped off everywhere you look. I guess imitation is the greatest form of flattery...
Remember, the vast majority of users will still use one video card, and that will continue to be the majority of Alienware's business. This won't be incorporated into all their machines I'm sure. Ever since Alienware first had the multiple video card set up years ago, people have been asking them to come up with new technologies that push the envelope. This appears to be an answer to that call, as is the drop in video they offer on the laptops.
I've also heard that this technology will be available on desktops at first, but they have plans on introducing it incorporated with a notebook in the future.
I'm anticipating that this will be a very custom limited run of very expensive machines, perhaps later the price will drop if it works out. I just hope I can afford one.