Asus's CrossHair IV Lets You Mix Nvidia and ATI GPUs

By Will Greenwald

Asus's upcoming AMD-based CrossHair IV Extreme motherboard sports some impressive features, according to information gleaned from leaked photos we've acquired.

Asus's upcoming AMD-based CrossHair IV Extreme motherboard sports some impressive features, according to information gleaned from leaked photos we've acquired. The board sports built-in Core Unlocker and OC Turbo Key buttons for overclocking certain processors, and includes integrated power and reset switches for tinkering while the board's naked. A feature called Blutooth RoG Connect lets users change system settings from other computers over a Bluetooth connection. Finally and most notably, the CrossHair IV Extreme appears to feature a Lucid Logix Hydra chip that lets users mix and match their graphics cards from either Nvidia or ATI.  
 
Dual-card configurations are nothing new. Half a decade ago, ATI introduced CrossFire and Nvidia introduced SLI, the companies' respective multi-GPU systems. CrossFire and SLI let users install multiple Radeon or GeForce video cards on their computers to boost their graphics-processing power. Both systems were initially limited and tricky to configure, requiring a master-slave connection between exactly two graphics cards. Since their first implementation, though, both CrossFire and SLI have evolved a great deal. The current generation of CrossFire, CrossFireX, can handle up to four GPUs at once, mixing and matching both single-GPU cards like Radeon HD 4890 and double-GPU cards like the Radeon HD 4870 X2. The current generation of SLI can support up to three compatible cards at once, or four GPUs with two dual-GPU cards like the GeForce 7950 GX2 or GTX 295.
 

 
who you ask and when, decided by which brand has the faster high-end graphics card currently out. Since both CrossFire and SLI are expensive and impressive configurations, it individually boils down to brand loyalty and either what hardware you have on-hand or how deep your pockets are.
 
tests of an early Hydra-based system, and the results were impressive. The test system used a Radeon HD 4890 and a GeForce 260GTX card working in concert with each other. While dedicated dual Radeon HD 4890 and dedicated GeForce 260GTX configurations always beat out the combination set-up in different benchmarks, the mismatched cards consistently performed better than either single card, and often slightly better than one of the dedicated dual-card setups. The testing was performed on development hardware provided by Lucid, however, and might not reflect the performance of retail Hydra-based motherboards.
 
Lucid first made waves in 2008 when it unveiled the Hydra chip. The concept officially became tangible a year later, when MSI signed on to produce an Intel motherboard that used Hydra, officially named the Hydra 200. While Lucid planned to see the first Hydra products ship in 2009, MSI pushed back the motherboard to 2010. The MSI Big Bang Fuzion finally shipped in January. Now, with the unveiling of Hydra on Asus' CrossHair IV Extreme motherboard, Hydra is available on both Intel and AMD systems.