[FoRK] Alienware ALX

Gregory Alan Bolcer gbolcer at endeavors.com
Wed May 19 09:38:30 PDT 2004


Alienware introduces next generation video array
technology.  Diff from scan line interleaving, it
breaks the screen down into segments and adds
hardware load balancing and quality metrics.

Greg
-- 
Gregory Alan Bolcer, CTO  | work: +1.949.833.2800
gbolcer at endeavors.com  | http://endeavors.com
Endeavors Technology, Inc.| cell: +1.714.928.5476


[1] http://www.alienware.com/alx_pages/main_content.aspx#1

ALX Frequently Asked Questions

     * What is Alienware’s Video Array?
     * What is Alienware’s X2 motherboard? When will Video Array and the 
X2 motherboard be available?
     * What is ALX?
     * When will ALX launch?
     * Does the PCI-Express standard allow anyone to do this?
     * Will I be able to use an ATI card in the same system as an Nvidia 
card?
     * Will this require driver support from the graphics card 
manufacturers?
     * What type of performance can we expect from Video Array?
     * Isn’t it true that most games now are CPU limited thus making 
this solution not worth while?
     * Do the Application/Game developers need to modify their code to 
support Video Array?
     * Does the Video Array Technology work similarly to SLI (Scan Line 
Interlace)?
     * Does each video card process 50% of the screen?
     * Is the image quality affected by Video Array?
     * Can we plug two dual head PCI-Express Video Cards to power 4 
monitors?

What is Alienware’s Video Array?
Video Array, Alienware’s exclusive patent-pending innovation, enables 
two high-performance PCI-Express video cards, (exact cards from the same 
manufacturer) to process graphics commands in parallel, thus 
significantly increasing the graphics performance. It includes 
proprietary software and hardware, including a video merger hub which 
ultimately merges the individual signals into one image.

What is Alienware’s X2 motherboard?
Alienware’s exclusive, patent-pending motherboard, based on Intel’s 
Tumwater chipset, includes two PCI-Express graphics slots, and was 
developed specifically by Alienware to support Video Array.

When will Video Array and the X2 motherboard be available?
When launched, Alienware’s Video Array and X2 motherboard will be 
available only on ALX systems. It will launch in Q4 of 2004.

What is ALX?
ALX is a sub-brand of Alienware high-performance systems. ALX systems 
will offer an even more highly customized and personalized experience 
than customers have come to expect from Alienware systems. Much like a 
distinguished brand, Alienware ALX systems will feature the latest 
innovations in performance and service from Alienware. Anticipated 
offerings include; factory over-clocking, water-cooling, custom case 
accents, dedicated sales and support, factory-installed games and 
software, 24-hour PC game tips and codes, and much more.

When will ALX launch?
ALX systems will launch June 2004.

Does the PCI-Express standard allow anyone to do this?
PCI-Express will not allow this out of the box. Alienware is using an 
exclusive software solution as well as a video merger hub. Both 
solutions are patent pending and were developed in house by Alienware. 
In addition Alienware has developed a dual PCI-Express graphics slot 
motherboard (X2). This motherboard is exclusive to Alienware and is also 
patent pending. To Alienware’s knowledge, no other motherboard currently 
supports dual PCI-Express graphics slots. The X2 also utilizes all 
available PCI-Express lanes provided by the Tumwater chipset, supports 
DDR2-400 memory and includes 6 ports for high-performance SATA RAID 0, 
1, and 0+1 configurations. The X2 includes SATA on a 66MHz PCI-x bus, 
Gigabit Ethernet, and 5.1 Dolby Digital audio. It will also be dual 
processor capable.

Will I be able to use an ATI card in the same system as an Nvidia card?
As stated before, you must use identical cards form the same 
manufacturer. In addition, Alienware’s video array is designed to be 
independent of graphics chipsets and will use off-the-shelf graphics 
cards. The system supports both OpenGL and DirexctX9 (including support 
for the latest version of Pixel and Vertex Shaders) and will scale 
easily as graphics technologies advance.

Will this require driver support from the graphics card manufacturers?
This will not require driver support from the graphics card 
manufacturers. The system was designed to be stand alone using 
Alienware’s Video Array (including software and merger hub) and X2 
motherboard.

What type of performance can we expect from Video Array?
Preliminary testing shows performance gains of more than 50%. The more 
graphics intense the application, the more performance increase gained.

Isn’t it true that most games now are CPU limited thus making this 
solution not worth while?
Older games tend to be CPU limited because they were designed with older 
GPU’s. The latest games and next-generation titles like Doom 3 and 
Half-Life 2 will tax even today’s GPU’s. Alienware’s Video Array will 
enable gamers to play these games and applications at high 
resolutions/settings, with uncompromising quality and performance. This 
solution will also be used in the professional design and engineering 
space as well as for real time rendering solutions.

Do the Application/Game developers need to modify their code to support 
Video Array?
No, as mentioned, Video Array technology works with any application that 
supports DirectX or OpenGL. The applications do not need any special 
modifications or coding. Video Array uses Alienware designed API logic 
that allows any existing game/application to work with it without any 
modifications required. Alienware is, however, working with leading game 
developers to develop custom game levels that will take advantage of 
Video Array by being extremely graphics intense.

Does the Video Array Technology work similarly to SLI (Scan Line Interlace)?
No. SLI is a technology developed and used by 3dfx, where each card 
rendered alternate lines (one card would render the odd lines, the other 
card would render the even lines). Video Array Technology divides the 
screen in multiple parts. In the case of using two video cards, the 
screen is divided, vertically, in two parts: one video card renders the 
upper section, and the second video card renders the lower section.

Does each video card process 50% of the screen?
Video Array uses a ‘Predictive Load Balancing’ technology that evaluates 
on each frame the processing load for each GPU. Based on this, it 
‘predicts’ the load distribution for the next frames, and adjusts the 
‘Split Ratio’ accordingly. While the system always starts at a 50% 
split, as the content of the screen changes, the ratio changes 
accordingly (75/25. 85/15, 80/20, etc., etc). This logic enables Video 
Array to maximize the use of the graphics processing power from each card.

Is the image quality affected by Video Array?
The resulting image quality is not affected by the use of Video Array. 
In fact, due to the increase in graphics processing power, it is now 
possible to turn on all the enhancements provided by the video cards at 
resolutions much higher than previously possible. There are no visible 
artifacts resulting from this.

Can we plug two dual head PCI-Express Video Cards to power 4 monitors?
Certainly. The X2 motherboard sports two PCI-Express high performance 
graphics slots. Populating these with high performance dual-head video 
cards opens up the door for 4 monitor application. For instance, one 
possible application is for flight simulation, where one monitor can be 
used for the front view, two other for peripheral view, and the fourth 
one for the control panel.












More information about the FoRK mailing list