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ATI Radeon X2800XT with CrossFire rumored for Apple's next Mac Pro

The centerpiece of ATI's next-generation graphics card line may make its first appearance as part of an upgrade to Apple Inc.'s Mac Pro line of professional desktop computers, according to an online report.

Revealed in a photo published by the The Inquirer on Monday, a version of the card —codenamed R600XTX —was initially pegged as an OEM model for large system manufacturers. However, a subsequent report from the publication claims the specialized card was designed specifically for one customer: Apple.

The mammoth red beast, measuring some 12.4-inch in length, is about 3-inches larger than the industry-leading GeForce 8800 card from NVIDIA. It's said to include a four-pronged heat pipe with vapour chamber technology to provide amble but quiet cooling.

When it makes its debut as part of the ATI X2800XT series later this March, it's rumored that the card will feature 1GB of 512Mbit GDDR4 memory running at 2.0GHz. The graphics core itself will reportedly be an 80nm chip clocked at 800MHz —significantly faster than the GeForce 8800's 1.8GHz memory and 575MHz core.

While there appear to be several versions of the ATI card that will slowly make their way to market —including a 9-inch retail variant and slightly down-clocked dual-chip offering —the model destine for Apple is expected to debut first and introduce CrossFire support to the Mac.

CrossFire technology, which requires a compliant motherboard with a pair of PCI Express (PCIe) graphics cards, essentially allows users or system manufacturers to pair graphics cards within a single system to improve graphics performance.

ATI Radeon X2800XT

ATI X2800XT (codenamed: "Dragons Head", R600XTX ) Source: The Inquirer

Precise release date and pricing specifications are currently unknown. However, the card is likely to cost Apple significantly less than the dual-chip X2800XT2 solution, which The Inquirer has pinned at around $600.

Apple, which has held a brawny update to its Mac Pro workstations within its labs since last fall, has reportedly deferred on a release until a time closer to a roll-out of Adobe's Intel-native Creative Suite 3.0 software bundle.

The 8-core Xeon-based powerhouse would be the only system within the Mac maker's arsenal capable of adopting the new ATI card.