So what do we learn from this way too long an article? Well Paracetamol (Tylenol) is a good thing when making tests like this. That's why we included it in the photo on the first page. Dude, I see numbers everywhere -- what a headache ugh.
Pun aside, the 3.2 GHz Core i7 processor used in this article seems to be a very good match for heavy weight Multi-GPU environments, whatever your preference is: 3-way SLI or QuadFire. You will not likely run into CPU bottlenecks anytime soon. That's of course until ATI and NVIDIA release faster cards again, which is bound to happen anyway. But in retrospect the Core i7 platform is a fantastic platform for multi-GPU gaming as you'll gain heaps... seriously heaps and heaps more performance opposed to today's regular PCs with a Core 2 Duo processor.
An emphasis on this article: Now if you read other reviews, you'll notice that the performance results are much closer to each other as what you have just seen. It's very simple, with current single GPU graphics cards anno 2008 and heck even SLI up-to say GeForce GTX 260, that Core i7 processor with the X58 and Triple channel memory combo will not be able to show what it is really capable of. See, up-to that point your GPUs are under heavy stress and max out, while the CPU sits there waiting for the GPUs to place compute request.
The ideal situation for Core i7 965 as used today is a multi-gpu system faster than GeForce GTX 260 SLI. From roughly that point onwards you'll start noticing massive differences between last-generation platforms.
The downside: Realistically if you own say a GeForce GTX 280, and a current say Core 2 Quad platform, it will be fast enough for that VGA card. In fact it would be much harder to spot performance differences at all.
In such a situation, think of Core i7 as a processor with a lot of spare power for future upgrades. But from that point of view, really, there's just no need to upgrade as the difference will not even be that big.
It's weird to grasp I know, but it is the reality of the situation.
So guys, I really hope you enjoyed this article. Seriously, it was a heck of a lot of work to accomplish, the hours I put into this article are absurd. Measuring performance on so many configurations and platforms was literally nauseating, and I'm not even talking about the time it took for driver installations to finish, something which haunts NVIDIA as it takes very long on their multi-GPU systems to install.
Did I not like what was tested then? Oh hell no... I just love Lucifer (the name of this X58 PC -- coughs).
More good news is that, with the titles tested, we really didn't run into any weird issues like crashes or anything. NVIDIA's cards work instantly with SLI, after installing the 180.43 driver, except for the 9800 GX2 SLI which miserably failed in a lot of tests. Two or three cards in SLI worked all the time and 100%. Props to NVIDIA for that as that really was an impressive experience for what is a very complex set of hardware.
CrossfireX also was an extremely pleasant experience, though on two occasions the X2 would not kick into CrossfireX mode. I cannot urge ATI enough to look into user based profiles. See, if a game is not yet supported in the driver, it wont activate in Crossfire. If you as a user can manually select a game executable and apply a crossfire profile to it, that problem would be solved. NVIDIA has had this ever since the beginning. And ATI... well I just don't understand why to date it hasn't been implemented in the drivers. Everybody knows ATI is doing profiles in their drivers, why not give the end user control over it, right? That way, when a new title is released you add a profile, flick your rendering preference and rock hard. Quick, easy, handy.
But that aside, this was an awesome experience.
There's no doubt the Core i7 processor and X58 combo rocks hard and seems to be a truly excellent match to today's multi-GPU based setups. If you empty your bank account (which actually is the better thing to do in today's global financial crisis ;) and get your setup just right, then the experience is awe-inspiring. Allow me to make it very clear though, a setup like tested today does not make any sense money wise or power consumption wise and neither will I defend that. But, yeah... it's a lot of fun.
I'm closing this article now, but we had a lot of parties involved making all this happen, I wanted to thank the parties involved. First off, BFG technology for quickly shipping out the three GTX 280 cards. The guy responsible actually arranged it from his bed, as he had the flu. These guys rock and make a lot of articles on Guru3D.com happen. Much respect.
Of course Intel, for providing us this 731 million transistor count disciple of the beast, called the Core i7 processor. They have driven CPU computing to an entirely new level. OCZ technology was kind enough to quickly fly in some of their finest DDR3 2000 MHz memory, and dang... that's a load of performance on the X58 mainboards for sure. Check out our soon to be released ASUS P6T Deluxe article where we'll clearly show you what this memory can do. Next in the random line, ASUS - the 3-way SLI test was conducted on their Asus X58 Rampage II Extreme motherboard and to date I still have wet dreams about it. What an incredible piece of hardware.
NVIDIA - for their consistent, persistent and very helpful support, yet also for their first really erotic technology terminology insertion. It's called their "Big Bang" driver, which is a phrase that still confuses me in a weird sexual way. But that might just be perverted old me of course :)
ATI - Dude... have they been strong this year, and this article shows it. They've been absolutely stunning in terms of support and getting their gear over here -- User based profiles boys, user based profiles.
Alright, that's it you guys. We have plenty of other articles related to X58 and Core i7 planned for the upcoming week or so. It was a great pleasure to serve you content like this, and we certainly hope, whether you can afford it or not, you enjoyed it. I most certainly did.
If you haven't done so please read up on Core i7 processors in our launch article first, you can click here to read that article.
** Update: page 19 added, Intel Core 2 Quad Q9770 Extreme performance result on 3-way SLI as requested by readers.
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