Definitive Multi-GPU World Tour - Part 9
Posted by Hilbert Hagedoorn on: 07/30/2006 06:00 AM [ 0 comment(s) ]
A Definitive Multi-GPU Verdict
For the youngsters among us, I'm so sorry. To all others: do you remember Tone Loc with that classic song "funky cold medina".
Cold coolin at a bar, and I'm lookin for some action, But like Mike Jagger said, I can't get no satisfaction
So I got up and strolled over to the other side of the cantina, I asked the guy, "Why you so fly?" he said, "Funky Cold Medina"
What on this fine earth did you just write Hilbert ? Well, today we are talking about products with an the X-Factor. NVIDIA's SLI and ATI's Crossfire is adding a certain X-factor to your PC. That X-factor is hard to explain as it has a certain feel and is not just related to performance. It's the fun factor, that extra little special thing.
See, whenever I install a high-end SLI or Crossfire solution that song comes to mind and it only happens with really interesting products. Funky Cold medina baby, that's what SLI and Crossfire for the PC is.
So then, what did you think ? Was this an interesting article ? I'll admit straight away that this is not what I expected it to be initially, and also I believe the timing of this article was a tad off. AM2 ATI boards were simply not available in enough volume for the market and next to that when you test high-end multi-GPU configurations you really need the best available processor to date. I would have loved to see this article being run with Conroe processors as I believe the end-results for the CPU limited games in the high-end segment would have made a better overview. I'll elaborate a little more on that in a minute. Also, two days before this article ended ATI released a driver with AFR support in it (I'll explain later what that is), which is great news for Crossfire users in terms of performance but very bad news for this article. The last two sites publishing results were in time to use this driver though.
None the less, the concept was rather unique to have nine sites work together on an article with the sole reason to show you the current status of Multi-GPU gaming and to bring you a good insight of what multi-GPU gaming can do for you. We gave you a little introduction, explained the three segments of products that the other sites got to test. We had brief a look at the mainboards, memory, processors, graphics cards selected, the workings of Multi-GPU gaming and then fired off dozens of regular and irregular games at it to see how that solution is performing.
So each of the sites responsible for benchmarking had exactly the same three setups as the other sites, then got their games assigned and did their thing - publishing results.
Guru3D.com has the "dirty" job to finalize these combined efforts by bringing you some closure. We didn't test anything so we'll conclude this series with an overview of the technology, what you need to think about when you purchase a setup like these guys tested, the overview and the result from the other sites. Getting down and dirty some would say, and you know my motto .. if it's as dirty as Christina Aguilera (that new look really doesn't suit her does it?) then bring it on !
Complex will be this verdict one wise Yoda would say and indeed, as complex as graphics architecture is these days in the last two years multi-GPU gaming became famous and infamous due to the many options, configurations, price, requirements and so on.
For a first multi-GPU world tour this is also a multi-page conclusion. That's also a first :)
Multi-GPU gaming .. what is it ?
If you just stepped into the article with this conclusion then... hey how ya doin' ? Let me explain at the very least a little about what it is. Within the confines of compatible mainboards you can increase the overall rendering performance of your games and thus increase your graphical gaming experience in several manners. Simply stated, you can run two or more graphics cards on selected mainboards, or one (or more) graphics card(s) with multiple graphics cores on it. That AMD or Intel processor in your PC is a Central Processing Unit (CPU), a GPU is a Graphics Processor Unit. By utilizing more of them whether that is two or more GPU's on a videocard or two graphics cards in one system is Multi-GPU gaming. And that was our focus, to simply look at the most competitive multi-GPU solutions available on today's market and to see how they perform and function.
One thing you should have noticed at the early stages of this article series is that SLi and Crossfire are not just about the graphics cards, it's the symbiosis of all components used in your PC - CPU, memory, mainboard, monitor, PSU and another certain factor you should not rule out - the actual games.
This is a conclusion. While the other sites have been doing the hard work we sat back and observed their progress with a dry Martini in our hands (shaken not stirred). Guru3D's task was to have a look at the data produced by all parties involved in this article, analyze that and with a license to kill we'll wrap it all up into one short and easy to comprehend conclusion !
Oy .. did I really say short ...?
Yeah, let me rephrase. It's a long conclusion as nothing in this article was crisp and clear from the beginning we started it and there are so incredibly many sides to look at. I'll do my best to keep it simple though.
We started off this all-over-the-web article explaining the importance of your entire PC if you decide to go the SLi or Crossfire path of righteousness. There are several elements you need to focus on strongly.
- What do you want to accomplish ?
- What is your budget
- Is your PC ready for SLi/Crossfire
Let's talk through a couple of things for you to keep in mind when you are interested in this technology. What do you want to accomplish ?
- Why do you want to opt for a multi-GPU sytem. What is your goal ? If you bought a GeForce 7600 GS/Radeon X1600 Pro half a year ago and current games simply do not cut it anymore, it might be interesting to add another GeForce 7600 GT/Radeon X1600 XT in your system. This will effectively increase your raw gaming power by a good amount. On the other hand, if you own a Radeon X1900 XT or GeForce 7900 GTX 512MB and play your games at 1280x1024 then you might want to hold off a little.
- You can only live with the best possible image quality and the highest resolutions (obviously you are a Guru3D regular visitor), yes Multi-GPU gaming will be your thing. But it comes at a price. Please give yourself a budget and you better be sure that it's worth all that money just to play games. FPS per USD wise high-end SLI/Crossfire is the most expensive FPS you can buy.
- Another reason to get a Multi-GPU setup is the "brag factor". It is quite cool to have multiple graphics cards in your system and make your family go 'ooh' & 'aaah'. Believe it or not this probably is 60% of the people out there buying Crossfire & SLi systems. if you are this guy then hey go for it. It's cool alright, remember my x-factor pun at the beginning.
Number two and three brings me to the next point - your budget. SLi or Crossfire gaming can be frackin' expensive (adopting Battlestar Galactica TV series censorship there. ;) This is a verdict and I just HAVE to mention this. Multi-GPU gaming starting at mid-range performance will always require a fine-tuned and hefty system, even more so in the high-end segment. But why ? There are three very important and expensive parts you need to equip your PC with to form the perfect partner for your graphics cards to work at their optimum in Crossfire/SLI mode.
The Definitive Multi-GPU World Tour continues and it's finally our turn at the plate. Our task is testing and benchmarking a set of games not commonly used in most hardware reviews, but we also take the time to check out texture filtering quality differences between ATI and NVIDIA hardware.