NVIDIA 3-way SLI review 3x XFX 8800 Ultra
Posted by Hilbert Hagedoorn on: 12/13/2007 02:00 PM [ 0 comment(s) ]
Okay guys, this is not the regular review you can expect from Guru3D.com; too short, too little benchmarks and no Single Ultra and 2-way SLI results have been done yet. All we where able to show you was the overall scaling performance among a bunch of popular cards. Also, we really wanted to look at higher AA modes versus performance more in-depth. But I had less than a day to manage this entire article, and that's next to all other stuff we have going on.
Therefore, after Christmas / early next year I will look into re-testing everything more properly. We'll likely also move onwards to a 780i platform with Penryn processor. We already have that setup, yet it's too beta to use right now + it's being utilized for the actual review TBA soon. But at least you have a bit of an idea of what to expect. I hope you can appreciate that as I pushed extremely hard to get you at least a sneak peek at today's launch.
A small pointer if you actually plan 3-way SLI. Get loads and loads of cooling in your PC. We have our PC side-window open at all times for the photo-shoots. Unfortunately that also blocks ambient airflow in the system. When you have a high-end system and then add three pretty hot graphics cards, you're bound to run into some kind of issue. Ours was heat, there just wasn't enough airflow and the cards just heated up wat too much, that made my initial SLI tests unstable. After adding a fan (blowing air in the rear end of the three cards) the problem was gone. So please remember ventilation, this has nothing to do with a silent PC gaming rig.
My second note I want to make is that if you plan to get 3-way SLI, you should do it only if you can game in a high enough resolution and seriously, only if you really care about high AA modes. Then and only then it might be worth the purchase. Older games will without a doubt run into CPU bottlenecks blocking the cumulative performance increase, current games will show improvement and only a dozen or two games will actually show incredible performance increases. Also this SLI technology is young and inexperienced, so expect some problems. But for a first series of tests most certainly did not disappoint. That's the reality.
Yesterday evening when I was playing COD4 at 2560x1600 with 4xAA and 16xAF at over 80 frames per second, I was just a really happy man. Unbelievable, and that's the stuff you could achive with gear like this.
Alright, let me do this real simple. Here's my 3-way conclusion then:
- Friggin fast!
- Friggin expensive!
- Friggin fun!
Oh that doesn't cut of for you? Okay okay ...
So let there be no doubt, 3-way SLI works ... plain and simple. You will however run into a couple of games that hardly benefit from it. CPU limited games as stated above. When your processor can't communicate it's data fast enough towards the graphics card driver, the cards can't render any faster. Now with newer games that's just not the entirely the case. Some games however need to be optimized to take full effect of the 3-way technology. Crysis is one of them. The one game I really wanted to try out at 1920x1200 with Very High quality settings. Ah well ... it'll be updated soon. Other than that we can say where every there is a serious GPU limitation, 3-way SLI will kick in nicely.
The fact that you have to drop 1800-2000 USD on the graphics cards alone does however not justify all this. Seriously if you can spend that much money for playing games then please ... let me get you my bank account number ! No I stated it already in many high-end reviews, this is the quest for the biggest e-peen, and yes mine got tickled. There just is no way to justify the incredible amount of money you have to drop into this system. Let's do some math, 250 for the mainboard, 1800 for the GTS or Ultra graphics cards, 200 for the memory, 275 for a E6750 processor, 300 for the 1200W PSU, 200 on HDDs and then the generics like chassis. So that's 3000-3500 bucks easily and I didn't even mention a 30" LCD, did I? Ouch that's hurtful. But I need to make this very clear. You can not justify this purchase in matters of bang for buck, no friggin way.
Point 3 - Expensive or not, if you buy a setup like this ... I wouldn't hold a grudge against you, no ... as I do understand you my man. This is fun, so much fun you have no idea. Other spends a lot of G's on their car. Other like yours truly spend way too much money on PC gear. So although we have made the "badabing-cheching" issue pretty clear now we can't deny how much fun it is. I own a 30" 2560x1600 pixels LCD and face it, if you have that resolution you'd like to use it, right? Thing is, we'd always need to forfeit on AA and AF, texture quality etc to make sure you can play at an acceptable framerate. No more! You can do so with 3-way SLI. The new 3-way SLI implementation in the drivers actually works really sweet.
When we released our Quad-SLI article we had a lot of reservation regarding the success of it. Times have changed and I can say with full confidence that NVIDIA took a path here that's going to be incrementally more successful. The hardware supports it, the the driver support is there, and the majority of modern games will actually benefit from 3-way SLI. Hideously expensive or not, this is all about the ultimate fun while playing games. 3-way SLI is like Paris Hilton. Why Paris Hilton? Simple ... She's living fast and is sweet & sexy, a little slutty perhaps ? And who can really afford her ...
Sounds familiar, eh?
Small yet final hint, SLI and future 3-way SLI users on Vista, please grab this patch from Microsoft, it improves 2-way and 3-way SLI scaling.
Many thanks to XFX for providing the Ultra's (Oeltra's) for this review. And again, after the Christmas season, we'll have a much deeper look into 3-way SLI. This was just the early teaser.
For XFX 8800 Ultra info: XFX Graphics
If you had a close look at the 8800 GTX & Ultra, you'd notice there's a second SLI finger (connector) and to date there has been a lot of speculation about that extra connector, to name one .. it could have been an extension for physics over a third card. The truth is often to be found in the most simple and logical solution, it was all about SLI from the get go. If you have one of these rather expensive cards you can now link up three cards and enable 3-way SLI.