Multi-GPU gaming explained -- Both NVIDIA's SLI and AMD ATI's Crossfire allow you to combine/add a second or even a third similar generation graphics card (or in more GPUs) to the one you already have in your PC. This way you effectively try to double, triple or even quadruple your raw rendering gaming performance.
Think of a farmer with a plough and one horse. One horse will get the job done yet by adding a second or third horse, you'll plough through that farmland much quicker and (hopefully) more efficiently. As weird as that analogy sounds, that's roughly the same idea for graphics cards. One card can do the job sufficiently, but with two or more you can achieve much more.
So along these lines, you could for example place two or more ATI graphics cards into a compatible mainboard, or two or more NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards in SLI mode.
A Crossfire compatible mainboard is pretty much ANY mainboard with multiple PCIe x8 / x16 slots that is not an nForce motherboard.
A SLI certified motherboard is an nForce motherboard with more than two PCIe xc16 slots or a certified X58 or P55 motherboard. If your motherboard does not have the SLI certification mentioned on the box, it's not SLI compatible. Keep that in mind.
Once we seat the similar graphics cards in the carefully selected motherboard we just bridge them together, with a supplied CrossfireX connector or in NVIDIA's case, a SLI connector. Then install/update drivers, after which most games can take advantage of the extra horsepower we just added into the system.
Multi GPU rendering -- the idea is not new at all... if you are familiar with the hardware developments over the past couple of years you'll remember that 3dfx had a very familiar concept with the Voodoo 2 graphics cards series. There are multiple ways to manage two cards rendering one frame; think of Supertiling, it's a popular form of rendering. Alternate Frame Rendering, each card will render a frame (even/uneven) or Split Frame Rendering, simply one GPU renders the upper or the lower part of the frame. So you see there are many methods where two or more GPUs can be utilized to bring you a substantial gain in performance.
Let's have a look at the test setup we are using today. Welcome to the havoc of the test PC.
We'll be testing on a new P55 motherboard today, this in fact is the eVGA P55 Classified 200 -- yes the one with the gazillion PCIe slots. We use an unlocked engineering sample Core i7 870 processor and overclock it to roughly 3.75 GHz.
The advantage of a somewhat mainstream graphics card is that you'll only have one 6-pin power connector per card -- obviously you'll need three of them.
Here's how you connect three cards in CrossfireX mode.
PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 SCS3 review We test and review the PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 SCS3 today. This stock clocked Radeon HD 7850 is cooled passively, meaning it has no fans tool it down. That also means it's rather silent as it does not make any noise. But what about temperatures then you must be wondering ?
Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 2GB OC review We test and review the Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 2GB OC edition, also known under SKU code GV-R7790OC-2GD. We benchmark the product incl FCAT Frametimes. The new graphics card is intended to boost a little more performance into entry-level gaming. The Gigabyte HD7790 OC 2GB clocks in at 1075 MHz on the boost engine, packed with totally silent custom cooling.
MSI Radeon HD 7790 TurboDuo OC review We test and review the MSI Radeon HD 7790 OC edition, also known under SKU code R7790-1GD5-OC incl FCAT Frametimes. The new graphics card is intended to boost a little more performance into entry-level gaming.
Radeon HD 7990 review We review the new AMD Radeon HD 7990 including FCAT frametime measurements. The dual GPU product that you guys learned to know under codename Malta finally is released. AMD it doing it in style, two fully equipped Tahiti XT2 GPUs versus good yet silent cooling. In this review we'll look at the product, the architecture, the benchmarks, including frametime based FCAT measurements. Head on over towards our AMD Radeon HD 7990.