Okay we know, we tend to get a little repetitive with this question & chapter, but honestly... is there anyone who visits this website that doesn't know what SLI & Crossfire is? Well surely the regulars know the idea and principles. But it never hurts to explain what we are dealing with today.
Both NVIDIA's SLI and AMD's ATI Crossfire allow you to combine/add a second or even third similar generation graphics card (or add in more GPUs) to the one you already have in your PC. This way in theory try to double, triple or even quadruple your raw rendering gaming performance (in theory). The more GPUs, the worse the scaling seems to become though, two GPUs in most scenarios, is ideal.
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 the weight of that plough is distributed much more evenly. 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 Crossfire compatible motherboard, or two or more NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards in SLI mode on a compatible motherboard.
A Crossfire compatible motherboard is pretty much ANY motherboard with multiple PCIe x16 slots that is not an nForce motherboard.
An SLI certified motherboard is an nForce motherboard with more than two PCIe x16 slots or a certified P55, X58, P67 or Z68 motherboard. If your motherboard does not have the SLI certification mentioned on the box, it's likely not SLI compatible. Keep that in mind.
Once we seat the similar graphics cards on the carefully selected motherboard we just bridge them together, with a supplied Crossfire connector or in NVIDIA's case, an SLI connector.
Once you install/update the drivers, the Catalyst control Center will detect the second GPU, after which most games can take advantage of the extra horsepower we just added into the system.
Screenshot of three cards with Crossfire (CFX) enabled in the CCC control panel.
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 Super tiling, 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.
Here we have an example of three cards bridged for Crossfire mode. If at all possible leave room in-between the cards for better airflow. The way we had to set it up is not efficient ...
Of course things get a little messy cable management wise when you add cards, you'll need multiple PCIe PEG power headers to feed this beast of a setup, and we'll need a PSU that can provide enough wattage as well.
A question that we receive a lot is this, What is the difference in-between Crossfire and CrossfireX mode ? If you use the very same cards in multi-GPU mode, that is Crossfire. However However if you mix models, say the R7970 with a R7950 .. that's CrossfireX mode.
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