Triple monitor gaming on GeForce GTX 590 and Radeon 6990

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Final words and verdict


Final words and verdict

I must say that performance for both products 'per graphics card' is impressive, I mean where we could we enabled 8xAA performance and most titles can actually take that slap in the face quite well, on either card. Weirdly enough though, how do I say this right, I felt that the R6990 is the stronger performer, but the GTX 590 is simply better supported and runs a tad smoother at 5760x1200.

So again, much like the reference reviews it's a really difficult call to make as things are not cut and clear as to what product would have the bigger advantage. We discussed power consumption in the reference articles already and here both products are roughly the same. In terms of heat and noise the GTX 590 will be the clear winner. And as stated, performance wise the R6990 is the frontrunner.

Now then, the dark horse -- Quad GPU gaming with two cards is in favor for NVIDIA, the overall scaling is much better, and here again each team takes some wins and total losses.

Where NVIDIA confused me personally was the fact that initially on a P67 Big Bang Marshal (SLI compatible) motherboard we could not get the two GTX 590 cards running in SLI mode. After spending a couple of hours trying to resolve this issue it suddenly hit me. NVIDIA requires an NF200 chip (maybe even two) on the motherboard for Quad-SLI. Only then will the quad-SLI mode in the GeForce driver open up.

Now each of the GTX 590 cards already has a NF200 chip sitting in-between the two GPUs, so in theory there's no need for an additional NF200 IC on the motherboard as each card will get x8 PCIe lanes assigned to them. Still, NVIDIA requires you to purchase an expensive motherboard to get that supported. I'm sorry but that sounds like (not trying to sound like an asshat here) corporate greed and we feel it's something completely unnecessary. Heck it works fine for AMD as well right ? We do hope that NVIDIA will drop this driver limitation, as really that's what it in the end boils down to. So, you are required to purchase a (quad) SLI motherboard with NF200 bridge chip, something like the eVGA X58 Quad SLI or the Gigabyte X58 UD9, both roughly 500 EUR.

Drivers then; both teams had quirks with some game titles, Anno 1404 absolutely failed for both teams. Now, up-to 2 GPUs most titles run absolutely fine at that huge 5760x1200 monitor resolution. But as always, after 2 GPUs in your system things tend to get wahaaay more complex so you need to wonder if you really want to follow that route. If anything we again learned that lesson in the prep work for this particular article.

Setting up the monitors on either side of the manufacturers is an easy thing to accomplish. Simply go to the graphics card control panel and set up and sort your monitors, after that all will work perfectly fine. Props to the manufacturers for the ease of setup there. Both ATI and NVIDIA have researched this deeply, and the results show an easy to use GUI for the setup.

As stated, for both manufacturers the quad-GPU mode as such is a little so-so, and I'm not sure if I'm willing to recommend anybody to go for a quad multi-GPU setup. Your best bet is one R6990 or GTX 590 card (two GPUs in each card), that's where you'll see the best support. Performance wise, on several occasions you will then need to make some small compromises at a resolution of 5760x1200, but either card can render any modern game really well as long as you don't go too crazy with image quality settings and granted, if the game is properly supported of course.

Admittedly, and this might be a little personal, gaming with three monitors still is not my thing even after two days of full testing. The right and left monitor often show stretched screens, you'll have a lot of games with aspect ratio issues, you'll need to apply fixes... yeah, it's just a lot of work to get your gaming groove on to get it 100% right.
However, if it's set up and supported 100% up-to snuff then yeah, it is an excellent experience and gaming with so much resolution thrown at you is an experience all by itself. Personally, I'd rather pick up say a Dell U2711 2560x1440 monitor for under 700 EUR that will fill your line of sight extremely well while being color precise, and where the cards shown today kick ass big-time as well.

All in all the experience was definitely enough to be pleasant though -- but gaming with three monitors requires a lot of money, fixing, adapting, upgrading and driver changes. If you do not care about that, hey go for it as in the end it really is fun. But if you are that guy that needs non-complicated non-BS gaming, then just keep my remark on a 2560x1440 monitor in mind. Whatever you choose, we won't doubt for a second you'll like that choice though.

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