The 8800 GTX has represented the most powerful graphics card that sane people were willing to buy for years. The 8800 Ultra is slightly faster, but at a cost of over $600 it is reserved for those with gross amounts of disposable income. From the start, we were able to run SLI ATX and get incredible performance. Nowadays the GTX is starting to become long in the tooth as far as graphics cards go, 15 months is a very long time with nothing faster to come along. The latest games are certainly pushing even a pair of GTX’s to unplayable levels at higher resolutions. So what are we owners of 30” LCD monitors to do to get playable frames at our native resolution? Enter 3-way SLI, a fully functional and much sorted extension of the Quad SLI. NVIDIA has been hard at work on multi-GPU performance and with the limitation of only 3fps pre-render in Direct X9 and below out of the way in Direct X10, the stage is set for extremely expensive graphics solutions. For those who do not remember, Quad SLI was plagued by the fact that for the money, it was a horrible investment. It offered very marginal performance benefits in all but a select few applications and thus never adopted as the true high-end solution.
Today we will be seeing how far the technology has come along as well as what it requires to get this level of performance. Triple SLI looks great on paper, check that, it looks good on paper as long as you’re not referring to the green sheets in your wallet. The requirements are an NVIDIA SLI certified motherboard with 3 16x PCI-E slots, currently consists of either a 680i, or 780i motherboard, which round out Intel based offerings. The ill-fated AMD 4×4 platforms should also support it provided you can get an SLI adaptor that will work with the spacing. None of these boards is below the price of $200 until you cash in the mail-in-rebate. So, time to pop out the 780i for this baby, as we have yet to receive the latest 790i (more on that later).
The test setup consists of a QX9770 and stock coolers to maintain it all. For this example, we ran the core benchmark of the game you all most wanted to know about—Crysis.
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SLI overall added tremendous playability, but tri-SLI expanded upon it. NVIDIA’s 3-way SLI indeed works simply put. The problem however is that in this instance it is based on technology that is approaching the end of its life. The 8800 GTX and Ultra have all but been replaced by the 8800 GTS 512MB and the 9000 series cards have launched. The Quad SLI launch of the 9800GX2 should undercut the cost of either Triple GTX’s or Ultra’s and perform on par or better. So really the only way this is going to be of benefit to anyone is if you’ve already got a 680i or 780i and a pair of GTX’s or Ultra’s.