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Are nVidia's SLI Cards Worth the Investment?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the plans-for-the-future dept.

Graphics 98

aendeuryu asks: "So there's a lot of buzz right now about nVidia's SLI architecture, which allows for two video cards to be placed in tandem PCI-express sockets on the same motherboard to share processing. Based on the relatively low price of a PCIx 6600GT, and the promise of it dipping further, it would seem like a good idea to invest in one and an appropriate motherboard, so that one can upgrade later, right? So, for anybody who's actually got the setup at home, have SLI cards shown themselves to be worth the investment?""There are two problems with the current state of SLI:

  • It's hard to tell what software companies plan to take advantage of the SLI architecture when coding their games -- Doom3 and Several Benchmark software tests show a significant improvement over non-SLI setups, whereas some games like Far Cry actually show a performance hit over single video-card setups.

  • At the moment, the upgrade path actually requires two identical cards, so you'd have to choose your initial purchase extra carefully to make sure your model is still around when it's time to upgrade.
What does the future hold for SLI, or, for that matter, the ATI counterpart, AMR?"

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No (3, Funny)

reynaert (264437) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688360)

says /me who is still using a Matrox G400 with 4MB RAM in his desktop.

Re:No (1)

psergiu (67614) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688490)

Matrox Rules. We need no stinkin' sli 'cause the Matrox cards don't have any 3D performance to speak either :)
(still using my trusty G400MAX/32Mb)

Re:No (1)

dago (25724) | more than 9 years ago | (#11704119)

Well, I'm still using a G400 as well, but you should remember that your card was one of the fastest card available in ... 1999 ?

Re:No (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11688804)

I have a Matrox Millenium II in my server. And it's awesome. God how old is that card?

But the only computer games I play are Master of Magic and Bandit Kings of Ancient China (Wu Song).

Re:No - warning, off topic! (1)

cypherz (155664) | more than 9 years ago | (#11689091)

Master of Magic kicks ass! MOM is one of my all-time favorite games! Wish there was a version for Linux.

Re:No - warning, off topic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11691356)

Ya know what.... I actually play it on my server, but I have seen things about people getting it to work under linux. Just remember to get the 1.31 patch that actually makes it playable.

I've kicked around the idea of trying to write a game like that from time to time, but my art does in fact suck. Blow it up, make bigger maps, maybe more than two planes, more units and the potential for more units or customizable units...mmmmm, and throw in some d20 game system, and damn!!! I bet there's already a bare engine that could support most of that too.

Re:No (1)

Thu Anon Coward (162544) | more than 9 years ago | (#11691880)

that's all? geez, I still run a #9 Imagine series II w/ 4MB RAM. solid card, no problems.

Re:No (1)

cloudmaster (10662) | more than 9 years ago | (#11713773)

My Number9 card got moved into a server machine when I got a fancy new Diamond FireGL 1000. Hooray for kick-butt 3D performance, boo for Dimaond not writing drivers for any platform (even Windows) that actually utilized the thing. :(
cloud233:~ # cat /proc/pci | grep VGA
VGA compatible controller: Number Nine Imagine 128v2 (rev 2).
cloud233:~ # uptime
11:25am up 34 days, 16:22, 1 user, load average: 0.12, 0.03, 0.01
Anyway, you can't fit 1600x1200 @ 32 bits into 4MB - you're limited to 16-bit color. Gotta have 8MB for 24- or 32-bit. Well, actually just a shade over 7MB, but 7's no power of 2...

Yeah, I rebooted it a month ago to install a new kernel - it's been running for about 7 years, though (I need to update glibc sometime - it's getting tough to compile lots of the new programs)...

where can i get one of those? (1)

doorbender (146144) | more than 9 years ago | (#11690477)

I still have a S3 Virge GX with the nitro 3d/gx 1.0 chip installed on the card.

I remember when the Matrox G400 came out ... and I still want one.

Worth the Investment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11688380)

What about F/OSS drivers?

You want to play games or show off your 3DMarks? (3, Interesting)

Dr.Opveter (806649) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688419)

I just recently replaced my (3-year) old Geforce 2 MX for a Geforce 6800LE. I got to unlock the pipelines and an extra vertex shader and i run it at stock speeds. Most recent games work pretty well on high detail setting and resolution up to 1280x1024.

I'm sure a SLI setup would give me even more frames per second, but i doubt i would have use for it. If you like to show off your 3DMark scores though, go ahead, you're gonna score better. In a couple of years my card will be 'old' of course, and i will have to put detail on 'low' again for the latest and greatest FPS, but i will probably upgrade the whole machine by that time anyway, over time you get more performance for your money usually so i'll be getting a better thing than SLI by then.

Re:You want to play games or show off your 3DMarks (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688701)


it won't do well with Everquest2 at 1280x1024, the gfx on eq2 will not be seen on the max settings for some time to come

Re:You want to play games or show off your 3DMarks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11690934)

Yea, but that wouldn't be an issue if they knew how to write a decent graphics engine. Its really crap.

Re:You want to play games or show off your 3DMarks (1)

iamcadaver (104579) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688916)

My GeForce2 MX 400 is looking long in the tooth too.
It's perfectly adequate for pumping mythtv to my widescreen ( with a line doubler ), so I'd like to dedicate it to that.

That said, the 6800LE is $250?! What's the best sub $75 3d card for x.org? Still the GeForce2?

I did pledge $100 to the Open Graphics Project [duskglow.com]
slashdot [slashdot.org] articles [slashdot.org]

I think I'll just sit on my wallet till it comes out.

Re:You want to play games or show off your 3DMarks (1)

Quattro Vezina (714892) | more than 9 years ago | (#11689225)

That said, the 6800LE is $250?! What's the best sub $75 3d card for x.org? Still the GeForce2?

You can get much better than a GF2 for $75. A quick search on NewEgg shows that you can get a GeForce FX 5200 (AGP) or GeForce PCX 5300 (PCI-e) for less than $75. There was even one GeForce FX 5500 for $67.

Granted, almost all of their sub-$75 cards are out of stock, but it still gives a good idea of the going price--I doubt other stores would be much more expensive.

Re:You want to play games or show off your 3DMarks (1)

shadowzero313 (827228) | more than 9 years ago | (#11689436)

low end geforce FX cards are horrible on games that even look at PS 2.0. I returned my FX5200 and got a geforce4 TI 4200 for about 70 bucks a year and a bit ago, and was very happy with it. I just bought a 6600GT, and I'm even happier now. Only get a lowend FX if you can turn off directx 9 features in the game, it can't handle it. In halo PC demo, in silent cartographer at the first structure you go in, outside with the covies the FX drew 3 or 4 FPS, the Ti 4200 pulled 25 easily.

Re:You want to play games or show off your 3DMarks (1)

iamcadaver (104579) | more than 9 years ago | (#11689477)

Games? Nah. Some MAME stuff.

GL capable for music eye candy and such.

nvidia's HUGE driver is the first to get the finger pointed at it whenever anything hiccups on a system, you know?

I think I reasoned it out for myself above that I'll sit and wait for the open graphics card.

Re:You want to play games or show off your 3DMarks (1)

arkanes (521690) | more than 9 years ago | (#11690935)

I bought a 128MB FX 5200 for $45 from newegg a couple days ago. That's still plenty more than a GF2 MX. Which, incidentally, is what it will be replacing.

Re:You want to play games or show off your 3DMarks (1)

LordMyren (15499) | more than 9 years ago | (#11691982)

the Geforce 4200 was far faster than the 5200. The 5200 was criminally bad. It has 4 pixel pipeliens which could do 1 texture/pass, whereas the 4200 was 4/2. you cannot play anything modern on a 5200. fsck, i my 4200 died a couple months ago & i need a video card.

I've been a die hard nvidia fan since the geforce series, but the first thing I do when mentioning nvidia is spend 30 minutes badmouthing the 5200. nVidia should be ASHAMED for such a piece of junk.

Dont get a 5200. the 4400's are cheap and dead center between the 4200 and 4600. else step up and get a 6200. If you really want a 5200, get a 440 MX, its almost the same thing.

techreport table [techreport.com] o' video cards.

Re:You want to play games or show off your 3DMarks (1)

vonsneerderhooten (254776) | more than 9 years ago | (#11696981)

Oh yea? Well i've been an nVidia fan since the 3DFX days!!

and yes the 5200 does suck ass.

Re:You want to play games or show off your 3DMarks (1)

Tower (37395) | more than 9 years ago | (#11717431)

A 128MB 5700LE will run ~$75 from Newegg, ans that works out pretty well (and is quite o/c capable). I got the 256MB version and even at the base clocks it smoked my GF2MX400 (ha!)... work great for most things, though it can certainly choke on the newer games if you start upping res and such...

Re:You want to play games or show off your 3DMarks (1)

scheme (19778) | more than 9 years ago | (#11690040)

My GeForce2 MX 400 is looking long in the tooth too. It's perfectly adequate for pumping mythtv to my widescreen ( with a line doubler ), so I'd like to dedicate it to that.

That said, the 6800LE is $250?! What's the best sub $75 3d card for x.org? Still the GeForce2?

Get a ATI 8500 or a 9200. Both are full supported with 3d acceleration using the x.org drivers since the specs are available. I think you'll get better performance than with your gf2 mx400. If you want something faster then you'll need to go with a nvidia card since the ati binary drivers suck.

Re:You want to play games or show off your 3DMarks (1)

cowbutt (21077) | more than 9 years ago | (#11690264)

What's the best sub $75 3d card for x.org?

If you don't want to be bothered with nVidia's closed drivers, the ATI Radeon 9200/9250 should work out-of-the-box with a recent version of x.org and provide 3D acceleration.

Support companies who provide (some) code and docs for Free software!

Re:You want to play games or show off your 3DMarks (1)

iamcadaver (104579) | more than 9 years ago | (#11690814)

Thank you both. I didn't know ATI opened some of their specs. I've bene so burned by their terrible WINDOWS drivers, I could only imagine how horrid it was on other platforms.

Re:You want to play games or show off your 3DMarks (1)

cowbutt (21077) | more than 9 years ago | (#11697882)

I wouldn't want to give the impression that the Free ATI drivers included in the standard X.org and kernel trees are flawless, but I've also had crashes from the nVidia closed driver, and I've got more faith in the open drivers becoming flawless - eventually - than closed drivers in general.

That, and wasting several hours recently trying to get nVidia's most recent drivers working with the latest FC3 errata kernels on a Toshiba notebook really puts me off using ANY closed drivers in the future (hint: revert to 6111 and patch the kernel AND the nVidia kernel driver - details here [nvnews.net] ).

Far Cry Performance (5, Informative)

he1icine (512651) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688455)

Far Cry performance *IS* improved with SLI as long as you are running above 1024x768 so says Anandtech:

http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=2284 &p=14 [anandtech.com]

and if you are going to drop $800-1200 on video cards, you are not likely to still be gaming at 1024x768, but your credit card might be weeping.

Re:Far Cry Performance (1)

HaloZero (610207) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688799)

I don't understand why everyone totes FarCry. Sure, the game LOOKS great, but a game that looks great and doesn't have a storyline to speak if is worthless.

Re:Far Cry Performance (1)

Quill_28 (553921) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688864)

Guess you didn't like Myst eh? Me neither.

Re:Far Cry Performance (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 9 years ago | (#11689896)

Myst had a storyline embodied in several books. IIRC the game was based on the books.

Re:Far Cry Performance (1)

Jthon (595383) | more than 9 years ago | (#11691104)

Actually you are wrong. The books are based on the games. So while the games didn't really have much of a plot the books were written to fill in all the details you don't get from the games. Surprisingly a boring game made for an ok book (not great but ok).

Re:Far Cry Performance (1)

ADRA (37398) | more than 9 years ago | (#11690734)

It has a story, go here, now go there, no go back there. Don't you get it? Its shakespearean!

Really though, Story or no, I actually enjoyed playing the game from start to end. Other games like Doom 3 became boring after 30min story or not.

If you want story 'driven' games, you are probably deep in bed with Final fantasies & other dialog heavy games. Not that they're bad, but playability is the key for many ppl.

Re:Far Cry Performance (1)

harrkev (623093) | more than 9 years ago | (#11692001)

I don't understand why everyone totes FarCry. Sure, the game LOOKS great, but a game that looks great and doesn't have a storyline to speak if is worthless.


What was the storyline behind Tetris??? And how about Bejeweled?

And in chess, nobody ever actually explaines why the black and white kings hated each other in the first place! And don't even get my started on backgammon!

I guess my point is that if the game play is particularly engaging, then you do not need no stinkin' storyline.

But then again, the gameplay in a FPS is pretty limited. The only difference is storyline, graphis, weapons, and enemies.

I think it;s worth it and the idea is great. (3, Interesting)

generalleoff (760847) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688459)

I havent yet bought in yet but I very much like the idea of being able to have 2 high end graphics cards working together sharing the load.

I'm planing on building a high end HTPC setup using two 4:3 projectors capable of 1920x1440 each in parralel for a spaned screen size of 2.667:1 or 3840x1440.

This setup will allow me to show a movie on one projector while playing a game or looking at a website on the other projector or using the combined size of both for watching movies/playing games.

I think PCIe and SLI will allow this to be done without taking a heavy hit on the system or being a pain in the ass to deal with like it is right now with using AGP and PCI in combo.

Re:I think it;s worth it and the idea is great. (4, Informative)

psergiu (67614) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688527)

There are A LOT of cards with 2 (or even 3) outputs on the market now. You don't need 2 cards. And /even/ if you decide to put 2 cards (that support SLI) in your PC, you will have to REMOVE the SLI cable to get 2 outputs :)

Re:I think it;s worth it and the idea is great. (1)

generalleoff (760847) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688694)

Yea that is a good point. You would have to remove it woudlent you? :)

Duel output wont realy help me though cuz I want each projector to be able to work totaly seporate from each other as well as together. Meaning I want to be able to have full controll over there reselutions depending on what I'm doing. One showing a HDTV program at 1920x1440 while the others maybie playing an SNES rom in ZSNES at 640x480.

My current AGP card has twin DVI outs but it does not grant me the ability to controll each one as well as I would like but yea had totaly forgot about there being a loop back cable kinda deal on SLI...

I guess having twin PCIe cards will still work but I would not be able to share the resources.

Re:I think it;s worth it and the idea is great. (1)

iainl (136759) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688768)

Does it not? My GeForce 4Ti runs one monitor at 640x480 and the other at 1024x768 without any complaints, so I didn't realise that wouldn't be the case elsewhere.

Re:I think it;s worth it and the idea is great. (1)

generalleoff (760847) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688912)

Yea my card makes me set both to the same screen size. If I want to send a movie to my HDTV at 1280x720 I must also run my PC at 1280x720. It's an early GF4 and I forgot what model it is but I know it was not the most high end avalible at the time.

I'll look into it more. If I can do it and do it reliable on a single card and without taking a hard hit on framerates if I end up doing something like playing a grahpics heavy game while watching a high res HDTV program or something then 1 card is alot cheaper and definitly alot better on system tempture.

I dont realy want to get so off topic talking about stuff other then SLI now but what I realy want is for this to be seamless. If I have my desktop spanned across both projectors (as one image)and then I open a movie and tell my media player I want to send it to projector 1 I want projector 2 to compensate and automaticly reset itself to 1920x1440 and only use 1/2 the screen. When I close it I want it to re set itself to 3840x1440 and take both projectors again.

Past dealings with multiple monitor setups have shown me that it can be a real pain in the ass to do it in a reliable and seamless way so thats what lead me to think 2 cards would be better then 1.

Re:I think it;s worth it and the idea is great. (1)

recursiv (324497) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688998)

I can do everything you mentioned on my cheap ass GF4 except high frame rates, but I don't play 3d games. Everyting I've read says that multiple cards only tends to decrease reliability and seamlessness. All video players in full screen only take one screen. I sometimes watch full screen ripped dvds on screen while surfing on the other. Save your money!

Re:I think it;s worth it and the idea is great. (1)

generalleoff (760847) | more than 9 years ago | (#11689093)

Thanks. Good to know :)

Re:I think it;s worth it and the idea is great. (2, Funny)

NRP128 (710672) | more than 9 years ago | (#11690526)

Umm...just FYI, i don't know what that other guy is talking about, but there is no pass through cable or anything. These aren't Voodoo2s, the SLI is done completely through the PCIe slots and a daughter card that bridges the two cards together inside the case. With two PCIe cards in you can run a quad monitor set up, so says the latest issues of MaxPC. Anandtech says different, though they used beta boards. Your mileage may vary. Regardless, you're not going to lose a video output on either card because of SLI. Like i said, these ain't Voodoo2s.

Re:I think it;s worth it and the idea is great. (1)

vranash (594439) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688945)

Have you considered running a PCI card as your secondary screen? You don't seem to be planning to run two 3d apps simultaneously and at least with nVidia's shit dual card works slick under linux (haven't had a winbox I felt like trying it on in quite a while), multi-resolution, although if you set it up using Xinerama 3d only works on the primary screen, secondary I believe handles Xv extensions just fine however. Funnier part is I get better framerates on the nvidia GeForceFX 5200 than I do on my AGP Radeon 9100 under linux :) Anyhow it's just a though, PCI cards are pretty damn nice if you need a secondary screen and 3d performance isn't a priority.

Re:I think it;s worth it and the idea is great. (1)

generalleoff (760847) | more than 9 years ago | (#11689063)

Yes I have thought about the option of just going with PCI and yer right i'm not realy going to be playing Two heavy games at the same time or anything.

If it turns out not to be required then I will drop the two high end cards idea and just go with PCI but on the other hand i kinda would want to have it anyway incase my needs change. I can always upgrade it though :)

Before I do anything though I just need to see if what I cant can even be done like I want it to work. None of the computer shops around here have people that have any clue what I'm talking about really and I dont know a hell of alot about it myself :)

Re:I think it;s worth it and the idea is great. (1)

NRP128 (710672) | more than 9 years ago | (#11690562)

I buried this below a minute ago, figured i'd bring it to the top.

Umm...just FYI, i don't know what that other guy is talking about, but there is no pass through cable or anything. These aren't Voodoo2s, the SLI is done completely through the PCIe slots and a daughter card that bridges the two cards together inside the case. With two PCIe cards in you can run a quad monitor set up, so says the latest issues of MaxPC. Anandtech says different, though they used beta boards. Your mileage may vary. Regardless, you're not going to lose a video output on either card because of SLI. Like i said, these ain't Voodoo2s.

Re:I think it;s worth it and the idea is great. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11690777)

Duel output
Spelling nazi time: There is a difference between DUEL and DUAL:
DUAL: having 2 of some(usually similiar) object, such as dual processors or dual outputs
DUEL: A gentleman's battle.
So unless your outputs are having firing pistols at dawn, I doubt they are "Duel output"
/Spelling nazi

Re:I think it;s worth it and the idea is great. (1)

generalleoff (760847) | more than 9 years ago | (#11690857)

haha

Cuz that was a funny way of doing it I'll let it slide :)

Re:I think it;s worth it and the idea is great. (1)

jaredcat (223478) | more than 9 years ago | (#11689652)

I thought the newer nVidia SLI cards have a cable running between the two boards inside the case? Its the older SLI cards from like 10 years ago that stole a video-out port...

Anyway the whole point of this isn't to have more video-out ports, its to increase your FPS rate when playing games :).

Re:I think it;s worth it and the idea is great. (1)

cow-orker (311831) | more than 9 years ago | (#11689481)

I'm planing on building a high end HTPC setup using two 4:3 projectors

Nice idea, only SLI won't help you. Think about it: scanline interleave. You two projector setup doesn't interleave scanlines at all. What you are planning works with any two cards.

SLI can double the pixel throughput compared to a single card. It will not increase the polygon throughput, but the bus bandwidth needed will still double, along with the setup overhead.

Obviously Doom 3 taxes the pixel shaders heavily, Far Cry load the vertex shaders or something similar. Therefore, the former profits, the latter doesn't.

Anyway, 3dFX invented SLI 8 years or so ago with the Voodoo 2 cards. It was a stupid idea and 3dFX is gone now. 'nuff said.

Moot point (1)

vonsneerderhooten (254776) | more than 9 years ago | (#11696936)

SLI is not scan line interleave anymore, it's scalable link interface. and it would help in his application.

1920x1440 Projectors? (1)

Mr.Sharpy (472377) | more than 9 years ago | (#11689494)

I think the real question here is where are you going to find a projector that can output 1920x1440. The closest thing I found was an Eiki LC-HDT10 (1980x1080) for the bargain price of $51k...and you want two? I think a suitable graphics card would be the last of my worries if I'm already spending 102k on displays.

Have you found a cheaper alternative projector for that resolution? I might be interested in one if it was sub 20k.

Re:1920x1440 Projectors? (1)

generalleoff (760847) | more than 9 years ago | (#11689768)

LOL. No I havent found cheap projectors :)

Thats why this idea is only in my head and here on slashdot cuz the projectors are not released yet and there VERY expensive. SONY is making some projectors capable of this reselution that are expected out sometime this year for about $65k each :)

It's a dream is all but I am trying to see how/if this dream could even work if i could afford it. I'm planning on building it but I dont think that plane will ever be completed. I sure would be cool though wouldent it? :)

if you can afford buying dual cards does it matter (2, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688542)

ok. they might be worth your investment if you're into playing hardcore simulators, using dual(or more) hires screens..

otherwise, no, not really.

you might think that dual 6600's are a bargain vs. 6800 ultra or whatever.. well, look at the benchies and decide then.

if you just want to be playing buying a 6600 now and another 200$ card 2 years later is a much better investment into longevity than two 6600's now too.

Re:if you can afford buying dual cards does it mat (2, Insightful)

Klowner (145731) | more than 9 years ago | (#11689203)

I think you may be missing the point, the purpose of SLI is not to drive multiple heads, but rather to harness the power of two graphics cards to produce output on a single monitor by having each card perform shader operations on different regions of the screen.

Re:if you can afford buying dual cards does it mat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11691663)

also for SLI to work, both graphics cards must be the same model

Re:if you can afford buying dual cards does it mat (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11694936)

no. my point is that a single graphics card can drive one screen area well enough.

single cards support multiple screens already, but might not have enough kick.

and to the anon coward who replied to you.. i don't know know what's his point since i never said to use different cards in sli. my point was that planning for sli is pointless as in 2 years you'll get at least 3x faster card with the saved 200$

Investment? (5, Insightful)

lezerno (775940) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688571)

How do you define investment? Get the system you need to use today. Buying computer equipment for future use is a bad "investment". By the time you want to upgrade the card the rest of the system will be outdated.

Re:Investment? (1)

harrkev (623093) | more than 9 years ago | (#11692698)

Not quite in this case....

Lets assume that you spend $500 on a card today, and you will need double the performance in two years.

-- WITH SLI --
$500 today.
$150 in two years (card depreciated)
Total $650

-- WITHOUT SLI --
$500 today.
-$150 in two years, sell card on eBay.
$500 in two years
Total $850

Of course, this assumes that two cards = double performance, and that the capability of a $500 will double in two years. If these assumptions are not correct, then YMMV. But you get the idea.

In my opinion? No. (4, Insightful)

Dragoon412 (648209) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688695)

SLI is apparently aimed at the same market as the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, and the Athlon 64 FX - namely, the crowd who views their synthetic benchmark scores as a sort of virtual penis. ...and the exceedingly small market of people that can build PCs without any budget limitations.

The current crop of video cards is hideously expensive. Where the last generation's flagship models weighed in around $500 at retail (the 9800 XT and 5950 Ultra), this new batch has seen the X850 XT Plantinum Edition retailing for $700 and the 6800 Ultra going for not much less. The "average" performers for this generation are in the high $200-$300 range.

Furthermore, SLI is a lot like SMP. First off, the game needs to actually be able to take advantage of it. Next, even if the game does, you're not seeing a linear performance boost; that is to say, if you've got a pair of 6800 Ultras, you're not going to see double performance. The rule of thumb is it'll boost performance by about 65% - sure, it's very substantial, but with the premium price on cards already, it's an even less worthwhile purpose. To top it off, you're going to be looking at an extra $50 or so on a motherboard with SLI, and who knows how much extra in cooling.

So, from a performance standpoint, SLI is obviously the king, but from a cost effectiveness standpoint, it's about as bad as it gets.

As for using SLI to level the performance field with mid-range and low-range cards, buying an SLI board with a pair of 6600GTs is going to run you, say, $600 ($200 for a mainboard, $200 for each card). That may actually be worth it, as you're going to drop the same amount of money on a 6800 GT & similar non-SLI board which will perform slightly worse.

But then, here's the problem with that: not only do games need to support SLI, but nVidia needs to write their drivers to support a specific game. Play a game that flies under nVidia's radar? Too bad, no SLI for you. Additionally, while a pair of 6600GTs perform marginally better than a single 6800GT right now [tomshardware.com] , what's to say there'll be a great price point on this type of card for the next generation when you go to upgrade?

SLI's close to being worthwhile, but at the moment, I'd not bother with it. Maybe once the technology's more mature.

Re:In my opinion? No. (3, Informative)

Dooferlad (101535) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688970)

Actually you can create your own game profiles [hardocp.com] to enable SLI. They are stored in an XML file to hack in the System32 directory called NvApps.xml.

Re:In my opinion? No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11689425)

SLI is apparently aimed at the same market as the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, and the Athlon 64 FX - namely, the crowd who views their synthetic benchmark scores as a sort of virtual penis. ...and the exceedingly small market of people that can build PCs without any budget limitations.

You don't know what you are talking about. The Pentium 4 Extreme Edition kicks everyone's ass. I even bought a second one for my H2 [oceandrivelimousine.com] .

Re:In my opinion? No. (1)

$mooth (855695) | more than 9 years ago | (#11689840)

So you just proved his point. Congratulations moron

Re:In my opinion? No. (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 9 years ago | (#11690354)

I suspect it was a joke.

Re:In my opinion? No. (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 9 years ago | (#11694698)

But knowing someone didn't realise that put a smile on my face... :-)

Re:In my opinion? No. (1)

(H)elix1 (231155) | more than 9 years ago | (#11690701)

I'm wondering the same thing as the parent poster - but it is not because I have mad cash for new kit, however, nor want l33t frame rates. I personify cheap...

I'm upgrading my system, so I can either go AGP or PCI-e for the video card for the motherboard. The boards that support SLI also have some other chipset features I want, so I figure $140-200 will be spend regardless of the video card.. The 6800's are going for stupid money right now ($400+). My current AGP ti4200 served me well, but against things like Doom3, HL2, and the latest generation of games... blah. Going forward, it looks like longer term PCI-e may be the way to go. So, what to do? 6600's go for $200 or less these days. By the time my system feels like a dog again, I should be able to buy a 6600 for cheap and do the SLI thing.

The question at hand is can I get by with a single 6600, and add the other card when it is cheap and avoid replacing the current card to give it some extra legs - hoping for an extra year of quality gaming. If it does not stack up to a 6800, then this is not a good option. If it come close, then perhaps a longer play is viable.

When the card hits the 'this is way dog slow' mark, it will end up in a server or sibling's machine, so two cards with the same drivers and what not is a feature... Course, I still have a Matrox millennium card in service... Nothing gets thrown away

700$? snort--- (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 9 years ago | (#11691830)

NVIDIA Quadro FX

go price out real cards...

Re:700$? snort--- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11692205)

He's talking about consumer video cards you smacktard, not professional. Get back on the short bus.

Re:In my opinion? No. (0)

Cyrano_De (2992) | more than 9 years ago | (#11693012)

Furthermore, SLI is a lot like SMP. First off, the game needs to actually be able to take advantage of it. Next, even if the game does, you're not seeing a linear performance boost; that is to say, if you've got a pair of 6800 Ultras, you're not going to see double performance. The rule of thumb is it'll boost performance by about 65% - sure, it's very substantial, but with the premium price on cards already, it's an even less worthwhile purpose. To top it off, you're going to be looking at an extra $50 or so on a motherboard with SLI, and who knows how much extra in cooling.

SMP is not a magical double in performance either. None threaded applications do not get very much of a performance increase with an SMP based system. The same goes for the performance increase you see with threaded applications. Even an application which has been compiled and written to be multithreaded will not see a 100% performance increase on an SMP system. Your arguments against SLI hold for SMP systems as well almost word for word.

Re:In my opinion? No. (1)

stoborrobots (577882) | more than 9 years ago | (#11696137)

Your arguments against SLI hold for SMP systems as well almost word for word.

Which is probably why he said "Furthermore, SLI is a lot like SMP."

Seriously, some people need to read what they're replying to...

imo: absolutely not (2, Informative)

p373 (689997) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688770)

just a few better things you could do with all that money:

-make a donation to a worthy charity/non-profit
-save/invest if for the future
-treat your s.o. to something nice
-go on a trip
-put it in your kid's college fund
-build a robot

All that money? (1)

jgoemat (565882) | more than 9 years ago | (#11691630)

Why is this rated insightful? Should we all give up our computers and stop posting on /. so we can spend our money on these interests instead? The SLI setup is not the new, most expensive thing out there. What the author was talking about was getting a board that supports SLI and a cheap (at least 1/2 price of the top-of-the-line) video card. Then, when it's time to upgrade, get another cheap video card to add on instead of getting a new one and throwing away or selling the old. So instead of paying $400 for a video card now and $400 for one for the next upgrade, he'll spend $200 now and $200 when it's time to upgrade.

Geeze, I feel the Quake days coming back (1)

KingBahamut (615285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11688900)

Back then it was the same as it is now. You could SLI Rig two voodoo cards and get a F'd up frame rate. Graphics were severely washed out, but your Frames were higher than anyone else. Same deal here. There really isnt immediate industry application , other than video editing ( My Parahelia card works nicely for that ). So its a Gamers card. Go into a gamers IRC channel and ask which video card do you have?

Itll be a be F'ing pissing match about who has the most expensive card, typically by individuals that are 12 to 15 years in age.

Foursome, Developers & The Future (1)

DeadBugs (546475) | more than 9 years ago | (#11689053)

One use for SLI is to power FOUR DVI LCD Displays!

SLI does offer a viable upgrade path. Buy one SLI capable card now and buy another one later when it drops in price to increase your performance without having to vastly change your system.

I think NVIDIA did a good job of providing video cards that support a range of new features such as SLI, SM 3.0, etc. Now the software makers have something to play with and incorporate over the next year or two.

Re:Foursome, Developers & The Future (1)

Destoo (530123) | more than 9 years ago | (#11691574)

no.

Scalable Link Interface, NVIDIA's method for connecting 2 video cards together to produce a single output. This was previously called Scan-Line Interleave in 3dfx's cards.
(wiki)

You combine the power of both cards into one display.

Re:Foursome, Developers & The Future (1)

DeadBugs (546475) | more than 9 years ago | (#11691783)

With an "SLI" motherboard, you get 2 PCIe graphics ports. This allows you to install 2 graphics cards that each have 2 DVI ports, allowing for 4 displays. While the 4 ports are not a direct use of "SLI" they are a side benefit.

Think outside the box

No (1)

dago (25724) | more than 9 years ago | (#11689296)

Next question.

Correction (4, Informative)

NRP128 (710672) | more than 9 years ago | (#11690737)

At the moment, the upgrade path actually requires two identical cards, so you'd have to choose your initial purchase extra carefully to make sure your model is still around when it's time to upgrade.

Actually you don't need identical boards, they have to be identical chipsets. You can mix and match vendors, so long as the chips and configs are the same. You can't run a 6600 and a 6600GT in SLI mode, but you COULD (in theory) run them to power 4 DVI displays. I say in theory because everyone is still so hung up on SLI i haven't seen anybody try this yet. The main outline of the spec is that you can run cards from different vendors, they just have to be the same configs. Many of you know that already, but i felt obligated to clarify for those who haven't been keeping up ;)

Personally i'm looking at SLI capable boards for my next mobo upgrade for that reason above, not for the SLI portion, but the fact that i may be able to run dual vid cards and not have one on the slow ass PCI bus. With most integrated mobo periphials moving to PCIe anyway, this isn't so much an issue, but if you have firewire, any kind of hdd access, audio, etc moving on the 133MB/s PCI bus you're going to be hearing pops and skips in your audio, looking for lost packets, and pulling your hair out with IRQ conflicts. I don't want to add video to the mess that already exists. dual PCIe x16 slots seem a VERY nice solution :)

Re:Correction (1)

harryk (17509) | more than 9 years ago | (#11692159)

While there are two PCIe16 channels, when using them both in an SLI configuration, they both are dropped to half, becomming PCIe8x channels. There have been a couple of benchmarks (unable to provide link at the moment, but check Tom's Hardware) that show a performance hit when running SLI vs. Single card of the same design. Running at 16x versus 8x apparently is the issue.

Now when Nvidia and later manufactures are able to offer two isolated 16x channels, thats where you should see some siginificant performance jumps.

I've investigated going SLI, and I think at this point I've decided to pass. I will be buying a new AMD64 chip, but for the time being, I'll stick with my Geforce2MX DH Pro... yea its a really dated card, but for the games I play, it still performs. And seeing that I'll be upgrading from a Duron 700, it'll be quite the performance increase.

ymmv...

harryk

Re:Correction (1)

NRP128 (710672) | more than 9 years ago | (#11693756)

Performance gains from going 16x on both slots? In WHAT?! Very few benchmarks can saturate the AGP bus, let alone the PCIe bus. an 8x slot gives you 2GB/s bandwidth, almost matching AGP 8x, except that PCIe is bi-directional. Meaning 4GB/s total bandwidth. At least that's how i read the stuff i've seen. But back to my point, games today barely utilize the slots from last generation, how in the hell are we going to saturate double the bandwidth?

Also two more things, if you buy an AMD64 board, with AGP so you can reuse a 4 year old graphics card, you may as well break out the Astroglide. Unless it's PCI that is, then more power to you, so long as you don't do something foolish like buy a Socket 754 board with an AGP slot.

Next being the performance gains you speak of. They will come with more mature drivers that can better take advantage of the dual cards, and eleminate some of the overhead. The losses mentioned in FarCry earlier are attributed to a loss of efficiency, not loss of bandwidth along the channels. My major is ComputerTech, not ElectricEng so i can't point out the differences short of what i've read from nvidia's own literature and the reviews i've seen so far.

What about straight dual-head nvidia cards? (2, Funny)

bmac (51623) | more than 9 years ago | (#11691350)

I know this is mostly off-topic, but does anyone
here run one of the nvidia dual-head cards to
increase their desktop space? I'm running
1600x900 and there just isn't enough space,
so I've been considering getting one of the
Nvidia Quadro4 XGL cards, which are pretty
pricey (>= $450), and an extra monitor.

I'm wondering if anyone actually uses this
setup and has any comments on the usability
of Windows XP for it (someday my FreeBSD
will be ready for primetime, but not yet,
IMO). Specifically, is there a separate
taskbar for each screen and are they
completely independent in terms of resolution
and settings?

Also, is it just more trouble than it's
worth? Maybe just blowing a chunk on a
huge (1920x1200) monitor and a better
AGP card to drive it would be better from
a usability (and simplicity) standpoint.

Further sidebar: I saw one of those Mac
30" monitors - talk about drooool! Trouble
is, I'd hate to turn into a Mac fanboy :-)
That, and I don't have an extra three grand.

Peace & Blessings,
bmac

Re:What about straight dual-head nvidia cards? (1)

flonker (526111) | more than 9 years ago | (#11692554)

Dual monitors is absolutely wonderful. I'd say it doubles my work efficiency. I have two video cards, an AGP card and a PCI card, which was the way to do things before these newfangled video cards that support two monitors. (There were ways before that, but this isn't a history lesson.) Anyway, I'd suggest plugging a spare PCI video card in your box, and connecting a spare monitor to see how it feels. Once you're in love with it, spring for the fancy dual head card. Of course this assumes that you have a lot of old hardware.

To answer your questions, dual monitors is definitely worth it. I don't know if the dual headed cards are worth the extra cash over a 2 card system, but it probably is. On my system, the resolutions of the two monitors are completely independent. I run one monitor at 1280x1024 and the other at 1600x1200. (17" LCD & 23" CRT) The taskbar only appears on one monitor by default, but Ultramon [realtimesoft.com] will give you that second taskbar. Ultramon also allows you to put a different wallpaper on each monitor, and is overall a very nice program.

Anyway, running two monitors is a completely different experience than running one larger monitor.

Re:What about straight dual-head nvidia cards? (1)

bmac (51623) | more than 9 years ago | (#11692842)

Thanks for the valuable input. It seems that
my intuition about increasing my efficiency
was correct.

Other than cost, the other apparent drawback
to the dual-head nvidia card is that the
relatively cheap ones (~$150) only have 64M
of RAM, which can barely drive one 1600x1200
monitor at 32bpp. And the 128M versions are
around $500. (Of course, in my dreams I
have two 1600x1200 lcds side-by-side, as
they're only around $600 now, and hopefully
falling fast).

I did try to plug a second monitor into an
extra pci video card I had, but I was
unhappy with how Windows XP handled the
whole thing ~ it just seemed kind of kludgy.
It seems that Ultramon addresses that need.

Of course, it seems that nvidia, via its
ntray manager, is doing the same thing, but,
because it's directly tied to the hardware,
it *should* be better than any generic
multi-head solution.

Well, thanks for the details; now, time to
find a budget :-)

Peace & Blessings,
bmac

Re:What about straight dual-head nvidia cards? (1)

threephaseboy (215589) | more than 9 years ago | (#11696271)

1600x1200 at 32bpp requires 12,800kB of RAM.
My 4 year old 16MB Rage Pro has no problems driving my display at 1600x1200x32bpp

Re:What about straight dual-head nvidia cards? (1)

bmac (51623) | more than 9 years ago | (#11696749)

Oops, I did the math with bytes instead of bits.

Thanks.

Re:What about straight dual-head nvidia cards? (1)

threephaseboy (215589) | more than 9 years ago | (#11697602)

Hate to reply to my own message, but it's actually 7.3MB thats required for 1600x1200x32bpp
(1600*1200*4 / 1024 / 1024 = 7.32)

Re:What about straight dual-head nvidia cards? (1)

Ford Prefect (8777) | more than 9 years ago | (#11698017)

Other than cost, the other apparent drawback to the dual-head nvidia card is that the relatively cheap ones (~$150) only have 64M of RAM, which can barely drive one 1600x1200 monitor at 32bpp. And the 128M versions are around $500.

I bought a 128MB PCI-Express Nvidia 6600 with DVI and VGA recently for a little over a hundred quid (including VAT) - it's now very happy driving two elderly 17in monitors at 1280x960 each. Came with a DVI-to-VGA converter, too! :-)

Quite a lot of fairly cheap cards seem to have the two ports, but do double-check that it's the case - the cheaper ones may have all the relevant gubbins in the chips but no actual DVI or S-Video ports.

Hmm... I would also appear to have a pile of PCI Matrox Millennia. Anyone for quintuple-head?

NVidia Geforce 6600 GT... (1)

Phil John (576633) | more than 9 years ago | (#11701203)

...got one of those for around £140 a month ago, it's the AGP model and has dual DVI outputs.

This could be useful as having dual DVI would be good if you're going for two LCD displays. It also contains two high quality DVI-VGA converters that I'm using at the moment (waiting for my 2 19" lcd's to be delivered :o).

I actually don't let NView (NVidia app) control it, I let windows XP span the display for me, one start menu (with NView you can have it on both screens, I prefer it on my primary display only).

Great for programming (API docs open on second monitor), and for watching TV/DVD's whilst I'm "working" ;o)

Re:NVidia Geforce 6600 GT... (1)

bmac (51623) | more than 9 years ago | (#11703072)

So what's worse, your gloating or my jealousy :-)

Yeah, well, well, my *two* 23' (not inch, mind
you) are gonna put your monitors to shame! :-)

BTW, if you like having some serious whitenoise
going while "working", I rather like listening
to William Gibson's audio tape of Neuromancer,
where he reads the book himself and the Edge
from U2 did the music (mostly techno-type
stuff). It's cool because it's about 6 hrs
long and very technology-oriented. And, I
think it is actually freely distributable
because they don't make it anymore due to the
publisher making a more professional version.

Peace & Blessings,
bmac

Re:What about straight dual-head nvidia cards? (1)

Bradac_55 (729235) | more than 9 years ago | (#11742344)

"Further sidebar: I saw one of those Mac
30" monitors - talk about drooool! Trouble
is, I'd hate to turn into a Mac fanboy :-)
That, and I don't have an extra three grand."

The 30" module is PC compatible so it would work on your system but it requires a NVIDIA GeForce
6800 GT or Ultra DDL Card to work. The upside is you could use two of these bad boys with the ultra
card for 60"'s of monitor and two 2560x1600 windows.

The downside is it would cost $6,600.00 (US).

- Brad

No (1)

CarrionBird (589738) | more than 9 years ago | (#11691928)

Soon enough you'll have two obsolete cards to replace instead of one, in order to play the latest games. (unless these cards have a lot of room to overclock)

quadhead capabilities (1)

LordMyren (15499) | more than 9 years ago | (#11692047)

from my understanding, one of the main advantages of dual head technology is that you can play a video and have it span multiple monitors.

the $64k question:
if you're running sli and have quad display mode, do you have the capability to span video between the two different cards?

i've had less than stellar luck achieving the same results with my computer bank-full-oh-pci cards, although it could purely be a PCI/bandwidth issue. with windows there's overlay issues that the new VMR-9 was supposed to address but my Matrox II's are not VMR-9 capable; i believe there is some hardware requirement.

your nuances are our future
myren

sli v. quad mode (1)

LordMyren (15499) | more than 9 years ago | (#11692209)

pci express allows anyone to run multiple high speed video cards in a single system. this is the "quad mode" of which people speak, using four monitors. the cards dont even have to be from the same vendor for this to work. this is nothing new: it could be done with PCI too, its just that PCI had very poor performance. this has nothing to do with SLI except for nvidia branding their multi-slot motherboards SLI.

SLI is a mode where one card has no outputs and is slaved to the other card to provide a performance benefit.

It is entirely up to the drivers whether you can run SLI in quad mode. there's three basic ways this could be done:
1) 3+4th displays have to power down
2) 3+4 displays loose all acceleration
3) SLI is a special hack which allows dualheaded acceleration to occur between video cards to allow 4 card display of something like doom3 automagically. no 4 card performance benefit, but you can quadhead render games like you could dualhead.
4) all render is done on some unified display bridged by SLI your winamp plugin can run on 3/4 while you play doom on 1 with all renderings being accelerated by all cards. yeah frigging right, too cool to be real.

sadly its going to take these idiot manufacturers another 18 months to realize they can start maddly throwing more PCI expresses onto systems with HyperTransport with little effort. 4 real graphics cards would be sweet, i could finally replace these Matrox Millenium II's.

unforutnately nvidia's sli uses some internal connector in addition to PCI express to achieve SLI. this pretty much axes all hopes of running doom on 8 monitors, even if you can run accelerated quadhead mode.

myren

Re:sli v. quad mode (1)

SimReg (99053) | more than 9 years ago | (#11697114)

The DFI LANPARTY UT nF4 Ultra-D is an example of a board that is not SLI capable, but has dual x16 PCI-E video slots.

So that would be a good canidate for a quad head system, without the extra expense of a SLI capable board. Street price is around 150ish. You would get the improved PCI-E bus, plus the ability to use two x16 cards.

SLI is not about two 6600s (1)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 9 years ago | (#11693626)

SLI is not a cost saving technology. It's not about upgrades. It's about putting two of the fastest card available into a PC so you have something faster than any single card in the market.

it's either SLI *NOW*, or one new card later (1)

majid_aldo (812530) | more than 9 years ago | (#11708562)

SLI's market is for 'extreeme' gamer$.
for ther avergage gamer it's not worth it to 'upgrade' later b/c by that time not only will the current high end be mid-range but also the you won't be able to get the new features of a new video card such as certain lighting effects or what have you.

Three truths of hardware (3, Insightful)

SpinningAround (449335) | more than 9 years ago | (#11695192)

1- Your shiny new hardware from the top end of the manufacturer's range will depreciate at a rate that makes your car appear to be a excellent investment.



2- 'Future proofing' never happens. Manufacturers and software companies invent new buses, interfaces, pin counts, slot types, power requirements, driver levels and all manner of interesting 'features' specifically so that your two year old hardware is obselete.



3- Even if you have a 130 fps, the fastest processor on the market, a TB of disk, a massive 5.1 surround sound setup and the biggest, fastest CRT monitor out there, you will still get your ass handed to you in Counter-Strike by a spotty 12 year old who's voice hasn't broken.

Re:Three truths of hardware (1)

nightski (860922) | more than 9 years ago | (#11721109)

You may get your ass handed to you in Counter-Strike - but you are going to have a hell of a fun time anyways :-) Seriously, with full 5.1 surround and that great of graphics - why the hell would you be playing a graphical disaster of a game like CStrike anyways?! ;-)

DFI (2, Interesting)

E_elven (600520) | more than 9 years ago | (#11696833)

You could get DFI's LanParty Ultra (A64-939); it doesn't support SLI--unless you own a pencil and feel like enabling that support yourself :) Anandtech has details on the mod. The board sells in the $150-$160 range.

Re:DFI (1)

vonsneerderhooten (254776) | more than 9 years ago | (#11696867)

In a newer article, Anandtech stated that Nvidia is taking steps to prevent this mod, and is disabling driver support for modded nforce chipsets. You need to have version 66.7x forceware drivers IIRC.
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