Testing 3-Way SLI
3-Way SLI Game Support
When Quad SLI debuted in 2006 with the GeForce 7900 GX2, only a select number of games scaled properly with the hardware. The GeForce 7950 GX2 improved the situation but again, due to the design of DX9, even it had its fair share of limitations; F.E.A.R. was the only real D3D app that scaled really well in multiple scenarios.
Fortunately history doesnít appear to be repeating itself with 3-Way SLI. According to NVIDIA, 80 games have built-in 3-Way SLI profiles in the current 3-Way driver, with more coming in subsequent driver releases. In addition, end users can modify game profiles in the driver control panel, allowing them to manually add 3-Way support to games that arenít officially supported yet. Blockbuster titles like Call of Duty 4, Unreal Tournament 3, BioShock, and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars are all supported. Crysis is as well, but 3-Way support is still a work in progress thatís being held up by an upcoming patch that should improve SLI/CrossFire scaling performance. Crytek has also mentioned that the patch should improve single card performance as well, but theyíve honestly been talking about this patch for quite some time, so we donít know when itís going to arrive.
According to NVIDIA, gamers should see up to a 2.8X performance improvement over a single card thanks to 3-Way. (Weíll be putting this to the test shortly) When youíre not gaming, you can drive up to six monitors simultaneously. Just remember to disable 3-Way SLI in the driver control panel so you can run in multi-monitor mode. SLI support is limited to just one display.
3-Way Gaming Bliss: Falcon Northwest Mach V
To showcase the performance of 3-Way SLI, weíre testing a Falcon Northwest Mach V system that has been equipped with the technology. The system Falcon Northwest sent over is a monster too, running a Core 2 Extreme QX6850 thatís been overclocked to 3.65GHz with liquid cooling.
Falconís attention to detail is legendary, these guys are the pioneers of the gaming PC after all, predating other manufacturers like Alienware and VoodooPC by years. Take the case for instance. Falcon uses a Silverstone TJ03 chassis and totally tricks it out. The Falcon logo is emblazoned on the front drive bay door. When you boot the system up it glows blue with yellow eyes, and of course you canít miss the custom paint job. This is no ordinary paint either, if youíre an Acura MDX owner, you may recognize the color -- itís Sage Brush Pearl. Falcon says itís one of their most popular colors.
At the top of the case, Falcon has integrated a massive air intake. This intake supplies cool air to the CPU cooler and the rest of the system. Meanwhile, at the rear of the system, Falcon employs two Silverstone fans which exhaust hot air out the back of the chassis. Thereís also an additional fan at the front of the system which supplies cool air to the hard drives.
The motherboard powering Falconís Mach V is EVGAís nForce 680i SLI motherboard. The EVGA motherboard has proven popular with OEMs and enthusiasts alike because itís powerful yet not as outrageously priced as some of the other nForce 680i motherboards on the market. It may not have all the bells and whistles of a high-end nForce 680i motherboard like the ASUS Striker Extreme, but its BIOS is quite robust, providing all the settings you need for overclocking. If youíve been following our reviews for the past year, youíve no doubt noticed the EVGA motherboard is the standard platform we use around here as well. GPU launches ranging from the GeForce 8800 GTX all the way to the latest GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB were tested on our trusty EVGA nForce 680i motherboard.
3-Way SLI Mach V systems Falcon ships to end users will actually utilize the newer nForce 780i chipset.
Running alongside the EVGA motherboard and Core 2 Extreme QX6850 are 4GB (4x1GB) of Corsair Dominator RAM. Corsairís Dominator modules are another popular item among enthusiasts looking for maximum performance. The storage subsystem consists of a pair of 150GB Western Digital Raptor hard drives which have been striped together running as a RAID 0 array. A 1-terabyte Hitachi HDS721010KLA hard drive serves as an additional storage option.
Finally, last but certainly not least, graphics duties are handled by a trio of XFX GeForce 8800 Ultra graphics cards.
Weíll post a full evaluation of the Falcon Northwest system in the coming weeks. Now onto the benchmarks!