While the world turned I was on a flight over to Taiwan to meet and discuss future products with just about every Taiwanese Motherboard and Video Card manufacturer I could get a meeting with. The discussions yielded a great deal of important information, such as roadmap updates, a better understanding of some of the current supply shortages and some insight into how the markets here in Taiwan and globally were holding up. While I'll talk about most of these topics in a separate article, I couldn't resist but post information on a very interesting product I managed to get some "alone-time" with while in Taiwan.

Just a few weeks ago our own Wesley Fink and I traveled to NYC to meet with NVIDIA and, more importantly, to get some first hand experience with nForce4 and nForce4 SLI platforms. As you'll know from our previous coverage on the topic, nForce4 SLI is the highest-end nForce4 offering outfitted with a configurable number of PCI Express lanes. The beauty of having a configurable number of PCI Express lanes is that you can have a single PCI Express x16 slot, or you can split that one slot into two x8 slots - which is perfect for installing two graphics cards in.

NVIDIA is less than a month away from sending final shipping nForce4 SLI boards out to reviewers, but we managed to get some quality benchmarking time with a pre-release nForce4 SLI board from MSI. The important thing to note here is that it was pre-release and we had a very limited amount of time with it - not to mention that I'm about halfway around the world from my testing equipment and benchmarks, so forgive me if the number of tests or benchmarks is not as complete as you're used to seeing on AnandTech.

There will be two versions of the MSI nForce4 SLI board shipping worldwide; in the US it will be called the MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum/SLI but in the rest of the world it will be called the MSI K8N Diamond. There will be some slight changes in the specs between the two but nothing major.


Click to Enlarge

The MSI motherboard we tested is actually the very first working sample of the K8N Neo4 Platinum/SLI; in fact, as of right now there are only 4 working nForce4 SLI samples at MSI in Taiwan, two of which happen to be in my hotel room. Despite the early nature of the motherboard, it was 100% stable and didn't crash once during our hours of testing nor in the 12 hours of burn-in before that. There were some rendering issues during some of the testing but we'd chalk that up to drivers that need some work; one thing to keep in mind is that SLI is extremely driver intensive and we'll explain why in a moment. Please be sure to read our nForce4 review and SLI preview before continuing on with this review to understand what's behind nForce4 and SLI.

We did not have time to run a full gamut of benchmarks, so all of our tests are limited to 1024 x 768, 1280 x 1024 and 1600 x 1200 with 4X AA enabled. We tested using an Athlon 64 FX-55 with 1GB of Corsair DDR400 under Windows XP Professional with DX9c. Finding game benchmarks was a bit of a challenge in Taiwan, but despite the Chinese boxes our copies of Doom 3 and Far Cry were basically the english versions. We also included the Counterstrike: Source Visual Stress Test in our impromptu test suite. But before we get to the benchmarks, let's talk a little bit about how you actually get SLI working.

Setting up SLI
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  • ImJacksAmygdala - Friday, October 29, 2004 - link

    Thanks for the article.

    I think I will skip the nforce3 and nforce4 boards. I hear that there will even be HT problems with the Nforce4 AO3 silicon and I don't feel like rolling the dice with any other problems.

    I;m not sold on SLI anymore either. I have the cash for it, but I'm considering the extra cost of 2 high end cards instead of just getting the latest and greatest every 1.5 to 2 years. I'm concerned about the extra heat and noise aswell.

    I would have much rather had Sound Storm than SLI. I think I will just wait and see if a Dolby Live 5.1 encoding sound solution shows up before I upgrade to a AMD64 system. Intel has Dolby Live 5.1 encoding so maybe Creative will soon too.
    Reply
  • Lord Banshee - Friday, October 29, 2004 - link

    Can you please test Spec ViewPref 7.1.1 or above with the next SLI mobo you test. Alot of us 3D modelers want to know if SLI will benifit. Reply
  • CrystalBay - Friday, October 29, 2004 - link

    GJ Anand, you scooped everyone (other review sites) again... :) Reply
  • bob661 - Friday, October 29, 2004 - link

    mrdudesir

    See #34.
    Reply
  • mrdudesir - Friday, October 29, 2004 - link

    I dont get why everyone is bitching about the added cost for people who dont want it. There is no added cost if you dont want SLI. Just buy a board based on the NF4 Ultra Chipset. ITs the exact same chipset just with no SLI. In fact if anything SLI lowers the price because it leaves a new top of the line chipset so that the NF4 Ultra doesn't have to be the absolute best and hence it is cheaper. Reply
  • nserra - Friday, October 29, 2004 - link

    I already had a dual voodoo2 SLI, and besides the extra speed (and not always), no more....

    This is not that brilliant:
    1st - Need motherboard support and a special/specific one (voodoo2 didn’t)
    2nd - Doesn’t bring anything new features besides extra speed (play at 1280x1024 instead of 1024x768?)
    3rd - More heat and power requirement.
    4th - The driver must support the game (I don’t know if voodoo2 also needed this)
    5th - It will prolong your PC how? Does the SLI 6600GT have the same functionalities/features of future products (NV50) don’t think so.
    6th – Price, price, price …..
    7th – Voodoo2 also had a version of SLI in a single board, a much cleaver solution, for the immediate since every board would accept it.
    8th - I bet there will be games incompatibles (voodoo2 had to disable SLI in some games in order to work/play)
    ….
    Reply
  • Reflex - Friday, October 29, 2004 - link

    #35: If you do not wish to use the second slot for graphics, it is still a fully functioning PCI Express slot you can use for *anything* else, so it is not wasted board space at all. Reply
  • Reflex - Friday, October 29, 2004 - link

    #9: There will be no add in SoundStorm solution. The group that developed that technology at nVidia has been dissolved and moved on to other projects.

    Just as well, it was not a quality solution anyways.
    Reply
  • bob661 - Friday, October 29, 2004 - link

    The hardware does exist. You can buy 6600GT's right now on Newegg. Reply
  • haris - Friday, October 29, 2004 - link

    SLI is an option on the motherboard. Great. SLI might work because of the driver, but doesn't the hardware have to exist for the feature to be used in the driver?

    What if Nvidia/ATI have to use up valuable board space for a feature that will only be used by high end users, this means that everyone else is paying for a feature that they don't want or will never use. I don't like the idea that I might be paying extra for my card because one person out of ten thousand (or whatever the % of high end to average users is) wanted that feature.
    Reply

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