Introduction

Today marks the launch of the first GPU maker sanctioned single card / multi-GPU solution for the consumer market in quite some time. Not since Quantum3D introduced the Obsidian X24 have we seen such a beast (which, interestingly enough, did actual Scan Line Interleaving on a single card). This time around NVIDIA's flavor of SLI and PCIe are being used to connect two boards together for a full featured multi-GPU solution that works like a single card as far as the end user is concerned. No special motherboard is required, the upcoming 90 series driver will support the card, and there is future potential for DIY quad SLI. There is still a ways to go until NVIDIA releases drivers that will support quad SLI without the help of a system vendor, but they are working on it.

For now, we will take a look at the card and its intended use: a card using a single PCIe connection designed to be the fastest NVIDIA graphics board available. While there are some drawbacks of SLI still associated with the 7950 GX2 (certain games scale less than others), the major issues are quite nicely resolved: there is no need for an SLI motherboard, and it's much easier to make sure everything is hooked up correctly (with only one power connector, no SLI bridge needed, and only one card to plug in). The drivers start up and automatically configure support for multi-GPU rendering, and (after our motherboard's BIOS was flashed) we had no problem with the system recognizing the new technology.

While the potential for quad SLI is a reality, the usefulness is still fairly limited - only users with ultrahigh resolution monitors will see the benefits of four GPUs. At lower resolutions, CPU overhead becomes a factor, and some limitations of DX9 come into play. We certainly want to test quad SLI on the 7950 GX2, but we will have to wait until we get the equipment together and track down a driver that will support it. In this article, we will compare the 7950 GX2 with other high end NVIDIA and ATI cards, and we'll also take a look at how well it scales compared to it's close relative: the 7900 GT / 7900 GT SLI. But before we get to the benchmarks, let's take a look at how NVIDIA puts it all together in a way that avoids the necessity of an SLI motherboard or an external power supply.

The Technology
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  • dug777 - Monday, June 05, 2006 - link

    ? Seems daft not to include CF in that kinda comparison... Reply
  • Mclendo06 - Monday, June 05, 2006 - link

    One of the concens I have had regarding this card is the noise level relative to nVidia's other top offering, the 7900GTX. I have seen all over the net that nVidia's large 2-slot heatsink is extremely quiet compared to most others. As the 7950 GX2 has 2 single slot type coolers, I am assuming that the noise is going to be considerably higher, but I haven't seen anything regarding noise levels on any of the reviews I've read so far. Could you weigh in on this (objective info on noise, I'm not looking for dBA measurements or anything). Reply
  • Mclendo06 - Monday, June 05, 2006 - link

    Great minds think alike. If you answer VooDooAddict's post, feel free to ignore mine. Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Monday, June 05, 2006 - link

    :) Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, June 05, 2006 - link

    as for noise, from a subjective perspective, the 7950 GX2 is on a similar level to the 7900 GTX. Both are much much much quieter than an ATI X1900 XT spinning up to full speed. Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Tuesday, June 06, 2006 - link

    Thanks for the update Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Monday, June 05, 2006 - link

    I see that it's mentioned in the article that the 7950GX2 draws less power then the 7900GTX:

    "For those who live on the bleeding edge, this lower power alternative to the 7900 GTX is a solid way to go."

    Do you have any numbers to support this? Is that only in comparison to 7900GTX SLI or does is it truely consume less power then a single 7900GTX?

    Another thing not mentioned was the noise level or the heat produced. I understand that you can't get numbers for everything ... but things like noise level and heat could be commented on subjectivly.

    If looking at "high end perforamnce parts," but primarily concerned with power consumption, heat produced, and noise levels ... It's my understanding that the 7900GT and 7900GTX are prefered over the ATI solutions.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, June 05, 2006 - link

    sorry -- there was a two fold problem here

    with the server issues this morning, the power section was accidentally left out at publication.

    unfortuantely, i also mentioned the wrong card in the conclusion -- my original references to the 7900 GTX should have been to the X1900 XT. This has been corrected. Sorry for the confusion.
    Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Tuesday, June 06, 2006 - link

    Thanks for the clarification. Reply
  • Jojo7 - Monday, June 05, 2006 - link

    Derek, tell us how you really feel about content protection. Hah.
    Good article. I wasn't aware how elegant this solution was until now. It works regardless of the chipset. Impressive.
    Reply

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