NVIDIA's 1.4 Billion Transistor GPU: GT200 Arrives as the GeForce GTX 280 & 260by Anand Lal Shimpi & Derek Wilson on June 16, 2008 9:00 AM EST
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SLI Performance Throwdown: GTX 280 SLI vs. 9800 GX2 Quad SLI
We had two GeForce GTX 280s on hand and a plethora of SLI bridges, so we of course had to run them in SLI. Now remember that a single GTX 280 uses more power than a GeForce 9800 GX2, and thus two of them is going to use a lot of power. It was so much power in fact that our OCZ EliteXStream 1000W power supply wasn't enough. While the SLI system would boot and get into Windows, we couldn't actually complete any benchmarks. All of the power supplies on the GTX 280 SLI certified list are at least 1200W units. We didn't have any on hand so we had to rig up a second system with a separate power supply and used the second PSU to power the extra GTX 280 card. A 3-way SLI setup using GTX 280s may end up requiring a power supply that can draw more power than most household circuits can provide.
Although a single GeForce GTX 280 loses to a GeForce 9800 GX2 in most cases, scaling from two to four GPUs is never as good as scaling from one to two. Thus forcing the question: are a pair of GTX 280s in SLI faster than a 9800 GX2 Quad SLI setup?
Let's look at the performance improvements from one to two cards across our games:
|GTX 280 SLI (Improvement from 1 to 2 cards)||9800 GX2 SLI
(Improvement from 1 to 2 cards)
|Call of Duty 4||62.8%||64.0%|
Crysis, Assassin's Creed, The Witcher and Oblivion are all situations where performance either doesn't scale as well or drops when going from one to two GX2s, giving NVIDIA a reason to offer two GTX 280s over a clumsy Quad SLI setup.
Thanks to poor Quad SLI scaling, the GX2 SLI and the GTX 280 SLI perform the same, despite the GTX 280 being noticeably slower than the 9800 GX2 in single-card mode.
When it does scale well however, the GX2 SLI outperforms the GTX 280 SLI setup just as you'd expect.
Sometimes you run into serious issues with triple and quad SLI where performance is actually reduced; Oblivion at 2560 x 1600 is one of those situations and the result is the GTX 280 SLI gives you a better overall experience.
While we'd have trouble recommending a single GTX 280 over a single 9800 GX2, a pair of GTX 280s will probably give you a more hassle-free, and consistent experience than a pair of 9800 GX2s.