Introduction

One of the first things we thought of when we heard that NVIDIA was going to try to bring back the multi-GPU craze was the single board solution. Even back in the 3dfx days, there was Obsidian ready with the single board SLI solution. Gigabyte is hitting multi-GPU technology hard out of the gate with a single board 6600 GT solution dubbed the 3D1. We were able to get our hands on this and two new motherboards from Gigabyte last week for a round of holiday testing.



The two major focuses of the article will be to explore any advantages offered by the 3D1 over two-card SLI solutions, and to take a first look at the performance of the GA-8AENXP Dual Graphic Intel SLI offering from Gigabyte. This is the 925XE version of the earlier announced 915P based Dual Graphic board.

The reader should understand this before beginning the review: these solutions are somewhat limited in application until NVIDIA changes its philosophy on multi-GPU support in ForceWare drivers. In order to get any multi-GPU support at all, the driver must detect an SLI capable motherboard. This means that we had to go back to the 66.81 driver in order to test Intel SLI. It also means that even if the 3D1 didn't require a special motherboard BIOS in order to boot video, it wouldn't be able to run in SLI mode unless it were in an SLI motherboard.

As it stands, the optimal single card solution can't be had until NVIDIA allows multi-GPU functionality to be enabled on motherboards without explicit SLI support. Combine this with a multi-GPU graphics card that doesn't require special BIOS hooks to POST, and we have a universal single card solution. Until then, bundling the GA-K8NXP-SLI motherboard and 3D1 is a very good solution for Gigabyte. Those who want to upgrade to PCI Express and a multi-GPU solution immediately have a viable option here. They get the motherboard needed to run an SLI system and two GPUs in one package with less hassle.

For now, we are very interested in taking a look at the first of many innovations that are sure to come out the graphics card vendors' multi-GPU R&D departments.

The Hardware
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  • beany323 - Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - link

    Wow, I have been planning on getting a new computer (from Cyberpower) and was like, ok get the PCIe...then i see the SLI....so i read up on it..now i am confused! I bought a hp 2 years ago, and now i would be lucky if i could use it to play WoW (i tried already, to old a video card, anyways) i am willing to spend some money but dont want to get stuck with a big paperweight. I thought the idea with 2 cards sounded good (i was even thinking might as well get 2 ultra's :) ) but not sure now... anymore thoughts? Just from reading this thread, you guys know WAY more then i could ever sit down and read...so thanks in advance!!


    beany323
    Reply
  • endrebjorsvik - Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - link

    Would it be possible to use two 3D1-cards in non-SLi-mode and still use all the GPU's? Then you would be alble to get serious performance in triple-/quad-monitor-systems. Reply
  • sxr7171 - Sunday, January 09, 2005 - link

    I thought the whole point of SLI was to offer an upgrade path that allowed consumers to stagger their spending by upgrading their performance in two stages. Buying a single card with two GPUs that costs the same and performs worse than a single 6800 ultra is quite pointless.

    There are absolutely no situations where a dual 6600GT card outperforms a single 6800 ultra card. There are no synergies in having two GPUs on the same card and no incentive to buy such a card.
    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Saturday, January 08, 2005 - link

    Just in cast that sounded abit harsh, all I will say is would you perosnally swap a 6800GT based card for that 3D1 multi-core card? Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Saturday, January 08, 2005 - link

    I'm sorry but I still see no sensible reason whatsoever to buy a dual-core 6600GT card when a 6800GT could be bought for a similar price. I can see lots of stupid reasons for buying the dual-core 6600GT, but nothing whatsoever people have said in the comments or in the review give a good reason for choosing it in preference to a 6800GT. I'm afraid I'm going to have to jump on a bit of a bandwagon and wonder if everything reviewed here is always considered good generally, as I can't remember the last time something got a well deserved slating. Which this 3D1 should have been given because of the hardware compatibility issues, and also software compatibility issues with games that aren't SLI recognised, or the fact it will work at half speed (one core) with games nVidia hasn't bothered looking at.

    When you review stuff you see good and bad, but all we ever read about here are products which are great, or products which will be very good after they fix this and that. The only review recently which had any constructive criticism was that of normal 6600GT's where you looked at the fan-mounting method. Maybe you only get to see the very best products because that is all the manufacturers will send you (which explains why there was no mid-range/budget memory round-up as they don't want to send a 512MB ValueWhatnot stick that will perform worse than everything else).

    What I'd have said about the 3D1 after looking at the performance is that they shouldn't have bothered with a 6600GT dual-core, but instead have done an NV41 based dual-core card. You'd be a fool to buy the 3D1 the way it as at the moment.

    Review quotes like "Until then, bundling the GA-K8NXP-SLI motherboard and 3D1 is a very good solution for Gigabyte Those who want to upgrade to PCI Express and a multi-GPU solution immediately have a viable option here. They get the motherboard needed to run an SLI system and two GPUs in one package with less hassle." make me wonder if someone paid you to say that.
    Reply
  • AtaStrumf - Saturday, January 08, 2005 - link

    *loose some performance* - compared to a more powerful but equally priced single chip solution Reply
  • AtaStrumf - Saturday, January 08, 2005 - link

    johnsonx the reason for buying one card with 2 6600 GTs or two separate 6600GTs instead of one 6800 GT may be in the fact that you get very close to 6800 *Ultra* performance, provided you don't use AA or Aniso in newer games. Granted OC-ing 6800GT will do the same + give you AA/Aniso performance od the same level.

    I guess the reason to go for SLi is in its ability to provide a cheap upgrade path and not for two GPUs to be put on the same board and save you 0$ + loose some performance. Gigybyte may have missed an important point here. What they should be making is one board 2 x 6800 GTs, since that provides unheard of performance in a single card (something NEW) and/or at least lower the price of 3D1 to make it cheaper than 2 separate cards and of course make it work in non SLi boards. Simply put, give it some tangible extra value over 2 board SLi solution and not the other way around as it is now - only two monitors and such.
    Reply
  • MadAd - Saturday, January 08, 2005 - link

    Nvidia are looking more and more like 3dfx every day - big boards, sli, late with real releases

    Id prefer an AIW X900SLI board tho
    Reply
  • glennpratt - Saturday, January 08, 2005 - link

    johnsonx - I agree, though I have a theory. If your like me and the 10 other computers in your house/immediate family consist of hand me down parts from a couple primary computers, it would be nice to have two decent video cards when you upgrade next. Still stupid... Reply
  • johnsonx - Friday, January 07, 2005 - link

    What I find puzzling about this whole SLI thing right now (not this dual-GPU card in particular) is all the people buying an ultra-expensive SLI board and dual 6600GT's to build a new system. I understand buying an SLI board and one 6600GT or 6800GT to allow for future upgrade, and I even understand buying SLI and dual 6800GT's for maximum performance (though it sure seems like overkill and overspending to me).

    But buying dual 6600GT's on purpose just doesn't make any sense at all. I guess they just want to say they have it? Even though it costs far more and performs the same as a non-SLI board with a 6800GT....

    This particular dual-GPU card doesn't make any sense right now either, for all the obvious reasons.

    Maybe later....
    Reply

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