Final Words

The SLI roundup has been an interesting journey. We had stopped a lot of places along the way - from being convinced that nForce4 SLI was not ready for prime time to being mightily impressed with stability of SLI once we worked out all the kinks. So, where do we land at the end of the roundup? SLI works well and the nForce4 chipset that currently supports it is solid. But unless you know that the game you want to play (or the orb you want to top) is supported by nVidia SLI, you really won't see any gain. Gamers tend to get stuck in the latest hot game, and nVidia SLI generally does support the latest hot games. SLI will also likely support future hot games - at least until something more promising arrives on the video horizon.

SLI is likely to be here a while in some form or another, despite the fact that we think it's something of a regurgitated kludge. The reasons are the same as those for dual-core processors coming down the pike. One thing that is really astounding is that the same people who think dual processors are inevitable forget that GPUs are even more complicated and denser than current processors that will "inevitably move to dual core". GPUs already have more transistors than processors, and SLI or something like it seems likely to be needed to significantly extend performance beyond current limits.

The "something like it" may be dual GPU's like the Gigabyte 3D1 or some other scheme that we have not thought of - or maybe even SLI. There is absolutely no doubt that for supported applications, the performance boost from SLI is truly impressive.

So, where does this leave us in the SLI roundup? At stock speeds, there is no clear winner or loser with the four boards in the roundup. All four of them perform very well at stock speeds in both normal and SLI mode and you should choose your board based on features. However, if we move just a step to overclocking, two boards stand head and shoulders above the rest. Nothing comes close to the DFI nF4 SLI-DR and the MSI K8N Neo4/SLI.

Based on overclocking abilities, features, and the performance of features present on the boards, we are pleased to award our Editors Choice Gold Award jointly to the DFI nF4 SLI-DR and the MSI K8N Neo4/SLI. Both boards are standouts in a group of standout motherboards.

The DFI nF4 SLI-DR is the board of choice for overclockers who wish to squeeze every last bit of performance from an Athlon 64 SLI system. The range of overclocking options and the overclocked performance are the best that we have seen. While the feature set is more or less average for SLI-class boards, the design and performance of the Karajan audio module particularly stands out as an example of the creativity that went into this board's design. Based on the best performance that we have ever achieved with the Athlon 64, we are pleased to award the AnandTech Gold Editors Choice to the DFI SLI motherboard.

The Gold Editors Choice is jointly awarded to the MSI K8N Neo4/SLI Platinum for the combination of robust operation at stock speeds, top-notch overclocking abilities, and the best feature set and feature performance of the available SLI boards. An enthusiast may be happy with either the DFI SLI or the MSI SLI board, but buyers looking for the best feature set that truly enhances system performance will choose the MSI. The 2nd SATA2 controller, dual PCIe LAN, and hardware SoundBlaster Live! 24-bit are a standout combination in a crowded field of top-performing motherboards.

We extend our congratulations to both DFI and MSI who deserve recognition for the chances that they took and the hard choices that they made in bringing these two products to market.

So, is SLI worth the cost and the effort? For some, the answer will be a definite no. The SLI boards still cost a great deal, setting up the system is still a daunting task, and the cost of two top-of-the-line video cards will be just too much for many to consider SLI to be a real option. However, we are confident that SLI and nForce4 work as they should and we have managed to finally achieve a stable SLI system with each of these four motherboards. In the end, nothing else will provide the gaming performance that a tweaked and stable SLI system can deliver. If the best performance possible is important to you, then the answer to whether SLI is for you will likely be "yes".

Whether the answer is "Yes" or "No" for you, there is likely an nForce 4 Ultra, SLI, or Ultra that can be modded to SLI that will meet your needs and budget. Until something better comes along, and it may be just around the corner, the nForce4 motherboards are a very good choice for a new Athlon 64 system. If your preferred flavor is AGP 8X, then the nForce3 socket 939 boards will provide basically the same performance at an even lower price.

Tips on Installing an SLI System
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  • TigerFlash - Monday, July 04, 2005 - link

    I thought this link would be rather important to see:

    http://forum.msi.com.tw/index.php?topic=82427.0
    Reply
  • TigerFlash - Monday, July 04, 2005 - link

    Reply
  • NightCrawler - Thursday, May 05, 2005 - link

    You make a big deal out of the fact that the DFI can hit 318 but they both do the same 2.8 ghz, users won't see much difference, if any.

    Asus: Maximum OC:
    (Standard Ratio) 234x12 (Auto HT, 2-3-3-7, 1T, 2.8V)
    2808MHz (+17%)
    Maximum FSB:
    (Lower Ratio) 255x11 (2805MHz) (4X HT, 2.5-3-3-7, 2.7V)
    (1:1 Memory, 1T, 2 DIMMs in DC mode)
    (+28% Bus Overclock)

    DFI: Maximum OC:
    (Standard Ratio) 238x12 (Auto HT, 2-3-2-7, 1T, 2.9V)
    2856MHz (+19%)
    Maximum FSB:
    (Lower Ratio) 318x9 (2862MHz) (Auto HT, 2.5-4-3-7, 2.9V)
    (1:1 Memory, 1T, 2 DIMMs in DC mode)
    (+59% Bus Overclock)
    Reply
  • DeanO - Monday, April 18, 2005 - link

    Don't know if anyone's noticed yet, but I just took a trip over to MSI's website, and guess what? Only the SLI mobo has the Creative chip. The Neo4 (i.e. nF4 Ultra chipset) mobo uses the Realtek ALC850. I for one was disappointed...
    That makes for an interesting decision: the SLI board is still cheaper than the Ultra board plus a Creative 24-bit sound card. Hmmm...
    Reply
  • phusg - Friday, March 04, 2005 - link

    New PCI card with C-Media DDL chip: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?s=&a... ge=20&pagenumber=1

    Currently only available via ebay apparantly:
    http://search.ebay.com/HDA-Digital-X-Mystique-7-1-...

    If it has the same performance as Soundstorm remains to be seen. Reading the thread the EAX support is just as dodgy as it was on Soundstorm.
    Reply
  • ElFenix - Thursday, March 03, 2005 - link

    What chipsets did your USB and firewire drives have?

    thanks for the great review!
    Reply
  • bjorn44 - Thursday, March 03, 2005 - link

    Anyone know how they did the memory benchmark with memtest86 3.2? I can't find any option for testing bandwidth.

    Thanks,

    Bjorn
    Reply
  • giz02 - Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - link

    Well if it's any consolation, PCSTATS have updated thier site review of the MSI Neo4 Plat SLI (and will probably make two more updates to it)
    - now states 96Khz
    - will modify DICE statement
    - they are indicating that the sil3132 can do raid5, but I'm not sure that it can...

    Wow Roomraider, that's quite the system you have there.

    Reply
  • Roomraider - Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - link

    #82 u r absolutely correct sir. I have the top SB card available(Audigy 4 Pro)& the only way i get DTS or Dolby Digital of any form is SPDIF out Via Coax or Fiber optic cable with settings for (Passthrough) to my Yamaha 7.1 Amp.



    MOBO Gigabyte Ga-K8NXP-SLI
    CPU AMD Athlon 64 FX-55
    Cooler Gigabyte 3D CoolBlue Ultra Gt
    PSU Thermaltake Purepower 650 Watt
    MEMORY 4xCorsair 512Mb 3200XMS PRO Tracer Ram/Dual channel 2-2-2-5
    Video 2xBFG 6800GT OC PCIE W/Serials in order
    HDD 2xWD-74 GB Raptor HDD/Raid(0)configged
    2xMaxtor 300 GB SATA HDD
    OPTICAL 2xPlextor PX716SA-SATA 16xDual Layer+-DVDRW-48xCDR
    CASE Lian-Li P60 W/clear side panel
    MODS 4 Blu 80mm/1 Blu 92mm(roof/exh)& 4 Blu Cold Cathode Lite Strips
    MONITOR Sony SDM-P234 23" 1920x1200 native
    SOUND Creative Audigy-4 Pro,YamahaDSP-A3090 7.1ch amp/Boston Micro90 spks/Bose AM-5 W/Sub

    ADD-ON MSI TV@nywhere Personal Cinema FX5200 TV/FM tuner
    Reply
  • Tatunkhamon - Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - link

    I admit this is slightly OT, but as I first got excited about the possible DD-encoding feature on the MSI-mobo and then let down by the obvious lack of it, I was happy to find these news:

    http://news.designtechnica.com/article6709.html
    http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000683034067/

    I know many of us don't like the DRM/HDCP-features of HDMI, but HDMI certainly is the way to transmit high-definition, multichannel audio *without the need* to compress ie. encode to DD. And live content, such as games, would not probably have the copyprotection flags on, anyway. Of course, getting enough coverage for HDMI in both h/w and s/w will take time, but I bet this is the way it's ment to be played in the near future.

    For example, think about combining this with s/w generated mc-audio and Intel HDA. No need for badly implemented codec/DAC in this model. Of this combined with discreete graphics card and the audio generated with the help of vector processing on the card.. I just hope Intel/Nvidia/ATI/whoever would start a strong enough, open standard to compete with EAX. Then Creative would either have to run, fast, or join their forces.

    Meanwhile, because there is not much HDMI-support (except for the earlier, non- multichannel-high-def-audio-supported HDMI-standard, for mainly graphics) some solution providing DD-encoding to be sent over standard S/PDIF would still be very, very desired for many of us.

    I end this thread-hijacking attempt here and apologize if being OT. Now back to our regular programming... :)

    Wbr, Tatu
    Reply

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