NVIDIA's Low End SLI Game Plan (And Other GPU Tidbits)

Over the last three months (particularly just before the launch of the GeForce 7xxx series), we heard a lot from manufacturers with regard to the push for low end SLI components. This included reducing the cost of SLI motherboards on Intel and AMD platforms, releasing new low end SLI video cards and even removing the paddle cards / bridge connectors. A dollar here and a dollar there eventually leads to big savings, right?

Whether or not you agree with the philosophy of SLI, reduction on motherboard and card costs is obviously a bonus for everyone. Once we start removing oddities like the bridge chip and SLI toggle paddle, SLI begins to act more like a scalable upgrade path than a select instance upgrade path. So what's the game plan for low end SLI on NVIDIA's behalf?

The first is to introduce GeForce 6600 SLI and GeForce 6600LE SLI. Both of these cards are already hitting the streets as we speak - SLI has been available on the 6600 since Detonator 77.72 and on the 6600LE since 77.74. The 6600LE cards we have seen (specifically the XFX 6600LE) still come with the bridge connector slot on the top of the device, but this is completely unnecessary as even a dual eight lane (but sixteen slot PEG) PCIe channel is sufficient for the bandwidth needed in SLI. Let's take a look at NVIDIA's low end component roadmap:

NVIDIA Low End Roadmap
Card Core Clock Memory Notes Mass Production
GeForce 6600 450MHz 128MB or 256MB 500MHz DDR SLI Now
GeForce 6600LE 400MHz 128MB 500MHz DDR SLI Now
GeForce 6500 400MHz 128MB 700MHz DDR1 TurboCache Available Now

The GeForce 6500 is a little bit of an unusual animal since vendors can opt for TurboCache or standard memory configurations, even though it is based on an NV43 core. The card comes with a 128MB buffer operating at 700MHz, but also has the ability to switch to a TurboCache configuration. Our first reports claimed that performance of the GeForce 6500 was somewhere in between a GeForce 6200 and a GeForce 6600LE, but looking at the clocks alone it seem as though the 6500 has a bit of an edge over the 6600LE. Unfortunately, there are no SLI capabilities (yet) on these cards, but we have seen off-the-record SLI implementations of GeForce 6200, so it would probably be safe to assume someone, somewhere, somewhen will be able to run a 6500 in SLI mode.

GeForce 6600 SLI is something we actually knew about back in June, but it's been slow for adoption since (at the time) a bridge connector was needed. Our friends at Prolink actually had samples of a 6600 in SLI configuration with the bridge connector, but with the newer drivers this is completely unnecessary.

Multi-GPU Cards and Crossfire

That's not all; there's more SLI news. Even though we haven't seen Crossfire in retail channels yet, manufacturers who have early samples of the motherboards are reportedly hacking drivers to get various dual GPU video cards to work on Crossfire motherboards... without the SLI bridge connector. Obviously, the implication here is that NVIDIA's SLI should also work on any GeForce cards in a dual PEG motherboard - NVIDIA chipset or otherwise. (Higher performance cards would likely take a performance hit by sending data over the PCIe bus, however.) In all likelihood NVIDIA will simply flex its muscles at the vendors who attempt to release their own drivers or configurations that allow NVIDIA SLI on Crossfire (much as we saw with nForce4 SLI on nForce4 Ultra a few months back). However, if not, you can be sure you'll see some interesting benchmarks on AnandTech.

X800GT Sold Out; Master Cards Soon (Really, We Think, Maybe)

Oddly enough, even though the X800GT got incredible resentment from the majority of our readers, the fact is that ATI sold a ton of chips in a very short period of time. So much so that Tier 1 partners are having trouble securing more chips, which is probably the primary reason why X800GTO showed up on the radar. A few Tier 1 guys that we all know and love are actually countering the X800GT with extremely favorably clocked 256MB X800 vanilla cards instead. An X800 vanilla running at say, 800MHz memory clock would still not be able to match the memory bandwidth of a near-1000MHz GDDR3 X800GT, but the additional pipes give it a much better fill rate. More details on that in the near future as well...

Recently I had the opportunity to sit in an OEM GPU briefing. The first 50 minutes of the meeting were incredible slides of GeForce 7xxx sales figures, SM3 features, new products, driver rollouts - the usual. The last 10 minutes of the meeting were spent going over ATI's cryptic roadmap slide. Aside from the fact that nearly the entire roadmap was covered in question marks, we were able to discern some information about the X800 Master cards and their rollout schedules. Here is what we saw:

ATI Master Card Roadmap
Card Core Clock Memory Notes Mass Production
X850XT Master Card 400MHz 1080MHz 256MB GDDR3 DMS September
X800XL Master Card 400MHz 980MHz 256MB GDDR3 DMS September

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  • A554SS1N - Friday, September 09, 2005 - link

    Yep, I was right - HKEPC (or whatever it's called) did a review and it is NV44 with a 64bit bus. The card they tested was made by Galaxy, and had 450Mhz core, 700Mhz memory and came out slightly faster than a 32mb Turbo Cache 6200, and similar to the X550, despite the latter having 128-bit bus.

    Hopefully Anandtech will post a review soon, seeing as they covered the TurboCache cards so well a while back. :)
    Reply
  • Rock Hydra - Tuesday, September 06, 2005 - link

    /walks into Circuit City

    Do you guys have the x800XT Master Card?

    We only take American Express.


    >_<;;;
    Reply
  • A554SS1N - Monday, September 05, 2005 - link

    I was just thinking - maybe the 6500 will be NV44 and so have a 64-bit bus. That would fit in with keeping the costs down and also the use of 700Mhz memory and 400Mhz core (higher than the 6600le) - with 128mb of it's own memory the card might fall somewhere between a 32mb TurboCache and full 128-bit/128mb 6200 NV43? The reason I'm thinking this is because if it were NV43 with a 128-bit bus, there would be no reason to get the 6600le for the average user?? Just a thought.... I'd like to hear what anyone thinks. :) Reply
  • bupkus - Friday, September 02, 2005 - link

    I was curious which core I have with my X800 so I installed Everest and it tells me I have an R430. That with a core of 400MHz and mem at 980MHz in my Gigabyte suggest I don't have a GTO. It's getting hard to figure what one buys when going with ATI.

    This is really getting embarrassing for ATI. Nvidia is slapping the shxx out of them.
    Reply
  • BBond - Monday, August 29, 2005 - link

    quote:

    Originally posted by: The Linuxator"The implication here is that NVIDIA's SLI might also work on GeForce cards on SLI motherboards"

    huh?


    Is this what Kristopher is referring to?

    http://www.slizone.com/object/slizone_sliAA_howto1...">SLI Antialiasing: Redefining Image Quality

    quote:

    Using the latest driver, SLI customers can enable SLI8x and SLI16x Antialiasing for any game.

    SLI Antialiasing is enabled using Coolbits*. The next driver release will make SLI Antialiasing a permanent feature in the NVIDIA Control Panel.


    Current "SLI ready" GeForce 6800s ( http://www.hardwareanalysis.com/content/article/17...">This connector is actually available on all PCI-E GeForce 6800 series graphics cards ) will become SLI X6800GTs? GeForce PCIe 6800GTs are being advertised as http://www.xpcgear.com/6800gtslipcie.html">"SLI Ready".

    But what's the difference? Who can afford one let alone two? :P

    $840 in graphics cards! :o

    That's more than I spent on my mobo, CPU, and memory combined way back when P4Cs, ICH5, and dual channel memory were brand new.
    Reply
  • AtaStrumf - Saturday, August 27, 2005 - link

    X800GT got incredible resentment ???

    WTF are you talking about? Man, you seriously lost touch with reality! Well OBVIOUSLY sales figures tell a different story now don't they?! Maybe now you'll stop reviewing those darn 7800GTXs and start with something more reasonable like X800 vanilla 128/256MB and compare it to sth more reasonalbe as well, so we can see how it compares to what we got, not what we will never have!

    What the hell's going on with ATi anyway. I mean hellooooo, we need some competition here!!!
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, August 29, 2005 - link

    Perhaps you didn't get the "from our readers" part of that quote? X800GT/GTO got incredible resentment from most of AnandTech's readers because the parts are really rebadged higher end chips, and frankly they don't perform well enough to make them worthwhile. Think the X800GT sounds good? That's a slower than X800 core with more memory bandwidth, at the same price as an X800. The X800GTO is actually the same performance as an X800, only with one of a variety of cores used inside.

    http://www.anandtech.com/talkarticle.aspx?frmResou...">I think these comments show a lack of support, don't you? Sales figures are often influenced by OEM purchases, and Dell/HP/etc. are probably jumping all over parts that cost $5 less than an X800 and perform slower. Knowledgeable computer users would rather spend the extra $5.
    Reply
  • OvErHeAtInG - Saturday, August 27, 2005 - link

    Well Kris, normally your prose is sparkling but I have to bring up one pet peeve which is one word that businesspeople (in particular) tend to misuse. The "philosophy" of SLI? SLI is not a philosophy, it's a technology. Or at best it's, let's say a "strategy."

    hehe, everyone misuses "philosophy," I just appreciate the opportunity to take it out on someone. :)
    Reply
  • coldpower27 - Friday, August 26, 2005 - link

    The new X850 XT Master Card is only 400MHZ??? but with 100MHZ more memory bandwidth? Reply
  • GhandiInstinct - Friday, August 26, 2005 - link

    So what do I do with my X800XL now? Reply

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