nForce4 SLI Roundup: Painful and Rewardingby Wesley Fink on February 28, 2005 7:00 AM EST
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Final WordsThe 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.
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Heinrich - Monday, February 28, 2005 - linkHi, this is a great article. I'm really disappointed that the issues with the new Winchesters and the MSI board were not uncovered. The new CPUs will not post past FSB of 219, which is far below the 250 many get with other boards. Someone with the depth of knowledge, experience, and understanding of all these little options in the BIOS could help us uncover the real problem. Here's the best thread devoted specifically to the problem on Rebel HQ:
ajmiles - Monday, February 28, 2005 - linkHey,
I enjoyed the round up of the SLI boards very much and thought it was very thorough.
I own an A8N SLI Deluxe board, and too have been thoroughly disappointed with it's overclocking performance.
On behalf of tens of users on the Anandtech - Motherboards forums, would it be beyond Anandtech's power to get a statement from Asus about the issue???
At a 2T Command Rate the board will overclock to 316, 1T however just 249. The sudden BSODing as you approach 250 smacks of something that could be fixed with a BIOS update.
Please Anandtech, A8N users are begging for this to be fixed, or at least be told it can't be.
Many thanks, and again, a great article.
Viper4185 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - linkis it true that the MSI board doesnt have a PCI Express x1 slot so that when the new Creative PCI express sound cards come out it wont fit?
Viper4185 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - linkThanks for the review guys, just what I wanted! Although I am interested in the Ultra versions its still very similar...
I was wondring if you could comment on the stability/stress testing of the DFI board as Hardocp seems to have had some issues...
Also would have been good if you included the Abit Fatal1ty board to make the review 100% conclusive for me.
nzimmers - Monday, February 28, 2005 - linkdang, I wasn't first, oh well.
one more thing....I no longer chase the FPS demon, and I am better for it (mentally and emotionally). To be honest I don't expect SLI to become a standard in MB design.....even for high end gamers. Isn't the price just too high?
nzimmers - Monday, February 28, 2005 - linkFirst post!
I was actually really (plesantly) surprised that DFI did so well. I know that they have been improving lately but isn't it great to see another MB manufacturer improving for once?
arfan - Monday, February 28, 2005 - linkfinally...., thx 4 your review
jkv71 - Saturday, June 3, 2017 - linkMy DFI video quit. I use an adapter to run hdmi on my tv. I replaced the video card and still nothing. I replaced the mother board. Still nothing. Any ideas?