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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  • chucky2 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Typo on Page 20: I don't think you hit F3, it's F6.

    Chuck
    Reply
  • ajmiles - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Wesley, would it be possible to get a reply to the comment #6 i wrote? ASUS worked closely with you to resolve the dual 6800 ultra issue, but they just stonewall me and everyone else regarding the overclocking at 1T issue.

    Perhaps if someone with some "muscle" in the hardware reviewing world were to push them for a response you could get one out of them?

    Thanks, Adam Miles
    Reply
  • teng029 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    #52 - i don't envy what you have to go through. i've had the misfortune of trying to get tech support from asus sometime ago and it was like pulling teeth.

    #29 - i agree. while i would love to have two 6800 ultras or GTs in SLI, the fact of the matter is i can't justify the cost. so instead i'm going with two 6600GTs. although this is apparently not a very popular choice, the fact remains that this configuration is still going to be substantially faster than my current setup using a 9700 pro and it costs about the same as my 9700 pro when i bought it.
    Reply
  • teng029 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Reply
  • giz02 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    I just noticed that the MSI board lacks additional PCIe boards, where the DFI board has an additional 1x and 4x slot. Anyones opinion on the importance of this? Reply
  • roostercrows - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    I just have to mention to my fellow anandtech members that I have an ASUS A8N-SLI board and I have been trying to get through to their "tech support" Friday and all Monday morning with absolutely no luck whatsoever! You can't even get through to anyone. So, when considering a motherboard keep this in mind. My experience with their "tech support" has been the worst you can imagine. Well...at least they weren't rude or incompetent.... they just aren't there. Reply
  • drewski - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    too bad the non-sli from MSI doesn't use the SB audio
    http://www.msi.com.tw/program/products/mainboard/m...
    Reply
  • giz02 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Sorry page 5-11
    Reply
  • giz02 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Heinrich,
    Did you configure the settings as per page 5-12 in the manual to passthrough on the decoder?
    Reply
  • THILE - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    How did you make the Gigabyte run 4x dimms at 200mhz?
    I have this new motherboard GA-K8NXP-SLI and 4x of kingston hyperx pc3200 (KHX3200UlK2).
    And running a new AMD athlon64 3500+ 90nm

    I use SPD settings for the memmory. T2 is enabled.
    Do I then force 200 mhz it just frezes.
    Reply

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