Of course NVIDIA would wait until I physically left NVISION 08 to actually make an interesting announcement, but there’s no bitterness, I swear :)

The big, no, huge news from today? NVIDIA is enabling native support for 2 and 3-way SLI on Intel X58 based motherboards...without the use of any nForce 200 chips.

It’s not as simple as simply enabling SLI support on X58, NVIDIA wanted to both ensure compatibility and additional revenue, so there’s a certification program.

Any X58 motherboard maker can submit their board for certification, which will be done by NVIDIA. If the board passes, and the motherboard manufacturer agrees to pay a certification fee (NVIDIA would not reveal how much), then the board is certified and NVIDIA provides the board manufacturer with a key to place in its BIOS.

When you install the NVIDIA drivers, they check for the presence of this key in the BIOS - if it’s found, then you get the ability to enable SLI, natively, on X58. Note that this won’t work on any other Intel chipsets, just X58 for Nehalem owners this fall.

This is absolutely huge because it does mean that with the right motherboard you can now have both CrossFire and SLI support, without resorting to an OEM system or something more exotic like Skulltrail. Below are the supported configurations:

You can run X58/SLI with either two or three cards (a pair of GX2s will work but you can’t use four individual cards in SLI). 3-way SLI + 1 card PhysX acceleration is supported as well.

If you absolutely want the highest bandwidth possible, 3 PCIe x16 slots are only supported using nForce 200 chips, otherwise you’re stuck with two x16s or one x16 and two x8s.

The nForce 200 route seems quite silly due to the added cost and power consumption but the option is still on the table.

Why is NVIDIA doing this?
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  • hoohoo - Wednesday, September 10, 2008 - link

    Because otherwise Nvidia will be ground into pieces between the twin boulders of Intel and AMD/ATI. Intel and AMD/ATI would then paint the pieces blue and red and stnad around and toss the little pieces up in the air repeatedly while madly cackling. They might even smile at *each other*!

    The only place video cards compete other than on price is in high resolution gaming: the only way that happens is SLI/Crossfire: Intel and AMD/ATI are quite competitive against Nvidia chipsets and Nvidia does not own the IP for Intel and AMD/ATI chipset/CPU interfaces: by refusing to let chipset makers do SLI on their own Nvidia removes itself from the SLI/Crossfire market. Therefore Nvidia must quit the market or play ball.

    Intel's upcoming video processor may become a third force in graphics - how likely that Intel would support SLI if that happens? AMD/ATI certainly will never support SLI in their chipsets. Thus Nvidia's situation of a vendor of GPUs but not CPUs makes it vulnerable to being simply squeezed out of the video card market.

    That said, Nvidia has deeper pockets, broader markets than gaming, and less debt than AMD/ATI. I think Nvidia bought a CPU company a few months ago.

    Would a third GPU + CPU vendor be a good thing? Yes. Indeed yes. Yes, I think it would be a fine thing indeed.
  • AggressorPrime - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    I just love how the market can just force nVidia to do what is best for us computer users. You gotta love Capitalism. Thank you nVidia for bringing SLI to a universal platform without the hassel of bridges!
  • jarthel - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    empire strikes back!
  • Mr Roboto - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    This is interesting: http://www.bit-tech.net/news/2008/08...-sli-suppor...">http://www.bit-tech.net/news/2008/08...-sli-suppor...

    Saw this on the HardOCP forums. Quotes taken from Bittech

    Nvidia wouldn’t answer questions about vendors adding the cookie onto boards that haven’t been through the certification process, but it said logos and branding are a couple of the conditions of use.

    So what about if a budding enthusiast manages to extract the key from one or more boards? Nvidia said it wouldn’t do anything to stop enthusiasts enabling SLI support on non-certified motherboards themselves. Tom Petersen, Technical Marketing Director in Nvidia’s chipset business unit, said that he’d be quite happy if enthusiasts did that because it’d mean they’d be using two (or more) Nvidia graphics cards in their system.

  • lsman - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    So INQ report NV exit out of chipset buz was right?
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    Not yet... they won't have the necessary QPI interface for Nehalem at launch, but they are planning to support the 2-channel version. Regardless, if you make enough predictions, you're bound to get a few right eventually.
  • Beenthere - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    It's standard procedure in many industries to test and certify products and then charge a royalty per unit sold, so there is nothing unusual about Nvidia's latest revenue stream.

    The real question is, why would anyone want SLI when they can have superior performance from Crossfire? I doubt that native SLI will be a savior for Nvidia. They have much more serious problems to address if they plan to be around much longer.
  • Ananke - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    I have this question, just form a pragmatic standpoint...Why should this make me buy nVidia if Radeon obviously works on any platform. So, if I migrate from Intel to AMD I can still Crossfire my Radeons. The only good reason would be if I already have nVidia, to be able to keep the cards when I buy Nehalem. However, is it worth to cut my future oportunity and platform independance in half? Now, if the GTX260 costs 25-30% less then Radeon4870, and has 55 nm, better power, heat, image etc. characteristics, then I definitely will consider /not immediate buy/ the GTX. As of today the market is against nVidia though. They need to shrink those chips, make the cards smaller, scalable and cheaper.
  • bonecrusher - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

  • i3arracuda - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link


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