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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  • Pirks - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    Are there any AMD motherboards that support both CF and SLI like X58 will?
  • ilkhan - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    doubtful. Why would nvidia allow SLI on AMD motherboards?

    As to why they are doing this, its obvious. The 4850, 4870 and 4870 X2 boards are more than enough price/performance to destroy nvidia's sales for every bloomfield owner for the next 6 months. No SLI, no chance for nvidia to capitalize on those sales.
  • Pirks - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    Why would nVidia allow SLI on AMD mobos? For the same reason they did it on Intel mobos - to sell more nVidia cards.
  • bigboxes - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    Intel doesn't own their main competitor in the GPU market. AMD does. It's a catch-22 for nVidia. They had to do this because crossfire works on both Intel and AMD boards. It's really silly not to allow AMD board users the option for SLI, but that's the corner they've worked themselves into. It will really be interesting as it looks like AMD has worked themselves out of their jam on the GPU front.
  • Mr Roboto - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    I agree. Now since it looks like Nvidia is going to be exiting the chipset market the real question is why wouldn't Nvidia open SLI on AMD boards. That move would only help them sell more cards.
  • Dobs - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    Isn't this old news from August 8?
  • Amiga500 - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    Not looking too good right now.

    I would say they are sacrificing their chipsets for some additional GPU revenue with that move.

    I assume Intel will get its way, and soon have a top to bottom coverage of SLI enabled chipsets, after which - who would want to buy an nForce?

  • AlexWade - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    Intel has a better chipset. AMD has a better chipset. NVidia's chipset days are over just like Via. Sure, it won't be overnight, but it is coming. That is why NVidia is doing this, because they know their chipset market is dead and thus they need a way to keep selling their graphic cards. Eventually, they will have to open up SLI on AMD chipsets too.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    You pay them money to "test" (i.e. certify) your board, and they give you a key. It would be nice if they would just open this up to all boards. I wonder how much they're charging for the certification process, and if they get a royalty on each motherboard sold? If it's a one-time per board design charge, I'd be surprised. (I'm also hopeful that some enterprising hackers will be able to extract the key and perhaps allow this to work on non-sanctioned boards.)

    Now all NVIDIA needs to do is allow the same thing for notebooks, and then get notebooks to run reference drivers. That way SLI on a laptop could actually be something viable rather than something that feels hacked in and somewhat flaky.... Not that there are any laptop chipsets that currently support two PCI-E x8/x16 links. And not like many people actually buy SLI notebooks regardless. Heh. (Can you tell what I'm testing?)
  • BackFlow - Friday, August 29, 2008 - link

    Rumor has it that Nvidia is charging $30.00 per cert and is less than the cost of nForce 200 chip.

    IMHO, NVIDA hand was forced because it couldn't get QuickPath license.

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