This marks the final planned installment of our multiGPU exploration. We may (or may not) publish a follow up that looks into CPU scaling across all these parts. What we believe we'll find is that the single GPU solutions will not be anywhere near as significantly impacted as multiGPU solutions which more often hit CPU and other system limitations. We aren't guaranteeing that we'll be publishing the CPU scaling article because we still have some testing to run and this editor is soon to be the father of a second child. We will be working on completing our testing, and whether or not we are able to round this series out with a CPU scaling follow up, we will definitely be exploring CPU scaling further in future articles.

It is important that we remember, for now, that much of the diminishing return on what 3 and 4 GPU systems can deliver comes in the form of system limited performance. With single GPU systems, we expect that there is a wide range of CPUs we can select that will deliver nearly the same performance. Putting less money into the CPU than the GPU makes a lot of sense for gamers who don't need the CPU power for other tasks. But does the same hold for multiGPU systems? Maybe and maybe not. We do know that with the highest powered CPU we can buy we certainly have a good number of system limited situations.

One of the things that people who invest in the highest end multiGPU systems get is more longevity. Gamers with 3-way GTX 285 hardware will be able to go quite a while without upgrading. Of course, this has to be balanced with advancements in technology. Will 3x GTX 285 still be worth it after we have DX11 hardware and games and there are better graphics options for newer models? Additionally, gamers who want and employ this type of solution are highly likely to upgrade as often as possible to the highest end hardware possible, so the longevity issue might not be as relevant as it is with more affordable multiGPU solutions.

On the plus side, if gamers who must have the bleeding edge buy the highest end equipment they only need to make a significant investment the first time. Imagine a gamer bought 3x GTX 285 parts when they came out in January. Within a year we expect new models to come out that will be able to best the GTX 285 in performance, but the GTX 285 hardware will still be worth a significant amount. These used cards can be sold and the profits can be reinvested in new graphics hardware. This isn't as easy or useful with lower end graphics cards as you don't get the same return on your investment.

I'm not saying you'll make money or break even this way, but if you aggregate the cost over the long term, you'll be spending less on average per purchase than if you just make one high end purchase and then run it until it's worthless before you buy again. Whether or not you'll spend more or less on the whole would require further analysis though.

Now, we advocate value quite a bit on our site. People who want the absolute highest end can easily look at the graphs and simply know what they want. We don't really see much "value" in these high end parts beyond being as fast as possible. It's cheaper to buy efficient lower end hardware that gets hugely playable performance in all the games we tested. A good high end 2-way solution can go a long way while the diminishing returns of 3 and especially 4-way systems make the cost of the slightly higher performance is more than we can recommend in good conscience. But there's a market for it, so we'll take a look at it.

For the majority of our readers, though, this article will reinforce the fact that, while the highest possible end might be nice to dream about, it's really tough to justify the cost, especially when most people are on some sort of budget. So let's get a glimpse of that dream.

What We Couldn't Cover


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  • lk7200 - Wednesday, March 11, 2009 - link

    Die painfully okay? Prefearbly by getting crushed to death in a
    garbage compactor, by getting your face cut to ribbons with a
    pocketknife, your head cracked open with a baseball bat, your stomach
    sliced open and your entrails spilled out, and your eyeballs ripped
    out of their sockets. Fucking bitch

    I really hope that you get curb-stomped. It'd be hilarious to see you
    begging for help, and then someone stomps on the back of your head,
    leaving you to die in horrible, agonizing pain. *beep*

    Shut the *beep* up f aggot, before you get your face bashed in and cut
    to ribbons, and your throat slit.">

    I wish you a truly painful, bloody, gory, and agonizing death, *beep*
  • vailr - Sunday, March 01, 2009 - link

    Any testing of 8x GPU's?
    4x Radeon 4870 x2 cards?
    4x nVidia 295 (dual GPU) cards?
    Combined with an Intel Skulltrail board using a pair of quad core CPU's.
  • LinkedKube - Wednesday, March 04, 2009 - link

    I'm running tri sli gtx 295's. My energy bill has gone up 110 usd a month since december. With that to think about, wth would someone test 4 gtx295's. Totally inefficient. This article imo was about price/performance through competitors giving us a new way to look at fps with the 100 usd fps chart. Reply
  • Jorgisven - Sunday, March 01, 2009 - link

    That technology does not yet exist. The skulltrail board supports Quad SLI, meaning, 4 total gpu's (the x2 boards count for 2 each). Nothing supports 8x graphics cards. That would create ridiculous overhead, as you can probably tell from the scaling from going from 2-4 gpus. Reply
  • Hrel - Sunday, March 01, 2009 - link

    This was a GREAT series of articles and I'm so glad you guys decided to make them. I'm pretty sure I've never heard anyone on a hardware review site actually admit it's a wash between AMD/ATI and Nvidia and it all comes down to brand preference; so props for coming out and saying the truth.
    One thing I've said many times before in these comments, that I'm still not seeing. "I would really love to see 3D Mark scores for all these cards included with each GPU article." You show the subjective tests of the hardware, the games, please show the objective test for the hardware, 3D Mark.
    So yeah, amazing articles, thank you for writing them. And my only, very minor, complaints are that you didn't include hardware down to the 9600GT level(at least)or lower and you didn't include 3D Mark scores.
    Yes, I know it's supposed to be a multi-GPU review, but you included enough other single GPU's, I would have really liked to see how the other cards stacked up, kind of a "whole market" GPU comparison.
    P.S. Sorry, third complaint, I remembered after mentioning the lower end hardware. Had you included those cards, it would have been nice to see tests at 1440x900 and maybe 1366x768 too; seeing as how that's becoming a standard. And yes, I understand the amount of work that goes into testing that many configurations; and the time required to test at so many resolutions. And... I really truly appreciate all the work put into articles like this; I swear, I recruit more people to come visit this site then a tv ad could.

    On an article design note: I really like the comparison for value, based off performance per dollar, or per 100 dollars in this case; very good idea. I also REALLY like that I could switch between resolutions just by clicking a link; I like bar graphs WAY more than Line graphs, ever since First Grade. Later guys, great work!
  • LinkedKube - Monday, March 02, 2009 - link

    I agree with the fps per 100 dollar section, very cool. Something new to look at and think about. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Sunday, March 01, 2009 - link

    I have to agree with you on the 3dMark scores (and any of the other major ones Aquamark or something?) I think anyone crazy enough to purchase 4 cards or 2 dual's are probably doing it more for the competition of benchmarking than actual gaming. Or at the minimum of equal importance and so if the quad AMD/Nvidia decision is a wash based on game performance maybe the synthetic benchmarks would sway the decision.

  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Well you shouldn't. Software, especially benchware, favors this or that method or type of hardware, and given the differences pointed out between the gpu styles of Nvidia and Ati, no test is going to eliminate bias in it's guaging - as should be absolutely obvious to you after seeing massive variance in game scores here for the same two opposing gpu's, and realizing, if you had a scientific mind, that 3dmark also uses a GAME it "created" that will favor one architecture or another, definitively.
    So, you may "have to agree" - but you may also "change your mind" about that.
  • Razorbladehaze - Sunday, March 01, 2009 - link

    Actually there is no "subjective" tests in this article. Subjective is non-empirical (non data based) testing. Or another aspect of subjective testing is when one would say that subjective is when the outcome reported is not supported by the data because of mitigating other factors (i.e. best card is not ----, because graphical glitches, despite having best FPS) . So FPS in benchmarking as all tests here demonstrate is in fact all objective testing.

    Furthermore 3d mark scores are really redundant and not practical. I for one am really glad that Anand have left them out, they are a waste of testing time in most cases. I used to really like the 3d mark scores for benchmarking my own stuff, and used to look forward to them in articles. Over time though i have really noticed that although they do provide a comparison between cards, they do not translate to much in terms of real world performance. The comparison between cards is still easily made using a common benchmark from a game, and it allows more differentiation and demonstrates more "across the board" performance when testing multiple games and, as mentioned in the first line of this paragraph, provides practical results.
  • Hrel - Thursday, March 05, 2009 - link

    Yeah... no. You're wrong. Tests based on games are subjective because the results you get from that testing is subjective to that game. Each game is programmed differently and utilizes the GPU hardware differently. You can three cards, have one card be the fastest by a large margin in one test and be the slowest in another test.

    (Subjective: Characteristic of or belonging to reality as PERCEIVED rather than as independent of mind.) The results show up as PERCEIVED by the game, rather from independent results.
    (Subjective: Peculiar to a particular individual.) That individual is the game. -These were taken from Merriam/Websters dictionary online.-

    (Objective: Expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations.) Testing using only games causes distortion. That distortion is from "feelings", "prejudices" and "interpretations". Feeling of the programmers who wrote the game, some like to program for Nvidia hardware some prefer AMD. Also, some game studios are paid or given preferential treatment to favor one companies hardware over another's. What I just said has to do with prejudice too. Interpretations, Nvidia and AMD hardware is designed differently, a blatant example of this is that AMD uses 800 SP's where Nvidia uses 128 SP's and they both have similar performance; the code of the game, generally DirectX 9, interprets each set of hardware differently ergo we have a non-objective interpretation of the GPU's performance capability.

    Games are meant to be played and perform the way each individual game studio wants them too; there are so many variables across companies, and employees and the games themselves you can't possibly use a small subset of video games to determine the performance differences between a set of GPU's. At least not reliably.
    (Objective: Limited to choices of fixed alternatives and reducing subjective factors to a minimum.) Every scientific experiment strives to remove variables from the testing process; video games simply don't do that.

    3D Mark and the newer 3DMark Vantage are as objective as software testing hardware can be. One test, programmed one way, programmed to only run one way no matter what GPU it is on. Also, 3D Mark is designed to stress the GPU hardware as much as possible, no matter what card it is, which means it will take full advantage of every card you test using it.

    No, 3D mark doesn't equate to real world results in any way. But that doesn't matter, it's the most scientific, least variable test anyone can perform on multiple GPU's to determine the performance differences between them. And isn't that all anandtech is trying to do with this whole series of articles? Yes, yes it is. Of course it is always good to look at the games, to see that subjective measurement and to determine which card works best with the games YOU play. But it is imperative to look at 3D mark as well to get a complete idea of the DIFFERENCE IN PERFORMANCE between the cards. To see whole big picture.

    To make it simple for you, if one card outperforms another card by 15% or more in 3D Mark, it's a good bet that card will outperform the other card in the majority of the games on the market; regardless or programming inconsistencies.

    On another note, most people will never take a resolution beyond 1920x1080, so I'd really like to see more testing at resolutions lower than that; and the inclusion of lower end cards to see if they can play the latest games... even if I do have to lower the resolution a little.

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