NVIDIA's GeForce 6 SLI: Demolishing Performance Barriersby Anand Lal Shimpi on November 23, 2004 10:23 AM EST
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From a performance standpoint, SLI is just about as good as it gets. If you have the budget for it, a pair of GeForce 6800GTs will let you run at 1600 x 1200 with 2X or 4X AA enabled in the latest games while still maintaining a very smooth gaming experience – something that no single card is able to do.
The GeForce 6600GT seemed to scale reasonably well, with a pair of 6600GTs outperforming a single 6800 Ultra in Doom 3 and Half Life 2. It doesn’t make too much sense to buy a pair of 6600GTs today however, as you’d be much better off getting a single 6800GT and upgrading to a second one down the road, which brings us to our next point, the upgrade value of SLI.
If NVIDIA is able to get their SLI certification program successful enough and if motherboard manufacturers are able to get SLI boards cheap enough, then the upgrade value of SLI is significant. We’ve already seen that going from a single $200 GeForce 6600GT to a pair of them offers performance greater than that of a single $400 GeForce 6800GT. Take into account that the price of these cards goes down over time and you’re looking at a pretty decent upgrade path for the future, requiring minimal investment today.
The upgrade path for 6800GT owners is even more enticing; if you’ve only got $400 to spend on a card today you can’t beat the 6800GT as a single card solution. Then, as the price of the 6800GT drops, it may become more attractive for you to upgrade to a second card rather than buying a next generation GPU. As long as we’re between DirectX cycles, SLI enables you to have the fastest most robust graphics setup out there without missing out on much.
While companies like ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI are working to get their boards out before the end of the year, it looks like the majority of manufacturers won’t have product on the streets until the first few months of 2005. We’d anticipate that by the middle of 2005, you’ll be able to purchase SLI motherboards for near mainstream Socket-939 prices, which should definitely drive for higher adoption and lower prices on SLI products (not to mention wider availability of NVIDIA certified SLI products).
The power requirements as well as the lack of NVIDIA certified SLI products out on the market today does trouble us a bit, but we’ll have to keep an eye out over the coming weeks to see how things change to better accommodate the introduction of SLI. At the same time, should SLI catch on, it has yet to be seen how NVIDIA and their partners will change pricing/availability strategies of older cards.
ATI will also have their own SLI chipsets and graphics cards in 2005, which should lend further credibility to SLI as a viable upgrade option.
The main thing to keep in mind that SLI is an option for those who want it; and whenever we have an option that offers a 40 – 70% performance increase where it counts, we welcome it with open arms (and wallets).