MultiGPU Update: Two-GPU Options in Depthby Derek Wilson on February 23, 2009 7:30 AM EST
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Who Scales: How Much?
To calculate this scaling data, we simply looked at percent performance improvement of two cards over one. With perfect scaling we would see 100%, while no improvement is 0% and a negative performance improvement means that the multiGPU solution actually produced worse numbers than the single card. There's a lot of data here, so we'll break it down a bit before we present it all.
It is possible to see more than 100% scaling in some tests for different reasons. Fluctuations in benchmark performance can contribute to just over 100% situations, and some times optimizations to enable better multiGPU performance can cut some work out enabling higher performance than would otherwise have been possible. In one of the cases we test today we have a situation where single GPU performance is limited at some framerate while multiple GPUs aren't hindered by the same limit. This artificially inflates the scaling percent.
When looking at games that scale overall, we end up seeing both Radeon HD 4870 configurations (512MB and 1GB) performing worse than we expected. Granted, the 4870 1GB looks better if we only take 2560x1600 into account, but even then the Radeon HD 4850, GeForce GTX 260 and GTX 280 beat out the 4870 1GB in terms of average performance improvement (when performance improves). When we add in CPU limited cases, the 4870 cards look even worse. Consistently, most of the ways we attempted to analyze the magnitude of performance improvement (averages, geometric means, per game, across games where call cards scaled, etc.), the Radeon HD 4850 and GeForce GTX 260 (and sometimes the GTX 280) did pretty well, while the Radeon HD 4870 cards came in pretty low on the list with the 1GB often looking worse because it hit harder CPU limits at lower resolutions.
Hitting CPU or system limits does speak more to value than desirability from a performance standpoint, but it's still important to look at all the cases. Configurations with lower baseline single GPU performance will have more headroom to scale, but these might not always scale enough to be playable even if they scale well. So it's important to take both value and absolute performance data into account when looking at scaling.
We've put all this data on our benchmark pages with the performance data to make it easier to see in context. There just isn't one good way to aggregate the data or we would talk about it here. Depending on the type of analysis we try to do, we could present it in ways that favor AMD and NVIDIA and since there really isn't a "correct" way to do it we've decided to just present the data per game and leave it at that.