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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  • Hattiwatti - Thursday, June 11, 2009 - link

    How 'bout if you'd overclock the prosessor to something like 4,0 GHz so it wouldn't be such a bottleneck to the Quad-SLI and Quad-CrossfireX configurations? I have tested it myself (with i7 920 and 2 GTX295's), and it really pays off. The performance increases a lot when CPU's clock is raised from 2,66 GHz to 3,8 GHz. It definitely makes a difference (NOTE: 3,6 GHz is still a bottleneck, and maybe 3,8 GHz is too. Couldn't overclock more and test since memory couldn't go any further) Reply
  • marraco - Thursday, March 5, 2009 - link

    The price/performance charts favours the cheapest cards, but give little useful information.

    What really shows the price/performance information, is an XY chart with price vs performance.

    With it is easy to see what is the better performer at a given price, and the cheapest option at a given performance. Also shows closely related price/perfornmance options if you can't have access to the best performer, because is not available.

    and with XY charts is easy to see the best bang for the buck, because is commonly found at the sharp bending of the lower price evolvent line.
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Let's hope the reviewers here take your information to heart and put it to use.
    I suspect though the FUD and bias will win out.
  • Dazzz - Tuesday, March 3, 2009 - link

    Although your article is really intresting, I would rather see some benchmarks including the people who it might also be interesting beside 30" display owners.

    Right know I'm thinking about purchasing a TrippleHead2Go after they updated the firmware and support 3x1680x1050.

    Unfortunately even widescreengaming forum can't provide FPS benchmarks for the 5040x1050 resolution.

    I'm thinking about going multiGPU but there is no comparison nvida and ati at this resolution.

    This article could have been the platform to support surroundgaming and show if 2/4way gpu's make sense in this context.

    I'm looking for such an comparison for 2 weeks now and couldn't find anything. And I'm still stuck with my decision if a single gtx295 could deliver a playable performance (disregarding the quality settings for the time beeing) or if I have to look for other sollution like 4way or 2way GTX285.

    Any suggestions ?

  • VooDooAddict - Tuesday, March 3, 2009 - link

    I very much like the resolution switching for the tables.

    This has confirmed what I'd been leaning towards for my next build (Shuttle X58 SFF). I'll be getting one of the following Dual GPU cards to run my 1920x1200 gaming.

    4870 X2
    4850 X2

    (I was running two 4850s in a X38 Shuttle SFF for a while before the frequent overheating caused me to switch to a single 4870.)
  • Antman56 - Sunday, March 1, 2009 - link

    I think that these Quad 4850 framerates need to have a special label. Using 512MB Radeon 4850s in Quadfire is not a good idea for 2560x1600. 1GB 4850s would have shown the 4850s high resolution muscle way better (as it did with the 4870 1GB cards vs 4870 512MB cards). Scaling would not be so poor.

    Otherwise, nice compilation of information. :p
  • TonkaTuff - Sunday, March 1, 2009 - link

    Best graph layout Ive seen on any site so far, so much easier to pick your desired resolution and have it in front of you instead of picking through a mess of resolutions,great article by the way still consider single card setups offer best bang for the buck and less headaches. So now multi GPU questions are out of the way, how about something regarding whats around the corner? 8,9 and gtx200 is all realistically the same architecture scaled up and shrunk down. Any whispers on new GPU architectures? Starting to feel that after the rush of technological progress the last few years especially ever since the release of 8000 series cards ( long time ago now!) things really seem to have stagnated the last few months. Cheers for a great read Jared. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, March 2, 2009 - link

    Thank you ;-) Reply
  • Slappi - Sunday, March 1, 2009 - link

    I wouldn't touch their cards with a ten foot pole.

    They are about to collapse under their debt.
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    LOL - It's so much fun when a non-red rooster speculates like the raging red does all over the place.
    Thank you.
    Yes, ATI has bled BILLIONS the last couple of years, with barely over that in sales per year.
    It appears they're spending twice as much as they're selling, and that is probably not a recoverable situation - unless the new lib god Obama and the dem congress has a billion or two or more, "in the package" for them.

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