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The Definitive Multi-GPU Roundup

 

Introduction Summer 2006

 

by Josh Walrath

 

            In the spring of this year nine sites around the world decided to work together on a single, comprehensive article covering the multi-GPU space.  We decided not just to take a look at the cards themselves, but the supporting ecosystem of products that make up the base systems.  We explore what we consider the three major price ranges for such setups throughout, and we compare both ATI CrossFire and NVIDIA SLI at each point.

            Before we go any further I need to disclose the origins of this article.  Each of the sites was approached by Brian Burke of NVIDIA with this idea.  The basic premise was to get a group of respected sites together and cover a large proportion of game content and applications suited for multi-GPU setups.  At first many of us were very leery about participating in such an endeavor, as we had suspicions about how much control over the direction of the articles the marketing group at NVIDIA would have.  As it turns out, our worries were without merit.  As a pretty savvy marketing guy, Brian did put out a general timeline and ideas of what we can do to make the article work, but NVIDIA had no direct control over the content supplied here.

            What Brian was able to do was open doors to some manufacturers that we as individual site owners and writers might not have access to.  Brian was able to successfully get us the needed AMD processors, as well as make sure that we had the necessary NVIDIA based products such as the video cards graciously supplied by BFG Tech and high end motherboards from Foxconn.  As for the rest, we were on our own.  We have been able to procure the support of abit and ECS to supply the majority of motherboards, Supertalent was very generous in supplying our people with their outstanding T800UX2GC4 PC800 2GB DDR-2 memory kits, as well as Sapphire for providing some of our European members with cards.  ATI was something of a mixed bag when it comes to support.  Andrew Dodd has been an excellent source of help on the software side, and Chris Hook was able to help out some of our European members as well with product and support.  Unfortunately for the North American group, we were on our own when it came to acquiring ATI based hardware.

            With the basic framework in place, all of the members worked together to decide who would tackle what applications, and how could we throw a few curveballs to make any of the setups stumble and show off what strengths and weaknesses they have.

            We had also discussed the possibility of adding a third option to the multi-GPU series, and that would have been to include S3 into the process.  When we had first started talking about this article S3 had let quite a few sites review their multi-GPU setup.  At first we thought the idea of a solid, third competitor in the budget sector would shake things up, but after reading quite a few reviews, and having some of our members work on the setups themselves, we decided that S3’s multi-GPU platform was just not quite ready for primetime.  S3 does have some interesting technology, but there needs to be more polish on both the hardware and software sides before it can be considered a viable alternative to ATI’s CrossFire and NVIDIA’s SLI at that particular price point.

 

Next: The Players

 

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