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Quad SLI - Don't expect miracles

CPU now the bottleneck
Wed Mar 08 2006, 22:30
NVIDIA IS GOING to launch a ton of new parts later this week, but we have gone over that in great detail, part numbers, prices, etc, etc.

One thing they are not officially announcing that they are going to announce is the new quad-SLI parts, dual GPUs per card. They demo'd them at CES to great scratching of heads and now are about to productize it. It won't be a Dell exclusive in a few days.

The big remaining question is performance. And that is where you are going to be disappointed. It is not an architectural limitation, there is enough bandwidth, and the GPUs are more than powerful enough to do what they are meant to. The problem is that the CPU is not. The bottleneck has done a complete 180 from the 3DFx days - it is not longer the cards.

I have talked to people with the beasts, and they all tell me one thing, if you are a 3DMark junkie, be prepared to be sorely disappointed. NVidia has wisely put out a few new modes lately that use the excess GPU power to up AA and AF modes when you are CPU bound. These, however, are only good to a point. And a 4-GPU rig by far surpasses that point, and doesn't stop there.

Reports say that if you have a 30" monitor, it will make a noticeable difference, but all lesser glass will be restrictive. It is not much of a stretch to assume that if you can afford a pair of these monsters, a 30" LCD will not be a financial hurdle either. Anyone else will be wasting their money.

About all that is reasonable to assume on the desktop nowadays is 1600*1200 panels ot maybe a 1920*1200 Dell 24-incher. A pair of 7800GTX/512s is enough to saturate that on any existing games, and a single dual card should be too. Sources suggest a second one will buy you next to zero.

So, when this new toy comes out, don't expect more astounding numbers on much more than a few specific benchmarks. We are told the majority of things not in the reviewer's guides are pretty much wasting electricity with these cards. Then again, when Kentsfield or Clovertown come out, or the quad FX chips, game on again. µ


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