NVIDIA Quad-SLI with the ASUS EN9800GX2

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Last week, NVIDIA formally launched the dual-GPU powered GeForce 9800 GX2 graphics card and nForce 790i SLI Ultra chipset.  We evaluated both of the products in depth in our coverage of the launch, but had to leave out one important detail per NVIDIA's embargo agreement - that being Quad-SLI.

It wasn't that Quad-SLI needed some more time in the oven, however.  In fact, we had the drivers in hand to do Quad-SLI testing well before last week's launch.  The delay in GeForce 9800 GX2 Quad-SLI coverage was simply due to a timing issue and commitments NVIDIA had made with a few of their OEM customers, who will likely be announcing Quad-SLI powered system sometime today.
 

 
NVIDIA Quad-SLI Technology: The nForce 790i SLI Ultra with two GeForce 9800 GX2 cards


As its name suggests, Quad-SLI consists of a quadruple GPU configuration.  And while today's version of Quad-SLI is new, it is not a brand new technology.  As many of you probably know, NVIDIA had previously launched Quad-SLI with the GeForce 7950 GX2 in mid-2006.  Due to the timing of its arrival, GeForce 7-series Quad-SLI was married to Windows XP.  Ultimately, difficulties getting many games to scale led to diminished support from NVIDIA.  With Windows Vista and its completely new driver model and a new version of DirectX right around the corner, however, it's clear why NVIDIA took some focus away from the GeForce 7-series Quad-SLI solution, as distasteful as it is that existing customers were left out in the cold.

The situation today is somewhat different though.  At this moment in time, both NVIDIA's and AMD's flagship graphics cards are powered by dual-GPUs.  Windows Vista has also had some time to mature and a few of the roadblocks that prevented good scaling with three or four GPUs on Windows XP have been eliminated.  Properly implementing a quad-GPU configuration is still immensely difficult, but the focus on multi-GPU configurations has never been more acute with both major players in the GPU space seemingly committed to supporting the technology in the long term.

    

    
ASUS EN9800GX2

We're going to evaluate 2008's version of Quad-SLI technology with a pair of retail-ready graphics cards from ASUS, dubbed the EN9800GX2.  ASUS' take on the GeForce 9800 GX2 is much like the reference design we showed you in our launch coverage, save for the custom decal affixed to the card's enclosure.  And as is usually the case with their graphics cards, ASUS includes a robust accessory bundle with the EN9800GX2 complete with a CD / DVD wallet, a user's manual, a driver CD, another disc with a copy of Futuremerk's 3DMark06, and a full version of the DX10 game Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts. In addition to the software, ASUS also thrown is DVI to VGA adapter, a dual-Molex to 6-pin PCI Express power adapter, a 6-to-8-pin PCI Express power adapter, and an S/PDIF audio cable to take advantage of the card's HDMI output.

Model

EN9800GX2/G/2DI/1G

Graphics Engine
 
GeForce 9800 GX2
 

Video Memory

1GB DDR3

Engine Clock

600 MHz

Memory Clock

2GHz (1GHz DDR3)

Memory Interface

256-bit + 256-bit

DVI Max. Resolution

2560 * 1600

Bus Standard

PCI Express 2.0

DVI Output

DVI-I * 2

HDMI Output

Yes

HDCP compliant

Yes


The rest of the ASUS EN9800GX2's specifications are essentially identical to NVIDIA's reference design.  The card's GPUs are clocked at 600MHz and its 1GB (512MB per GPU) of GDDR3 frame buffer memory is clocked at 1GHz (2GHz effective).

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Notice the 2 8800 GTS in SLI outperform the 9800 GX2 in almost EVERY application.... !?

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As they should. 2 x 8800 GTS in SLI is basically the same configuration as a single GX2, but because the GPUs on the GTSes are clocked higher they come out in front in most tests.

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Wow, can that thing handle Crysis like no other machine.  For the people with enough disposable income, it's definately the fastest solution.  Though I'd go with a cheaper SLI or X-Fire setup over it.  Quad GPUs... still blows my mind.

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Pretty impressive performance figures. I am also surprised at how well the Radeon HD 3870 X2 (x2) performed in relation to the pair of 9800GX2 in SLI. It would be nice to see these two configurations go head to head while being able to take full advantage of quad GPU scaling equally in every test.

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Yes AMD has been putting lots of work on their drivers, The HD 3870 X2 is starting to scale pretty good...

So the fact is that the Hardware (Power) is here, it's only a matter of Getting the Drivers Right (Fuel).. (That's for both nVidia and AMD)

Competition is Awesome :)

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