Do-It-Yourself Quad-SLI: It's Official
XHD Gaming Experience
NVIDIA developed Quad-SLI with ultra high-resolution gaming in mind. To that end, we fired up a few of today's popular games to see how our Quad-SLI rig fared at the native 2560x1600 resolution of our Dell 30" 3007PFW flat panel. We'll be taking a different route in this article that we normally would, however. We did not run our standard suite of benchmarks this time around. We recently tested a Quad-SLI configuration in this article and have detailed the performance characteristics there. What we want to do here is try to show you what a Quad-SLI rig offers to gamers.
The first game we fired up was F.E.A.R. Unfortunately, F.E.A.R. did not support our flat panel's high resolution our of the box so we had to do a little "tweaking". To get F.E.A.R. to run at 2560x1600, we first launched the game and set our desired graphical options, saved the changes, and exited the game. Then we went into the game's configuration file and manually entered the screen width and height attributes. And at this point we were ready for some ultra high-res gaming. Hopefully the screenshot above will give you an idea as to how F.E.A.R. looks at a resolution of 2560x1600. At this resolution, with 4X anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled, the gamer registered a respectable average framerate of 46 frames per second. We know that's not the kind of number gamers like to see, so we also tried the game with 2X anti-aliasing enabled, and at that point it hit a much better average of 85 FPS.
Next, we spent a little time gaming with Half Life 2: Episode 1. This addition to the Half Life 2 franchise has improved graphics and makes use of HDR rendering. Fortunately, the game engine natively supported our flat panel's high resolution, so after choosing the appropriate options in the game's control panel we were up and running. At 2560x1600 Episode 1 looked fantastic, but with 4X anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled performance was quite to our liking. At that high-resolution with AA and aniso enabled, our Quad-SLI rig posted an average framerate of 37.55 FPS. So, we knocked the AA down to 2X and the framerate jumped to a more acceptable 49.23 FPS. Taking the anisotropic filtering down to 8x resulted in an even better average framerate of 52.21 FPS.
The last game we have to show you is the recently released Prey. Prey is based on an updated version of the Doom 3 engine, but it too unfortunately did not support our panel's high resolution right away. To get Prey to run at 2560x1600 we had to enter a handful of commands in the console, but there are a number of ways to enable custom resolutions with this engine. Because Prey was designed for OpenGL, it was the only game here to run in full 4-way AFR, which translated into higher performance. With 4X anti-aliasing and 16X aniso, Prey posted a perfectly playable 78.9 FPS.
The fact that two of the three games we played requiring some sort of hack to get working at 2560x1600, proves that ultra high resolution widescreen gaming is still in its infancy, and Quad-SLI users will have to put in some extra effort to fully utilize their hardware. Luckily, there are already a number of resources on-line that explain how to enable custom resolutions with numerous games. The Widescreengaming forum in particular is very helpful.
What we can't easily show you with any of these screenshots, however, is how much more engrossing a game is when being played on a large monitor with a 16:10 aspect ratio. The 16:10 widescreen aspect ratio means more of the game world is visible in your field of view. And when sitting in front of a large 30" panel like Dell's 3007FPW, portions of the screen are only visible in your periphery. It's somewhat like watching an iMAX movie where you feel more a part of the imagery, rather than a spectator looking through a window, as is sometimes the case with smaller 4:3 aspect monitors.