NVIDIA 3-Way SLI Performance Preview

Introduction and Architecture

Since this performance preview is targeted to PC Gamers, to start things off we might as well play a game.  Riddle us this...  What would be the antithesis of a product like a thin and light Notebook PC that is energy efficient, eco-friendly, and performance-per-watt tuned for those of you on the go?  Some of you may hazard a guess that it would be a high performance Desktop Replacement notebook machine or perhaps a Workstation computer of some sort.  Those might be good answers but we'd beg to differ.

The real answer would be the sort of setup you see here in this picture below.  Take a high-end quad-core processor, drop in not two but three top-of-the-line NVIDIA GeForce 8800 Ultra graphics cards, chain them together in 3-Way SLI and then watch the lights dim.  We're a pretty serious bunch here at HotHardware - this is no joke.  Modern-day, cutting-edge 3D Graphics processors are easily as complex, if not more so in some respects, as high-end multi-core CPUs.  Let's think about this for a minute.  A Core 2 Quad processor from Intel is comprised of some 800+ million transistors.  A GeForce 8800 Ultra is made up of 640 million transistors or so.  Now, multiply that GeForce 8800 Ultra number by three and you're looking at 1.92 BILLION transistors just for graphics processing. Hello?  Thought we lost you there for a minute.

Green-friendly, eco-minded, tree-huggers or those of you with weak constitutions for that matter; look away.  This might not be for you.  Put the kids to bed early - NVIDIA's 3-Way SLI is in the house.  We'll show you exactly what it can and can't do for you, next. 

NVIDIA nForce 680i Motherboard and GeForce 8800 Ultra x 3

NVIDIA 3-Way SLI Technology
System Requirements and Specifications

System Requirements:

  • Three GeForce 8800 Ultra or GeForce 8800 GTX Graphics Cards

  • NVIDIA nForce 680i or 780i Motherboard
  • Intel dual or quad-core Core 2 processor  (AMD platform to be announced)
  • Power Supply With Minimum Peak Power of 1100 Watts
    • Four 6-pin and two 8-pin PCI-E Power Connectors or
    • Six 6-pin PCI-E Power Connectors
  • 3-Way SLI Connector
  • Proper and Robust Case Airflow
  • New Windows Vista Hotfix For 3-Way SLI (KB945149)


  • GeForce 8800 GTX 3-Way SLI Supports 110 Gigatexel/sec Fillrate
  • GeForce 8800 Ultra 3-Way SLI Supports 117 Gigatexel/sec Fillrate
  • GeForce 8800 GTX 3-Way SLI Supports 259 GB/sec Memory Bandwidth
  • GeForce 8800 Ultra 3-Way SLI Supports 310 GB/sec Memory Bandwidth
  • 384 Stream Processors Total

For reference:  HotHardware GeForce 8800 GTX and GeForce 8800 Ultra coverage 

The requirements for a 3-Way SLI setup are fairly straight-forward.  You can easily build one of these monster configurations yourself and annoy your friends at National Grid and Keyspan in the process too.  All you'll need is an 1100 Watt power supply with at least six 6-pin PCI Express power connectors or four 6-pin and two 8-pin connectors, an nForce 680i or 780i motherboard with three full-length PCIe slots, a fairly roomy case with good airflow, Windows Vista and the right NVIDIA driver to support 3-Way SLI.  Incidentally, NVIDIA has noted that AMD-based 3-Way solutions are forthcoming.  We'll take a look at what a 3-Way SLI-enabled system from the folks at MainGear Computers looks like next.

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