Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 161
01-27-2010, 06:59 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by cipher_nemo View Post
The 4870 X2 is also one of the hottest and most power hungry video cards with dual GPUs.
I could never quite wrap my mind around SLI/Xfire or x2 solutions (from either ATI or Nvidia).. I could never quite justify the total cost in terms of extra power, cooling, noise, and frustration from shoehorning applications made mostly for single GPU systems into the solution vs the amount of perceivable performance you gain. But hey, whatever floats your boat I guess.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 162
01-27-2010, 07:17 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by CapnScragg View Post
I could never quite wrap my mind around SLI/Xfire or x2 solutions (from either ATI or Nvidia).. I could never quite justify the total cost in terms of extra power, cooling, noise, and frustration from shoehorning applications made mostly for single GPU systems into the solution vs the amount of perceivable performance you gain. But hey, whatever floats your boat I guess.
Well, I have thoroughly enjoyed my NVIDIA GTX 295, which is also a dual GPU card. I hate SLI and Crossfire (been there, done that) considering the costs of upgrading two cards and the warranty replacement of one that might break SLI/Crossfire if you're given a newer model. NVIDIA's GTX 295 and ATI's 5970 dual-GPU cards are among the first to actually do dual-GPU right. Both of these cards consume only a fraction more power and produce only a fraction more heat than single GPU cards of the same class. In the past, dual GPU cards typically meant dual PCB cards with one connector for the motherboard. Those always produced an excess amount of heat. These dual GPU cards have internal SLI/Crossfire bridges.

The 4870 GX2 was also the first to be dual-GPU on one PCB. But it wasn't downclocked, tweaked, or anything from its single GPU cousin, and thus, produced much more heat. The GTX 295 and 5970 were tweaked to work more efficiently as a dual-GPU card. Don't get me wrong though, as with adequate case cooling and such, the 4870 GX2 is a very powerful card.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 163
01-27-2010, 09:39 AM
Despite my tendency to shy away from SLI and Crossfire only a short while ago, implementation and performance scaling have vastly improved with recent technological development to make those options much more appealing, making many of these horrid memories of past implementations (my own included) something that is no longer consistent with the present situation. I, for one, am extremely happy with my two Radeon HD 5770s in Crossfire X.

Most of the early headaches of discrete, multi-GPU setups is now gone. SLI no longer requires dedicated "master" and "slave" cards to be purchased, just as Crossfire no longer requires the unwieldy specialized cables that went to the power supply in early implementations (though many cards still require a dedicated line for power). Power consumption on GPUs in general has also been decreasing due to more efficient fabrication and design, making the prospect of multiple cards a far less monstrous one then it was; the inordinately explosive growth of GPU power consumption in the face of ever increasing efficiency of other components represents a design disparity that we no longer have to tolerate, a fact that can be solely credited to Ati and AMD thanks to their advancement beyond the traditional Monolithic-GPU-of-Doom paradigm with the Radeon HD 4000 series.

Reducing the headache even further is the fact that only SLI is broken by slight differences in cards. CrossfireX is so tolerant that you can match cards of completely different models as long as they're of the same series (and you're not crossing cards on opposite ends of the spectrum), the caveat being that the faster card gets down-clocked to match the slower. It's a pointless thing to do most of the time, but it goes to show how tolerant Crossfire's second generation implementation is of differences, and is quite handy if you have, say, a 512mb card and want to do two GPUs with a 1GB card, because you can then use the frame buffer of the larger card (SLI/Crossfire do not use memory from both cards, though single-PCB solutions do at the expense of making other concessions).

They're also a performance/price aspect to it. Generally speaking, it's not worthwhile to implement multi-GPU setups with top-end cards, because most games don't require that kind of horsepower, and you're spending money that could instead just be saved and invested in a newer, faster card a year or two down the road. That said, the performance scaling of SLI and Crossfire have improved enormously with newer generations of chipsets, as mediocre 30-50% gains have turned into a near linear performance increase with dual-GPU setups (and tri-GPU setups are scaling better and better every year). This creates a situation where it is now feasible and advantageous to use mutli-GPU schemes with mid-range GPUs. For a mere $260, one can put two Radeon HD 5750s in Crossfire and have a setup that handily outperforms a single 5850 in most instances, and for a mere ~$310 for 5770s, one can have a setup that easily outperforms a single Radeon HD 5870 in most instances.

This review provides a reasonably good outline of the present situation. Note that by this point in time, most DirectX9 titles are no longer appropriate benchmarks for the highest end GPU setups, as the ties in perfomance between the CrossfireX 5770, 5850 and 5870 setups shows that these games are now CPU-limited, even on the reviewer's massively powerful Core i7 965. Nevertheless, it is clearly visible in most games (particularly those that are GPU-demanding enough for it to matter) that Crossfire setups offer huge performance advantages, and a very interesting prospect with the midrange cards.

Of further note is the aforementioned Tri-CrossfireX setup with the 5770, which, while clearly not well-supported by present profiling as most games saw no benefit from the added card (and actually show a decrase in FPS), is very interesting in its performance in the small handful of titles which support it, as the three 5770s (which can be had for a mere ~$470) roughly match the performance of two Radeon HD 5870s (which cost roughly $800-$850). While quad-GPU setups are still a long-ways away from seeing any kind of significant support, baring dual-PCB, quad-GPU setups such as dual GTX295s and 5970s (which show very good scaling), mostly due to the fact that DirectX10 actually ignores the 4th GPU (which DirectX11 hopefully does not), it is clear that just as dual SLI and Crossfire setups are starting to become appealing in with recent development, Tri-card setups may very well become a very appealing option down the road as further development creates better and more ubiquitous profiling for games (almost all games that would actually see benefit have profiles for dual cards these days, barring a title or two such as Supreme Commander).


Of final note is the benefit of sheer redundancy offered by dual-card setups. Having one GPU fail is no longer a crippling event, as one has another to work with while filing and going through an RMA. In my case, the situation proved even simpler. One of my 5770s has faulty memory, but as only one card's frame buffer is used in CrossfireX, I needed but to switch the cards around and see the problem instantly resolved.

SLI and Crossfire were, indeed, once a headache that provided little benefit outside of bragging rights. The more time goes, on, however, the more there is a place for such setups in higher-end gaming machines, as the option adds a level of flexibility and choice not previously present in GPU purchasing thanks to improved implementation.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 164
01-27-2010, 10:34 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Catamount View Post
Of final note is the benefit of sheer redundancy offered by dual-card setups. Having one GPU fail is no longer a crippling event, as one has another to work with while filing and going through an RMA.
I can certainly attest to that as well. I used two 8800 GTX cards at one point. One died after 1.5 years, and during the RMA I could still run on one to get me by.

But I wouldn't use that as an argument to use SLI. For my GTX 295, I have EVGA's extended RMA plan, where they'll send me out a replacement GTX 295 if anything happens to mine. That way, less down time for me. But still, for single card people, just keep your old card if it still works (don't sell it!). That way you have a backup when your card dies while you are handling the RMA process.

My biggest gripe about SLI for this RMA situation is that companies many no longer have your card in stock if it's an older model. So if you need a warranty replacement, they may give you a different, newer model. This might be fine for CrossfireX, but it completely cripples SLI. And companies won't take back both cards to replace both with equal models unless you want to lie and claim that the second is defective too. I prefer not to do that, so I avoid SLI.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 165
01-27-2010, 10:39 AM
You do have a point about keeping your old card around. Mine generally go to hand-me-down systems that friends own (my last full system went to a friends' little brother so he could play WoW smoothly with some eye candy). That said, if something catastrophic should happen, I have a PCIE Geforce 7300LE that I got for like $20 sitting in a box just so I can run my machine. It wouldn't run much in the way of games, but it would keep the computer internet and work capable at least so that I wouldn't be without a machine altogether.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 166
01-27-2010, 10:51 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Catamount View Post
You do have a point about keeping your old card around. Mine generally go to hand-me-down systems that friends own (my last full system went to a friends' little brother so he could play WoW smoothly with some eye candy). That said, if something catastrophic should happen, I have a PCIE Geforce 7300LE that I got for like $20 sitting in a box just so I can run my machine. It wouldn't run much in the way of games, but it would keep the computer internet and work capable at least so that I wouldn't be without a machine altogether.
Hahaha, same here in that my old hardware goes to other PCs. If I really need a backup to my GTX 295 (if it dies in the future), I can pull one or two 8800 GTX cards from my second PC to get back and running. And my third PC has two 7600 GT cards in SLI. I even have a 7200, 7300, and 8500 el-cheapo card around for testing (I fix other people's PCs a lot). I also use a 9600 GT card as a second video card in my PC to run a 4th monitor and a Wacom Cintiq tablet, so I could just switch over to that card for primary gaming temporarily.

Lots of options when you're a geek/PC-modder. For other non-geek folk, I just recommend keeping their previous card provided they didn't wait 5 years between upgrades.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 167
01-27-2010, 11:08 AM
Haha, yeah I used to have a spare of every part imaginable, but then I moved from NH to NC and had a "garage sale" of sorts, where I just gave stuff away more or less free just to clear most of it out so I wouldn't have to take it. That's actually where I scrounged up enough parts for a full PC for the aforementioned little brother of my friend. The only thing I didn't have was a case and a couple other parts (HDD, etc), so I Macgyvered it all into an old Compaq case (using electric tape to connect the cut-and-separated wires for the power switch and HDD light that had been part of a proprietary connection ). I also had to build a heat sink mount from whatever I could find, because the on the motherboard was a custom mount for a heatsink that had broke, so I just screwed some random metal bracket using available screw holes down onto a heat sink's lower piece that made contact with the CPU to hold it in place, and a year and a half later nothing has overheated

The whole thing was ridiculously improvised. Still, an Althon 64 3700+, 2GB of DDR 400 and Geforce 8800GTS 320mb isn't bad for the ~$100 they had to spend filling in the part gap.

That's pretty much the story of where all my spare parts went...
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 168
01-27-2010, 11:12 AM
I do still have a bunch of CPUs floating around for some reason, including one of these badboys
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 169
01-27-2010, 11:17 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Catamount View Post
I do still have a bunch of CPUs floating around for some reason, including one of these badboys
LOL! Nice. Those old ceramic chips are tough to find these days, but many are still working.

I had so much hardware cr*p laying around that I had to buy a ton of ugly plastic storage drawers/bins to sort and keep it all. Still giving away 386 through Pentium III hardware.

Ever see my retro PC build?
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 170
01-27-2010, 11:20 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by cipher_nemo View Post
LOL! Nice. Those old ceramic chips are tough to find these days, but many are still working.

I had so much hardware cr*p laying around that I had to buy a ton of ugly plastic storage drawers/bins to sort and keep it all. Still giving away 386 through Pentium III hardware.

Ever see my retro PC build?
Did you use enough thermal compound on that Pentium CPU?! :p

That's so awesome though...
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