With all of their technical and usability-related shortcomings, multi-processor graphics solutions were successful in finding a niche of the discrete graphics hardware market to settle in at the time of Nvidia’s GeForce 7 and ATI’s Radeon X1000 architectures.
According to the statistical data gathered by Valve, multi-GPU technologies were utilized by about 1.5% of all gamers at the beginning of this year. This seems to be a realistic number. There are not too many people who stand no compromises between performance and image quality and want to have the maximum gaming speed regardless of how much it may cost. It is such devoted gamers that become the end-users of high-performance multi-GPU systems consisting of two ultra-fast graphics cards and an appropriate mainboard.
Trying to cater to this user audience, Nvidia even launched the world’s first gaming system with four GPUs called Quad SLI but the early version of this technology proved to be unsuccessful (for details see our article called Quadtet: Nvidia GeForce 7900 Quad SLI Performance Unveiled). The Quad SLI system didn’t deliver the performance expected from it and had a number of compatibility and image quality issues. Even more importantly, it couldn’t beat the opposing CrossFire tandem made out of two ATI Radeon X1950 XTX cards (for details see our article called Second Round for Nvidia Quad SLI: Technology Matured?).
Nvidia in fact abandoned its Quad SLI solution after the release of the new-generation GeForce 8 GPU series whereas multi-GPU tandems could not be popular because a single top-end graphics card would be faster than two mainstream cards joined together and also ensured a problem-free and fast operation in each and every game.
We tested the fastest available multi-GPU systems (using both Nvidia SLI and ATI CrossFire technologies) on our site before but the situation in this sector is different today than it was a year ago. The leading developers of discrete graphics solutions for the PC, AMD and Nvidia, have both released new-generation graphics processors, Radeon HD 2000 and GeForce 8, respectively. Another important factor is that Microsoft is actively promoting its new operating system Windows Vista as the main OS for gaming platforms, especially as the new version of the DirectX API exists for this OS only. We have already benchmarked the fastest available single-card solutions from both GPU developers in Windows Vista, now it’s time to check out the multi-GPU solutions as well.