What's better, to link two inexpensive graphics cards in a single subsystem or buy one top-end card for the same money? This depends on the particular circumstances, of course. Perhaps you already have Nvidia's newest affordable solution GeForce GTX 550 Ti but you think it to be not fast enough in certain applications. Or you may have some $300 to spend and a mainboard with two PCI Express x16 slots. In either case the choice is hard considering the abundance of different offers in the graphics card market.
Judging by the specifications, a couple of GF116-based cards look a very appealing solution: the GPU clock rate is the highest among the competing offers. The same goes for the peak memory bandwidth which is almost as high as 200 GBps. Alas, such a high performance doesn’t come without certain downsides. The fastest graphics subsystem you can get for $300 would also have a high heat dissipation of 240 watts. Although lower than that of the GeForce GTX 590 or Radeon HD 6990, this number means very, very hot.
AMD users can hardly hope the Radeon HD 6950 to match the performance of a GeForce GTX 550 Ti SLI configuration. The single weakness this SLI tandemmay betray is in its rendering of scenes that require high texture-mapping performance. So, that’s the theoretical background behind our today's tests.