In our recently published review of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 470 SLI tandem we discovered the high potential of that solution. Built out of two graphics cards, that graphics subsystem was generally superior to the ATI Radeon HD 5970. The latter remains the fastest single graphics card, but if Nvidia dares release a Fermi-based counterpart of the GeForce GTX 295 and retain the same clock rates as those of the GeForce GTX 470 or slightly lower, the long-time supremacy of AMD in the top-end graphics market sector will come to an end. AMD fans may not like that, but the Radeon HD 5970 has indeed been rather too long on the throne. This kind of stagnation is not good for the whole 3D gaming market as well as for gamers themselves.
However, dual-processor graphics cards are not the acme of modern technology. The premier league of gaming 3D products includes even more advanced multi-GPU solutions based on top-end discrete cards that incorporate more than two GPUs such as 3-way CrossFire and triple-SLI configurations. Benchmarking simple dual-processor tandems based on top-of-the-line products is also interesting for gamers who have the money and are ready to put up with all the typical downsides of such systems besides their high price.
Today, the ATI Radeon HD 5870 CrossFire and Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 SLI are the two fastest multi-GPU solutions you can build out of two graphics cards. This is how they compare to each other:
It is clear that the AMD tandem cannot match the performance of the GeForce GTX 480 SLI even though is superior to it in terms of pure computing power and texture-mapping speed. Theoretically, it is going to be much faster than the ordinary Radeon HD 5970 thanks to the higher GPU and memory clock rates. As for the price factor, the pair of GeForce GTX 480 cards is going to cost no less than $1000, which is more expensive than the AMD solution. But is it really worth the money?
We will try to answer this question by benchmarking the two topmost multi-GPU tandems available today: Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 SLI and ATI Radeon HD 5870 CrossFire. We will also check out an unusual model of the Nvidia flagship product with a quiet and efficient cooler along the way. We will see if the cooler makes the Zotac GeForce GTX 480 AMP! free from the downsides of the reference card.