After looking at the benchmark numbers, the experience we had with the GeForce 7900 quad SLI, let is try to summarize everything and draw a conclusion about the technology.
Nvidia managed to declare its lead in consumer-oriented multi-GPU technologies by introducing its quad SLI – a technique that allows four graphics processors to work together. While formally the company claim the lead in “constructors’ championship”, the current implementation of the quad SLI leaves much to be desired.
The quad SLI is here, the quad SLI is now shipping from a few companies. The reason why several big names, such as Alienware, are not yet shipping the quad SLI systems commercially amid formal launch is because this technology does not seem to be ready for commercial systems: users, who will utilize graphics cards to play games at extreme quality, will almost surely run into significant troubles with freezes, crashes, quality issues and so on. It transpires that Nvidia’s current quad SLI is not a product for buyers of luxury, as they desire stability and performance, not compatibility issues.
The quad SLI technology indisputably has potential: already now it demonstrates the highest scores in such games as F.E.AR., Far Cry with HDR enabled, scores best high-resolution numbers in Elder Scroll’s Oblivion, it wins Chronicles of Riddick tests, it produces amazing quality with 32xs SLI AA enabled, it does a plethora of great things. At the same time, it crashes in 3DMark05, Far Cry and numerous other games, produces artifacts when SLI AA is activated in Chronicles of Riddick and Serious Sam 2, which all degrades the value of this technology for the user right here and right now.
Perhaps, Lamborghini cars are known for spending quite some time in services, but they are faster than Porsches, meanwhile Nvidia GeForce 7900 quad SLI is not faster than ATI Radeon X1900 XT CrossFire (which is known for high performance in high resolutions and with FSAA) across the board and may even lose to dual GeForce 7900 GTX setup. Furthermore, at present quad SLI has many issues with stability and compatibility.
Basically, either the lack of proper driver tweaking, games optimizations or low clock-speeds of core and memory do not allow to show the quad SLI its real force – extreme resolutions and extreme antialiasing: even if the performance numbers it shows in 2560x1600 are higher compared to the rivals, they are not sufficient for game playing in many cases, which makes such a victory useless. At the same time, not a lot of games actually support resolutions higher than 1600x1200, which means that even though the boards are capable of handling the resolutions, they will not have such an opportunity in many cases. 32xs antialiasing is certainly an interesting option, but in the absolute majority of cases enabling it with high resolution means that the quartet of GeForce 7900 processors will not deliver sufficient frame-rate.
When ATI CrossFire technology was commercially released in September 2005, we criticized it for its peculiarities (maximum resolution of 1600x1200@60Hz), low scaling and some other issues. At the end, the CrossFire technology has matured significantly, lost its disadvantages and came to stars through the thorns. Can Nvidia’s quad SLI do the same?