Even though financial analysts claim that there are not enough Nvidia GeForce GTX 400-series graphics boards available on the market, Nvidia Corp. on Wednesday released a driver that enabled the latest graphics cards to work in 4-way multi-GPU mode to boost performance. While 4-way SLI for GeForce GTX 400 family is available formally, far not all end-users will take advantage of it.
The latest WHQL-certified Nvidia Forceware drivers version 197.55 for Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems enable 4-way SLI with GeForce GTX 480 or GeForce GTX 470 graphics boards. This is the first time when 4-way multi-GPU mode is enabled for four consumer graphics cards. Previously both ATI and Nvidia only allowed 4-way multi-GPU mode to work on two dual-chip graphics boards; besides, both companies enabled 3-way multi-GPU modes for single-chip solutions.
Considering the fact that the GeForce GTX 480 graphics card outperforms the ATI Radeon HD 5870 accelerator, the 4-way SLI quartet powered by four of such graphics boards can easily become the fastest graphics solution for consumers.
Although there is now software support for 4-way SLI technology with GeForce GTX 400-series graphics adapters, it will not be easy for actual end-users to take advantage of the option. The cost of four premium single-chip graphics cards varies from $1400 to $2000, which is quite a lot. In addition, a special mainboard with four PCI Express x16 slot is needed, there are not a lot of such motherboards on the market. Besides, since GeForce GTX 400-series graphics cards consume a lot of energy and dispose a lot of heat, end-users will have to acquire high-end power supply units in addition to specially-designed cases. Finally, end-users will have to obtain a special 4-way SLI bridge, which is not supplied with graphics cards and has never been supplied with mainboards with four PCIe x16 slots.
4-way multi-GPU solutions have never been popular among gamers, partly due to cost reasons, partly due to various issues with hardware and software. Considering the fact that now there are a lot of technological roadblocks with 4-way SLI, the configuration will be pretty rare outside systems from boutique PC makers.