SLI Bridge Available in Retail

Turn Your nForce4 Ultra into nForce4 SLI

by Anna Filatova
03/14/2005 | 06:30 PM

This week some Japanese hardware stores started offering the SLI bridge card, which is shipped together with Gigabyte’s or Leadtek’s graphics cards as well as with all the SLI supporting mainboards based on nForce4 SLI available in the today’s market. Why could anyone be willing to buy a separate SLI bridge card at all?

 

If you have been reading our News attentively, you probably know that some nForce4 Ultra based mainboards are equipped with either two full-size PCI Express x16 slots or with one full-size PCI Express x16 slot and one PCI Express x4 slot , which allows installing a second graphics card. None of the mainboard makers however is brave enough to announce officially that their solutions really support SLI. As you know, NVIDIA is doing its best to prevent the “unauthorized” modification of the nForce4 Ultra based mainboards into nForce4 SLI based ones.

Nevertheless, it is possible to overcome the “anti-modification” protection in the driver and change the chipset ID on the hardware level. However, it has been impossible to make up for the absent connection bridge-card. At least the SLI technology from NVIDIA doesn’t allow it. VIA and ATI promised to use no SLI-like bridge cards in their alternatives to NVIDIA SLI. So, we’ll see.

Here is the SLI bridge selling in some Japanese hardware stores today. It is available as a separate item and is not included into any bundles:

The name of this device is very simple: “VGA Bridge”. The package doesn’t say anything about the manufacturer or the compatibility with SLI: everything is arranged so that the unhappy NVIDIA would lose track immediately.

Judging by the length of this bridge card it can only be used on those boards where there is only one expansion slots between the two PCI Express x16 slots (it is usually PCI Express x1). ASUS mainboards are designed with two PCI Express x1 slots here, so this card will be too short for them. Well, ASUS mainboards owners should keep an eye on their SLI bridge card then :)

On the reverse side of the SLI bridge there is a sticker giving away the origin of the device: it comes from Taiwan. Maybe some of the graphics card or mainboard makers decided to make a buck or two on just SLI bridge cards, who knows. Actually, keeping in mind that this small but very useful device is selling for $10 retail price, the whole operation should be pretty successful.

The manual helping you with the proper installation of the bridge card is on the back side of the package. Again, there is not a single word about SLI support.

Hopefully, by the time they “legalize” SLI support by the competitors’ chipsets, which should happen some time in Q2 2005, SLI bridge cards like that will already be selling in all stores and their makers will no longer need to hide.