As expected months ago, Nvidia either had to change its policy regarding core-logic support for its multi-GPU SLI technology, or to cease further development of the latter. The graphics company apparently decided to allow SLI support on third-party chipsets in special cases, but makers of mainboards will have to pay Nvidia licensing fees for SLI.
At present only Nvidia nForce chipsets enable the company’s SLI multi-GPU technology, thus, users, who plan to utilize two or more Nvidia GeForce-based graphics cards to speed up their video games, have to acquire nForce-based mainboards, in spite of the fact that there are no technical limitations for SLI operation on third-party chipsets. Those, who use multi-GPU capable core-logic sets from AMD, Intel or other chipset vendors cannot use SLI technology, but may utilize competing ATI CrossFire array consisting of several ATI Radeon graphics cards by Advanced Micro Devices.
It is believed that Nvidia did not manage to get a license for Intel’s quick-path interconnect (QPI) bus, thus, it will not be able to create and sell chipsets compatible with Intel Core i7 (Nehalem, Bloomfield) processors. Nvidia’s positions on the market of high-end chipsets for AMD processors are also not very strong now that the Sunnyvale, California-based chipmaker develops its own core-logic sets.
Earlier this year Nvidia proposed to sell its nForce 200 PCI Express hubs to enable various SLI configurations, however, additional hubs cost money and dramatically increase complexity of mainboards, which is why many motherboard manufacturers started to complain about the idea.
At the Nvision event in San Jose, California, Nvidia outlined another plan: it will certify certain Intel X58-based mainboards for SLI compliance and will provide “approval keys that will be integrated into the system BIOS for boards that pass certification”. The company said that it will charge mainboard makers for SLI compliance, but right now the terms are unknown. One of the options would be to charge a fixed sum for every SLI-compatible mainboard, another option would be to charge a fixed sum for a model with no fees for every unit. In any case, such certification will be cheaper than placing nForce 200 that costs $30 on every motherboard.
Nvidia stressed that such certification is only valid for Intel X58-based mainboards. Moreover, the company will continue to promote its nForce 200 chip for more advanced systems. Nevertheless, Nvidia’s new position towards SLI support by third parties’ chipsets seems to be only the beginning of a major change.