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What can you expect from CrossFire/SLI

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March 4, 2009 4:07:25 AM

10 years ago, I bought a Pentium 3, 933MHz from Dell. As of today, I am writing this on the same PC I bought which is now running Windows XP Pro SP3, 512MB of God knows what RAM from the "last century" and the same old CPU, power supply, etc etc. This PC has NEVER failed me. My trustly old Dell Dimension, which will only retire upon its death. Till Death Do us Apart is the motto stuck on my PC case. Many laugh, and go on until I turn it on. Under 1 minute boot time, blazing fast, loads applications a lot slower than your modern PCs but faster than an average user with the Core2Duo. Why? Because its Free. Clean. No Viruses, no problems. I haven't even downloaded Windows Updates in months. NO need to. I am the Anti-Virus of my computer. I monitor what goes in and what goes out. It works for my tasks, and even plays NOLF or Castle Wolfesntein (Nvidia GeForce440 MX). Infact, I beat FEAR (the first one) on 800x600 on this PC. That's right. I don't know how I did it. It wasn't pretty, but it was good enough.

So now I have set about buildng a new PC. Benchmarks, Reviews, etc, clogging up my already frustrated mind. I decided to build a gaming rig. Why? Because a gaming rig usually puts the most stress on a PC in terms of performance. That is why any PC is always put up against a game or two, and I have not seen any PC simply just tested on how well it can zip and unzip (or RAR), or do Super Pie calculations.

After about a month of heavily saturating myself with the knowledge of custom building a PC, I went and bought the Radeon 3870 (Which by the way is going back). My turn offs?

1) Cross Fire. You mean to tell me that I have to use the SAME card or nearly identical card to gain 33% or so performance out of it?

2) Size. The size of these cards just makes me laugh. The jet engine fans on top of them look even funnier.

When the entire world is going 'Green' and top of the line communication and electronics technologies in general are becoming smaller and more efficient, these 10.5" behemoths will be the laughing stock of 10 years from now. The same way as we look at the old ENIAC. So the whole world is trying to save space, conserve energy, and we have to go out and buy more and more powerful PSUs and bigger cards, blow a jetstream through them to keep them under good operating temps? How is this going "GREEN" ? How is this energy efficient? My mind is made up and it tells me that all this is just marketing BULL, just sucking me in, so I can play Crysis comfortably which is what I set out to do. Now to play Crysis, I better have deep pockets and lots of room to fit those car sized cards in there. I refused to accept this and RMA'd the cards. NO Thanks, I'll wait. I already have heat in my house, I don't need another heater expensive enough to rob me of my sanity just to play some game.

Would I like to play Crysis? Yes. But I am sure most of us are not made of money to be throwing around just for a game...That makes no sense to me. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE games. I love PC games, and I would never touch any other system (Well maybe I would) but I wouldn't buy into the Xbox/PS3 marketing. I have noticed so many people talking about Crysis and their Windows Vista score.
This is old news but Microsoft plans to keep updating that Vista score. So if you score 5.9 today, in a few months you'll be behind. Times are tough, money isn't abundant, but these big companies are cashing out on their marketing prowess.

CrossFire and SLI:

Add 1, then another, then another, all the way upto 4. So you can't see your motherboard anymore. Can't access anything on the motherboard either. This is the way it is right now. Does anyone else besides me think this is ridiculous? Why can't they just make 1 GPU powerful enough? Why not make TODAY'S GPUs able to play today's latest titles like Crysis? Why should one have to spend $600+ or dual cards, to play Crysis in HD? Not to mention the energy requirements of these cards.

I am sure this is possible, and these companies know it, but starting a new trend is like a new fashion statement. This thing will go out of style because a majority of us will probably not buy into this. Think of how hard you work (if you work at all) and then save up to buy top of the line PC of today, that cannot comfortably play today's games? Let's say I am exaggerating a bit, but how about that average person who likes to play games on their computer now and then, and goes out and buy's an HP? Today's technology, can't play the game. Again it seems like mainstream software is leading the mainstream hardware. Ofcourse for the enthusiast or someone with lots of money, the opposite is true. They are able to afford the top end tech. for today's applications. Again, a majority of us will probably end up feeling so peeved about this, that we'll move on and CrossFire/SLI will die.

I have talked to many people about building a custom gaming rig. Some of you suggested some great ideas! But I have decided to take it one step at a time. Instead of going all out, and spending my hard earned cash on everything today, I have decided to be more careful. Brands don't matter to me. What matters is what I am paying out of my pocket and what am I getting in return, not to mention if it's actually WORTH it. The answer for now is no. I came to a conclusiong that the last thing to purchase should be a Video Card. The prices fluctuate, and newer stuff just keeps coming out. It seems that it will be atleast a year if not more before I can afford technology from later in this year, in order to play the title that came out yesterday.

In conclusion, if you are tight on money, or if you like to spend your money living and enjoying your life (like having a social life, friends, family, etc) then hold off on these over priced and over hyped technologies. Sooner or later you'll see they are just a big flop. They are just like a really bad movie that comes out, and leaves you wondering who the heck had the money to support that idea? It happens. And some of us buy into it, but not me.

I thank everyone for being helpful here, and I'm glad to be a part of this community. I hope I have not offended anyone, and if I have, well I apologize, but logic here wins, not me. After a month, I'm still left high and dry trying to decide how am I going to build a PC that will do something decent today, and tommorow, without having to shell out hard earned cash every month. If I wasn't married, I would be happier with that money spent on my car or at a brothel. Living a life to the fullest for a day on money you earned is so much sweeter than a 10 hour game, for which a regular average man works for a week.

I am still going to build this bloody PC. Piece by Piece, and not care about the latest and greatest. It all seems to be hyped, confusing an average Joe like me more and more.

At the end, all I want to feel good is about having this thought. Money well spent.

More about : expect crossfire sli

March 4, 2009 4:34:20 AM

One thing to remember with SLI and Crossfire is that the gains are limited by CPU power. Games that are based on multi-core enabled game engines (such as the Unreal Tornament 3 engine) have shown up to 100% gains for a second card when using SLI or Crossfire.
a b U Graphics card
March 4, 2009 5:01:00 AM

You're saying that you're sure it's possible to make a single card as powerful as the multi card setups today, with exactly the same level of technology?

That's a joke.

No, Crossfire and SLI are not ideal, but they are attempts to get around the current limitations of performance of a single card, not to replace a true, high end single card. Both ATI and Nvidia would love to have a single GPU core that could put out less heat than the current stuff and outperform a GTX 295 or 4870x2, but it just isn't happening with the current technology.

That having been said, for the vast majority of applications, SLI and/or crossfire is a complete waste. A single 4870 1GB or GTX 285 is adequate in almost every case, and in many, an even lower end card, such as a 4850 or a 9800GTX+ (or whatever the hell nvidia is calling it now, GTX 250 or something like that) is perfect for a lot of people, while drawing less power and putting out less heat than the flagship models anyways.
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March 4, 2009 5:36:02 AM

Good point. I would like to add to this and state the other side of things as I and any other without loads of cash to spend on 'upgrading'. I am not saying I am cheap, I am just saying that I would like to think of myself as money literate. Here's the thing.


1. You get 2 or 3 or even 4 of todays latest offerings from either manufacturer. Stuff them into an already choking motherboard which unless top of the line, can usually only offer half the bandwidth on the second PCIx16 slot, and 6 months, 1 card comes out that tops the 2 cards you've got in there already. Now you feel peeved about this and are thinking about upgrading.

2. Lets say you get for example a 4870 and you don't feel the need to CrossFire, though it is 'enabled', sort of like a tease. You think about upgrading to make it better but hold off for a while. Then by the time you are ready to actually use CrossFire, again, you will find a card on the market at the same price 6 months down the line, powerful enough to compare to a dual 4870 configuration. Perhaps with faster RAM. Faster clock frequency, etc. Same as above, and the generation of the card is now harder to find because most online vendors where you can actually get a good deal are not carrying it anymore.

With these iminent situations, and for those who know how to spend wisely and predict the trends, does this technology make any sense at all?

How many real world users actually use SLI or CrossFire? I would like to see an above 50% atleast to say this is worth it. But are over 50% of real world users, whether its Audio/Video editing or Gaming actually using SLI and CrossFire? I highly doubt this is the case. This is how I conclude this technology will be a definite and ultimate failure. Nvidia and ATI in all their wisdom already know this. I am sure that they have already anticipated this but marketing always carries a momentum.

This is why when I finally do purchase the video card I will need. I will make sure it handles today's applications well, and not worry about the present (at that time) because a year or two down the line, another GPU will take its place, completely eliminating my ever needing an SLI/CrossFire setup.

I thought about it, and I have to admit was even enticed by it when I thought of which motherboard to go with and then decided that its just not important enough. I am sure I am not alone. I've found many other places where the same things I mention here are being discussed.

Google has been great.

Cheers mate!
March 4, 2009 5:43:57 AM

Yes this is exactly what I am saying. Just take a look at the latest offerings from ATI. The one with 2 jet engines on it. Trying to make you laugh, but you do realize they are making dual GPUs on just 1 PCIx16 card. There is also a higher cost associated with this setup as opposed to the multi-card setup, but its one where you save space, power, and generate less heat. So yes it is entirely possible and infact the product is there. Just costly. Which is pretty much in agreement with what you stated, except for the part where you thought I was joking. One card is just enough for the most of us. The only problem is, you have to drop a fair amount of coin to get the performance from say Crysis, on today's hardware. I give SLI/CrossFire 2-3 years to mature, and finally get dumped. I expect smaller motherboard manufacturers are going to chime in on this first, and then the sales will lead to the bigger guys following suit. Remember that these companies don't know you personally. This is one of the places where they can maybe get in line with the real world users like us to know exactly what we are thinking about the marketing bull being spewed around. Technology should sell, but marketing is always 1 step ahead. That is what we are being sold. Marketing. Not better tech.


cjl said:
You're saying that you're sure it's possible to make a single card as powerful as the multi card setups today, with exactly the same level of technology?

That's a joke.

No, Crossfire and SLI are not ideal, but they are attempts to get around the current limitations of performance of a single card, not to replace a true, high end single card. Both ATI and Nvidia would love to have a single GPU core that could put out less heat than the current stuff and outperform a GTX 295 or 4870x2, but it just isn't happening with the current technology.

That having been said, for the vast majority of applications, SLI and/or crossfire is a complete waste. A single 4870 1GB or GTX 285 is adequate in almost every case, and in many, an even lower end card, such as a 4850 or a 9800GTX+ (or whatever the hell nvidia is calling it now, GTX 250 or something like that) is perfect for a lot of people, while drawing less power and putting out less heat than the flagship models anyways.

March 4, 2009 6:06:27 AM

Methinks software is far behind hardware in a large number of ways. In CPUs, how much software is threaded for 2 cores, let alone 4 cores, let alone 8 threads? In GPUs, who uses ATi's tesselator? How many titles support Physx?

Oh, and don't use Crysis as an example of why hardware is behind, I think it's pretty well agreed that it's written worse than my high school blackjack code. But I played through it on my X800GTO, so I don't know why you can't play it without $600+ in GPUs.
March 4, 2009 6:19:48 AM

In my honest opinion, SLI and Crossfire are a huge waste of money. They do have their benefits, but no where near the amount as you would expect. 2 cards double the perfomormance! yeah right. More like 1 1/4 performance. I dont know a WHOLE lot about this stuff. If your gonna go broke trying to put another card in to get 5 fps, its not worth it.
March 4, 2009 6:24:08 AM

Actually, there's a little unknown company called LucidLogix that's supposedly created a chipset, which allows one to use Any GPU from any manufacturer at a hardware level instead of driver level to split the work between the two. IF this technology is picked up by Intel and AMD supporting motherboard manufacturers, we could perhaps see a hybrid of GPUs without the limitations of SLI and CrossFire. It will also eliminate the need for having the same series or generation of cards in order to take advantage of multi-GPUs. Not to mention, multi-core GPUs that will probably hit in the next few years to go along with Multi-Core CPUs.

So while SLI and CrossFire probably won't last, they'll leave behind a legacy from a technological stand point. Multi-core GPUs will probably become smaller, and will no longer be on a PCIx type slot. Rather they would sit on the board just like a CPU. So all this is probably already going on somewhere in the dungeons of these big companies.

When technologies that just aren't picking up, and aren't making much sense to bother about, I don't see the need for even trying to include them in a custom build. This is exactly why I've decided to take my time and take it slow building a rig rather than going all out because now is a time when we just don't know what is going on for sure. Intel boards seem to be support more CrossFire setups, while AMD already owns ATI, and nVidia are probably upto something as well. All I know is that when the time comes, I'm going to make a humble system. Nothing that can crunch anything, but if it can get 85% of applications working in good order at that time, I'll be happy.

I have heard quite often that Crysis is poorly written. Is this a proven fact? I am sure there must be a reason why this is the only game which seems to drop in performance towards the end of it (as I have heard but not experienced) rather than just go through comfortably. Seems like even the top of the line Alienware builds are having trouble with it.
March 4, 2009 6:30:06 AM

I think Crysis was poorly written. I have both games and in the first one the ice levels completley stopped my computer in its tracks running on decent settings. In the second one my computer runs even better then the "regular" levels! and it looks better!
a b U Graphics card
March 4, 2009 6:41:40 AM

ocd said:
Yes this is exactly what I am saying. Just take a look at the latest offerings from ATI. The one with 2 jet engines on it. Trying to make you laugh, but you do realize they are making dual GPUs on just 1 PCIx16 card. There is also a higher cost associated with this setup as opposed to the multi-card setup, but its one where you save space, power, and generate less heat. So yes it is entirely possible and infact the product is there. Just costly. Which is pretty much in agreement with what you stated, except for the part where you thought I was joking. One card is just enough for the most of us. The only problem is, you have to drop a fair amount of coin to get the performance from say Crysis, on today's hardware. I give SLI/CrossFire 2-3 years to mature, and finally get dumped. I expect smaller motherboard manufacturers are going to chime in on this first, and then the sales will lead to the bigger guys following suit. Remember that these companies don't know you personally. This is one of the places where they can maybe get in line with the real world users like us to know exactly what we are thinking about the marketing bull being spewed around. Technology should sell, but marketing is always 1 step ahead. That is what we are being sold. Marketing. Not better tech.


You're right that you save space, but the 4870x2 uses just as much power and makes just as much heat as a pair of 4870s (I own one - it cranks out the heat and power, trust me). If anything, I see SLI/Crossfire increasing - as drivers and techniques mature, the benefits increase, and it allows cheaper manufacturing and parts costs.
March 4, 2009 5:13:05 PM

Doesn't Stalker: Clear Sky show near linear gains, though? If it does, it could point out that Crossfire/SLI aren't to blame, but software, CPU, or other hardware. Maybe I'm pulling information out of a dream....
a b U Graphics card
March 4, 2009 6:41:52 PM

Some do show near linear gains, but it is dependent on drivers as well as other hardware. In most cases, the drivers are the cause of poor to no gains in CF/SLI.
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