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SLI as an upgrade path

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January 2, 2010 7:16:18 PM

Building a new gaming rig. The motherboard I currenty have in mind is a MSI P55-CD53 and Im trying to figure out if its worth getting the (a bit) more expensive version (MSI P55-GD65) which holds two PCI-Ex(2.0)x16.

The reason for this is that Im gong to put a Nvidia Geforce 260 GTX in it. And in 6 to 12 months when there is a game out that the computer has some troubles to run I put in another card.

The charts seems to suggest that around half the (high end) games take advantage of SLI: http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/gaming-graphics-card...[2675]=on&prod[2676]=on

SLI seems a viable shortterm upgrade plan/path. Im looking for the communitys opinion on this.

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a c 229 U Graphics card
January 2, 2010 8:06:04 PM

SLI (And Xfire) is a legitimate upgrade path as can be seen here where 3 category wins come from cheaper cards SLI's over the single card alternatives:

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-310-5970,24...

Here's the "winners" from THG's latest (December) GFX Roundup
Best Graphics Cards For The Money: December '09

$50 - HD 4650
$65 - HD 4670 / 9600 GSO
$85 - 9600 GT
$95 - 9600 GT / HD 4830
$110 - GTS 250 512 MB
$120 - GTS 250 1 GB
$155 - HD 5770 / GTX 260
$200 - HD 4890
$240 - 2 x GTS 250
$310 - No winner (HD 5850 Honorable Mention)
$330 - 2 x GTX 260 / 2 x HD 5770
$400 - 2 x HD 4890

$410 - No winner (HD 5870 Honorable Mention)
$465 - No winner (GTX 295 Honorable Mention)
$625 - No winner (HD 5970 Honorable Mention)

And yes, twin cards are an upgrade path but if you want to continue taking it, recognize that the 1156 socket and chipset limits you to half the bandwidth....when in SLI, the 1156 socket / chipset gives you only one PCI-E x 16 or two PCI-E x 8. To get twin PCI-E x 16, you'll need to use a 1366 socket / X58 chipset board.
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a c 217 U Graphics card
January 2, 2010 8:17:52 PM

I kind of disagree with the way that chart puts the single card solutions as honorable mentions due to their superior ability to allow for an upgrade path down the road with fewer issues on games that don't run well with SLI or CF.

If it's close in performance, getting a single high end card allows you to buy a second one in the future if you find yourself short on performance. By the time you put in a second one, the prices will likely have dropped making it a good value upgrade.

If you figure you'd scrap the whole system when it comes time to upgrade, then that path might not be the best.
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a c 1401 U Graphics card
January 2, 2010 10:16:41 PM

mizipzor said:
Building a new gaming rig. The motherboard I currenty have in mind is a MSI P55-CD53 and Im trying to figure out if its worth getting the (a bit) more expensive version (MSI P55-GD65) which holds two PCI-Ex(2.0)x16.

The reason for this is that Im gong to put a Nvidia Geforce 260 GTX in it. And in 6 to 12 months when there is a game out that the computer has some troubles to run I put in another card.

The charts seems to suggest that around half the (high end) games take advantage of SLI: http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/gaming-graphics-card...[2675]=on&prod[2676]=on

SLI seems a viable shortterm upgrade plan/path. Im looking for the communitys opinion on this.

This is just my opinion! When you become unhappy with the performance of that GTX260 more titles are out that support DX11 and you decide to do an upgrade to some new card that supports it. I have been through this twice one time with SLI 7900GS was to outdated and one time with crossfire same thing happened with X1950PRO.
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January 2, 2010 10:44:38 PM

JackNaylorPE said:
And yes, twin cards are an upgrade path but if you want to continue taking it, recognize that the 1156 socket and chipset limits you to half the bandwidth....when in SLI, the 1156 socket / chipset gives you only one PCI-E x 16 or two PCI-E x 8. To get twin PCI-E x 16, you'll need to use a 1366 socket / X58 chipset board.


I see. But the only reason I considered the MSI P55-GD65 was that it stated it had two PCI-Ex16 ports. But thats not enough? Just because I got the physical connectors doesnt mean I can run two cards SLI?

What specification must I check in order to know that? (If not for something else, for future reference.)

So in my case, only considering the MSI P55-GD65 for SLI, my argument is void? It cant support it? If thats the case, I think Ill just go with the cheap motherboard, and upgrade the card itself when the time comes.
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a c 217 U Graphics card
January 2, 2010 10:48:03 PM

Current SLI and CF solutions do not seem to be effected by PCIe x8 lanes, but that doesn't mean this will always the be case.
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January 3, 2010 8:54:03 AM

Maybe I have misunderstood something. Isnt the x8 number the physical size or width of the slot? I thought GPUs only fit in x16 slots. Hence the reason for going with the expensive model if I plan to look into SLI down to the road.

Heres the slot specification for each card:
MSI P55-CD53
1 PCI Express 2.0 x16
3 PCI Express 2.0 x1
3 PCI ( 3.3 V/ 5 V )

MSI P55-GD65
2 PCI Express 2.0 x16
1 PCI Express 2.0 x4
2 PCI Express 2.0 x1
2 PCI ( 3.3 V/ 5 V )

When searching around the web, it seems that, in fact, both cards should be able to run SLI.

My question now then is what that x16 number mean. Why do I want to pay extra for a second x16 slot? Does it improve the SLI abilities?
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January 3, 2010 11:43:50 AM

x16 refers to the bandwidth...some boards if you have 2 GPU's will only run in x8...not x16 as if you had one GPU. Some boards however do support full bandwidth for 2 GPU's and will run them at x16.
x-fire makes sense with a new build.
get one DX11 card now...wait 2 years when it gets slow and add another...i doubt dx12, or whatever, will be out then.
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January 3, 2010 12:15:34 PM

I see, so that was what JackNaylorPE was referring to? That with the P55 chipset the bandwidth is limited and two x16 might not make that big difference?

What is then the reason for the second x16 in the GD65 board? Running two cards separately at full speed rather than linked? Is the bandwidth only limited when the cards are run in Crossfire or SLI mode?

Because, other than the e-Sata port on GD65, the boards look identical to me.

To help me understand this better, are there any common usage scenarios that require a second x16 slot? Or is it most commonly used for linked GPUs? Its just that with the (slower) P55 chipset it doesnt run as fast as if it would have on the X58 chipset (but still faster than a single card)?
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a c 229 U Graphics card
January 3, 2010 11:18:33 PM

Here's an old article on bandwidth effects:

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/pci-express-scaling...

here's another post on the issue

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/271078-28-cannot-deci...

about 10th one down

I just haven't seen an 1156 board that support two x 16 lanes at full speed....well I just got too damn curious and downloaded the manual ... page 1-3

"If you intend to install two expansion cards into both PCI_E2 & PCI_E5 slots, these two PCIE x16 lanes will auto arrange from x16/ x0 to x8/ x8"

So, yes it would appear that this MoBo is like all other 1156 Mobo and auto switches from one x 16 to two x8's.
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January 4, 2010 12:10:23 AM

either way, even if they use a bridge to make it X16 x16. It wont be truly 32 lanes as the Intel LGA 1156 only supports X16 max anyways. Marketting gimmick ...

But either way , a Pci-e 2.0 x8 is equal to a pci-e1.0 x16 and nothing bottlenecks it other than truly beastly setups (2xhd5970s comes to mind)
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