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How hassle-free is Crossfire/SLI these days?

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January 7, 2011 5:21:53 PM

Hello all.

I'm planning my first build since 2006. Back then, SLI/Crossfire was new and a bit of a hassle -- you had to worry about master cards, software support, and a bunch of other stuff. At that time, it seemed simpler to get a good single card to avoid the headaches.

I don't see much complaining any more. Tom's Hardware treats multi-card setups as standard in their benchmarking. What is the consensus these days with regards to Crossfire/SLI? Does it just work? Or is it still a recipe for problems?
January 7, 2011 5:43:48 PM

Quote:
GPU: always go for the single card setup where possible - with a 1080p monitor (i advise getting 1900x1200) you will be able to max out anything (except crysis lol) with your 580. cheaper, cooler than the 2 570s and most importantly, NO SLI DRIVER PROBLEMS (admittedly not as bad as ATI xfire but still can be problematic with certain games)


Here's the type of thing I'm concerned about. This quote is from a user named "fruees" in another thread. Is this the general consensus?
a c 125 U Graphics card
January 7, 2011 5:52:58 PM

Its pretty hassle free nowadays, plug and play basically. I'd say the Pro's are
1)very good scaling these days from both AMD and nVidia
2)Sometimes SLI/CF is better bang for buck than a Single more powerful card
3)Looks awesome, guaranteed to get the ladies interested

Cons include:
1)Increased Power usage
2)Increased heat output
3)Sometimes have to wait for driver support for the latest games
4)uses more PCI-E Lanes, takes up more space.
Related resources
a c 218 U Graphics card
January 7, 2011 5:58:35 PM

In all reality, both SLI and CF are getting better every day. Both work well in the vast majority of cases as long as users understand and meet the requirements of using either technology.

Both SLI and CF add heat and power consumption to the mix. So, if you have the needed PSU and your config has good airflow, going with either just isn't a big deal.

If you are reasonably tech competent, you should have no worries about going SLI or CF. Just not a big deal.
a c 595 U Graphics card
January 7, 2011 6:02:48 PM

I was confused about the same thing, based on similar forum threads where people only recommend a dual card setup as an upgrade path later down the road. One difference is that just about any motherboard will support Crossfire, but only Nvidia SLI Certified motherboards will support SLI.

Also, my understanding is that with Crossfire, you need to download game profiles, and with SLI it is more plug and play.

A quote:
"So over the years Multi-GPU support has improved quite a bit, AMD still isn't up-to snuff at the level of NVIDIA though, multi-GPU supports still literally and directly remains the Achilles heel of ATI's Catalyst drivers. For years now we have been requesting user-based multi-GPU profiles. See when a new game comes out, multi-GPU support will not be supported by the Catalyst driver. ATI will always need to update this through drivers or downloadable profiles. What ATI needs to do is to allow the end user to make custom profiles per game. A small tip, renaming your game-executable towards a game title that is supported can, not always but often, help out."
http://www.guru3d.com/article/radeon-hd-6850-6870-cross...
a c 125 U Graphics card
January 7, 2011 6:05:48 PM

That article is alittle outdated, AMD's 69xx series cards scale extremely well.
January 7, 2011 6:08:00 PM

Rustyy117 said:
That article is alittle outdated, AMD's 69xx series cards scale extremely well.


Thought it is relevant to me, since I am considering 2x 6850 for my build.
a c 218 U Graphics card
January 7, 2011 6:12:56 PM

Bulletproofman19 said:
Thought it is relevant to me, since I am considering 2x 6850 for my build.

They CF quite nicely and perform quite well. Good luck!
a c 595 U Graphics card
January 7, 2011 6:13:16 PM

Rustyy117 said:
That article is alittle outdated, AMD's 69xx series cards scale extremely well.

It's was published on October 22nd, 2010, and is criticizing game profiles, not scaling. I would assume the same issue would apply to the 6900 series as well.
a c 125 U Graphics card
January 7, 2011 6:13:30 PM

Bulletproofman19 said:
Thought it is relevant to me, since I am considering 2x 6850 for my build.


Oh ok well then of course it is, I didn't realise you were considering CF HD6850's. :p 
January 7, 2011 6:24:03 PM

Maybe I should be considering 2 x GeForce GTX 460 instead?
a c 595 U Graphics card
January 7, 2011 6:24:33 PM

I looks like the latest application profile update was over a month ago:

ATI Catalyst™ Application Profiles
ATI Catalyst Application Profiles 0.5 MB 10.12 12/3/2010
Description:
This release of ATI Catalyst™ delivers support for the latest ATI CrossFireX™ profiles in a separate executable file ensuring users have access to the absolute latest set of profiles installed on their PC.

New profiles added to this release:
- HomeFront – Improves CrossFire performance
- DvaMira 2.0 (Russion version of Two World 2) – Improves CrossFire performance
- Final Fantasy XIV – Forced on Anti-Aliasing through the Catalyst Control Center has been disabled
- Track Mania Nations Forever – Forced on Anti-Aliasing through the Catalyst Control Center has been disabled

http://sites.amd.com/us/game/downloads/Pages/crossfirex...
a c 595 U Graphics card
January 7, 2011 6:25:30 PM

Bulletproofman19 said:
Maybe I should be considering 2 x GeForce GTX 460 instead?

Do you play any games that feature PhysX?
a c 271 U Graphics card
January 7, 2011 6:25:34 PM

I can't speak for Crossfire but I've found SLi to be easy to set up and hassle free since the 7 series and to date have only found a couple of major titles that were not supported from the get go, although that would also depend on the genre of games that you like to play.
a b U Graphics card
January 7, 2011 6:32:27 PM

its mostly plug and play nowadays as long as your mobo supports sli or crossfire... now if you're trying to run sli or xfire on a board that doesn't support it , as in xfire on a board that only sli's, or sli on a board that only xfires... well then it's a bitch... still possible though
January 7, 2011 6:33:05 PM

Games I play or are interested in playing include: Starcraft II, Mass Effect I & II, Civilization V, Fallout New Vegas and perhaps a straight shooter every once in a while.
a c 225 U Graphics card
January 7, 2011 6:40:19 PM

Mutli GPU setups are "easy as cake .... piece of pie" these days. Often ya can get better fps / dollar with SLI / X-fire than ya can w/ a single card. The best thing about dual GPU's today is that a system which does everything today w/ a single card is hopelessly outmatched 18 months down the line. Adding that 2nd GPU at that point in time can add years to system life.

A system built w/ a 570 today will do just about anything @ 1920 x 1200 .... but the games of XMas 2011 will show a starin and adding a 2nd card at that point in time makes the entire system "perform like new again".
a c 171 U Graphics card
January 7, 2011 7:50:19 PM

If crossfire and SLI is so easy, how come there are so many posts on this forum with people experiencing problems with it??? Id say its only suitable for more advanced users that dont mind tinkering and reaserching if something doesnt work. Anyone will reccommend getting a single card to start with and when that becomes too slow, or cards drop in price more to make getting another one cheaper, that is when you xfire/sli.
a c 271 U Graphics card
January 7, 2011 7:57:10 PM

iam2thecrowe said:
If crossfire and SLI is so easy, how come there are so many posts on this forum with people experiencing problems with it??? Id say its only suitable for more advanced users that dont mind tinkering and reaserching if something doesnt work. Anyone will reccommend getting a single card to start with and when that becomes too slow, or cards drop in price more to make getting another one cheaper, that is when you xfire/sli.

The problem with that is when the cards get EOL'd after a very short time as is happening with the 4xx series, as for issues setting things up that is usually down to people not doing enough research before buying things in the first place and then trying to get incompatible bits to work together.
a c 171 U Graphics card
January 8, 2011 4:32:39 AM

thats true mousemonkey, ive had 2 sli motherboards and havnt used the feature. By the time i have money for or need a better card, a single more powerful card seems to always be the better option. Was gonna sli my 2 7600gts, then i got an 8800gts, then i was gonna sli that but i will need to get a second hand one and get a better psu, so now i will just get a single better card, but may use it for physx.
a c 271 U Graphics card
January 8, 2011 3:34:25 PM

That's why I view dual GPU rigs a bit different from most it would seem, if two mid-range cards can exceed the performance of the flagship card but cost less as a pair then that is what I look at as there is always the chance that a card can fail and with a dual card rig this means you will still have a working card in your rig while an RMA is in progress or a replacement is sought.
a c 216 U Graphics card
January 8, 2011 3:49:02 PM

While CF/SLI is easy to use, you should be aware that they don't always function the way you like.

CF/SLI does not function in windowed mode. Especially those who play MMO games will find this an issue.

CF/SLI isn't supported by all games, at which point, you are working off of 1 lesser card, rather than your more powerful single card.

CF/SLI sometimes causes glitches. When playing Elven legacy, the water flickers. With Gothic 4 I get some ghost images. Other times you get some mild stuttering.

I have 4-5 games in which I don't use SLI/CF for one of those reasons.
January 8, 2011 6:14:07 PM

Bulletproofman19 said:
Games I play or are interested in playing include: Starcraft II, Mass Effect I & II, Civilization V, Fallout New Vegas and perhaps a straight shooter every once in a while.



Ok so from what about my xfire setup. SC2 and civ 5 don't operate with xfire, they are more limited by your CPU and not the GPU. The shooters and rpg's will benefit from a xfire/sli setup and you will see smoother game play in them.

If your looking at 2 6850's i think you can't go wrong with that purchase. The drivers for ati cards always seem to be boosting the performance in them every month or close to it.

I've been running 2 4850's when they were new and have been very satisfied with them. I've had very few problems with them and have been seeing very good fps since the purchase.
February 2, 2011 7:34:33 PM

bystander said:
While CF/SLI is easy to use, you should be aware that they don't always function the way you like.

CF/SLI does not function in windowed mode. Especially those who play MMO games will find this an issue.

CF/SLI isn't supported by all games, at which point, you are working off of 1 lesser card, rather than your more powerful single card.

CF/SLI sometimes causes glitches. When playing Elven legacy, the water flickers. With Gothic 4 I get some ghost images. Other times you get some mild stuttering.

I have 4-5 games in which I don't use SLI/CF for one of those reasons.


Do these cons apply to single cards with dual GPUs (e.g. Radeon 5970, upcoming 6990)?
a c 218 U Graphics card
February 2, 2011 7:36:34 PM

cky880 said:
Do these cons apply to single cards with dual GPUs (e.g. Radeon 5970, upcoming 6990)?

Yes, and in some cases, even more so. Think about it, you would, in effect, be CFing cards already CFed.....
February 2, 2011 8:14:39 PM

I have been running CF since 02/2010 with 4850's, it was literally idiot proof to set up. The Directions with the motherboard tell you which slots to use (for me it was 1 and 3) and then you just plug the crossfire cables into both cards. Literally just that easy. I would definetly recommend crossfiring cards to save a few dollars and increase performance.

As for SC2, even though it is listed as not utilizing crossfire, I do notice an FPS increase while my crossfire is enabled. It was the same thing for WoW. Granted it is not as effective as games designed with crossfire in mind, but usually does grant an additional 15-20 fps.
February 2, 2011 8:27:14 PM

COLGeek said:
Yes, and in some cases, even more so. Think about it, you would, in effect, be CFing cards already CFed.....


Good point. What about if you had just ONE dual gpu card? Is that actually using crossfire technology to handle the dual GPUs, or is doing something else internally?

The reason I ask is because I've been waiting for the 6990 to come out before purchasing a card for my new build. If its just going to be a big hassle, I'd probably just get a GTX 580 now, and suck it up that I can't run Metro 2033 (and potentially Crysis 2) on the ABSOLUTE highest settings.
a c 125 U Graphics card
February 2, 2011 8:35:21 PM

cky880 said:
Good point. What about if you had just ONE dual gpu card? Is that actually using crossfire technology to handle the dual GPUs, or is doing something else internally?

The reason I ask is because I've been waiting for the 6990 to come out before purchasing a card for my new build. If its just going to be a big hassle, I'd probably just get a GTX 580 now, and suck it up that I can't run Metro 2033 (and potentially Crysis 2) on the ABSOLUTE highest settings.


Yes a Dual GPU card will have internal CF (or SLI in the case of nVidia), and so you'd get the same problems as having 2 x single GPU cards in CF or SLI.
a b U Graphics card
February 3, 2011 11:47:45 AM

"I have been running CF since 02/2010 with 4850's, it was literally idiot proof to set up"

nothign is idiot proof to a signifigantly persistant idiot... i have seen a firewire jammed into (and unsurprisingly) shorting a system when the user somehow forced it into a usb port which "whouls have worked as it was a universal port so should accept all connections"
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