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Test Settings

MSI Eclipse Plus: Does nForce 200 Boost 3-Way SLI?
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Test System Configuration
CPU

Intel Core i7-920 (2.66 GHz, 8.0 MB Cache)
Overclocked to 3.60 GHz (18x 200 MHz), 1.35V Core

CPU Cooler

Swiftech Apogee GTZ Liquid Cooling

Motherboard
(PCIe 2.0, x16/x16/x16)

MSI Eclipse Plus, BIOS 1.0 (03/31/2009)
Intel X58/ICH10R Chipset, NF200 PCIe Hub, LGA-1366

Motherboard
(PCIe 2.0, x16/x8/x8)

Asus Rampage II Extreme, BIOS 1306 (04/09/2009)
Intel X58/ICH10R Chipset, LGA-1366

Motherboard
(PCIe 2.0, x16/x16/x4)

Asus P6T, BIOS 0306 (02/03/2009)
Intel X58/ICH10R Chipset, LGA-1366

RAM

6.0 GB DDR3-1600 Triple-Channel Kit
CAS 8-8-8-24 at 1.65 volts

Graphics

3 x EVGA GeForce GTX 285 1 GB SLI
648 MHz/1,476 MHz GPU/Shader, GDDR3-2484

Hard Drive

WD VelociRaptor WD30000HLFS
0.3 TB, 10,000 RPM, 16 MB Cache

Power

Cooler Master RS850-EMBA
850W, ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V

Optical

Lite-On LH-20A1L, 20X DVD±R

Sound

Integrated HD Audio

Networking

Integrated Gigabit Networking

Software

Operating System

Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1

Graphics

Nvidia GeForce 182.08

Chipset

Intel INF 9.1.0.1007


Several games are at least somewhat performance-limited by even the highest-speed CPU. Overclocking a Core i7 920 to 3.60 GHz reduces its impact on this graphics benchmarks. That’s equivalent to two model-speeds above Intel’s fastest-available LGA-1366 processor.

Swiftech’s Apogee GTZ water block works with the company’s triple 120mm fan radiator and MCP-650B water pump to keep CPU temperatures within 10° Celsius of ambient at 100% processor load.

The point of today’s article is to test for potential bandwidth limits on the second and third slots of standard X58 motherboards, whether in x8-x8 or x16-x4 mode, compared to the nForce 200-enhanced MSI Eclipse Plus. Borrowing three EVGA GeForce GTX 285 graphics cards from another test system made this possible.

Benchmark Configuration

3D Games

Crysis

Patch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: Very High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Very High Quality, 8x AA

Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2 Benchmark Tool 1.0.0.1
Test Set 1: Ultra High Quality (DX 10), No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality (DX 10), 8x AA

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Game Version 1.00, in-game performance test
Test Set 1: Highest Details, DX10, SSAO, No AA
Test Set 2: Highest Details, DX10, SSAO, 4x AA

Left 4 Dead

Game Version 1.0.1.3, custom timedemo
Test Set 1: Highest settings, No AA, No AF
Test Set 2: Highest settings, 4x AA, 16x AF

Stalker: Clear Sky

Clear Sky Benchmark File Version 1.5.8.1
Test Set 1: Ultra preset, DX10, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra preset, DX10, 4x AA

World in Conflict

Patch 1009, DirectX 10, in-game performance test
Test 1: Very High Details, No AA / No AF
Test 2: Very High Details 4x AA / 16x AF

Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings

3DMark Vantage

Version: 1.02, GPU and CPU scores


Having this much graphics power to draw from eliminated any need to benchmark at medium or lower details, so we maxed everything except anti-aliasing and anisotropic-filtering for the “low settings” test to gauge playability, then cranked up AA and/or AF to further stress slot bandwidth. Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X unfortunately won’t run at 2560x1600 with 8x AA, forcing us to choose 4x instead.

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