Rumors of a GT200-based dual-GPU solution from Nvidia quickly began circulating after AMD’s Radeon HD 4870 X2 knocked the GeForce GTX 280 from its performance throne. Nvidia certainly had the design experience, with its GeForce 7950 GX2 and GeForce 9800 GX2 paving the way for further improvements in its multiple-GPU product line. However, those rumors were quickly quashed by the logic that two full GTX 280 processors at 65nm would require too much power and create too much heat to be combined in a single package.
A recent die-process shrink from 65nm to 55nm helped to reduce both heat and power consumption, allowing Nvidia to pursue its two-cards-in-a-brick GX2 design using the most recent variation of its high-end graphics processor. As with previous GX2 products, Nvidia further reduced heat and power consumption by slightly downgrading its twin graphics processors. The new board uses the memory interface and clock speeds of its GeForceGTX 260, but with the full 240 stream processors its GeForce GTX 280 is known for.
Given Nvidia’s propensity for recycling the names of former high-end parts, one might have expected the company to call its new product the “GTX 280 GX2” or “GTX 380 GX2”. Instead, it chose a middle road, removing the GX2 designation to title this product the GeForce GTX 295.
We saw excellent performance in our GeForce GTX 295 preview, but wondered what advancements improved drivers could bring. Also in the backs of our minds were SLI scaling issues that had plagued 7950 GX2 and 9800 GX2 Quad-SLI configurations, causing these to fall behind SLI pairs of single-GPU 7900 GTX and 8800 GTX cards at ultra-high graphics settings. With these questions in mind, we set about procuring a second GTX 295 unit and two HD 4870 X2 cards for comparing Quad SLI to CrossFireX performance, plus three GTX 280 cards to compare Nvidia’s highest-end 3-way SLI to its current Quad-SLI solution.