Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Quad-SLI: Something You Need To Plan Out

Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 3 GB Review: Firing Back With 1024 CUDA Cores
By

I'm pretty gosh-darned convinced that the most sensible application for dual-GPU boards is now quad-GPU configurations. If you're not running four GPUs, put a couple of single-GPU cards in CrossFire or SLI, spend less money, and avoid dumping gratuitous heat into your chassis. It's as simple as that.

Should you decide to take the plunge, though, and pursue unbridled performance via four graphics processors operating concurrently, there are precautions that need to be taken (especially when you're talking about these specific designs with mid-mounted fans).

Eight GPUs and $2800 worth of high-end graphicsEight GPUs and $2800 worth of high-end graphics

Ahead of the Radeon HD 6990 launch, AMD gave no indication of what it'd take to properly support a pair of Antilles boards in four-way CrossFire. Even now, you can hit the 6990's product page and find very little detail on what you need to enjoy a trouble-free experience. That is a mistake, in my opinion, because you cannot drop 750 W worth of graphics cards into any platform with the slots to spare and expect them to run well. You need the right power supply, the right motherboard, and most of all, the right enclosure. Certain cases simply cannot cope with volume of heated air that gets recirculated.

Nvidia addresses the need for more information with its own list of validated components. And while we don't necessarily like the limited number of options resident on those lists (especially the very short group of chassis that get a nod), I'm more comfortable with slim pickings than a dice roll.

If you plan to build using two GeForce GTX 590s, here are the lists of approved components as they exist thus far:

Quad-Approved Motherboards

Perhaps the most important quality to look for in a motherboard is proper slot spacing. Whether you're in the market for two GTX 590s or a pair of HD 6990s, there needs to be at least one vacant slot worth of space between the cards. The following list is composed of platforms approved by Nvidia to support dual GeForce GTX 590s.

All of these models might work well thermally, mechanically, and acoustically, but I'd also want to conduct extra tests to determine if splitting 16 lanes of aggregate PCI Express connectivity between four GPUs on those P67- and P55-based boards yields acceptable scaling. All of our single-card testing was done on an X58 board. However, the system we used for benchmarking SLI'd and CrossFire'd configs centers on P67.

Quad-SLI-Approved Motherboards
Intel X58 Express
Asus P6T7 WS Supercomputer

Asus Rampage III Extreme

Asus Rampage III Formula

Evga X58 FTW3

Gigabyte EX58-Extreme

Gigabyte X58A-UD7

Gigabyte X58A-UD9

MSI X58 Pro-E
Intel P67 Express
Asus P8P67 Deluxe

Asus P8P67 Pro

Asus P8P67 WS Revolution

Asus Sabertooth P67

Gigabyte P67A-UD5

Gigabyte P67A-UD7

MSI P67A-GD65
Intel P55 Express
Asus Maximus III Extreme

DFI LANParty DK P55-T3EH9

Evga P55 FTW 200

Gigabyte P55-UD5

MSI Big Bang Trinergy


Quad-Approved Power Supplies

The principle concern when it comes to power delivery is making sure you have enough sustainable output. Nvidia's list of recommendations incorporates 1100+ W models with at least four eight-pin auxiliary power connectors.

Quad-SLI-Approved Power Supplies
Antec HCP-1200
Corsair AX1200
SilverStone ST-1500
Nexus RX-1.1K Gold
Thermaltake Toughpower 1500 W
AcBel PC8055 1100 W


Quad-Approved Chassis

Obviously, ventilation and physical orientation are both factors that have to be addressed in case choice. There are a lot of really nice-looking enclosures out there simply unable to cope with two 365 or 375 W graphics cards recirculating half of their dissipated heat. Currently, the list of validated enclosures is dismally-short. Hope you like one of these three options!

Quad-SLI-Approved Chassis
Cooler Master HAF X
Thermaltake Element V
SilverStone Raven RV02


Of course, we really shouldn't be complaining, as we still haven't seen any recommendations from AMD. 

Assuming the DiY market for quad-GPU-based setups is miniscule, this is really more guidance for system builders than anything. We've been in contact with a couple different boutique folks through the past two launches, just trying to get a sense for what they think about working around these super-hot dual-GPU offerings. This time, we got extra lucky and scored the fruits of one company's pre-launch efforts...

Display all 243 comments.
Top Comments
  • 15 Hide
    Scoregie , March 24, 2011 12:40 PM
    MMMM... HD 6990.... OR GTX 590... HMMM I'll go with a HD 5770 CF setup because im cheap.
  • 13 Hide
    nforce4max , March 24, 2011 12:18 PM
    Nvidia like ATI should have gone full copper for their coolers instead of using aluminum for the fins. :/ 
Other Comments
  • 13 Hide
    nforce4max , March 24, 2011 12:18 PM
    Nvidia like ATI should have gone full copper for their coolers instead of using aluminum for the fins. :/ 
  • 5 Hide
    The_King , March 24, 2011 12:20 PM
    The clock speeds are a bit of a disappointment as well the high power draw and the performance is not that better than a 6990. Bleh !
  • 5 Hide
    stryk55 , March 24, 2011 12:21 PM
    Very comprehensive article! Nice job!
  • 6 Hide
    LegendaryFrog , March 24, 2011 12:23 PM
    I'm impressed, good to see Nvida has started to care about the "livable experience" of their high end products.
  • 2 Hide
    plznote , March 24, 2011 12:24 PM
    Great card. But low clocks.
    GREAT for overclocking!
  • 1 Hide
    darkchazz , March 24, 2011 12:27 PM
    Wow @ low noise
  • 7 Hide
    rolli59 , March 24, 2011 12:27 PM
    Draw! Win some loose some. What is the fastest card? Some will say GTX590 others HD6990 and they are both right.
  • 15 Hide
    Scoregie , March 24, 2011 12:40 PM
    MMMM... HD 6990.... OR GTX 590... HMMM I'll go with a HD 5770 CF setup because im cheap.
  • 3 Hide
    Sabiancym , March 24, 2011 12:42 PM
    You can't say Nvidia wins based on the sound level of the cards. That's just flat out favoritism.

    I'll be buying a 6990 and water cooling it. Nothing will beat it.
  • 6 Hide
    Darkerson , March 24, 2011 12:44 PM
    rolli59Draw! Win some loose some. What is the fastest card? Some will say GTX590 others HD6990 and they are both right.

    Thats more or less how I feel. They both trade blows depending on the game.
  • 5 Hide
    shark195 , March 24, 2011 12:47 PM
    I think both cards are faster in their own niches, for example in acoustics 590 wins, but in power which is the main issue to tackle as days go by, your bill will certainly go high, but you don't pay anything for the noise, so in that case AMD STILL has the fastest single graphic card on the planet.
    AMD is still the winner, whichever you look at it though
  • 0 Hide
    trandoanhung1991 , March 24, 2011 12:53 PM
    SabiancymYou can't say Nvidia wins based on the sound level of the cards. That's just flat out favoritism. I'll be buying a 6990 and water cooling it. Nothing will beat it.

    I think 2 GTX 580 will beat it. And costs about the same too, if you look hard enough.

    shark195I think both cards are faster in their own niches, for example in acoustics 590 wins, but in power which is the main issue to tackle as days go by, your bill will certainly go high, but you don't pay anything for the noise, so in that case AMD STILL has the fastest single graphic card on the planet. AMD is still the winner, whichever you look at it though


    The 590 uses less than 10W more compared to 6990 in AUSUM. Compare that to 430W, and it's small change, really.
  • 1 Hide
    ledpellet , March 24, 2011 12:56 PM
    Well, at the moment 590s are not available to buy, so it does not exist beyond benchmarks and reviews...It is not a competition till we see real world pricing. Let the battle begin! btw 5870 price is hard to beat right now.
  • -1 Hide
    vaughn2k , March 24, 2011 12:57 PM
    "Nevertheless, in a comparison between GeForce GTX 590 versus Radeon HD 6990, Nvidia wins."
    "Not hearing it is a requisite"

    Done a survey? How many says it's a requisite?

    Also at performance preset, the GTX590 leads, wondering why there's no benchmark for extreme preset?
  • 4 Hide
    Yuka , March 24, 2011 12:57 PM
    This is no nVidia victory, I'm sure of it, but it's such a small margin it sucks. That 1.5GB per GPU hurts the card where you'll be using it most: high res. It's like a tech KO by AMD, not a flat out punch-KO though.

    Cheers!
  • 5 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , March 24, 2011 12:58 PM
    The card blew up during testing at tech power up.Power limiting system does not work reliably :o  :pfff: 
  • -1 Hide
    nukemaster , March 24, 2011 12:58 PM
    i wonder how long until AMD board partners use a fan instead of blower(blowers win on air flow, but they can be louder), i have seen several such coolers on other amd and nvidia cards.

    Either way, the lower noise is impressive.
  • 4 Hide
    pelov , March 24, 2011 1:00 PM
    Does anyone else think that the 1680 benchmarks shouldn't be used in cards like this?

    Paying >$600 for a GPU almost certainly means you have multiple monitor setups and/or high res monitor(s). Otherwise why not buy a better monitor and a lower costing card to use its full potential?
  • 6 Hide
    Rosanjin , March 24, 2011 1:05 PM
    Thank you for posting the audio samples of both dual GPU cards. Getting to hear each one really made the difference telling. I'll be sticking with single gpu card arrangements, thank you very much. ^ ^ b
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , March 24, 2011 1:05 PM
    Very good article, one of the better ones to come from Toms in a long time, thanks was a great read.

    In terms of Nvidia releasing a chart topper, I think they created a equal here, tables a rebalanced at the top, Its been a long time since that was the case!

    With regards to saying Nvidia wins down to noise output, that is just your opinion! I believe the 480 was a damn fast card noise irrelevant, now refined in the 580!

    Personally, at 1920x1080 I still see no need in replacing my 5850 just yet, I spent my money on a 50"3d TV instead, and still 5850 runs on that great which is by far a better size to play on then 3x1920x1080 imo.
Display more comments
React To This Article