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Quad-SLI: Something You Need To Plan Out

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

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

Intel P55 Express
Asus Maximus III Extreme


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...

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