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Motherboard And Graphics

System Builder Marathon, March 2011: $2000 Performance PC

Motherboard: Asus P8P67 WS Revolution

The problem with Intel’s current processors is that they're limited to one of several mainstream chipsets. The chipset actually looks fairly lame, even by Intel’s previous standards, supporting only a single PCIe x16 graphics card or two in x8 mode. Nvidia’s NF200 PCIe Bridge is the solution for those seeking full bandwidth in SLI and CrossFire modes, and Asus produces a very nice product that includes it.

Read Customer Reviews of Asus's P8P67 WS Revolution

The P8P67 WS Revolution takes advantage of the NF200’s “Broadcast” function to supply two graphics cards with identical data in x16 mode or four cards in x8 mode. Two sets of switches allow the P8P67 WS Revolution to adapt from dual x16 to quad x8 pathways automatically whenever a card is inserted into a black slot.

Nvidia’s graphics drivers artificially limit single-NF200 motherboards to three-way SLI, but we find sweet irony in the fact that the same part enables its competitor’s four-way CrossFireX configurations.

Graphics: 2 x XFX Radeon HD 6950 2 GB

XFX offers a one-time-transferable lifetime warranty, and its cards were priced identically to competing models at the time of our purchase.

Read Customer Reviews of XFX's Radeon HD 6950 2 GB

Magic happens when two Radeon HD 6950s are paired, as superior multi-GPU scaling allows these to overtake the “more powerful GeForce GTX 570 when both products are configured in pairs.

Yet, perhaps the best news for owners of Radeon HD 6950 CrossFire solutions is that these cards cost $50 and consume 60 W less per card than their rivals, making them a superior choice for both value and energy efficiency. And if two of these aren’t enough for some users, twin CrossFire bridge connectors allow today’s system to be upgraded to three-way or four-way CrossFireX.

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