PCIe And CrossFire Scaling: Does Nvidia's NF200 Fix P55?

Test Settings And Boards

We still had two P55+NF200 motherboards on hand from a previous review: EVGA’s P55 Classified 200 and MSI’s Big Bang–Trinergy.

Test System Configuration
LGA 1156 CPUIntel Core i7-860 (2.93 GHz, 8MB Cache)
O/C to 4 GHz (20 x 200 MHz), 1.388V/1.367V
P55 MotherboardEVGA P55 SLI E655, P55 Express PCH
BIOS A39 (10/23/2009)
P55+NF200 MotherboardsEVGA P55 Classified 200, BIOS A51 (12/29/2009)
MSI Big Bang-Trinergy, BIOS V1.1 (11/24/2009)
LGA 1366 CPUIntel Core i7-920 (2.66 GHz, 8MB Cache)
O/C to 4 GHz (20 x 200 MHz), 1.434V
X58 MotherboardEVGA X58 SLI E758, X58 Express IOH
ICH10R, BIOS SZ2Z (11/30/2009)
CPU CoolerThermalright MUX-120 w/2,500 RPM Fan
RAMKingston KHX2133C9D3T1K2/4GX (4GB)
DDR3-2133 at DDR3-1600 CAS 8-8-8-24
Graphics3 x Diamond Radeon HD 5870 1GB
850 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4800
Hard DriveWestern Digital Velociraptor WD3000HLFS, 300GB
10,000 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 16MB cache
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerCorsair CMPSU-850HX 850W Modular
ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Gold
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsATI Catalyst 9.11
ChipsetIntel INF 9.1.1.1015


Today’s benchmarks were intended only to test the theory that an NF200 bridge might be a solution for using triple-GPU CrossFireX with Intel’s latest LGA 1156-based processors. Thus, only a single P55+NF200 motherboard should have been required. The problem is that there’s more than one way to connect the nForce 200 bridge.

MSI’s Trinergy motherboard represents the “standard” method for multiplying PCIe pathways through the NF200 bridge. All 16 of the processor’s PCIe 2.0 lanes are connected to the bridge, which is then able to control up to two cards in x16 mode or four cards in x8 mode. MSI provides its first slot with 16 of the NF200’s 32 lanes, while the second slot has eight fixed and eight switchable pathways. MSI’s third slot borrows eight pathways from the second slot via automatic mode switching whenever a card is installed, switching the board from x16/x16/x0 to x16/x8/x8.

Asus’ P7P55 WS Supercomputer uses the same 16-lane connection on the NF200 as MSI, but provides four slots by using two sets of pathway switches. The P7P55 WS Supercomputer’s first and second slots are able to share pathways in the same manner as MSI’s second and third slots, enabling x16/x0/x16/x0, x16/x0/x8/x8, or x8/x8/x8/x8 modes depending on whether or not the second and/or fourth slots are occupied. We only needed to test either the Asus or the MSI motherboard to determine the effectiveness of running all 16 of the processor’s PCIe 2.0 lanes through the NF200 bridge, and MSI’s motherboard was the handiest.

EVGA’s P55 Classified 200 links only eight of the LGA 1156 interface’s 16 lanes to the NF200, allowing exclusive use of the other eight lanes by the motherboard’s uppermost PCIe x16 slot. This configuration expands the maximum number of supported graphics cards by one, but forces the fours cards supported by the NF200 bridge to share the bandwidth of only eight of the processor’s lanes.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: Very High Details, No AA
Test Set 2: Very High Details, 4x AA
Far Cry 2Patch 1.03, DirectX 10, in-game benchmark
Test Set 1: Ultra High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 4x AA
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.XPatch 1.02, DirectX 10.1, in-game benchmark
Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA
Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 4x AA
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear SkyClear Sky Benchmark version
Test Set 1: Ultra Preset, DX10 EFDL, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, DX10 EFDL, 4x MSAA
World in ConflictPatch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo
Test 1: Very High Details, No AA / No AF
Test 2: Very High Details 4x AA / 16x AF
Synthetic
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.0.1, GPU and CPU scores
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62 comments
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    Top Comments
  • With dual CrossFire/SLI (where it really matters most) it is kinda hard to fix something that ain't broken.

    Nice gains with three way though.
    Pretty sure if you have $1200 to dump on GPU's you would have gotten the proper platform in the first place...
    24
  • who gets tri gpu cards, and not a X58 platform? this is like trying to build the eiffel tower, while leaving out the concrete base to hold it up....
    14
  • Anyone else thinks its odd the days of tech we live in? An Intel Board running 3 AMD video cards crossfired better using a nVidia chipset.
    11
  • Other Comments
  • Score One for the X58. The NF200 should help the P55 however but at an added cost. ALl in all interesting to see that Nvidia has been busy making this for the onboard and motherboard vendors instead of focusing on the GF100. I am sure they are really strategizing and letting AMD/ATi get the upper hand for a short time as their target market for business is also reaching a wider market in motherboard vendors. Then when GF100 comes out, ppl will see the type of quality GPUs that are meant to please the eye and take on the best and most demanding apps/games/HD content.
    -16
  • With dual CrossFire/SLI (where it really matters most) it is kinda hard to fix something that ain't broken.

    Nice gains with three way though.
    Pretty sure if you have $1200 to dump on GPU's you would have gotten the proper platform in the first place...
    24
  • MSI wins again.
    -10
  • well there you go, high end x58/1366 systems with a high end price offer the higher performance, and pushing a mid-range 1156 platform to high end performance requires extra exotic equipement/chips to do it - no new news here
    7
  • outlw6669With dual CrossFire/SLI (where it really matters most) it is kinda hard to fix something that ain't broken.Nice gains with three way though.Pretty sure if you have $1200 to dump on GPU's you would have gotten the proper platform in the first place...


    Exactly my point +1000
    7
  • Testing should have been done with 5670's
    -15
  • Just Give us the Dman FERMI already
    -13
  • It proves again that the x58 is stock the best performer albeit not very much in comparison with the buffed up p55 gf200 chipset. But in practical mode, I don't see the big wins with triple vs. dual gpu's. Moreover I probably won't even go dual videocards because of the relative high fps which don't matter much, 60+ is more than enough for any game on a flatscreen monitor. 30+ is mostly enough for most single player games.
    It DOES however prove that the chip gives a reasonable gain if games are going to demand more then they do now. The only games available that can really max out anything are crysis, WIC, total commander and that's pretty much all.
    For the rest pretty good article though
    8
  • I prefer to use the remaining 4x PCI-e 2.0 lanes of the X58 for a Fusion-io Duo drive. Can you imagine?
    2
  • I bow to you Crashman. This was the granddaddy of all p55 reviews and I openly admit to standing corrected. I honestly didn't believe the NF200 could pull it off, but I was obviously wrong.

    I wish this review had come a week earlier, I would have gone 1156 over 1366 but at least it finally showed up. The last vestiges of X58's hold over P55 have been erased in my mind.

    Now you can move on to figuring out SATA 6Gb/s for us. I know, I know I'm never pleased. Great work.
    1
  • 2shea...It DOES however prove that the chip gives a reasonable gain if games are going to demand more then they do now...


    Don't be so quick with judgement. This may hold true for a single monitor, but many of us are already running 3x monitors in Eyefinity and even more will be in the near future. With 3x 1680x1050's a single 5870 is pushed well beyond it's capability to run many games even on medium settings.

    I would have gladly bought an MSI Trinergy had I believed the NF200 would do what it claimed. I just didn't believe P55's x16 ondie pcie could pull it off.
    0
  • who gets tri gpu cards, and not a X58 platform? this is like trying to build the eiffel tower, while leaving out the concrete base to hold it up....
    14
  • micky_lundwho gets tri gpu cards, and not a X58 platform? this is like trying to build the eiffel tower, while leaving out the concrete base to hold it up....

    Considering the performance difference, anyone could. There's no benefit in buying a X58 for gaming; just read the benchmarks.

    If these motherboards where cheaper, buying a X58 for gaming would be a waste of money. But right now its price $100,00 over a cheap P6T X58, still give the big brother a fighting chance.
    -5
  • micky_lundwho gets tri gpu cards, and not a X58 platform? this is like trying to build the eiffel tower, while leaving out the concrete base to hold it up....


    Also with other benifits - 6 core processors shortly, and you can pack in 50% more ram in a 1366 socket system thanks to an extra memory channel

    hence overall its the same rule:
    Performance = 1366
    Mainstream = 1156
    4
  • Decisive results, good article.


    ...but sadly, irrelevant to anyone (minus the .002% of PROFESSIONAL gamers) who has any sense of value and realizes that 3x high-end GPUS and the substation to run them are not a good use of money.
    7
  • Well, for those who like to save a few bucks (it there's any save at all, lol) they can get a cheaper platform for tri-way-whatever they want now. May not get the features from it's big brother (X58), but at least they gave another option for a gamer to choose.

    But yeah, hard to accept that when you have money for 3 video cards, you'll spend on a cheaper MoBo/Chipset for them.

    Is the RAM/CPU/MoBo combo way cheaper on those platforms with the NF200 than on a X58 chipset? I think there's where the question should be headed, anyway. A Core i5 750 OCed, 8 Gigs with low timings and 3-way vids should do the trick for most of us, right? Even, a 3-way is kinda a lot under 1900x1200 =/

    Cheers!
    0
  • apache_livesAlso with other benifits - 6 core processors shortly, and you can pack in 50% more ram in a 1366 socket system thanks to an extra memory channelhence overall its the same rule:Performance = 1366Mainstream = 1156


    So now we're down to justifying 1366 over 1156 to only a 1k future cpu, or 1k in ram that only a handful of enteprise users would ever need? If you're thinking that you'll wait till Gulftown becomes affordable then you're looking at 18 months at which point you'll buy a new mobo to go along with it anyways.

    If you haven't noticed, i7-750 edges the 920 in gaming, and the 860 edges the 920 in everything else. The last vestige the 1366 could claim performance in was tri/quad gpu solutions. That's now been erased as well.
    2
  • Good prof of concept, but frankly still ridiculous; anyone who can afford a 25x16 monitor or 19x12 and 3 power gpus like a 5870 which need the bandwidth and an appropriate cpu to run all that likely wouldn't skimp on the mobo and chipset. imo.
    6
  • elmo_grTesting should have been done with 5670's


    Probably tongue in cheek, but relevant; can the traces of these mobos handle three cards that don't use PCIE power connectors?
    3
  • Hmmm....Intel, previous articles at Tom's Hardware, and articles at other sites made it perfectly clrear that the socket 1156 cpu's were intended for mainstream use. If memory serves, I think THG recommended using just one really good video card with 1156 systems instead of muptiple cards. Don't quote me on that. I am growing old disgracefully and I get things mixed up.

    Reminds me of the ATI 4770 which was originally introduced as a very good general purpose video card. In Crossfire mode it just happened to work reasonably well during gaming. It was by no means a stellar performer but the price made it attractive.
    1