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Test Settings And Boards

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

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
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsATI Catalyst 9.11
ChipsetIntel INF

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
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.0.1, GPU and CPU scores
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