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Core i7: 4-Way CrossFire, 3-way SLI, Paradise?

Hardware Enthusiast’s Paradise

If you’re a fan of high-end hardware, insane graphics configurations, and equatorial heat, you’re going to love the platforms we set up in order to test Core i7’s gaming alacrity.

We’ve lined up the three fastest desktop platforms currently available—Intel’s Core i7 965 Extreme, Intel’s Core 2 Extreme QX9770, and AMD’s Phenom X4 9950. As we know, Core i7’s X58 chipset supports CrossFireX and SLI, so one board is able to yield numbers for all of our graphics configurations with this CPU. We used X48 for CrossFireX and Core 2 Extreme, swapping out for nForce 790i SLI Ultra when it came time to test SLI and Core 2 Extreme. The Phenom X4 setup supports CrossFireX-only, so our numbers were drawn from AMD’s 790FX/SB750 chipset combination. To each of these setups we applied a range of graphics subsystems.

  • X58 (Core i7 Extreme): 1/2/3-way SLI using GeForce GTX 280s and 1/2/4-way CrossFireX using a single Radeon HD 4870 and two Radeon HD 4870 X2s
  • X48 (Core 2 Extreme): 1/2/4-way CrossFireX using a single Radeon HD 4870 and two Radeon HD 4870 X2s
  • 790i SLI Ultra (Core 2 Extreme): 1/2/3-way SLI using GeForce GTX 280s
  • 790FX (Phenom X4): 1/2/4-way CrossFireX using a single Radeon HD 4870 and two Radeon HD 4870 X2s
Platform Core i7 965 ExtremeCore 2 Extreme QX9770Phenom X4 9950
ChipsetIntel X58Intel X48/Nvidia nForce 790i SLI UltraAMD 790FX/SB750
MotherboardASUS Rampage II Extreme/Gigabyte EX58-ExtremeIntel DX48BT2/EVGA nForce 790i SLI UltraASUS M3A79-T Deluxe
Memory6 GB DDR3-1333 7-7-7 (triple-channel)4 GB DDR3-1600 7-7-7 (dual-channel)4 GB DDR2-1066 5-5-5 (dual-channel)
StorageIntel SSDSA2MH080G1GN 80 GB SSDIntel SSDSA2MH080G1GN 80 GB SSDIntel SSDSA2MH080G1GN 80 GB SSD
OpticalLite-On DH-4O1S BD-ROMLite-On DH-4O1S BD-ROMLite-On DH-4O1S BD-ROM
PowerCooler Master UCP 1100WCooler Master UCP 1100WCooler Master UCP 1100W
Platform Core i7 965 ExtremeCore 2 Extreme QX9770Phenom X4 9950
Operating System Windows Vista x64 with Service Pack 1Windows Vista x64 with Service Pack 1Windows Vista x64 with Service Pack 1
Graphics DriversAMD: 8.551 / Nvidia: GeForce 180.43AMD: 8.551 / Nvidia: GeForce 180.43AMD: 8.541
Platform DriversIntel: 9.1.0 Build 1005Intel: 8.3.1 / Nvidia: nForce 15.23AMD: Catalyst 8.10

We need to thank a few manufacturers who aren’t being expressly evaluated in this piece, but were still willing to lend us the mountain of hardware needed to pull it off.

  • Zotac provided us with three GeForce GTX 280 cards, all operating at their stock frequencies
  • Sapphire provided us with two Radeon HD 4870 X2s, operating at stock frequencies
  • ASUS provided us with its Rampage II Extreme and P6T Deluxe
  • Gigabyte provided us with its EX58-Extreme
  • Cooler Master provided us with its UCP 1100W
  • Corsair provided us with 6 GB of DDR3-1600 (TR3X6G1600C8D)
  • OCZ provided us with 6 GB of DDR3-1333 (OCZ3P1333LV6GK)
BenchmarkConfiguration
World in ConflictVery High Quality Settings, No AA / No AF, vsync off, 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, Patch 1009, DirectX 10
Very High Quality Settings, 4x AA / 16x AF, vsync off, 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, Patch 1009, DirectX 10
Supreme Commander: Forged AllianceHigh Quality Settings, No AA / No AF, vsync off, 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, Patch 1.5.3599, DirectX 9, Fraps 2.9.4
High Quality Settings, 8x AA / No AF, vsync off, 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, Patch 1.5.3599, DirectX 9, Fraps 2.9.4
CrysisVery High Quality Settings, No AA / No AF, vsync off, 1900x1200 / 2560x1600, Patch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit Executable
Very High Quality Settings, 8x AA / No AF, vsync off, 1900x1200 / 2560x1600, Patch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit Executable
Crysis: WarheadEnthusiast Quality Settings, No AA / No AF, vsync off, 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, DirectX 10, Steam Version
Enthusiast Quality Settings, 8x AA / No AF, vsync off, 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, DirectX 10, Steam Version
Company of HeroesHigh Quality Settings, No AA / No AF, vsync off, 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, DirectX 10, Steam Version
High Quality Settings, 8x AA / No AF, vsync off, 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, DirectX 10, Steam Version
Unreal Tournament 35/5 Quality Settings, No AA / No AF, vsync off, 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, DirectX 10, Patch 1.2
5/5 Quality Settings, 8x AA / 16x AF, vsync off, 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, DirectX 10, Patch 1.2
Far Cry 2Very High Quality Settings, No AA / No AF, vsync off, 1920x1600 / 2560x1600, DirectX 10, Steam Version
Very High Quality Settings, 8x AA / No AF, vsync off, 1920x1600 / 2560x1600, DirectX 10, Steam Version
3DMark VantagePerformance Default
  • randomizer
    SLI scales so nicely on X58.
    Reply
  • DFGum
    Yep, i hafta say being able to switch brands of graphics cards on a whim and selling off the old is great. Knowing im going to be getting the preformance these cards are capable of (better price to preformance ratio) is nice also.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    randomizerSLI scales so nicely on X58.
    Hey you even got a "First" in there Randomizer!
    Reply
  • randomizer
    cangeliniHey you even got a "First" in there Randomizer!And modest old me didn't even mention it. :lol:
    Reply
  • enewmen
    Still waiting for the 4870 X2s to be used in these bechmarks. I thought THG got a couple for the $4500 exteme system. But still happy to see articles like this so early!
    Reply
  • cangelini
    enewmenStill waiting for the 4870 X2s to be used in these bechmarks. I thought THG got a couple for the $4500 exteme system. But still happy to see articles like this so early!
    Go check out the benchmark pages man! Every one with 1, 2, 4 4870s. The 2x and 4x configs are achieved with X2s, too.

    Oh, and latest drivers all around, too. Crazy, I know! =)
    Reply
  • enewmen
    cangeliniI found it, just read the article too quickly. - My bad.
    "A single Radeon HD 4870 X2—representing our 2 x Radeon HD 4870 scores—is similarly capable of scaling fan speed on its own. "
    Hope to see driver updates like you said.
    Reply
  • spyde
    Hi there, my question regarding these benchmarks with the HD card is, "was a 2G card use or a 1G". I am about to buy a new system and was looking to buy 2 x HD4870X2 2G cards, but with these results its looking a bit ify. I hope you can answer my question.
    Cheers.
    Reply
  • Proximon
    That's a nice article. I especially like the way the graphs are done. everything is scaled right, and you get an accurate representation.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    These are 2GB cards =)
    Reply