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AMD CrossFire Vs. Nvidia SLI Scaling Analysis

Test System And Benchmarks

Our charts list the graphics cards based on their retail prices, from the most expensive configuration on the top to the cheapest on the bottom. Our testing involves a number of graphics cards from many manufacturers, so we are setting all of the clock speeds to reference levels to keep things on an even playing field.

There is one testing configuration that we have to simulate: two Radeon HD 5850 cards in CrossFire. We only received a single Radeon HD 5850 in time for testing, so we’re pairing the card with a Radeon HD 5870. AMD has confirmed that the superior card will be crippled when these models are paired in CrossFire, resulting in Radeon HD 5850-class specifications, using 1440 of its 1600 stream processors and 72 of its 80 texture units.

We've set the clocks of both cards to Radeon HD 5850 reference speeds; the resulting performance should be exactly the same as two of these cards in CrossFire. The results show the performance exactly where we would expect a Radeon HD 5850 CrossFire configuration to be relative to the Radeon HD 5830 and Radeon HD 5870.

Test System
CPUIntel Core i7-920 (Nehalem), 2.67 GHz, QPI-4200, 8 MB CacheOverclocked to 3.61 GHz @ 172 MHz BCLK
MotherboardGigabyte X58A-UD3R Intel X58, BIOS version FA
NetworkingOnboard Gigabit LAN controller
MemoryMushkin PC3-10700H  3x 2048 MB, DDR3-1376, CL 10-10-10-25-1T
GraphicsNvidia GeForce GTX 480 Reference1536 MB GDDR5Zotac GeForce GTX 480 AMP! Edition1536 MB GDDR5HIS HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo XRadeon HD 5870, 1 GB GDDR5 Gigabyte GV-R587SO-1GDRadeon HD 5870, 1 GB GDDR5MSI GeForce GTX 4701280 MB GDDR5Gigabyte GV-N470SO-13IGeForce GTX 470, 1280 MB GDDR5Gigabyte GV-R585OC-1GDRadeon HD 5850, 1 GB GDDR5AMD Radeon HD 5830 Reference1 GB GDDR52x Gigabyte GV-N460OC-1GIGeForce GTX 460, 1 GB GDDR5(all clock rates have been set to reference specifications for the purpose of benchmarking)
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar WD50 00AAJS-00YFA, 500 GB, 7200 RPM, 8 MB cache, SATA 3.0Gb/s
PowerThermaltake Toughpower 1200 W1200 W, ATX 12V 2.2, EPS 12v 2.91
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
DirectX versionDirectX 11
Graphics DriversAMD Catalyst 10.7 Beta, Nvidia GeForce Driver 258.96 WHQL
  • reprotected
    So... Nvidia won?
  • joytech22
    Now i can safely say that i think i made the right choice :)
    (GTX470 SLI)
  • jrharbort
    Nvidia wins this war thanks to the larger standard framebuffer. ATI needs to pick up in this area a bit, as 1GB framebuffers have been around for a while now. Looking foward to another article based on the next gen cards a few months from now. Should be interesting. =)

    Good job to both ATI and Nvidia on this generation.
  • gordo_46
    BUT.. i would have preferred 2-3 way SLI with GTX460's.

    gtx 460 can only do 2 way sli
  • gkay09
    The SLI scaling is one place where Nvidia wins almost all the time, but ATI has improved a lot though, it still need to work harder if they want to have a complete win over Nvidia...
  • joytech22
    gordo_46gtx 460 can only do 2 way sli
    Aww damn that's right..
  • gordo_46
    yeah it a shame that it can only do 2 way sli. We would get 3 way gtx 470 sli level performance at amd radeon power consumption
  • Nice article. I've made some charts, based on the data in this article, that reflect SLI and CrossFireX scalings. Nvidia's victory is clear cut at 2560 x 1600.



    Also, when it comes to GPU discussions, the comment sections of Tom's and Fudzilla are swarmed by fanboys of 1 certain team. (Can you tell which? It's already obvious here, but much more so at Fudzilla.) Competition is good. Don't downrank comments just because they favor the "other" team.
  • Twoboxer
    12 million people with WoW subscriptions, new expansion due 12/7/10, lot's of vid cards being bought for that purpose . . . I know its not easy, the format may have to be different, but can you guys consider including WoW in the benching runs?
  • Yet another reason AMD would be happy to never have board of theirs allow SLI