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MSI Eclipse Plus: Does nForce 200 Boost 3-Way SLI?

Test Settings

Test System Configuration
CPUIntel Core i7-920 (2.66 GHz, 8.0 MB Cache) Overclocked to 3.60 GHz (18x 200 MHz), 1.35V Core
CPU CoolerSwiftech Apogee GTZ Liquid Cooling
Motherboard(PCIe 2.0, x16/x16/x16)MSI Eclipse Plus, BIOS 1.0 (03/31/2009) Intel X58/ICH10R Chipset, NF200 PCIe Hub, LGA-1366
Motherboard (PCIe 2.0, x16/x8/x8)Asus Rampage II Extreme, BIOS 1306 (04/09/2009) Intel X58/ICH10R Chipset, LGA-1366
Motherboard (PCIe 2.0, x16/x16/x4)Asus P6T, BIOS 0306 (02/03/2009) Intel X58/ICH10R Chipset, LGA-1366
RAM6.0 GB DDR3-1600 Triple-Channel Kit CAS 8-8-8-24 at 1.65 volts
Graphics3 x EVGA GeForce GTX 285 1 GB SLI 648 MHz/1,476 MHz GPU/Shader, GDDR3-2484
Hard DriveWD VelociRaptor WD30000HLFS 0.3 TB, 10,000 RPM, 16 MB Cache
PowerCooler Master RS850-EMBA 850W, ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V
OpticalLite-On LH-20A1L, 20X DVD±R
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkingIntegrated Gigabit Networking
Software
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 182.08
ChipsetIntel INF 9.1.0.1007

Several games are at least somewhat performance-limited by even the highest-speed CPU. Overclocking a Core i7 920 to 3.60 GHz reduces its impact on this graphics benchmarks. That’s equivalent to two model-speeds above Intel’s fastest-available LGA-1366 processor.

Swiftech’s Apogee GTZ water block works with the company’s triple 120mm fan radiator and MCP-650B water pump to keep CPU temperatures within 10° Celsius of ambient at 100% processor load.

The point of today’s article is to test for potential bandwidth limits on the second and third slots of standard X58 motherboards, whether in x8-x8 or x16-x4 mode, compared to the nForce 200-enhanced MSI Eclipse Plus. Borrowing three EVGA GeForce GTX 285 graphics cards from another test system made this possible.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool Test Set 1: Very High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Very High Quality, 8x AA
Far Cry 2Far Cry 2 Benchmark Tool 1.0.0.1 Test Set 1: Ultra High Quality (DX 10), No AA Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality (DX 10), 8x AA
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.Game Version 1.00, in-game performance test Test Set 1: Highest Details, DX10, SSAO, No AA Test Set 2: Highest Details, DX10, SSAO, 4x AA
Left 4 DeadGame Version 1.0.1.3, custom timedemo Test Set 1: Highest settings, No AA, No AF Test Set 2: Highest settings, 4x AA, 16x AF
Stalker: Clear SkyClear Sky Benchmark File Version 1.5.8.1 Test Set 1: Ultra preset, DX10, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra preset, DX10, 4x AA
World in ConflictPatch 1009, DirectX 10, in-game performance test Test 1: Very High Details, No AA / No AF Test 2: Very High Details 4x AA / 16x AF
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.02, GPU and CPU scores

Having this much graphics power to draw from eliminated any need to benchmark at medium or lower details, so we maxed everything except anti-aliasing and anisotropic-filtering for the “low settings” test to gauge playability, then cranked up AA and/or AF to further stress slot bandwidth. Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X unfortunately won’t run at 2560x1600 with 8x AA, forcing us to choose 4x instead.

  • stumpystumped
    tri GTX295 that's a lot of power consumption.
    Reply
  • Proximon
    Interesting results to be sure, but now I want to know how much performance difference there is with just a single card. I kind of feel there is a control lacking because we don't see how just the single X16 performs in each case.
    Still, the consistent performance of the top end boards make me a believer, I just would have liked that baseline to see if there were any other factors at work.
    Reply
  • curnel_D
    ProximonInteresting results to be sure, but now I want to know how much performance difference there is with just a single card. I kind of feel there is a control lacking because we don't see how just the single X16 performs in each case.Still, the consistent performance of the top end boards make me a believer, I just would have liked that baseline to see if there were any other factors at work.
    By the data presented, we can pretty much gather that it'd be very close to the same. It's the same chipset controling the first slot on both boards, while the Nforce controler takes over the second and third on the msi. So there's really no point in benching a motherboard for something it wasnt designed for.
    Reply
  • phatboe
    Honestly I'm sick of Intel, I want them to allow NVidia to make core i7 chipsets so that we can see some kind of competition in chipsets.
    Reply
  • apache_lives
    phatboeHonestly I'm sick of Intel, I want them to allow NVidia to make core i7 chipsets so that we can see some kind of competition in chipsets.
    Nvidia chipsets are no match to Intel chipsets (drivers, overclocking, stability, reliability), and with Intel having SLI support theres no point in an Nvidia chipset.

    As for MSI - i wouldnt even spend $50 on an MSI product let alone this product - they are RUBBISH cheap crap poorly designed products.
    Reply
  • SpadeM
    This reminds me of an article waaaaaay back, actually 2 articles
    1. http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/nvidia-7800gs-confirms-agp-aint-dead,1213-2.html

    and

    2. http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/pci-express-scaling-analysis,1572.html

    I'd be grateful if you could revisit the second one, since GTX285/GTX295 + HD4890/HD4870X2 are with us now, and there's PCIe 2.0.
    I know that things probably wouldn't have changed much since that article since PCIe 2.0 goes 2xPCIe link speed so it is simple math to get some numbers but, still, it might be worth looking into since new chipsets and processors are available also.

    Anyways thanks for the good read.
    Reply
  • Ramar
    apache_livesAs for MSI - i wouldnt even spend $50 on an MSI product let alone this product - they are RUBBISH cheap crap poorly designed products.
    I've got several friends running MSI boards that they love and have been running for years. They don't look like much but I've never seen one pop a cap or anything.
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    apache_livesAs for MSI - i wouldnt even spend $50 on an MSI product let alone this product - they are RUBBISH cheap crap poorly designed products.Really? Have you ever had one?

    I've used msi boards now and then at least since canterwood, but have yet to see a single board that is rubbish - or cheap. The designs are usually superior to asus, but then apart from support that is asus' single biggest weakness.

    Overall the ONLY bad thing I can say about msi is the lack of active cooling on their 790GX boards. They do run without active cooling, but they run so much cooler with it. I usually end up running a socket a fan @ 7v on the chipset heatsink on those boards just to be sure I won't have to look at them again in a few years because they died.
    Reply
  • emyyhh
    Makes me glad to have bought a RIIE amisdt all the hype of the nForce 200.
    Reply
  • scook9
    The nForce 200 is simply a marketing ploy by nvidia, that until today was working. This article exposes the shortcoming of it, you cant make something from nothing, you will still be limited by the original PCIe lanes off the northbridge. And sadly - for the extreme high end user, I don't see northbridges with 48+ PCIe 2.0 lanes coming any time soon.

    I really wish Intel had played nice with nvidia and gotten us SLI on x38/x48, or maybe try to retroactively garner that ability. I have always preferred Intel's chipsets to Nvidia's. The nforce chips just can't overclock worth a dam. I mean really, who better to make a chipset for a CPU than the CPU designer.

    After this article I am still pretty happy with my Rampage II GENE and its x16-x16 SLI (GTX 275s). I only play on a 24" screen, so I can't justify 3 way SLI at all.

    If Tom's gets some spare time, I would like to see a 1x vs. 2x. vs. 3x SLI comparison, to see just how well the drivers actually scale.
    Reply