We selected a 3-way GTX 260 Core 216 graphics solution for our $2,500 PC with hopes of greater gaming performance, particularly in Crysis, at a lower price. Let’s take a quick look at the overall gaming performance difference before considering value.
Crysis performance was improved, but at a cost in other games. The win is far more significant than the losses when one considers that Crysis is the only game that actually needed the additional performance simply to be playable at the targeted 1920x1200 pixel resolution. Still, the average of all games must be used for determining value.
GTX 280 graphics cards were far more expensive when we chose our components over a month ago. Currently, the overclocked GTX 260 Core 216 model we used costs $260 per card, which is far from the cheapest current model. We had overclocked our GTX 280 samples by the same amount, and the closest-matching card from the same manufacturer currently costs $400. What was previously a savings of around $100 has thus dropped to only $20. Let’s see how much this shrinks the value difference.
Though the 3-way SLI configuration does have slightly better value, it’s hard to imagine that anyone today would choose a motherboard specifically to support it. What appeared to be a value coup only five weeks ago has become nothing more than a footnote, thanks to falling prices on Nvidia’s current top model as the company prepares to launch its “next big thing.”
To answer the question posed at the beginning of this piece, no. Three of a kind doesn't always beat a pair. Five weeks ago, three GeForce GTX 260 Core 216s would have saved you $100 over the price of two GTX 280s. But today, in light of the cards Nvidia is expected to launch at this year's CES, the difference is nearly a wash.
I thought that the only problem was that one of the builds performed less than the last one at the same price point. But then again I am used to the comments section of such articles being full of whinners and idiots so its not much of a surprise...
285 SLI is looking interesting
This was a good review, it pointed out to us that buying 3 260s is not so beneficial, Crysis is a great game, but it is not the deciding factor for the purchase of my next video card.
If I really want SLI I would choose as fewer cards as possible. The driver mess and inefficient scaling makes no sense to get more than two cards. GTX 295 > GTX 280 x2 > GTX 260 x3 > 9800GT x4.
Better to notice the fact the 280x2 consistently beats the 260x3 except in the one game that sets the standards for erratic performance results.