Nvidia Goes For Four: Quad SLI Gaming Dissected

Hurdles Before We Could Start Testing

We had Quad SLI in our labs for some time before we could release this article. One set of dates for launch came and went as we waited for systems with the correct driver revisions. The first issue was with driver version 87.05; apparently there were issues with some titles such as 3DMark05. We never saw this driver in the production unit we received from Falcon Northwest. However, our California lab received a system from iBuyPower that used this driver version. We tested this system and in fact there were several issues. We felt it fair to wait until Nvidia had drivers that passed their quality assurance tests before taking too much stock in Quad SLI.

The next driver to be released was version 87.08, which was the official shipping driver and was sent to some customers with systems. This fixed many problems, but when we received the Falcon Northwest system there were still issues. We updated the system in our California lab and the same results were seen.

At this time we spoke with Nvidia and the system builders regarding their machines. Kelt Reeves at Falcon Northwest was like a hound on the hunt for a fugitive - he could not rest until he knew what his customers were going to face with their systems. We corresponded daily, if not hourly sometimes, as we tried to uncover issues and find the source of the problems.

While this driver was going to go for WHQL certification, I noticed that two driver versions existed for 87.08 - apparently one was for system builders and the second for the public. The only disparities between the uncompressed files was an XML file that contained the Nvidia profiles for each game. After further review with Nvidia we found that the one driver had the XML compressed while the other was in its native state.

Another issue was uncovered with the Asus BIOS. The original had an issue displaying the correct memory density - regardless of the amount of RAM that was placed in the DIMMs, 2 GB or 4 GB, the motherboard would report only 1.1 GB. Asus was brought in to fix this problem as we were trying to hunt down every conceivable issue that could contribute to our system freezes and Blue Screens of Death (BSoDs). Asus quickly built a new BIOS carrying a "0000" label. This indeed fixed the memory issue - but it killed Quad SLI support!

With each subsequent conversation with Kelt I could almost hear him turning into an incensed Gene Wilder from Young Frankenstein, screaming "LIFE! DO YOU HEAR ME? GIVE MY CREATION... LIFE!"