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PCIe And CrossFire Scaling: Does Nvidia's NF200 Fix P55?

Test Settings And Boards

We still had two P55+NF200 motherboards on hand from a previous review: EVGA’s P55 Classified 200 and MSI’s Big Bang–Trinergy.

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Test System Configuration
LGA 1156 CPUIntel Core i7-860 (2.93 GHz, 8MB Cache) O/C to 4 GHz (20 x 200 MHz), 1.388V/1.367V
P55 MotherboardEVGA P55 SLI E655, P55 Express PCH BIOS A39 (10/23/2009)
P55+NF200 MotherboardsEVGA P55 Classified 200, BIOS A51 (12/29/2009)MSI Big Bang-Trinergy, BIOS V1.1 (11/24/2009)
LGA 1366 CPUIntel Core i7-920 (2.66 GHz, 8MB Cache) O/C to 4 GHz (20 x 200 MHz), 1.434V
X58 MotherboardEVGA X58 SLI E758, X58 Express IOH ICH10R, BIOS SZ2Z (11/30/2009)
CPU CoolerThermalright MUX-120 w/2,500 RPM Fan
RAMKingston KHX2133C9D3T1K2/4GX (4GB) DDR3-2133 at DDR3-1600 CAS 8-8-8-24
Graphics3 x Diamond Radeon HD 5870 1GB 850 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4800
Hard DriveWestern Digital Velociraptor WD3000HLFS, 300GB 10,000 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 16MB cache
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerCorsair CMPSU-850HX 850W Modular ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Gold
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsATI Catalyst 9.11
ChipsetIntel INF 9.1.1.1015

Today’s benchmarks were intended only to test the theory that an NF200 bridge might be a solution for using triple-GPU CrossFireX with Intel’s latest LGA 1156-based processors. Thus, only a single P55+NF200 motherboard should have been required. The problem is that there’s more than one way to connect the nForce 200 bridge.

MSI’s Trinergy motherboard represents the “standard” method for multiplying PCIe pathways through the NF200 bridge. All 16 of the processor’s PCIe 2.0 lanes are connected to the bridge, which is then able to control up to two cards in x16 mode or four cards in x8 mode. MSI provides its first slot with 16 of the NF200’s 32 lanes, while the second slot has eight fixed and eight switchable pathways. MSI’s third slot borrows eight pathways from the second slot via automatic mode switching whenever a card is installed, switching the board from x16/x16/x0 to x16/x8/x8.

Asus’ P7P55 WS Supercomputer uses the same 16-lane connection on the NF200 as MSI, but provides four slots by using two sets of pathway switches. The P7P55 WS Supercomputer’s first and second slots are able to share pathways in the same manner as MSI’s second and third slots, enabling x16/x0/x16/x0, x16/x0/x8/x8, or x8/x8/x8/x8 modes depending on whether or not the second and/or fourth slots are occupied. We only needed to test either the Asus or the MSI motherboard to determine the effectiveness of running all 16 of the processor’s PCIe 2.0 lanes through the NF200 bridge, and MSI’s motherboard was the handiest.

EVGA’s P55 Classified 200 links only eight of the LGA 1156 interface’s 16 lanes to the NF200, allowing exclusive use of the other eight lanes by the motherboard’s uppermost PCIe x16 slot. This configuration expands the maximum number of supported graphics cards by one, but forces the fours cards supported by the NF200 bridge to share the bandwidth of only eight of the processor’s lanes.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool Test Set 1: Very High Details, No AA Test Set 2: Very High Details, 4x AA
Far Cry 2Patch 1.03, DirectX 10, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: Ultra High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 4x AA
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.XPatch 1.02, DirectX 10.1, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 4x AA
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear SkyClear Sky Benchmark version Test Set 1: Ultra Preset, DX10 EFDL, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, DX10 EFDL, 4x MSAA
World in ConflictPatch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo Test 1: Very High Details, No AA / No AF Test 2: Very High Details 4x AA / 16x AF
Synthetic
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.0.1, GPU and CPU scores
  • liquidsnake718
    Score One for the X58. The NF200 should help the P55 however but at an added cost. ALl in all interesting to see that Nvidia has been busy making this for the onboard and motherboard vendors instead of focusing on the GF100. I am sure they are really strategizing and letting AMD/ATi get the upper hand for a short time as their target market for business is also reaching a wider market in motherboard vendors. Then when GF100 comes out, ppl will see the type of quality GPUs that are meant to please the eye and take on the best and most demanding apps/games/HD content.
    Reply
  • outlw6669
    With dual CrossFire/SLI (where it really matters most) it is kinda hard to fix something that ain't broken.

    Nice gains with three way though.
    Pretty sure if you have $1200 to dump on GPU's you would have gotten the proper platform in the first place...
    Reply
  • falchard
    MSI wins again.
    Reply
  • apache_lives
    well there you go, high end x58/1366 systems with a high end price offer the higher performance, and pushing a mid-range 1156 platform to high end performance requires extra exotic equipement/chips to do it - no new news here
    Reply
  • apache_lives
    outlw6669With dual CrossFire/SLI (where it really matters most) it is kinda hard to fix something that ain't broken.Nice gains with three way though.Pretty sure if you have $1200 to dump on GPU's you would have gotten the proper platform in the first place...
    Exactly my point +1000
    Reply
  • elmo_gr
    Testing should have been done with 5670's
    Reply
  • mfarrukh
    Just Give us the Dman FERMI already
    Reply
  • 2shea
    It proves again that the x58 is stock the best performer albeit not very much in comparison with the buffed up p55 gf200 chipset. But in practical mode, I don't see the big wins with triple vs. dual gpu's. Moreover I probably won't even go dual videocards because of the relative high fps which don't matter much, 60+ is more than enough for any game on a flatscreen monitor. 30+ is mostly enough for most single player games.
    It DOES however prove that the chip gives a reasonable gain if games are going to demand more then they do now. The only games available that can really max out anything are crysis, WIC, total commander and that's pretty much all.
    For the rest pretty good article though
    Reply
  • Hupiscratch
    I prefer to use the remaining 4x PCI-e 2.0 lanes of the X58 for a Fusion-io Duo drive. Can you imagine?
    Reply
  • a4mula
    I bow to you Crashman. This was the granddaddy of all p55 reviews and I openly admit to standing corrected. I honestly didn't believe the NF200 could pull it off, but I was obviously wrong.

    I wish this review had come a week earlier, I would have gone 1156 over 1366 but at least it finally showed up. The last vestiges of X58's hold over P55 have been erased in my mind.

    Now you can move on to figuring out SATA 6Gb/s for us. I know, I know I'm never pleased. Great work.

    Reply