Skip to main content

The End of SLI As We Know It: Nvidia Reveals New Model

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

In a surprising turn of events, Nvidia today announced that it's completely killed its current model of SLI, which lets your system run more than one Nvidia graphics cards simultaneously for greater performance. 

Nvidia has transferred all SLI implementation responsibilities to the game developer and game engine and won't release new SLI driver profiles for the RTX 20-series and older GPUs starting January 1.

"For GeForce RTX 3090 and future SLI-capable GPUs, SLI will only be supported when implemented natively within the game," Nvidia said. DirectX12 games that already support SLI natively in-game include Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Civilization VI, Sniper Elite 4, Gears of War 4, Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation and Hitman, Nvida noted.

What does this mean for SLI? Nvidia hasn't done SLI any favors over the past several years. The GTX 900-series was the final architecture by Nvidia to fully support SLI in its entirety, specifically 3-way and 4-way SLI configurations. 

Beginning with Pascal, Nvidia started strangling SLI. It began with locking out 3-way and 4-way SLI by requiring a special software key. Eventually, Nvidia dropped the requirement for this software key and, instead, limited these configurations to benchmarks only. Then, Turing debuted and cut off anything beyond 3-card SLI configurations, limiting the RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti to 2-way SLI. 

Now, with Ampere, Nvidia has limited SLI to the RTX 3090, which is poised to be one of if not the best graphics card on the market upon release. But there's good reason for this. Since its inception, SLI has been riddled with bugs, crashes and inconsistent frame times, resulting in choppy gameplay. Getting the tech working correctly requires a lot of optimization from the game developer and from Nvidia. Additionally, there isn't a large market of PC gamers running more than one graphics card in their PC. 

With Nvidia dropping SLI support for the RTX 3080 and below, Nvidia can free up resources, allowing its driver teams to work on other things. You might get performance improvements due to low-level API support. Nvidia has stated that SLI's only purpose right now is to make the fastest gaming rigs in the world, and this is a good way to keep that going.

  • XxDarkMario20xX
    It was going to happen one day they could of made this an great thing but they ruined it and now stores will have these SLI things and cant sell them as much
    Reply
  • hotaru.hino
    I feel like it should've been this way from the beginning.

    But rendering frames in real-time is a rather different beast than other applications that scale up with more processing power.
    Reply
  • Olle P
    Given that SLI has been on a downward slope for about 20 years it's more surprising that they haven't officially killed it sooner.
    If anything, having a well functioning SLI could have been useful over the last five years or so, as cost/performance in graphics has stayed the same. Could have been nice to buy a $250 card, wait two years and buy another one of a newer version (but only marginally better than the old card) and add them together to get better performance. But oh no, Nvidia wanted you to spend $500 to get that level of performance...
    Reply
  • edwilson
    I was a major SLI supporter all the way back to Voodoo 2. Most recently with 2x 1070. However I noticed significant lack vendor support starting a few years ago. It is my understanding that one person at Nvidia in particular was the driving force behind SLI gaming who has now left around that time. We were always a niche market but it was fun while it lasted. I was able to extend the gaming life span of every machine I built by at least 2 years simply by adding a 2nd card when time came. When it worked correctly and was supported , it was like strapping on a supercharger to your PC. RIP SLI. It was fun while it lasted. I will pour one out for you.
    Reply
  • nofanneeded
    Nvidia then should sell SLI patents to AMD ... it is a shame for this innovation to be locked out from the rest of the world.

    I really hate that some companies buy other companies and then lock out their patents and stop using them. the whole patent system is bad as it is today.
    Reply
  • derekullo
    nofanneeded said:
    Nvidia then should sell SLI patents to AMD ... it is a shame for this innovation to be locked out from the rest of the world.

    I really hate that some companies buy other companies and then lock out their patents and stop using them. the whole patent system is bad as it is today.
    Nvidia may own patents on SLI but they don't have a patent on split frame or alternate frame rendering.

    The article never said it directly but having multiple GPU working at the same time on the same game is part of Directx 12.

    https://www.techspot.com/article/1137-directx-12-multi-gpu-geforce-radeon/
    It's an old 2016 link but its still Directx 12.
    Reply
  • normanr
    SLI makes it hard/impossible for games to tweak the multi-gpu setup for the best performance because it's implemented in hardware and limited to a specific driver setup, so continuing to support multi-gpu/SLI in dedicated hardware and the kernel drivers no longer makes any sense.

    User mode graphics libraries like DirectX and Vulkan now support (for more than a year) multi gpus and allow the application to fine tune how the rendering happens over multiple gpus.
    Reply
  • Endymio
    nofanneeded said:
    Nvidia then should sell SLI patents to AMD ... it is a shame for this innovation to be locked out from the rest of the world.
    I doubt AMD has much interest, for the same reason NVidia is dropping it. It's a huge, costly driver headache for very little benefit -- to the company, that is.

    In any case, the majority of those patents are expiring soon or have already expired.
    Reply
  • nofanneeded
    normanr said:
    User mode graphics libraries like DirectX and Vulkan now support (for more than a year) multi gpus and allow the application to fine tune how the rendering happens over multiple gpus.

    Does it support different GPUs in parallel?
    Reply
  • JOSHSKORN
    It's the end of SLI as we know it and my computer runs fine. :P
    Reply