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The GeForce GTX 480 Update: 3-Way SLI, 3D Vision, And Noise

Picking The Right Motherboard

Generally speaking, it should be “enough” to buy an SLI-capable motherboard and expect your dual-card array to work. That’s technically true, but when it comes to the GeForce GTX 480, there’s a right way to go about picking a platform.

You want a board equipped with two second-gen PCI Express x16 slots that are electrically wired to run at x16, and not x8. Moreover, you want them to be at least three slots apart, leaving at least one space between the top and bottom cards. Anything less and you’ll sacrifice frame rate and/or acoustic performance.

Fortunately, there are quite a few boards with ample spacing. Some of these include:

Motherboards With Ample Spacing For SLI
X58 ExpressP55 Express
AsusP6T DeluxeMaximus III Extreme
P6T Deluxe V2Maximus III Formula
P6T Deluxe w/ OC PalmP7P55 WS SuperComputer
P6T WS ProfessionalP7P55D Deluxe
P6T6 WS RevolutionP7P55D EVO
P6T7 WS SuperComputerP7P55D Premium
P6TD DeluxeP7P55D Pro
P7P55D-E Deluxe
P7P55D-E EVO
P7P55D-E Premium
P7P55D-E Pro
SABERTOOTH 55i
EVGAX58 Classified 4-Way SLIP55 Classified 200
X58 SLI ClassifiedP55 FTW 200
X58 SLI
GigabyteP55A-UD4P
P55A-UD6
P55A-UD7
P55-UD4P
P55-UD5
P55-UD6
MSIEclipse PlusBig Bang Trinergy
X58 PlatinumP55-GD80
Eclipse SLIP55-GD65
X58 Platinum SLIP55-GD85

Now, obviously the P55-based boards are going to give up some performance, as integrated PCI Express connectivity on LGA 1156-based CPUs gets divided into a pair of x8 links. But if you're going with an X58 board (and if you're spending more than a grand on graphics, I'm willing to bet you're also running an LGA 1366-based processor), double-check your platform of choice, ensuring the properly-spaced slots are both of the 16-lane sort.

Again, we’re using MSI’s Eclipse Plus, which comes armed with an NF200 bridge chip, capable of multiplexing the chipset’s connectivity into a trio of x16 slots for our three GTX 480s. Special thanks to MSI for also supplying that third card.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • anonymous x
    Why don't you overclock that cpu higher? Only 3.3 Ghz? The 3rd GTX 480 looks like it's being bottlenecked. You can see the scaling is excellent at high resolutions with AA (from 1 to 2 to 3 cards), but at lower resolutions without AA there's no gain.
    Reply
  • lashton
    and why not check it against the 5890, the 480GTX is nvidia fastest card, put it against ATI Fastest Card
    Reply
  • cangelini
    There's a good chance that more CPU would def. help at the lower resolutions--one of the reasons I chose 2560 for the comparisons at the end ;-) For one reason or another, wasn't having much luck getting the retail i7-930/Eclipse Plus combo to overclock very well.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    lashtonand why not check it against the 5890, the 480GTX is nvidia fastest card, put it against ATI Fastest Card
    A pair of 5870s is actually going to be faster. Should I swing a second 5970, though, I do think a pair of 5970s vs. the three GTX 480s would be a good comparison!
    Reply
  • cruiseoveride
    Crappy ATi drivers.
    Reply
  • lunyone
    Did I miss something, but there is NO mention of the power consumption of the 3 x 480's??
    Reply
  • I have no clue where you people are getting this "5890" Statement from... They have the 5870, and then the next step up is the 5970... Is that what you're trying to say?
    Reply
  • cangelini
    stuk1intI have no clue where you people are getting this "5890" Statement from... They have the 5870, and then the next step up is the 5970... Is that what you're trying to say?
    Bleh, it's late and it has been a long weekend. Edited :)
    Reply
  • SpadeM
    Quad fire with 5850 would have been nice (thinking back to a builder marathon with quad fire) to see if ati's quad cards made any improovement over last years ones. Also i agree with lunyone, I for one would have been interested to see the numbers on load for the 3 nvidia cards with the 800W gold power supply (and maybe a comment from you cris about what power supply u think is best for the job. Either go lower wattage but a high efficiency psu or higher wattage but lower efficiency)

    Anyways, it was a informative article, looking forward to a full 512 sp card from nvidia and the second revision to the fermi core.
    Reply
  • JeanLuc
    stuk1intI have no clue where you people are getting this "5890" Statement from... They have the 5870, and then the next step up is the 5970... Is that what you're trying to say?
    The only place where the "5890" exists is in ATI's folder under 'What to do if Fermi is good".

    And yes where is the tri-sli power consumption numbers, there's no mention of it's omittance in the analysis.
    Reply