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NVIDIA SLI Technology for Intel X58 Motherboards - Page 1 of 1

INTRODUCTION

With the imminent release of Intel's new X58 chipset, NVIDIA has made a major breakthrough as they have licensed their popular Scalable Link Interface (SLI) Technology on motherboards that utilize the chipset. SLI is a multi-Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) technology designed to increase performance through parallel processing. Licenses were picked up by most of the major motherboard manufacturers and a special license key embedded in the System BIOS will allow support for SLI.

Sponsors

The license key is an important feature since it is dependent on certification by NVIDIA, which includes verification of stability, power, compatibility, and layout. If a motherboard is certified, then NVIDIA's drivers will enable SLI functionality.

ASUS Rampage II Extreme with 3-Way SLI
Please click to enlarge.

Some certified motherboards with native slot configurations will support 2-way and 3-way SLI configurations. In this case, native slot configurations consist of PCI-Express slots that are connected to Intel's X58 chipset.

However, X58-based motherboards with NVIDIA's nForce 200 chip will be able to provide full-bandwidth x16 connections for 3-way SLI. These systems will also be able to support four x16 PCI-Express slots, creating maximum bandwidth for 3-way SLI systems with a dedicated PhysX GPU.

CERTIFICATION

NVIDIA conducts SLI certification to ensure that SLI customers, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) are able to build dependable PCs with SLI components. SLI certification on motherboards includes the following tests:

  • 2-Way, 3-Way and Quad SLI Testing
  • 3rd Party Device Validation (PSU, Chassis, Memory)
  • Performance Testing
    • Top 15 Game Test
    • Top Benchmarks Test
    • Physx Testing
    • Video Streaming
  • Compatibility Testing
    • Board Mechanical Check
    • Super Stress (Prolonged run)
    • PCIe Specification Verification

Following testing, NVIDIA produces a pass/fail/waiver report per motherboard for ODMs and OEMs.

CONFIGURATIONS

As mentioned previously, SLI on motherboards with the X58 chipset will be available natively as well as with NVIDIA's nForce 200 chip. The table below summarizes the various configurations, which is followed by a schematic of each one.

SLI Configurations with X58 Chipset

Note that in a 4 slot configuration, one slot is normally used to accommodate a PhysX GPU processor. With NVIDIA's latest drivers, the PhysX GPU can be of a different model than the display GPU. For example, a 3-Way SLI configuration consisting of three GeForce GTX 280 graphics cards can be used to power the display while another qualifying GPU, such as a graphics card using a GeForce GTX 260 GPU, can be used as a PhysX processor.

Native X58 Configurations

Native 2 Slot Configuration

Native 3 Slot Configuration

Native 4 Slot Configuration

nForce 200 X58 Configurations

NVIDIA states that the use of broadcast and peer to-peer writes allows them to optimize traffic between the GPUs and maximize performance with x16 full-bandwidth connections. The method and apparatus for providing peer-to-peer data transfer within a computing environment can be summarized as follows:

A method and apparatus for providing peer-to-peer data transfer through an interconnecting fabric. The method and apparatus enable a first device to read and/or write data to/from a local memory of a second device by communicating read and write requests across the interconnectivity fabric. Such data transfer can be performed even when the communication protocol of the interconnectivity fabric does not permit such transfers.

nForce 200 3 Slot Configuration

nForce 200 4 Slot Configuration

MOTHERBOARDS

As of October 28, the following X58-based motherboards have received SLI certification from NVIDIA. This list will continue to grow and a complete list will be available at NVIDIA's web site.

X58-Based Motherboards with SLI Certification

EVGA Gamer

ASUS P6T Deluxe

Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5

POWER SUPPLIES

When assembling a high-end SLI-based computer system, the last thing you want to worry about are the credentials of the power supply. The power supply is such a critical component in these types of systems, that NVIDIA certifies and maintains a list of SLI power supplies at their web site.

My SLI-based system has been powered with Thermaltake's 1200W Toughpower, which is expensive, but comes highly recommended.

CLOSING COMMENTS

NVIDIA has extended the SLI ecosystem by licensing SLI for Intel X58-based motherboards. What remains to be seen are the price/performance aspects of these systems.

Another point to consider is what will become of NVIDIA's nForce chipset for the Intel platfotm. Will they continue to design and have them manufactured or just provide add-in chips that extend the capabilities of the X58 chipset?

For a discussion about X58 chipset motherboards, please check out the X58 Motherboard Preview Thread.

Back to nV News

Last Updated on November 25, 2008


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