For our Three-Way SLI testing with the GIGABYTE Super Clocked GTX 470s, we stuck with the same system we had before. The only exception was that we removed the USB 3.0 drive and the SATA 3.0 drive. These were not tested, so we just unplugged them. We stuck with the same install of Windows 7 x64 Ultimate, but uninstalled the ATi drivers and installed the latest NVIDIA drivers.
From there we started dropping in cards and ran some basic gaming tests. As this was not intended to be a full blown GPU review, but a test of the X58A-UD9's ability to handle the load of three Super Clocked GTX470's, we did not go overboard.
As we mentioned on the previous page, for our testing here we used the GIGABYTE GV-N470SO-13I cards for our initial dive into Three-Way SLI testing. This card is a non-reference design and features a few GIGABYTE extras. One of the first is the fact that it is listed as "Super Overclock". What this really means is that it is factory overclocked to 700MHz from the default of 604MHz; this is about a 16% rise which is not bad for a starter.
GIGABYTE also says that the cooling has been enhanced to make sure the system is cooled consistently. On top of that, GIGABYTE has included an improved voltage regulation system and voltage read points to allow you to see how much voltage the card is pulling. I wish they would include something to monitor the number of Amps the boards are drawing, but that is for another article.
Now that we have our GPU selection, we need to talk a little about power. We have a great setup in our lab thanks to more than a few companies. One of the big contributors is Corsair. They sent us a pair of AX1200 Gold PSUs. Each of these is rated at 80% efficiency which is not a bad thing to have powering your system. However, it is not the wattage that gets you, it's the amps. The AX1200 can push 100Amps on its 12V rail. This is good for almost everything except for the most massive system (like our Quad SLI rig we have planned for another article real soon!), as even our Super Overclock GTX 470s pull around 18-20 Amps if we take the current estimate that you need 1.5 times the amperage needed for a single GPU to run SLI, then it stands to reason that you need around two times this number for Three-way SLI (possibly as much as 2.25 times that); so now our current draw for the GPUs is between 36 and 45 Amps.
Our AX1200 Gold with its 100 Amps will handle this just fine, with plenty left over for other components. This is a very good thing and now brings us to a feature of the X58-UD9 that is often overlooked. This is the extra copper in the board, the beefed up tracing and the improvements in component durability. Without these improvements, pulling 60+ Amps through this board would shorten its life span considerably.
Thankfully, we did not overload the AX1200 Gold with the three overclocked GTX 470s from GIGABYTE. The PSU held steady and was able to supply the power needed to run everything.
The other side of the equation is cooling. Here we did run into some problems. When we clumped the GTX470s together for Three-Way SLI the middle card was not able to cool properly. The three fans along the length of the board were only pulling in hot air from the card in front and behind. In the end we had to mount an exhaust fan on top of the set to make sure everything was keeping cool.