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NVIDIA GeForce 9800GTX in Tri SLI Tested

Our early test of the 9800 GTX showed much promise for the card. Now let's see what happens when we triple them up!

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Sat, Mar 29 2008 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:04 PM CST
Manufacturer: none

Introduction





Well here I am again finding myself locked in the iBuyPower bunker with more graphics cards than I can poke a stick at. Alongside three 9800 GTX graphics cards we also have two 9800 GX2s all ready to go into the funky water cooled system that we've been provided with today.

With Tri SLI drivers in hand, more benchmarks than we had last time and some Dominos Pizza and Dickens Energy Cider, we're ready to get stuck into the wonderful world of expensive VGA setups which is overkill for most of us, but still wanted oh so badly.

So without further ado, let's have a look at a few pictures taken during the course of the evening before we move onto the test results.

Some 1337 Pictures






YAY! - Tri SLI is going to work!



Big numbers in 3DMark06!



Just one of the many 20k+ runs we achieved during the night.





Tri SLI in all its glory!



Quad SLI up and running again



The whole setup, including dinner.

Test System Setup and 3DMark06


Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad QX9650 @ 4.4GHz (400MHz x 11)
Cooling: Swiftech Apogee GTX Block (CPU) 3x 120mm Radiator, MCP655-B Pump
Motherboard(s): EVGA 780i SLI
Memory: 2 X 2GB OCZ Reaper X PC6400 DDR-2 4-4-3-12
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital Raptor 150GB 10,00RPM SATA
Power Supply Zalman 1000W Modular
Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium 64Bit
Drivers: Forceware 174.53 and 174.40


With the system now clocked at 4.4GHz and a WHQL driver available for Quad SLI, it was time to run a number of setups in more applications than we checked out last time.


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here





3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.




Straight away we can see that we get some good gains when we move from a single card to a dual 9800 GTX. The gains at 1920 x 1200 are about 80%. When you move from a second to a third card though, the performance isn't nearly as impressive. We can see that Quad SLI and Tri SLI perform almost identical to each other.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea


PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage: http://en.akella.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/





PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.

Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.






At 1920 x 1200 the SLI setups manage to hit a problem, but as you can see in the lower resolution test we again see decent gains over a single card. Here we can see the GX2 and Quad SLI GX2 giving us about a 10% increase once again. Hopefully the SLI issues are sorted when the full PT Boats game comes out.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10


CINEBENCH R10

Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net




CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).






Under CINEBENCH 32-bit we can see that the GX2 is able to beat out the GTX, but the addition of extra cards does very little for the score. 64-bit on the other hand gets gains from a single card and puts all four cards quite close together.

Benchmarks - Crysis (Medium and High)


Crysis

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/
Buy It Here





From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.

Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE 2 offers. The CryENGINE 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE 2 Sandbox world editing system.






Moving to Crysis at Medium we can see that we get a good performance jump from a single card setup, but after that the GTX manages to outperform the GX2 both by itself and when running in Quad SLI.

Moving to High paints a slightly different picture; we again see the big gains over the single card when moving to SLI, but this time almost 100% at 1920 x 1200. Tri SLI also manages to give us at the lower resolution about a 15% performance increase. We can see at the higher resolution the SLI GTX setup is actually the best, beating out three and four GPUs.

Benchmarks - Crysis (Very High)


Crysis

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/
Buy It Here





From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.

Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE 2 offers. The CryENGINE 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE 2 Sandbox world editing system.




Checking out Very High we again see the big gains for the SLI 9800 GTX option when compared to a single card. Tri SLI manages to also increase performance again, but nowhere near what was offered when moving from one to two GPUs.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3


Unreal Tournament 3

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/
Buy It Here





Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.



SLI doesn't offer the gains that we've seen from other games here today. We get a slight boost in performance when moving to two cards which equates to about 25%. After that we can see another slight boost at Tri SLI.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF


High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.


3DMark06



3DMark manages to show some gains for all the different setups. Quad SLI comes out on top, but only by 5% when compared to the Tri SLI setup. The SLI GTX manages to score more than a single GX2 and offers big gains compared to a single GTX.

Final Thoughts




It's clear that NVIDIA has really got its dual GPU SLI technology sorted out, but when you start mixing it up with three or four GPUs the performance increase while present, is very small, especially in relation to what it costs you to go down that route.

The GX2 continues to be a good offering for people who want to jump on the SLI bandwagon without getting themselves a SLI motherboard. However, if you're looking at building a new system it might be worth checking out a 780i motherboard and a pair of 9800 GTX cards which really gets things pumping.

NVIDIA has been seen to put a lot of effort into the SLI driver as of late, but it seems that most of the energy has gone into getting two cards to run extremely well together as opposed to three or four.

SLI is becoming a hot topic again, and we will have a 780i board up and running in our VGA labs so we can investigate it more and more as time goes on. Before we sign out though, I have to thank the boys at iBuyPower again for putting up with me and our lovely drink of choice, Dickens Energy Cider.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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