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GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock

Now that we have had some time with the GIGABYTE X58A-UD9, today we take a look at what it can do with three-way SLI using a trio of GIGABYTE GTX 470 Super Overclock video cards.

@TweakTown
Published Wed, Sep 29 2010 4:23 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:02 PM CST
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction


GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 01 | TweakTown.com
VIEW GALLERY - 23 IMAGES




We now know that the GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 can give us some great performance. However, we have not yet touched on all of the available features of this board. After all, one of the major selling points is that you can drop up to four AMD or NVIDIA graphics cards into this thing and really push the limits of graphics performance.

GIGABYTE made this board big enough for four GPUs, dropped in two NF200 chips to make sure there was enough PCIe 2.0 lanes to run them all at x16 and then topped that off with more power (dual 12-V Molex connectors) to ensure that these slots would get enough power. So, to see what we can get from this we decided to drop in three GIGABYTE GV-N470SO-13I cards. These are GTX 470 based cards from GIGABYTEs "Super Clocked" series. Each of these cards runs at a nice 700MHz core speed, up from the normal 604MHz found on the stock GTX470. They also have GIGABYTE's WindForce (aftermarket) cooling. At $349.99 a pop from NewEgg.com, this pushes our test system up to just under $1700 for the board and GPUs. That is quite a price tag to match up to.

I guess the preamble is done; let's get to benching and see if the performance meets the price.

Test System Setup and Comments


GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 02 | TweakTown.com


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.

GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 03 | TweakTown.com


GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 04 | TweakTown.com


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.

GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 05 | TweakTown.com


GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 06 | TweakTown.com


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.

GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 10 | TweakTown.com


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.

Synthetic Tests


Our synthetic tests will cover most of the features available within the most popular forms of DirectX (DX 9, 10 and 11). These tests are included as the repeatable "static" numbers to ensure that we are not getting results that are out of the normal range. Our tests used for this were 3DMark Vantage, Unigine's Heaven 2.0 Bench and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat bench.


3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: www.futuremark.com
Buy It Here

For synthetic gaming tests we used the industry standard and overlockers bragging tool 3DMark Vantage. This is a test that strives to mimic the impact modern games have on a system. Futuremark went a long way to change from the early days of graphics driven tests to a broader approach including physics, AI and more advanced graphics simulations.

3DMark Vantage uses the DX10 API in addition to having support for PhysX. For testing we use the Performance test run.

GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 42 | TweakTown.com


These are some nice looking numbers, aren't they? The issue here is one of diminishing returns. When you look at the scores with PhysX enabled, they look very nice; moving from a single GPU to SLI gives you around a 39% performance boost. Adding in the third card only yields a 15% boost; yet the overall increase from single to three GTX 470 GPUs is almost 50%.


Unigine Heaven Bench

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.0
Developer Homepage: http://unigine.com/
Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/products/heaven
Download It Here

Unigine's Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced Unigine engine from Unigine Corp. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of Steampunk. It offers a good combination of features like; Support of DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.0, tessellation, Advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion), volumetric cumulonimbus clouds, changing light conditions and dynamic sky with light scattering.

We ran the Heaven Bench in both DX10 and DX11 modes to see where things landed.

GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 43 | TweakTown.com


GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 44 | TweakTown.com


Once again we have some excellent numbers. Even with a single GTX 470 we are getting good results. After that the scores scale well with each extra GPU added on. Even the DX10 testing is way up there which is good to see since we have seen NVIDIA GPUs struggle with the DX10 version of the Heaven 2.0 bench.


S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat Bench

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.thq.com
Product Homepage: http://cop.stalker-game.com
Download It Here

The game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat is based off of the XRAY 1.6 engine. This same engine runs the benchmark in both DX11 and DX10 modes. Like the game itself, it can simulate hard contact shadows and tessellation. The benchmark runs through several lighting conditions; Day, Night, Rain and Sun Streaks. These compromise the bench four runs. We take the average frame rates for each and record them here.

GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 45 | TweakTown.com


GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 46 | TweakTown.com


Wow! Once more we see SLI scaling quite well as we add more GPUs onto the UD9. It looks like the X58A-UD9 and three GV-N470SO-13Is can certainly keep up with the STALKER COP bench.


Synthetic Conclusion

Our Synthetic testing run has shown us some excellent results. Even with the small issue with 3DMark Vantage and the diminished return we saw with the third GTX 470, the numbers are still very impressive. However, not everyone will be using the X58A-UD9 for benchmarking alone. Let's see if the results we see here will translate into the real world.

Real-World Tests


Here we have our real gaming tests. Each of the games we chose use multiple cores and GPUs. They are able to stress the system through use of good AI. Both have decent positional audio that adds impact to the sound subsystem of the board. We ran each game through the level or parts listed and recorded frame per second using FRAPS. This brings the whole game into play.


Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (DX9)

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Timedemo or Level Used: First combat until the school is cleared
Developer Homepage: http://www.infinityward.com
Product Homepage: http://modernwarfare2.infinityward.com

Most of you know about the game Modern Warfare 2; it caused quite a bit of controversy in the latter half of 2009. The game is a first person shooter with a heavy combat emphasis. It follows the events in the first Modern Warfare very closely and brings back several characters from the original.

As with most games in the Call of Duty franchise, it features a heavy AI load. This is not because of a complex AI routine, but more due to the sheer number of enemies in any given combat situation. It is also our single DX9 based game in our testing suite. Settings are shown below.

GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 81 | TweakTown.com


GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 82 | TweakTown.com


GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 47 | TweakTown.com


Now this is what I call overkill! Look at the minimum frame rate here; we start off at 98, almost triple what most doctors say the human eye can register (28-36 Frames Per Second). Still, we see impressive scaling on the UD9 each time we add another GTX 470. Our final minimum frame rate is 175 FPS. Not bad at all.


Far Cry 2 (DX10)

Version and / or Patch Used: V1.00
Timedemo or Level Used: Clearing the Safe house through to the Rescue
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com
Product Homepage: http://farcry.us.ubi.com

Far Cry 2 is a large sandbox style game. There are no levels here so as you move about the island you are on you do not have to wait for the "loading" sign to go away. It is mission driven so each mission is what you would normally think of as the next "level".

In the game you take the role of a mercenary who has been sent to kill the Jackal. Unfortunately your malaria kicks in and you end up being found by him. Long story short, you become the errand boy for a local militia leader and run all over the island doing his bidding. Settings we used for testing are shown below.

GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 83 | TweakTown.com


GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 48 | TweakTown.com


Now this was unexpected. While we do see a nice improvement when we setup SLI on the UD9, we actually lose performance with Three-Way SLI. We have a feeling that the game does not know what to do with the extra GPU and this is causing problems with rendering.


Battlefield Bad Company 2 (DX11)

Version and / or Patch Used: V1.00
Timedemo or Level Used: From washing up on the beach to the mine fields.
Developer Homepage: http://www.ea.com/
Product Homepage: http://badcompany2.ea.com/

Battlefield Bad Company is another sequel and also another game "franchise". Bad Company 2 is also our DX11 Shooter game. The game follows a fictitious B company team on a mission to recover a Japanese defector. This puts you back in World War II (at least for the beginning of the game) while the multi-player game is centered on much more modern combat. For our testing we used the single player mode. Settings are shown below.

GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 84 | TweakTown.com


GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 49 | TweakTown.com


Bad Company 2 is another game that does not know what to do with three GPUs. In fact, this one was so bad that we had stutters during game play. We are not sure at this time if this is a game issue or a board issue. We are going to be doing some further testing to find out, though. Still, interestingly enough we did not see a large power spike when playing this game compared to some of the other games and applications we used for testing. This could indicate that for whatever reason the third GPU on the X58A-UD9 is not operating properly and, like Far Cry 2, is causing a loss of performance.


Bioshock 2 (DX10)

Version and / or Patch Used: V1.00
Timedemo or Level Used: From the opening to the meeting with Dr. Tanenbaum.
Developer Homepage: http://www.2kgames.com
Product Homepage: http://www.2kgames.com/#/games/bioshock-2
Buy It Here

Bioshock 2 is the follow on to the original blockbuster hit FPS, Bioshock. In it you take the persona of a Big Daddy, but one that is very different from what you ran into in the original game. You have many powerful weapons, but are also able to make use of Eve and Plasmids to enhance your combat abilities. The DX10 portion of the game is limited to textures and lighting, but it is still enough to keep things interesting for your GPU.

GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 85 | TweakTown.com


GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 50 | TweakTown.com


Bioshock 2 seems to gain very little from multiple GPUs (this seems to be an issue with the game and not the UD9). We have seen this now on a couple of boards and even during our Hydra multiGPU Testing.


Metro 2033(DX11)

Version and / or Patch Used: V1.00
Timedemo or Level Used: From washing up on the beach to the mine fields.
Developer Homepage: http://www.metro2033game.com/us/age_gate
Product Homepage: http://www.metro2033game.com

Metro 2033 is a game that was created by some of the same developers that made the game STALKER. The Engine used has been described as "what XRAY should have been". It is very detailed and has some of the more realistic human rendering available. The shadows, fog simulations and other eye-candy make this game rough on even the most powerful of GPUs.

GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 86 | TweakTown.com


GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Tested in Three-Way SLI w/ GTX 470 Super Overclock 51 | TweakTown.com


Now this is much more like what I would want to see from a three-GPU setup on the X58A-UD9. Metro 2033 with DX11 enabled is very hard on a GPU, but when we dropped in the third GTX 470 we finally saw our minimum frame rate hit over 32FPS. The game was smooth and responsive in a way that I have not seen it before.


Gaming Conclusion

Well, we really did not find out anything new with our three-way SLI testing on the X58A-UD9. Then again, our real-world gaming tests were limited to a handful of games. They do represent a good slice of current games, but the only thing they have shown us is that adding more GPUs is not going to guarantee better performance. In fact, in two of our games adding the third GPU caused problems (in Bad Company 2 this was a big problem). In Bioshock 2 we saw no gain at all.

Final Thoughts




In our first round of multi-GPU testing on the GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 we find that the board is more than up to the task of handling the extra power draw going through it and with the extra NF200 chips there is no shortage of PCIe 2.0 lanes to keep things humming along. We also find that the X58A-UD9 is a board with the extra headroom for serious benchmarking.

Looking at the synthetic tests, we see them scale very nicely with each additional GPU added into the mix. This is great news for the overclocker looking to take the top spots on HWBot. When we started out we were concerned that we would see a failure when all of the GPUs began asking for more power and bandwidth; thankfully this did not happen. However, we did see an issue with cooling that was unexpected and could be a design flaw in the cooling on the GV-N470SO-13I. When the cards are sandwiched together (in Three-Way SLI) the middle card cannot keep enough cool air flowing over the heatsink. This caused the card to overheat and shut down during both 3DMark Vantage and Heaven 2.0. We were able to solve this with a single fan on top of the cards exhausting out, but it is something to be aware of.

Our testing of the X58A-UD9 is not yet done. Up next is a run with four (yes, four) GIGABYTE GV-N480D5-15I-B cards. That is four GTX 480s! - We are going to see if we can get this running on a single Corsair AX1200 Gold PSU. After that, who knows? - We may even try some CPU and GPU overclocking with a pair of AX1200 Gold PSUs and some advanced cooling. Really, from what we are seeing so far, there is not much of a limit to what you can do with the GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 if you have the time and the money.

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