RPS Asks: Do You Use SLI/Crossfire?

By Alec Meer on November 17th, 2011 at 1:26 pm.

Twice the legs, twice the power, yes?

I worked on a PC hardware magazine for years, and found myself as caught up in the bitter CPU and GPU wars that characterise that industry as much as the next man who cares a little bit too much about expensive circuitry, but even so I’ve never really fancied a multi-card system via NVIDIA SLI or ATI Crossfire. The noise, the expense, the technical potholes…

However, between Rage, Battlefield 3 and Skyrim (particularly the latter, wanting to try out all of the settings tweaks and mods to max it out), for the first time I’m thinking about doing it. I’ve got a GeForce 560 (non-Ti) which more than holds its own, but there are usually a few bells and whistles I need to turn off if I want a solid frame-rate at 1920×1200. The expense of higher-end cards is extreme, but for around £120-50 I could pick up another 560. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. But have you ever dabbled in the dark art of multi-card systems? And was it worth it?

The below poll is hardly scientific – I know that – but I’m interested in getting even a slight sense of whether SLI and Crossfire are still the domain of fairly hardcore PC enthusiasts, or if they’ve also been adopted by normals.

(I’m going to pretty much ignore three and four card systems for the sake of argument, because Jesus Christ that stuff’s insane.)

IMPORTANT – DO NOT PRESS ‘VOTE’ AT THE BOTTOM OF EACH QUESTION. CHOOSE ALL YOUR OPTIONS IN ALL QUESTIONS FIRST, THEN PRESS ‘VOTE’ ON JUST ONE QUESTION. If you’ve already fallen prey to weirdness, refreshing the page may be sort it out. Sorry ’bout that, we can’t find a perfect poll plugin yet.

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178 Comments »

  1. povu says:

    The amount of time there is between graphics card purchases for me and the price I normally pay for them means I’m better off buying a single new one every time.

    • Shivoa says:

      Agreed, I’d rather buy a new graphics card every 18 months (or 2 year) than buy two to SLI every 3 (or 4) years for the same price.

      Yes, SLI is a lot better and has far more mature drivers and game profiles today than there have been in the past but I’ll stick to a single card sucking 200+ Watts of juice to provide what 3D it can and maybe scale back the settings slightly rather than having to deal with buying graphics RAM twice (as SLI can’t get over each card needing to have it’s own copies of all the textures etc).

      I think those with 30″ crazy monitors (2560×1600 having twice as many pixels as 1080p) or triple screens are basically forced to deal with SLI to get enough 3D performance to paint their crazy pixel counts if they want to enjoy high settings and new games like that. Now the latest revision of FXAA gives us some passable (poly edges, shaders, and transparency) aliasing reduction without pushing up the GPU requirements so that it is quite cheap to have a good sub-pixel accurate 1080p rather than rendering to a lot more tinier pixels with a very-HD PC screen, I’m rather happy I stuck at 1080p rather than investing in more dots on my screen.

    • Boozebeard says:

      I have a 27″ 2560×1440 monitor and my single 480 seems to do a decent enough job. I don’t think I could go back to using another screen now, it’s just so nice. It’s not so much the number of pixels but the pixel density, it just such a crisp picture. I only need 2xAA for things to be perfectly smooth.

      Actually I’m a little confused by my Skyrim performance. It’s not as smooth as I would like but my GPU usage only seems to go up to about 60%, my CPU sits in the 80s and 90s and ram usage is about 80%. I’m not sure where the bottle neck is =/

      On the topic of multi cards, I’ve never done it myself but from what I read on forums it seems that the performance is always lacking on new games until they get a driver update. It would really annoy me that I’d have to wait for new drivers every game release to play it at full potential.

    • alh_p says:

      My monitor only goes up to 1280×1024 so my old (stable) Radeon 4k does fine, especially with win7 and dx10/11. Given the expense of upgrading both card and monitor -and that any new game seems to run well at high/v high on this resolution, I’ve not felt the need to change. Plus the consideration that I’d need to shell out hundreds for a new monitor as well as the same for a new card…

      Then again, I’ve not really seen what higher resoltuion graphics look like so it’s likely my ignorance of what’s possible is dampening my desire for improvement. Basicaly, I’m pretty much stuck in about 2006/7 (by my guess), dx10+ improvements not-withstanding.

    • zebrastealer says:

      It really depends on your needs, for most folks running a single 1080p monitor a single card like the gtx560 will perform well. I currently run a 3 monitor 3d (5980×1920) setup powered by two water cooled heavily overclocked GTX 480′s in SLI, no single GPU could handle those resolutions. For most titles I get near max details at playable frame rates. Aside from AA which always hits a video ram cap at 2x. Dual SLI or Crossfire has outstanding scaling now adays and really is worth the price, especially because two mid range cards like your gtx 560 will generally outperform a more expensive top of the line card for less money. Unfortunately the 3x and 4x sli/crossfire scaling is quite a bit less effecive and not worth the additional cost and power requirements.

      Oh yeah, Skyrim purrs along at max details though it crashes regularly for me due to having to run a hack to get the menus usable in multi monitor mode. Of course running multi monitor and 3d is almost always a pain in the butt with hacks and ini editing generally required to work. Despite all that, it’s still worth it because when it does work it is grand.

    • Odeon says:

      @ alh_p: I went from a *very* old 19″ CRT (max res was something like 2560 x 2048) to an old square 19″ LCD (1280 x 1024 max res) to save desk space and because my hardware at the time couldn’t handle more than 1280 x 1024 anyway. The LCD was getting ready to die on me, so since I upgraded my other hardware in the mean time, I went for a 1080p 19″ LCD. I got a HANNspree from Newegg for right around $100 before tax and shipping. It was on sale, but that’s a common occurrence at Newegg, so do yourself a favor and take a look. The difference is HUGE, both in usable Windows desktop real estate and in games that your system can run at 1080p. Even if you can run games at 1080p, you can always run them in a lower resolution in windowed mode and have your favorite browser, or Wordpad, or whatever you like open right beside it. 8-)

    • kickme22 says:

      @Boozebeard there seems to be a memory leak in skyrim. It runs perfectly smooth maxxed out with graphics mods (on 1080p) on a GTX 460 but over time slows down because it keeps taking more and more ram (probably why it says 80% usage on your machine) and as it takes ram the FPS lower and lower until you run out of ram and it crashes.

  2. TormDK says:

    The vote button doesn’t work :(

    • Dakia says:

      Same for me

    • Ed123 says:

      Yeah :( My RPS experience is ruined.

    • Belsameth says:

      +1

      I used to own an SLI system, home built, overall I don’t find it worth it tho.
      A new card generally offers far more benefits with less technical hassle and less prone to problems.

      On top of that, the power consumption on single cards is already insane…(running a GTX480 here atm)

    • InternetBatman says:

      Neither vote nor view results works for me.

    • Dasos says:

      +1

    • Ed123 says:

      I voted for one option and it barred me from all of them :(

      edit: nvm, refreshed a few times and it works. Hurrah!

    • max pain says:

      You shouldn’t be here?

  3. Maurish says:

    I took a CF motherboard a few years back just in case I need the extra power boost. Still using one card since it has handled everything very well so far, maybe somewhere in the future? Who knows…

    • philbot says:

      Save your pennies a little bit longer for a decently powered single GPU. I have had nothing but incompatibility issues with my CF setup.

  4. Alec Meer says:

    BLoody hell. Bear with me.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      Alec you can’t even type today, go back to bed! I’m hungover too it’s ok.

    • Dakia says:

      Bah, I’m hung over as well. Unfortunately, I’m stuck at work pretending to be busy.

    • ran93r says:

      Phew, thought it was just me.
      Best comment of the day though from a co-worker, “you look a bit rubbish”.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      My girlfriend yesterday bumped in to me in the street and just said ‘fucking hell you look tired’

    • Premium User Badge

      Chaz says:

      @ HexagonalBolts

      To which of course you replied, “Yeah, I was banging your best friend last night.”

    • philbot says:

      @Chaz @HexagonalBolts

      ZING!

  5. Jhoosier says:

    Haven’t, but am thinking of doing so for the next upgrade. was thinking to get a 560 Ti which is not insanely expensive, and then down the road when I need a better card just get another one.

    • Odeon says:

      Same thinking I’m using. I’m a broke gamer that was barely able to afford the MSI GTS 250 OC that I’ve been using for a bit over a year now. But when my mobo went teets up, I picked up an SLI board so that when I win the lotto I can pick up a second GTS 250 on the cheap.

      I’m broke to the point of not being able to buy the latest/greatest games anyway, so it’s all a plan for the future for me. At this point my 250 does mostly what I need it to do, but at this point I’m also almost exclusively playing an indie MMO with graphics from 2006. When the game finally goes gold (they’re a VERY small team) in the next 6 months or so, the graphics system will be upgraded immensely and I may need to seriously look at buying that second 250.

    • stele says:

      Careful with that. I did the same thing and now the board I chose isn’t even made anymore – and they’re rare enough that the ones you CAN find are vastly overpriced. Next time I’m just going to buy two of the best I can afford.

    • Odeon says:

      That, among the many other problems mentioned by multiple people here, has made me re-think my plan. I’m now going to keep the 250 as a PhysX card and just buy the best card I can when I get the budget. Even if my budget is only around $100 like it was when I bought the 250, whatever I get next is gonna be noticeably better, so that will be my new primary card.

  6. Giant says:

    Might have been worth including Voodoo 2 SLI as that was where it all started, not that its hugely relevant to current discussion though.

    • Ross Angus says:

      Similar with me: the last time I “rocked” two graphic cards, one was for 2D, and the other was a Voodoo 1. In my day, you had to make your own pixels. Out of Lego.

    • Loopy says:

      Hehe, yeah, the Voodoo 2 is pretty much the first and last time I rocked an SLI setup (in 1998), and that was only so I could play Thief at 1024*768. :P

      I do have a crossfire MB now, and thought about getting a second 5770 a while back, but everything seems to work fine without a second card so I’ve not bothered yet.

    • Uglycat says:

      They were the halcyon days of a whole 32mb of RAM.

      It brought Unreal to a whole new level.

    • Matt says:

      Hell yeah dual Voodoo 2s! First and last time I ever had an SLI setup. It’s just not worth the expense nowadays, plus I hear of compatibility issues all the time.

    • Premium User Badge

      Chaz says:

      Yep I had a 4MB Voodoo 1 too, and yes Unreal just looked unreal at the time, that opening scene in the crashed ship, especailly the bit with the icey floor; the reflections and lighting, oh wow! Then when you got outside you were greeted with that stuning vista of the waterfall.

      Of course you needed two video cards back then because 3D cards really were just that, for nothing but 3D, so you needed a standard vga card as well.

      I think I had a TNT something or other after that.

      It’s interesting to note that whilst most technology has been getting smaller and faster, video cards have bucked that trend by just getting bigger and bigger. My current Geforce 460 looks like the size of a house brick when compared to my old Geforce 3. Seriously, when I first got it out of the box I wondered how I was going to fit it in the case; and I thought my old 6800 was as big as cards would get, but they just keep getting bigger.

    • stele says:

      I bought one of those Voodoo 5 9000 cards before realizing it wouldn’t even fit in my case! Had to saw off the entire front to get it to fit. Pretty fast though.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Last time I did SLI was with 2 Voodoo 2′s and getting 1024x768x16 out of them was glorious.

  7. Ta'Lon says:

    You should add “Driver Issues” to the second question.
    That’s the main reason I avoid SLI/Crossfire and Dual-GPU-Cards (besides the fact that I don’t need everything turned to “extra-shiny”).

    • kael13 says:

      This.
      Never doing it again. AMD is bad enough but with Crossfire? It’s a nightmare. Driver issues are the bane of my gaming existence.

      I’ll be buying a single, powerful nVidia card next time I upgrade.

    • LionsPhil says:

      The poll also doesn’t really handle that I have experience with a SLi machine, and it was bad enough that I’m glad I’ve never bothered with one of my own. A pair of nVidias which badly underperform my single one, despite being the same generation (8-series) IIRC.

      All that heat, noise, cost, instability, and it’s not even any prettier and faster? Just how much would you have to want to empty your wallet over nVidia execs to bother?

      (I think apparently SLi can scale to stupidly high resolutions better, so I guess that’s good for people who have the desktop space to fit dual-head 30″ cinema displays?)

  8. GenBanks says:

    I’ve dabbled, but I avoid them now.
    Have in the past had 8800GTX SLi, 9800GX2 (itself sli) in quad gpu configuration as well as a 4870X2.

    Multi GPU has probably improved with the latest generations, but in my experiences I’ve had bug and compatibility issues, while the tradeoff of performance improvement hasn’t always been what I’d hoped with games that do take advantage of it. I’d rather shell out for a powerful single GPU card.

    Using a Radeon 5870 atm and have been very happy with it. Will upgrade once nvidia/amd’s next gen single cards come out, and that’s when I’ll be applying all of the Skyrim visual upgrade tweaks I can get my hands on.

    • Quxxy says:

      Chipping my in two Australian cents here: my experience with nVidia SLI was absolutely miserable. It caused so many damn problems that it spent 90% of the time disabled. I think the only game where I ever managed to enable it safely was with Just Cause 2 where it provided a modest boost to the framerate and let me turn on some extra stuff.

      But it constantly screwed with my two displays and broke games. I remember excitedly turning it on for the first time and firing up World of Warcraft. It’s amazing how much it hurts your eyes when realtime shadows are only rendered every second frame, leaving every shadow rapidly blinking on and off.

      Heck, for some games, they wouldn’t even damn well start with SLI enabled. For a while, I had a third party program that would disable SLI for specific games before I got fed up with having to micromanage it and just disabled it system-wide.

      Never, ever going back to SLI.

  9. InternetBatman says:

    After one of my SLI cards burned out I didn’t notice an appreciable difference. I would say save the money and use it for a newer graphics card down the road.

  10. Dakia says:

    In relation to the actual question:

    No, I’ve never bought a dual card system or built one. I mostly build custom rigs for myself, but have just never seen the need to do so. Sure BF3 was supposed to be amazing in SLI, but it looks pretty damn good with just GTX 470 as well.

    There just isn’t a huge need to do such a thing unless you want to push a system to the extreme.

  11. Juan Carlo says:

    It’d be cool, but it seems too expensive. And not just the cards, but you need a decent power supply as well which will end up running you about as much as a whole other card.

    Plus, it also seems like most games don’t even work correctly with dual cards. So I’m not sure it’s worth it.

    The only time I ever did SLI was WAY back in the late 1990s with the Vodoo 2. I did it specifically just to play games in 1280×1024–as back then SLI was the only way you could. It was awesome!

    • anothermike says:

      I just did it for the first time, and it’s not just the power supply, but you actually have to worry about airflow in the case. I ended up having to get a new case and fans b/c the airflow was insufficient to keep my second card cool enough.

      The two cards sit REALLLLY close to one another – so that airflow is critical.

      http://img148.imageshack.us/img148/1083/gpuonly.jpg

    • Premium User Badge

      Thermal Ions says:

      You then also need a motherboard that supports it.

      I just can’t see that it’s a cost effective spend. Most games play nicely on medium settings on budget to midrange single cards, with many going well on high. The benefit to my playing experience of “Ultra High” just isn’t worth the expense to me.

  12. malkav11 says:

    There was a point a few generations back, maybe the 6000 series of nVidia cards, where I already had one card, and it was significantly cheaper to buy a second card and SLI it than it was to move up to the next series. It was maybe $100 for another card like I had, vs. $300 plus for an upgrade.

    That’s never really happened again, and of course today’s higher end cards are so ridiculously huge that I can’t imagine fitting two on a single motherboard. The difference between one card and two cards in a multi-GPU configuration usually isn’t anything like as significant as the difference between a dated card and a current generation card, so it doesn’t make sense to do SLI unless you’re either at the top end of available cards and still need more (and even the highest end card is usually overkill, so why would you?), or a second card would be much cheaper than any relevant single card upgrade.

    PS: I’ve found the solution to a need to eke out better FPS at 1900×1200 is to not bother trying to run at 1900×1200. Sure, a high resolution is nice, but imho the bells and whistles make more of a difference and you can run a lot more at a better FPS for less money if you just go with a smaller monitor.

    • Donkeyfumbler says:

      Agreed – I’m happy at 1680 x 1050 and see no reason to go any bigger (and thus lose FPS).

    • The Tupper says:

      Malakav, I agree. I’ve got an ancient-but-working-perfectly 19-inch Samsung SyncMaster 940N monitor that runs at 1280×1024 resolution, coupled with a 2 year-old Radeon HD 4770 and an ancient Core 2 Duo processor. I continue to be amazed at how well Skyrim works on this most humble of systems.

      When my face is about three feet from the screen I don’t need any more real estate than that.

    • Rao Dao Zao says:

      I am also happy on my 1280×1024, though bloody hell finding a non-widescreen monitor in this day and age took quite some searching.

    • Hematite says:

      I recently snapped up a couple of 20″ 1600×1200 monitors second hand. I lament the passing of the 4:3 aspect ratio and its luxurious vertical resolution.

      Damn you, 1080p standard! *shakes fist*

  13. Donkeyfumbler says:

    Nvidia SLI 8800gtx until about six months back. Made some games better, but actually made some games worse. The fiddling with settings, disabling and enabling it depending on the game, plus the extra noise, heat and electric consumed have put me off doing it again for the foreseeable future. I now have a single 560ti and I’m much happier.

    • Daedalus207 says:

      Interesting, that’s almost exactly what I’ve done. I ran a pair of 8800GTS cards for a bit. The incredible amount of heat and noise produced by the pair, and the paltry performance gains in the small handful of games where there was a noticeable improvement, convinced me to remove one of the cards after a few weeks. I eventually upgraded to a 560 Ti and am quite pleased.

      I attended a small Far Cry 2 LAN party with my SLI machine. The fellow sitting across from me leaped out of his chair in a panic when the cards spooled up, as the heat on his leg had convinced him that something had caught fire.

  14. HexagonalBolts says:

    No, of course not, don’t be ridiculous!

  15. Skeith says:

    I can’t vote or view either.

    I crossfired 6870′s a while back. No trouble or hassle and it nearly doubled my performance in most games. It’s not like it was desperately needed, just some electronic hedonism to celebrate my promotion. The only problem is that some new releases take ages to get a crossfire profile, like Skyrim. Which since I have the 6870 to begin with is the difference between high and ultra with a stable framerate.

    • vecordae says:

      Really? I have a single 6850 and run the game on ultra. The game runs nice and smooth at 1920×1080, even after I turned on the additional shadows by modifying the .ini file. I suspect it would have been perfectly playable on my old rig, which was a mere 3 ghz P4 with 2 gb of ram and an HD 4650.

  16. Alec Meer says:

    OK, polls *should* be working now.

    • Muzman says:

      oh, clicking ‘vote’ in one submits for all of them then.
      Well, I answered number one for ya.

    • TormDK says:

      They do, except if you press “Vote” it will end the vote.

      So really you should remove the Vote button beneath each poll as pressing the top vote button will kill the rest of the vote as you don’t get to submit the other details afterwards :)

    • SOAD says:

      edit – nevermind working now

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      That’s a bit silly. Yeah, I clicked the vote button too after answering the first question.

      -edit- No, I don’t have multiple cards. Why not? Cause I’ll need to get a new computer first. And when I do so I’ll consider how much I can upgrade said machine.

    • Janek says:

      Yeah, same here. Still it’s entertaining to watch the ever-diminishing vote count as you scroll down the page.

      For the sake of pedantry, does the ancient machine I have in the Cupboard of Obsolete Hardware count with its Voodoo 2? ;)

    • Muzman says:

      Refreshing does indeed appear to give you another go, so cool. (if you had some left over that is)

    • Rich says:

      This may explain why there are almost twice as many votes for the first question than for the second.

      Perhaps I could have read more than the title, but how can I be expected to read anything after noticing that there are buttons on the page? Buttons, damn it. Buttons!

    • _PixelNinja says:

      This poll is a nice idea, however, I think there are some missing options.

      For instance, in my case to the question ‘If not, why not?’ my answer would be neither of those provided; I do not use multi-card configurations because of the hassle — SLI/XFire means more heat, more power draw and frequent compatibility issues with games.

  17. Belua says:

    I never tried it, but everything I read about it suggests that the payoff is relatively low and that in most games it does rather little for performance. Maybe newer games support it better and therefore deliver better results with two cards, but afaik, the improvement is too small to upgrade an older system by buying another card, and with a new card, it’s usually good enough on its own.

    Edit:
    Disclaimer: I have worded this a bit ambiguously, I guess. I’m not stating those things as facts, it’s just that this is what I *think* it is like from what I have read ages ago. If that is wrong or outdated information, I take back everything and will build an SLI system as soon as possible :)

    • The Ninja Foodstuff formerly known as ASBO says:

      This. I was considering doing it but then just bought a new GFX card. I can max out everything now which makes me wonder what the point of improving anything any more would be.

  18. Sp4rkR4t says:

    I have but not since the 3dfx days.

  19. Wordtothawise says:

    Don’t listen to the nay sayers. Do you want a 100% improvement in framerates? If so xfire and sli are a great option. I have been using high end xfire and sli laptops for 3 years and they are awesome. Ati have seriously improved driver support and nvidia arent to o bad either. Just make sure your power supply has enough pins and wattage and your mothereboard supports dual cards and includes the bridge and your good to go. Go for it!

  20. Jarol says:

    Well even if the votes don’t work I’ll put in my 2 cents.

    Built my new computer for over a year with SLI in mind to begin with. The amount of gains you get is insane for a lot of games. It wasn’t for the whole “YO CHECK OUT MAH RIG” bull, I wanted good solid frame rates at all times. It got even more interesting when I bought a new 120Hz monitor to go alone with it. Battlefield 3, even with all the eye candy, plays best when you have that minimal lag between you and the guy in front of you.

    So my final thoughts on SLI? I absolutely love it. The performance I’m getting is exactly what I wanted and having it drive a game like BF3 at 120fps on a 1080p display was well worth the investment.

    Words of caution: DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT do SLI on a motherboard that has the cards one slot apart. I had one card running at least 30C over the other at all times and they easy reached 90C for even the most basic of games. After seeing the temps, I had to buy another board that features a 2 slot gap. Now they both run at relatively the same temperature (though of course one is still hotter, but its not as bad).

    What cards did I get? eVGA 570s SuperClocked.
    Motherboard? ASUS Rampage III Formula (the only decent board specifically built to not have 2 cards sandwiched together)

    • Jar says:

      Yeah, you really have to pay attention to thermals on your system once you go the SLI route. I have EVGA 570s and can use the LCD on my G13 to monitor the temperature using their little utility, and have a hotkey set to kick the fans up to 75% if I see the temps crest 70c.

      Definitely find a board that gives you some space between the cards. Those things just radiate heat.

    • simonh says:

      @jar
      The system should be able to take care of that itself. Don’t you have an automatic smart fan setting? If not there are many programs you can download that will take care of it.

  21. Fierce says:

    Yes I’ve dabbled (CrossFire’d 5850s here) and yes it’s worth it.

    I’ll explain in much more depth in a bit, but I have to run outside for a few hours right now. Will brb and edit when I can.

    Look forward to it, I have just enough details to make me an expert but do I have enough details to disqualify me as a Normals?

    TO BE CONTINUED~!

  22. Milky1985 says:

    I’ll put an answer here and vote when the buttons working :p

    I do not have an sli system, I do wish to get one but its sooooooo sodding expensive. To get a pre-build would cost far too much (seriously the prices are stupid) and currently i am still using a 5 year old machine for gaming (upgrades to gfx card etc to keep it up to data as much as possible, BF3 is the first game I actively cannot play).

    I heard a lot fom mates about having to update gfx drivers more , due to different games needing profiles etc to work properly with it (a friend has crossfire, and it caps the game to 60fps while enabled, can get 200 fps with it disabled)

    Its something i do aim to do, but the costi s holding me back, i could probably sli 2 lower end cards, but whats the point if it then causes profile issues?

  23. mod the world says:

    Thanks to the consolization of PC games there is really no need anymore to always upgrade to the best and latest. I play Battlefield 3 on 1680×1050 with high settings just fine on a ATI 5750!

  24. Dana says:

    Nope. Expense. If I would, Id get ATI since its cheaper .

  25. pupsikaso says:

    I didn’t want to bother with SLI because usually the scaling was abyssal and you could usually simply buy a better card for cheaper. But when the GTX 460 (1gb) came out I knew I had to SLI that. It’s a spectacular card in itself, a descendent of the GT 8800 (512mb) in terms of bang for the buck, so I was very pleased when the scaling for SLI for the two cards was so awesome (http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-gtx-460-sli-geforce-gtx-480,2694.html).
    So a year after the GTX 460 got released I bought a second when I upgrading and installed them in SLI.

    I’ve got mixed feelings about it. On the one hand it’s very good improvement in performance, however a lot of new games either simply don’t make use of SLI or there are video artifacts.

    For example, in the new Deus Ex there are weird square-like mesh across people’s faces with SLI enabled. For Space Marine having SLI enabled makes the game start to feel very sluggish, like in slow-motion. Bulletstorm actually performs WORSE with SLI than single card. Skyrim, until I installed the new beta drivers with the SLI profile simply did not make use of the second card.

    So in essence, it’s a trade off between good performance for cheaper versus tons of problems because since SLI isn’t very mainstream most games don’t really bother to make sure it works properly.

  26. KoenigNord says:

    I wouldn’t even consider putting another graphics card into my system. The benefits are way smaller to the increased energy costs, investment for the 2nd card, maybe a new power supply…

    Anyway, some people like a system with 2 cards. Especially when they don’t use the system for gaming only (video editing, etc.).

  27. Rhodri2311 says:

    I run a 5970 (essentially two 5870′s CFX on one card), and love it. It’s done me proud so far and I hope It’ll keep on kicking out good FPS for at least another year.

  28. Sic says:

    Uh, the poll doesn’t work for me. I used 3dfx.

    After that, I haven’t used it, because quite frankly, it’s ridiculous. Unless you’re a benchmarker, or have set up some ridiculous multi monitor gaming theatre, there is never any reason to use more than one video card.

    There are so many downsides. Power requirements, noise, micro stuttering. It’s just not worth it.

  29. Random Guy says:

    At 1440p you don’t have much choice but to go SLI for the latest games.

    (first post btw! Hello RPS! :))

    Positives:
    – Latest games playable with lots of eye-candy at high-res
    – Mature drivers mean very few issues with dual-card configuration
    – Future proofing to a certain extent, and reduced costs as you stay with your generation of cards

    Negatives:
    – 480s in SLI = one hell of a noise
    – 480s in SLI = a lot of wattage
    – 480s in SLI = makes me feel like buying a new PSU just to push the cards as far as they can go

    • Premium User Badge

      PoulWrist says:

      I hate the “1440p” designation. How does that make sense, p stands for progressive scan. There’s not been a interlaced monitor come out in years, or do anyone actually run interlaced anything these days?

      Onwards, my single 5870 handles all games at 30-50 FPS at 2560×1440 at highest settings. Plenty for BF3 at high. It’s 2 years old today. I’ll upgrade to the next gen cards coming out early next year, because I can’t run the Witcher 2 at the highest specs at a playable framerate (ubersampling off). Only game I’ve had any trouble running. Multi GPU solutions are not a requirement for anything but nonsense, like 3D, and it’s just too large a hassle to bother with, even today, that I wouldn’t ever recommend it. Except if you like to mess around a lot with driverprofiles, turning it on and off for certain games, and listening to more noisy cards.

      One single, powerful card is far preferable.

  30. T_L_T says:

    I’ve been using SLI for years, and there is a massive improvement in most games. However sometimes you have to wait for the drivers to catch up a bit, and it’s only worth it if you’re running high resolutions or running 3D or the like

    I’ve gone a bit over board recently and am running a 3D surround setup, for that to work you have to have SLI.

    Over the top but completely awesome!

  31. thegrinner says:

    Currently I run off one middle-high end ATI card. My last desktop, however, ran two lower end GeForce cards in SLI. I didn’t start out that way, but found I could get a lot more lifetime off of buying a second (now rather cheap) card than by getting a new high end card.

    It definitely had a huge improvement, but given my current card can handle 60 fps Skyrim on one monitor and the internet on the other, I’m set.

  32. Kipex says:

    Got 2×6950 ATI cards running in Crossfire and for the most part it’s great. However recently if I had to choose I would go for SLI as the driver support provided by Nvidia seems to be much better. Nvidia released full SLI support drivers the day before Skyrim was released, but AMD is still taking its sweet time. It’s not even that it doesn’t improve the framerate, it actually drops your fps running crossfire over a single gpu atm.

    Then again, Skyrim is such a mess before a patch or two and a bunch of mods appear that I propably wouldn’t play it yet anyway.

    At least BF3 runs fine at max.

  33. rupert says:

    ive got one 560ti currently and have been considering getting another, have the psu and mobo that will support it, but everyone i ask says its not worth it… :(
    on my i7 2600k ,… bf3 runs fine atm on 2048×1152

    • Premium User Badge

      PoulWrist says:

      You are GPU limited, but unless you dig messing around with stuff like that, I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s too much of a hassle overall if you play anything but sort of semi-new games. Newest you can usualy forget about proper driver profiles for, so no scaling. Older games you’ll need to disable it.

  34. Crazy Hippo says:

    i did this about 5 years ago with a system i bought, running 2 8800 gtx ultras. the actual performance increase i saw was negligible for the vast majority of games. and when one eventually blew up i wasnt overly bothered, cost of the card aside!
    this was a good while ago and i dont know if the performance would be more noticeable now, but i havent paid a great deal of attention to SLI/Crossfire. although if i cant find a 5850 cheap i will get another (not many places seem to sell them anymore)

  35. Shooop says:

    My very first bought PC was an SLI setup. Gradually the entire machine disappeared as I built a new one from the ground up. Now about 5-6 years later I’m about to have a modern SLI setup because it’s cheaper than buying a GTX 590.

    According to recent news around the internet, SLI/CrossFire has really improved since its early days, no longer giving a rare maximum boost of 70% but consistently delivering 90% or more. Biggest issue is whether or not your PSU is up to the task.

    I’ll get back to you on how it performs when it arrives.

  36. HelderPinto says:

    No.

    Not even at work.

  37. H.P Kraftwerk says:

    I used two 570′s in SLI, the time between purchases was about 8 months so it didnt hurt my funds too much. I would stick with SLI, from everything I hear and seen, NVIDiA has much better driver support.

    The one thing that made me go SLI this time, never have in the past, was it seems like they finally got the performance scaling to where they wanted it with the 500 series. In the past two cards would only give 1.3x-1.4x the performance over a single card, but now with testing, my 570′s are giving me 1.8x-1.9x the performance over a single card, so it really is like running two card when paying for two card, instead of paying for two and running like one and a half.

  38. Sn1PeR says:

    Absolutely. I run an eyefinity setup so the power of 2x 6950′s in CrossfireX allows me to run most games maxed out. Previously I ran a single 5870 and the 1GB of vram quickly became a bottleneck when trying to apply higher levels on antialiasing to an image of 6048×1080. I’ve run SLI setups in the past, both solutions work great.

    With today’s cards at 1920×1080 or less I see CF/SLI as less of a benefit, but as soon as you step up to higher resolutions it quickly becomes a necessity if you want to continue running high quality settings. Be aware that in those setups you want as much vram as you can get. I wouldn’t do it with less than 2GB now days.

  39. mickygor says:

    I’m SLI, but it’s for 3 monitors rather than improved gaming (the most testing game I play is EVE, and I play with WIS disabled…). 3 monitors makes work so much easier, even easier than 2 monitors.

    • evilmatt says:

      3 monitors is improved gaming for me – the level of immersion with so much more peripheral vision (in FPS and driving games in particular) is brilliant. Currently running just the one 6970 but am tempted to upgrade to crossfire with the 7000 series once I upgrade my motherboard to one that supports it, pushing 5760×1080 pixels stresses the single card too much in some games.

    • mickygor says:

      I never have a game running on all 3 monitors though :P Unless I’m working, one of my monitors is dedicated to spotify, email and IM/steam. I’m not big on immersion in games really, I don’t roleplay. I’m a guy playing a game, not the character I control.

  40. Muzman says:

    Big fat no from me. I’m not against it per se. But it definitely falls above the sanity line for me, wherein you find nintendo powergloves and guys who build big steering wheel rigs for racing games.
    If knew some people who upgraded recently and had some spares lying around the same as my card, or worked in a computer shop or something, I might try it out. But definitely not something I’d set out to build.

  41. Premium User Badge

    jezcentral says:

    No.

    I have a GTX570, and a 60Hz monitor @ 1920×1200.

    That’s 60FPS with everything turned up, so I wouldn’t get anything more from another card.

  42. Toothball says:

    I didn’t go for SLI with my last desktop because it was a Shuttle, which was barely big enough to house one graphics card let alone two.

    I didn’t go for it my current PC as it’s a laptop and didn’t have SLI as an option. It did give me the option of a 3D screen though, but that’s another story.

    Next time however, who knows?

  43. AchronTimeless says:

    Actually, I’ve got 2 560s in the rig I just threw together. Was a cost effective choice, and Skyrim looks amazing. Whisper quiet too, although that’s a combined effort with every fan in the system.

  44. Dcode says:

    Personally from experience I will always choose a singe high end GPU over two slower ones.

    Most if not all games these days support SLI right out of the box, its not like 2005 any more.

    I had a single GTX 295 which was essentially a dual GPU solution, in some games it would microstutter and rendering felt jerky even though it was rendering over 60FPS. I upgraded to a single 580 and the difference was huge. Bad Company 2 doubled in FPS and that was with more AA as well. Although Source engine games hardly made any difference what so ever.

    I would not waste my time with pairing up two mid range cards like the 560. I can see your predicament though; you already have one.

  45. Premium User Badge

    Man Raised by Puffins says:

    My single 4850 has been able to handle pretty much everything I throw at it, why would I need two?

  46. wrath says:

    “If yes, what type?”

    I’m not a brand loyal kind of guy, it depends on both power and value. Though I hear ATi have pretty bad Linux drivers.

    • Shooop says:

      AMD/ATI have fairly awful video drivers in general this year.

  47. Phinor says:

    It’s a case of reading topics of just released games and almost every such topic includes some posts regarding multi-GPU issues and having to wait for driver update. Then the driver update comes and reads “Crossfire disabled for game x and y”, great.

  48. yhalothar says:

    I like my computers to be as quiet and cool as possible – the increased power draw, heat and noise footprting of a SLI system is a big con for me. The one card I have (a 570GTX) is loud enough when pushed, the whole system being whisper quiet otherwise.

  49. Snargelfargen says:

    I’m upgrading to a Radeon 6950 in a couple of weeks and one reason I chose that particular GPU is because it is supposed to scale well in crossfire. One 6950 is more than enough for gaming these days, but I plan to pick up a second used one for cheap in one or two generations.

    To be honest, even though games are actually starting to support multi-gpu set-ups, it is still more cost effective to simply buy a new flagship gpu every 4 years or so. Crossfire/SLI is meant for hobbyists who like to tinker with their computers and/or brag about their wasted money on forums.
    I’m ok with that, but lets not kid ourselves here.

  50. Premium User Badge

    Colthor says:

    Back in the mists of time I had SLI when it still meant “Scan Line Interleaving”. 3D games running fast at 1024×768! Amazing future tech of dreams!

    More recently/usefully I had Crossfire X1900XTs, and it was very much a mixed bag. When it worked, it usually made a decent difference, giving 8800GT performance before such a thing existed.

    However, it usually took a month or two, or a special driver patch, before it worked in a new game, and until then it would quite often be worse than a single card.
    The cards (pretty toasty individually) got so hot, and their coolers were so noisy, that I had to watercool the entire rig to keep it bearable.
    It would have been cheaper to stick with a single X1900XT, then buy an 8800GT (or even something faster). X1900s were quite expensive compared to respectable current cards, though.
    I think “micro-stuttering” is the buzzword, but I found that tiny differences in frame-times would mean that v-sync could absolutely kill performance if you couldn’t maintain more than 60fps, and often games would feel like they were running a lot slower than they were; 40fps could feel stuttery to near-unplayability.

    In the end I was happy to move back to a single-card system. nVidia SLI may well be much better, and possibly even AMD could have improved things in the meantime (although, going by my experiences with their drivers on my 4870, they wouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt), but I don’t think I’ll try multiple graphics cards again for a while.