We don’t write about PC hardware all that often on RPS, unless it’s something absolutely batshit or doomed to failure. In the parts of my life that don’t involve obssessively checking whether anyone’s said something rude about us in our comments threads though, I keep a detached eye on what’s new in silicon heaven.
Today, it’s leaked details on the next card from current 3D champs NVIDIA. The GeForce 9800 GX2 is, I suspect, a very silly name. I know several people still just about making do with five-year-old ATI Radeon 9800 cards, so to see that the current top-of-the-range from a rival company sports the same name will doubtless having them weeping hot, salty tears of absolute confusion, should they finally sumbit to ugrading any time soon. On top of that, there isn’t any major change in the GPU’s capabilities from the current GeForce 8 series, so that 9 at the start is a bit of a red herring. A red herring that could earn lot of money, of course – we wouldn’t have this long line of deliberately confusing 3D card naming conventions if that wasn’t the case.
Regardless, is this, at last, a card that can run Crysis at its fabled Very High detail settings at a decent resolution? It is, after all, two GeForce 8800 GPUs shoved onto a single board – SLI on just one card. That should be incredible, right?
Apparently not. The mooted performance gain is just 30% over the previous GeForce line-topper, the 8800 Ultra. 30% can be quite a sizeable amount when it comes to framerates, but I fear it won’t be enough to compensate for Crysis’ legendary hunger. Of course, you could always grab a second 9800 X2 and go for quad-chip joy, if you’ve got (at a guess) around £800 spare all told. You could also buy a hat made of solid gold if you wanted, but I wouldn’t really recommend that either.
Most of the GeForce 8 series is due to be replaced by single-chip 9 series boards later in the year
So is this two-chips-one-card release a one-off (well, two-off, as NVIDIA tried it with the somewhat neglected 7950 GX2 a while back), or the thin edge of a coming dual-GPU wedge? I hope it’s the latter, and the rumour mill’s thrown out a few hints at it. SLI’s still pretty offputting to a casual crowd, both for the perceived complexity of the concept, the expense of two seperate cards, and that, currently, NVIDIA nForce motherboards (which is Kieron’s prompt to say ‘motherships!’ in comments) are the only ones to support twin GeForces alongside an Intel Core 2 Duo (with the singular exception of Intel’s upcoming and insanely niche SkullTrail board. On the plus side, ‘SkullTrail’ in an awesomely inappropriate name for a slab of printed circuitboard). I considered a move to SLI a little while back, but I’d need to replace my otherwise perfectly adequate Intel P35-based motherboard, and I just plum can’t be bothered.
So a move to twin GPUs makes an awful lot of sense – it may mean people aren’t locked into buying NVIDIA motherboards to accompany their NVIDIA graphics cards, but it’s a much more commercially viable concept than the still poorly taken-up SLI (only 1.19% of Steam users had multiple GPU systems back in August – and that figure incorporates ATI’s rival Crossfire tech too). I’d love to see a £250 9600 GX2 or something later in the year – it just makes things easier. The nutters can have their Tri and Quad SLI if they want; hopefully the masses will get access to one-size-fits-all twin-GPU fun sometime soon.