Nvidia prepares hybrid SLI technology to save power

By Justin Mann on June 25, 2007, 8:13 PM
Power savings and performance are two terms that had never gone hand in hand. The past few years, however, have shown us some amazing improvements in both fields, bringing them closer together than they have been before. Unfortunately for power-saavy enthusiasts, the greediest items of any high-end PC are going to be the video cards. Especially now with SLI and Crossfire, video cards have very quickly replaced processors as power-thirsty beasts, with a single card drawing 150W under load and even higher. With more and more laptops featuring very powerful GPUs, it's seen even more.

Not only is this a concern on the desktop, where that monthly power bill doesn't seem to be getting any smaller, but the notebook as well. Battery life and heat are critical areas that currently can only be solved by reducing the amount of power used. Nvidia is playing on a technology we have seeing in the past, coupling both a discrete GPU and an integrated GPU. This “hybrid” SLI configuration sounds like it will be very automated, enabling a notebook to quickly toggle between using a discrete GPU when high performance is desired and an integrated unit when there isn't much demand.

Truly, this is something that anyone wanting a fast notebook could benefit from. More than that, however, it brings to mind a very interesting point: It could easily fit on the desktop too. When idling, an 8800 GTS in a desktop is going to be consuming more power than an Intel IGP at full load. Given the amount of attention given to energy recently, which will only grow, it makes sense to have similar technologies be given to the desktop: An on-board GPU for when you are web browsing, writing emails, et cetera – and a beefy GPU for when you fire up a game.

AMD saw some benefit in this when they brought Cool N Quiet over to the desktop. Many systems with it enabled will not even run their CPU fan due to the low power draw and heat output of the CPU when there isn't demand on it. What I would like to see is not only Nvidia, but every vendor from Intel to AMD to ASUS, invest in hybrid technologies like this.

As far as Nvidia goes, their new Hybrid SLI technology is supposed to be featured in notebooks before the end of this year, but few details were released. I look forward to seeing how they expand upon this.




User Comments: 1

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MetalX said:
Sounds promising... but it would really need to be perfected. Sometimes when Cool N Quiet is on in my computer, when I play some games, the CPU can't decide if it should be at 1200 or 2400MHz and so it keeps switching between. What happens is the CPU is too slow at 1200 but too fast at 2400 and it doesn't know where to go. So we wouldn't want the computer switching between an 8800GTX and an integrated card... it would need to decide on one and keep using that one.
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