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Nvidia will no longer support three- and four-way SLI setups

By Shawn Knight · 44 replies
Jun 9, 2016
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  1. That ultra-insane gaming rig you’ve always dreamed of building won’t become a reality after all as Nvidia is no longer supporting three- and four-way SLI.

    Ryan Shrout from PC Perspective recently got his hands on four of Nvidia’s new GeForce GTX 1080 cards with the intent of running some multi-card SLI benchmarks. If you’ve kept up with Nvidia lately, you already know that they’re taking a different approach with SLI on the 10-series cards.

    Two-way SLI will work as it always has but those aiming to use three or four cards in tandem will need what Nvidia calls an Enthusiast Key. The website to download the app for the Enthusiast Key isn’t yet live and knowing that a key would be needed, Shrout reached out to Nvidia in hopes of getting access to the app for an article he was working on.

    In their reply, Nvidia said it was backing away from the idea of an Enthusiast Key and would no longer require it for enabling. Instead, Nvidia is focusing its efforts on two-way SLI through its new SLI HB (high bandwidth) bridge which doubles the SLI bandwidth. As a result, Nvidia said it is focusing its efforts on two-way SLI only and will continue to include such SLI profiles in Game Ready drivers.

    Nvidia added that DX12 and Nvidia VR Works SLI technology also allows developers to directly implement and control multi-GPU support within their games. Should a developer choose to use these technologies, their games won’t need SLI profiles. Furthermore, developers will still have the option to support more than two GPUs in their games although as the publication notes, only a few developers will probably go this route as it would certainly add additional development time to a game and thus, cost more money.

    The only exception, Nvidia said, is for the overclocking community. Its Game Ready drivers will include three- and four-way SLI profiles for select benchmarking applications such as Fire Strike, Unigine and Catzilla. This, of course, will allow Nvidia’s name to remain high on the benchmarking charts.

    All things considered, Nvidia’s decision to only focus on two-way SLI won’t have much of an impact on both the company and its users. The number of hardcore enthusiasts that run more than two graphics cards is no doubt very small not to mention the fact that multi-card setups don’t scale all that well.

    All images courtesy PC Perspective

    Permalink to story.

  2. Levi Sterling

    Levi Sterling TS Booster Posts: 80   +26

    Nice correcting your click bait title there at the end.
  3. amstech

    amstech IT Overlord Posts: 1,710   +869

    People will be getting on Nvidia's case for this but they should know a few things before they do:

    1) Triple and Quad GPU setups still have many issues, to this day.
    2) Most games don't scale much past the 3rd GPU, and out of the games that do, over 50% don't scale that well anyways.
    3) Stuttering/Frame Latency/Monitor Configuration/Power Consumption
    4) Most people who have Tri/Quad GPU setups just want to benchmark brag. Now don't get me wrong, I love to see someone blowup a firestrike benchmark too but 95% of people just want to brag about it.
    5) Todays GPU's can handle 2K and 4K by themselves, and if needed SLi 1080's should handle just about anything right now.
    6) Most developers don't really care to go out of their way to make a game utilize more then 2 GPU cores properly.
    wastedkill, Reehahs, Burty117 and 4 others like this.
  4. MoeJoe

    MoeJoe TS Guru Posts: 641   +348

    No loss.

    Radeon F T W !
  5. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,513   +900

    I never felt like SLI did that much for me but then again I haven't been Mr. Top of the line either. I know when I tried SLI 2-way in Skyrim, it just caused issues.

    FYI: Typo in the 4th paragraph "two-day"
  6. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 1,314   +537

    Well, I have to disagree with the "who cares" comment, as there are still people out there who run 3 (or more) cards and AREN'T using 1080 or 1070 cards... I'm using Triple Titan Xs myself (bought right before the 980Ti - still a bit bummed), and am wondering what this means for my setup regarding new titles...

    I can run ANYTHING right now at 4k, ultra details, and assumed when I bought my system that I would continue to be able to do this for the next year or 2 at the least...

    Will Nvidia continue to support 3 and 4-way SLI on older cards? Will developers bother to even consider them? Will newer drivers actually be more detrimental than useful in the future....
    Evernessince likes this.
  7. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 1,786   +1,005

    My guess is that everything that supports 3 or 4 way SLI currently will stay that way but don't go expecting any new games to come out with it. Devs had a hard enough time before, it's going to be even harder now that Nvidia won't throw them any support.

    Nvidia has a history a releasing drivers that hurt older gen cards simply because they want the best performance possible on the current gen. They may not be doing it intentionally but I'm sure they were aware the impact newer GameWorks features that rely heavily on tessellation would have on the 700 series and I'm sure this might soon extend to the 900 series (although that might not happen as Pascal is essentially Maxwell at a higher clock).

    That's a bit a bad luck for you. If Nvidia's VR claims for the 1000 series are true as well that means your 980 Tis aren't going to VR well either.
  8. Jad Chaar

    Jad Chaar Elite Techno Geek Posts: 6,515   +974

    Agreed. Past the second the scaling is pretty bad (3rd GPU is ok). I think this is a good move since it allows nVidia to focus on optimizing much more common dual card setups. Well said. I bet an over clocked dual 1080 setup can rock 4K. @Steve can we get a review of dual 1080s?
    wastedkill and Panda218 like this.
  9. EClyde

    EClyde TS Evangelist Posts: 1,045   +320

    That must mean someone got fired. 4 way SLI? 3 Way? Sure, sure...makes sense to me. Now what am I going to do with this insanely expensive MB :)
  10. namesrejected

    namesrejected TS Maniac Posts: 272   +185

    EClyde likes this.
  11. robb213

    robb213 TS Addict Posts: 328   +98

    While you wait, you can check out this: http://www.guru3d.com/articles-pages/geforce-gtx-1080-2-way-sli-review,1.html
    The thing to keep in mind though is apparently SLI is still wonky with the 10## cards though, as Guru3d pointed out in their intro in the link above.

    In a nutshell, 1080 in SLI seems very capable of 4K at maximum settings for nearly all games at 60fps+
  12. fimbles

    fimbles TS Evangelist Posts: 1,171   +203

    In reality you could pop one of titans out and not notice more than a 5-10 fps drop in 98% of games, Benchmarks however are a different matter.

    Sli scaling has always been poor with more than 2 cards. Well at least back to the Gtx 200 series and above in my experience.
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2016
  13. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 1,314   +537

    Most games are fine with 1 actually... but 3 is quite nice for Witcher 3 as well as Shadows of Mordor at 4k ultra.... I'm sure it will make a difference on other titles as well, but I've only tested 1 or 2 cards on those games (had them first while I was playing with setups) .... the extra few FPS make a difference, trust me :)

    It's not current games I'm worried about though - obviously Nvidia support will only be dropped for games going forward - it's these future titles that have me concerned, as part of the reason for dropping insane amounts of cash was to future-proof my system...
  14. davislane1

    davislane1 Inquisitor Posts: 4,494   +3,493

    If you aren't running four maximally overclocked Titan X gpus with a maximally overclocked i7 with overclocked ram and a custom built phase change cooling system to keep it all from bursting into flames on boot, you aren't future proof.
    atcapistrano likes this.
  15. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 1,314   +537

    Well, other than having 3 Titan Xs instead of 4, that's my PC.... And it seems that having 4 still wouldn't future proof me... Kind of the entire point of my post dude...
  16. davislane1

    davislane1 Inquisitor Posts: 4,494   +3,493

    Missed the post above where you said you had 3. You're still 1 short of being future proof. (y)
  17. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 653   +286

    While you're correct about nVidia hurting older cards (either intentionally, unintentionally, or indifferently) with driver updates, you are misinformed about the Pascal architecture.


    While specifically about the first Pascal cards released, Tesla GPUs, it goes in-depth about the changes in architecture between Maxwell and Pascal. But 'tl;dr' Pascal is a die shrink, some DX12 & Vulkan specific microarchitecture improvements, and some science/computation/Machine Learning/Robotics/AI specific hardware features. Right now, in terms of gaming, the 1080s are killing previous generation in benchmarks. They're going to start putting up even better numbers as soon as Devs start getting serious about implementing DX12 and Vulkan in their games. They also have been offering significant improvements and advantages in the robotics and Machine/Deep learning fields. I personally cannot wait for a Tegra board based on Pascal, so many ROS packages are just absolutely going to fly on it.

    Calling Pascal a higher-clocked Maxwell is like calling Broadwell a higher-clocked Haswell - or more appropriately (imo) Skylake a higher-clocked Haswell.
  18. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 1,314   +537

    Evernessince said that, not me....
    Quote properly please.... I'm not saying anything about Pascal vs Maxwell... That's not my point at all... I'm just saying that anyone who has 3 or 4 older Nvidia cards might be screwed going forward as new titles won't be supported as well as new drivers going forward might actually slow our systems down...
    Evernessince likes this.
  19. CaptainTom

    CaptainTom TS Maniac Posts: 252   +103

    You know I have to point out that Nvidia has been promoting Titan cards as the ultimate 3-sli set up since their inception. This is quite the stab in the back considering a decent amount of people bought 3 X Titans in 2014 and I am sure expected them to last at least 3 years lol (and they should last 5 years given the horsepower).
  20. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 1,786   +1,005

    I was aware of everything Pascal brings to the table when I made my original statement but perhaps I should have left a note. For gamers, pascal is a very tiny step forward concerning the architecture. The computation improvements don't help games and at this point kinda feels like Nvidia is playing catch up with AMD on the compute front. The memory compression can be helpful but we have to wait and see really.

    I didn't buy any Titans but if I did drop that kind of money on a SLI setup I would indeed want their performance to hold. Nvidia charged a premium price, customers should very well get a premium experience.
  21. lripplinger

    lripplinger TS Addict Posts: 281   +97

    Most of us are peasants who can't afford dual gpu's much less 3 or 4 cards in a system. I don't see this as being a big deal. The reality is that maybe .5% of the market is multi-card oriented anyway. And I guess that a lot of games titles are optimized for SLI. Nvidia is making a good business decision here. Why dump resources in time and development for multiple card setups for such a tiny place in the market? Just my two cents. :)
  22. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 1,786   +1,005

    It is indeed the smallest portion of the market but it is also the portion that is most passionate and spends the most money. The guys that buy 3 - 4 cards are the most enthusiastic about the cards they buy, they are banner holders. It essentially the same as a halo product, just having these guys are your side means you are going to get more sales simply because you can output bigger numbers. Would you rather buy SLI 1080s or Quad Crossfire RX 480s? The RX 480s being less than half the price and faster in quad.
  23. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 1,685   +1,079

    " Its Game Ready drivers will include three- and four-way SLI profiles for select benchmarking applications such as Fire Strike, Unigine and Catzilla. This, of course, will allow Nvidia’s name to remain high on the benchmarking charts."

    Wow, look at these amazing benchmarks from my four-way Nvidia rig! Now if only I had some GAMES THAT SUPPORTED IT.

    This is the definition of retarded.
  24. atcapistrano

    atcapistrano TS Member Posts: 30

    you mean, intel HD/Iris FTW? ;)
  25. fimbles

    fimbles TS Evangelist Posts: 1,171   +203

    There has and and never will be any point in installing more than 2 graphics cards in a system for gaming.
    The costs far outweigh the results.

    Unless of course you want to stroke your epeen on furrymark 4d :)

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