Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
This year has seen the arrival of many new interesting technologies such as PCI Express and DDR2. Yet to this day SLI still remains by far the most hyped about technology. SLI was designed by NVIDIA and allows two select graphics cards to work together. The ability to link two powerful NVIDIA graphics cards together does sound impressive. However I believe that the most important reason that NVIDIA has received so much attention is because they were the first to deliver AMD followers with PCI Express technology.
They did this with the nForce4 chipset series which of course does come in an SLI flavor. SLI (Scalable Link Interface) allows a single system to combine two NVIDIA graphics cards to scale system performance. This technology takes advantage of the increased bandwidth of the PCI Express bus. Currently the ability to operate the GeForce 6600 GT, 6800, 6800 GT and 6800 Ultra in SLI mode is possible. The two cards are linked together using what is known as a bridge chip.
While this technology has the power to almost double the frame rates when operating in SLI mode, you have to remember it will also cost twice as much to use. For example, a GeForce 6800 Ultra SLI setup will cost around $1000 US for the graphics cards alone. This technology is however reasonably good value for GeForce 6600 GT setups, as it will cost no more than $400 US for the graphics cards. The nForce4 chipset series has already become hugely successful for a number of reasons. First and foremost they bring PCI Express support to the AMD64 platform and they do this by offering a flexible upgrade path.
Although SLI enabled motherboards do hold a fair price premium, their unique abilities are worth this price penalty. This is evident through the 750,000+ nForce4 chipsets already sold by NVIDIA. In order to utilize SLI technology there is currently only one chipset that will give a motherboard this support. Known as the NVIDIA "nForce4 SLI", this chipset supports a whole host of new and exciting features. The nForce4 series looks to be the best NVIDIA chipset creation yet. Until recently the nForce4 SLI chipset only included AMD 939-pin support. However, the chipset has been re-released with support for the Intel LGA775 platform.
The chipset still goes by the same model name; now there is simply an AMD and Intel version. The list of supported features is very extensive, covering everything from SLI support to built-in firewalls. Initially some motherboard manufacturers were unhappy with the Intel Edition SLI chipset performance, saying that it was nothing like the AMD version. However, since then Gigabyte, ASUS and MSI just to name a few, have been sampling Intel Edition SLI motherboards. The results have been good, leaving us to wonder who really does offer the best SLI performance, AMD or Intel.