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NVIDIA 3-way SLI Review

May 23 2008, 12:00am CDT | by

NVIDIA 3-way SLI Review
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Today we are going to take a look at the performance of NVIDIA 3-way SLI using a trio of the NVIDIA 9800 GTX video cards. The 9800 GTX is the fastest performing card in the NVIDIA arsenal capable of running 3-way SLI. Read on to see how well three NVIDIA 9800 GTX cards perform in 3-way SLI.


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NVIDIA 3-way SLI ReviewNVIDIA 3-way SLI Review


Features & Specifications
The cards I am using in the 3-way SLI review have all been reviewed here before. I am using the XFX 9800 GTX Black Edition, the XFX 9800 GTX and the BFG 9800 GTX. I won’t go into the details here of the specifications of each card. You can reach each cards individual review for more details.

Test Machine
My test machine has the following specifications:

  • OS- Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 32-bit
  • PSU- Top Power 1100W
  • Mainboard- XFX 790i Ultra
  • RAM- 2GB Kingston HyperX DDR3
  • CPU- Intel QX9770
  • Display- 30-inch Dell

The first test up for 3-Way SLI is 3DMark06. I ran 3DMark at default settings in the application and the NVIDIA control panel. The 3DMark06 scores were as follows:

  • Total 3DMarks- 16554
  • SM2.0- 6119
  • HDR/SM3.0- 8188
  • CPU- 4645
  • Return to Proxycon- 52.545
  • Firefly Forest- 49.444
  • Canyon Flight- 98.929
  • Deep Freeze- 64.832
  • CPU1- 1.516
  • CPU2- 2.283

To compare scores when I tests 9800 GX2 quad SLI on the same test machine the 3DMark06 score was 12877. The single XFX 9800 GTX Black Edition scored 15032 3DMarks, the stock XFX 9800 GTX scored 14298 and the BFG 9800 GTX scored 14201.

The first game test up for the 3-way SLI machine was Crysis. I ran the game at 1920 x 1200 with all settings on medium and 2x AA. I used Fraps to record frame rate data starting at the initial beach insertion. Fraps recorded the following data:

  • Min- 51 fps
  • Avg- 93.103
  • Max- 171 fps

The next game test up for the 3-way SLI machine is Bioshock, which was ran at 1920 x 1200 with all settings on high and all settings turned on. Fraps recorded the following frame rate data:

  • Min- 42 fps
  • Avg- 59.724 fps
  • Max- 64 fps

Quake Wars
The final game test up for the machine was Quake Wars. I ran the game at 2560 x 1600 with all settings on high and shaders on ultra. Fraps recorded the following frame rate data on a single player Africa Refinery map:

  • Min- 40 fps
  • Avg- 60.295 fps
  • Max- 62 fps

Final Thoughts
When all the testing was done it was apparent that on the same test machine with the same exact settings on some tests 3-way SLI performed better than Quad SLI did. The tradeoff for 3-way SLI is that not all of the boards out there support it, while many support normal SLI. You also give up all of your expansion ports save one (if you are lucky) when you have three cards in your machine.




  • Good performance
  • Works well


  • Expensive
  • Not supported on all mainboards
  • Severely limits expansion slots

In the end with the choice between Quad SLI and 3-way SLI I would go 3-Way. The performance is very good and the only real tradeoffs are the loss of an additional pair of expansion slots and the need for a higher power PSU. NVIDIA’s 3-way SLI is one heck of an upgrade path for gamers who start with one 9800 GTX and move to SLI and later 3-Way.


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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/3" rel="author">Shane McGlaun</a>
Leading our review center, Shane McGlaun (Google) knows technology inside out. His extensive experience in testing computer hardware and consumer electronics enable him to effectively qualify new products and trends. If you want us review your product, please contact Shane.
Shane can be contacted directly at




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