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Is it Time to Start Buying a Single, Better, Graphics card?

Steve Smith talks about the niche topic, multi graphics cards configurations, whether in SLI or Crossfire, and the viability, or lack thereof.

Episode #8-35 released on April 21, 2018

Thing is, a long time ago, if you wanted to have more frames per second than your monitor could handle, having more graphics card linked together was a way of doing just this. Eventually the power of one graphics card was not enough, and having two, three, even four graphics cards was the only way of producing more frames per second.

Now, there were obvious problems from the beginning with both SLI and Crossfire. The most important issue being support by developers. It simply was never a common occurrence that people would generally have SLI or Crossfire. Most people generally use a single graphics card, and frames per second importance is left to a very vocal, but smaller subset of gamers. This means that economically speaking, unless Nvidia or AMD came in and help code the multi GPU support, developers generally didn't have an economical reason to support multi GPU configurations at launch, or at a later date as part of an update.

When Nvidia decided to make changes to SLI by changing how it would have to be supported by game developers, or not supported at all, that was the defining end of SLI itself. As it stands, officially, Nvidia only supports two-way SLI anyway, and you need to go through extra steps to add a third or fourth card to your system anyway. This not including the number of required PCIE lanes that each card has to have to be allowed to run in SLI, being a minimum of 8 PCIE lanes per card.

Then, let us talk about synchronicity of frames or portions of frames being processed by each graphics card. Yes, while, computers are getting faster and faster, the inevitable truth is, that everything has to run perfectly in sync for each frame to come out at a steady frame per second, not including changes in the action onscreen or environment in games. Adding more variables means that each other frame takes longer to process, and the process slows down. The more cards in the mix, the slower it can be. There is in fact, a diminishing return beyond two cards, and if the second card is not support by the game, even that may cause more issues than it solves. And, furthermore, if one of the cards is slower than the other, for any reason, the first card has to wait for each other card to be finish processing before beginning the new frame. While, the amount of time is not perceivable by themselves, the delay would affect other frames, and that would itself be easy to see for most people.

Therefore, without proper development from game developers for the new explicit requirement to support SLI, or Crossfire, that means running games on multiple graphics cards isn't necessarily going to give you a good experience. That being said, the price of graphics cards at this time is, also, a lot higher, and the performance of each card is a lot better than before. You can get an amazing gaming experience by buying a single, more expensive graphics card, than two less expensive cards. And the amount of VRAM per card, isn't multiplied anyway, so there is no memory benefit to having more cards either. It has, and always was, about the processing power of the GPUs.

Host : Steve Smith | Music : | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Dot Net