Gtx 280 in sli: SLI Performance Throwdown: GTX 280 SLI vs. 9800 GX2 Quad SLI

SLI Performance Throwdown: GTX 280 SLI vs. 9800 GX2 Quad SLI

by Anand Lal Shimpi & Derek Wilsonon June 16, 2008 9:00 AM EST

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  • GPUs

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108 Comments

IndexBuilding NVIDIA’s GT200Lots More Compute, a Leetle More TexturingDerek Gets Technical: 15th Century Loom Technology Makes a ComebackTweaks and Enahancements in GT200Derek’s Conjecture Regarding SP Pipelining and TMTNVIDIA’s Dirty Dealing with DX10.1 and How GT200 Doesn’t Support itGT200 vs. G80: A Clock for Clock ComparisonPower and Power ManagementThe TestCrysisCall of Duty 4Enemy Territory: Quake WarsAssassin’s CreedOblivionThe WitcherBioshockOverclocked: EVGA GeForce GTX 280 FTWSLI Performance Throwdown: GTX 280 SLI vs. 9800 GX2 Quad SLI Finally: GPU Video Encode & Folding@HomeOverclocked and 4GB of GDDR3 per Card: Tesla 10PFinal Words

SLI Performance Throwdown: GTX 280 SLI vs.

9800 GX2 Quad SLI

We had two GeForce GTX 280s on hand and a plethora of SLI bridges, so we of course had to run them in SLI. Now remember that a single GTX 280 uses more power than a GeForce 9800 GX2, and thus two of them is going to use a lot of power. It was so much power in fact that our OCZ EliteXStream 1000W power supply wasn’t enough. While the SLI system would boot and get into Windows, we couldn’t actually complete any benchmarks. All of the power supplies on the GTX 280 SLI certified list are at least 1200W units. We didn’t have any on hand so we had to rig up a second system with a separate power supply and used the second PSU to power the extra GTX 280 card. A 3-way SLI setup using GTX 280s may end up requiring a power supply that can draw more power than most household circuits can provide.

Although a single GeForce GTX 280 loses to a GeForce 9800 GX2 in most cases, scaling from two to four GPUs is never as good as scaling from one to two. Thus forcing the question: are a pair of GTX 280s in SLI faster than a 9800 GX2 Quad SLI setup?

Let’s look at the performance improvements from one to two cards across our games:








GTX 280 SLI (Improvement from 1 to 2 cards) 9800 GX2 SLI
(Improvement from 1 to 2 cards)
Crysis 50. 1% 30.3%
Call of Duty 4 62.8% 64.0%
Assassin’s Creed 38.9% 12.7%
The Witcher 54.9% 36.2%
Bioshock 68.4% 63.7%
Oblivion 72. 3% -35.7%

Crysis, Assassin’s Creed, The Witcher and Oblivion are all situations where performance either doesn’t scale as well or drops when going from one to two GX2s, giving NVIDIA a reason to offer two GTX 280s over a clumsy Quad SLI setup.

Thanks to poor Quad SLI scaling, the GX2 SLI and the GTX 280 SLI perform the same, despite the GTX 280 being noticeably slower than the 9800 GX2 in single-card mode.

When it does scale well however, the GX2 SLI outperforms the GTX 280 SLI setup just as you’d expect.

Sometimes you run into serious issues with triple and quad SLI where performance is actually reduced; Oblivion at 2560 x 1600 is one of those situations and the result is the GTX 280 SLI gives you a better overall experience.

While we’d have trouble recommending a single GTX 280 over a single 9800 GX2, a pair of GTX 280s will probably give you a more hassle-free, and consistent experience than a pair of 9800 GX2s.

Overclocked: EVGA GeForce GTX 280 FTW
Finally: GPU Video Encode & Folding@Home
IndexBuilding NVIDIA’s GT200Lots More Compute, a Leetle More TexturingDerek Gets Technical: 15th Century Loom Technology Makes a ComebackTweaks and Enahancements in GT200Derek’s Conjecture Regarding SP Pipelining and TMTNVIDIA’s Dirty Dealing with DX10.1 and How GT200 Doesn’t Support itGT200 vs. G80: A Clock for Clock ComparisonPower and Power ManagementThe TestCrysisCall of Duty 4Enemy Territory: Quake WarsAssassin’s CreedOblivionThe WitcherBioshockOverclocked: EVGA GeForce GTX 280 FTWSLI Performance Throwdown: GTX 280 SLI vs. 9800 GX2 Quad SLI Finally: GPU Video Encode & Folding@HomeOverclocked and 4GB of GDDR3 per Card: Tesla 10PFinal Words

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SLI With GeForce GTX 280 Superclocked — The Fastest 3D Cards Go Head-To-Head

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If you thought the GeForce GTX 280 would suffer the same temperature problems in SLI as the GTX 260 in SLI mode, then you’d be mistaken. However, the powerful two-card solution encounters other problems. For instance, maximum power consumption is 540 watts, but both overclocked cards should fallen between 640 and 710 watts with the test system. The lower power consumption in SLI mode means that the temperature and noise level is lower than for a single card.

Thermal throttling of the graphics chip (as seen on the GTX 260) is not the reason why the GTX 280 in SLI only hits 85 degrees. A defect is also not likely, as the frame rates are slightly higher than the level of the Geforce GTX 260 in SLI. And both GTX 280 cards function normally when they’re running on their own. The loss of performance can only be explained by the lack of CPU horsepower to help facilitate scaling, which can be clearly seen from our overclocking results.

Although both GTX models are overclocked from the factory, the overall evaluation shows a loss of performance. If you average all the games of the benchmark suite, the overclocked GTX 280 in SLI saw a drop in performance of 1.1%, whereas the single card has a 5.8% increase. In Mass Effect (UT3 Engine), the single card at 1920×1200 pixels—with anti-aliasing—achieved an increase in frame rate of around 16%. In SLI mode, it decreased 0.8%.

Here are some highlights: World in Conflict at 1920×1200 pixels with 4xAA achieved 32.8 fps on a single card. With GTX 280 in SLI it hit 45.6 fps (the MSI overclock produced 44.2 fps). Mass Effect at 1920×1200 pixels with 8xAA and a single card reached 60.6 fps, and with the GTX 280 in SLI hit 74.6 fps (the MSI overclock was at 74.0 fps).

As you can see, SLI adds an acceptable level of additional power at the right resolutions, but without the platform to back that configuration up, you’ll actually sacrifice performance. If you look at the individual benchmarks, the worst values come from low resolutions and badly optimized games, which react negatively to SLI if they react at all. An important factor is now also the CPU—with more power, higher frame rates should be possible, and MSI’s factory overclocking should also provide additional gains. But without a powerful processor it is better to stick to a single card for 3D games, as the GTX 280 in SLI requires a little more in the way of system performance.

In 2D mode, the power consumption is 203 watts, while in 3D mode the pair draws 540 watts (from the wall). The GTX 260 in SLI drew 610 watts. According to the manufacturer’s specifications, both 3D cards should lie between 640 and 710 watts with the test system. If you wish to operate the overclocked GTX 280 in SLI mode, you will need a branded power supply with between 530 and 570 watts and 44 to 48 A on the 12 volt rail for a standard system. If the entire system reaches the top value of 710 watts (from the wall) a branded power supply with between 600 and 650 watts on that rail should be sufficient.

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