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Crossfire vs SLI Performance Comparison Review

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Power consumption is something that is starting to creep into everyone's decision making process when making a purchase. Of course the driving force here is just how much are you going to pay the electric company at the end of the month? Increased heat output from dual cards and the increased power consumption with dual cards are just two things that we are now thinking about when it comes down to the moment we spend our hard earned money on that high-end video card. Idle testing was not done, as the largest power draw is going to be when the cards are under a load. The test setup used is a system fairly typical of that seen in the enthusiast class, with a well overclocked, water cooled CPU, one HDD, an optical drive and not a whole lot else. The system idles right around 200 watts with a low-end video card installed as a baseline measurement. Testing will be done using 3DMark06 to place a load on the GPU's. I will loop "Canyon Flight" four times, noting the highest power consumption through each run, and average the four runs to reach the final power consumption numbers.









If you do any cruising through the video card threads on any number of web sites, the controversy is always price versus performance. Some people will always pay for higher performing cards, while you have the rest of the world who look for the balance and try to get the most bang for their buck. People buying the top-end cards with their top-end prices is always going to happen. But, when it comes to multi-GPU systems, the thought is usually on performance and not so much on cost. I remember my first multi-GPU system was with two ATI 1900XT's; the total cost was almost $1200 when the cards first came out. As an early adopter, I paid a premium for these cards - but at the time, this combination was pretty much top of the heap, until the Nvidia G80 cards came out and just cleaned house. Thinking about that $1200+ price tag and the level of performance delivered, the highest price combo in this comparison comes in at just over 1100 bucks, more than $100 less than my 1900XT combo from just a few years back. Just thinking of how far performance has come, and the costs associated with that performance, over the last few years is astounding.


Cost will always be a concern, so along that line I decided to see what the cost per FPS would be for each combo. To do this, I will add up the total FPS per card at each resolution and divide that total by 18, the amount of tests run where a result was given in FPS. The cost for the combo will then be divided by the average FPS to give a cost per FPS - effectively giving us a price versus performance comparison. Pricing will be the cards' current cost from Newegg. The measurement used will be dollars and cents.



The most power consumed by any combination in this test is hands down the HD 4870x2 CrossFireX combo, weighing in at 936 watts. This is almost 200 watts higher than the GTX295 in Quad SLI. The 4850x2, of course, had the lowest power consumed in the quad GPU category. When the x2 cards were run in single card mode, power consumption dropped as expected, with the GTX 295 still outperforming the HD 4870x2 - and almost using less power than the 4850x2. In the two GPU category, the GTX 285 SLI combo used the most power - but also delivered the highest performance. When it comes to pricing, the least expensive quad GPU setup is the HD 4850x2 CrossFireX combination, coming in at 520 bones. The GTX 295 is far and away the most expensive setup, but does prove its worth throughout the testing. Usually you get what you pay for. The least expensive dual GPU setup in this comparison is the Toxic HD 4850 setup at $260, and performance-wise the adage holds true - as this combo delivered the lowest performance of the group. When it came time to figure out which combo offered the most bang for your dollar, the GTX 295 Quad SLI setup is just about out of the running at $9.10 per FPS at 2560x1600. Even with the exceptional performance, the price tag is a bit steep at $1120 for the pair of cards. The HD 4870x2 setup is $320 less expensive, and begins to compete with the other combinations. The hands down best bang for your buck based on the testing I have done here is the GTX 260-216 SLI setup, which costs less than any other combination based on total cost versus performance delivered.


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