Product: GeForce 7950 GX2
Company: nVIDIA
Authour: Mark "Ratchet" Thorne
Date: June 20th, 2006
The 7950 GX2

Sporting 48 pixel pipes, 16 vertex shaders, memory bandwidth exceeding 76 GB/s, a pixel-fillrate of 16,000 MP/s and a texel fillrate of 24,000 MT/s; the 7950 GX2, as a “single” card, simply can’t be touched today. Our benchmarks later on will prove that.

The real kick in the pants, however, is that the 7950 GX2 is fully capable of running in SLI with another 7950 GX2. Putting two of them together in a single system gives you what NVIDIA calls Quad SLI, and with four GPUs running at the same time I can’t think of a more appropriate name for it. Some might not agree to look at Quad SLI specs the way NVIDIA does, or even the 7950 GX2 specs for that matter, but just for fun think about a graphics sub-system that has 96 pixel pipes, 32 vertex shaders, and provides 154 GB/s of memory bandwidth over a total of 2GB of graphics memory. If specs made people cool, Quad SLI would turn Steve Urkel into Steve McQueen.

The only problem is that Quad SLI is currently only available at the System Integrator level. If you want it, you have to buy an entire Quad SLI equipped system.  It’s coming to the end-user, but as of yet NVIDIA has a flimsy ETA of “this year” for the necessary drivers to make it all work.

The 7950 GX2 seems pretty spectacular on paper, and Quad SLI would most definitely smoke anything out there, but there is a catch.

You see, at the heart of the GX2 is NVIDIA’s SLI technology. To put it simply, the GX2 is basically two 512MB GeForce 7900 cards stacked one on top of the other and linked together via a sort of expanded SLI bridge. There is no revolutionary GPU hiding under the twin coolers, it’s essentially the same G71 with all the same features that we already have on the 7900 GTX and 7900 GT. And because its heart is SLI, it has all the same disadvantages that come with a regular dual-card SLI setup.

For example, to enable dual-display mode, you have to disable the multi-GPU mode in NVIDIA’s control panel. Not a big deal in all honesty, but it can be a pain if you have dual displays. Also, there are games out there that have problems with SLI and simply don’t work. This can be especially true of older games or even new games that haven’t gotten the attention required from NVIDIA’s developers. In those cases, the 7950 GX2 can’t make use of the second GPU and would end up performing roughly on par with a single 7900 GT.

NVIDIA has gotten SLI to work pretty well over the last couple years since its introduction and it’s pretty painless these days, but those disadvantages still exist and will undoubtedly affect some users from time to time. For the most part, however, those disadvantages are pretty minor when compared to what SLI and the 7950 GX2 offers overall.

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