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Wednesday, August 03, 2005
ASUS A8N-SLI Premium

3. NVidia's Scalable Link Interface

With the appearance of the PCI Express x16 bus architecture, NVidia realized that the main idea of using DUAL GPUs to share the load of today's high demanding graphical environments can be applied once again, with amazing results. As NVidia says: NVIDIA® SLI™ (Scalable Link Interface) technology is a revolutionary approach to scalability and increased performance. NVIDIA SLI takes advantage of the increased bandwidth of the PCI Express™ bus architecture, and features hardware and software innovations within NVIDIA GPUs (graphics processing units) and NVIDIA MCPs (media and communications processors). Together the NVIDIA SLI patent-pending technologies work seamlessly to deliver heart-pounding PC performance. And depending on the application, NVIDIA SLI can deliver as much as 2x the performance of a single GPU configuration for unparalleled gaming experiences.

First GPU

Second GPU

Final results of Scalable Link Interface (SLI™)

The graphics load that the two GPUs undertake is not always the same. You can see that the graphics load in our example above, is not 50% for both GPUs. nVidia uses advanced dynamic load balancing algorithms that are responsible for sharing the load in two. This is a very clever approach, since in most games and applications, the upper part of an image might need more processing power than the lower. Having that in mind, NVidia decided to share GPU load according to GPU power needs of the game/application.

NVidia uses a digital SLI connector (3dfx's connectors were analog connectors) to connect the two cards. You will find this connector provided by ASUS in the retail package.

click to enlarge!

On the other hand, power requirements increase since the two GPUs need more power to function efficiently. The following table states the power requirements suggested by ASUS.

Configuration Heavy Load Normal Load Light Load
AMD K8 939 CPU Type FX-55 3800+ 3500+
PCIe x16 Video Cards 6800Ultra x2 6800GT x2 6600GT x2
DDR DIMM Modules 4 2 2
HDD(IDE or SATA) 4 2 2
CD/DVD (IDE or SATA) 2 2 1
PCIe x1 Cards 1 0 0
PCI Cards 3 2 1
1394 Devices 1 0 0
USB Devices 6 4 3
Required + 12V current >  (25A) >  (20A) > (17A)
Required wattage >= 500W >= 400W >= 350W

According to NVidia, available GPUs featuring SLI support are GeForce 6800 Ultra, GeForce 6800 GT, GeForce 6800 and GeForce 6600 GT GPUs. On the other hand, ASUS released a list of certified add-in SLI VGA cards that are recommended for the A8N-SLI Deluxe. This list is shown below:

Company Model Number
ASUS Extreme N6600GT
ASUS Extreme N6800Ultra (EN6800Ultra)
Leadtek WinFast PX6600GT
Leadtek WinFast PX6800GT
Elsa ELSA  GLADIAC™ 660GT        
MSI MS-8983 NX6600GT-VTD128E / NX6600GT-TD128E
Albatron Albatron GF6600GT

You can always find more information about the Scalable Link Interface at the NVidia web page.

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