Over the past few months, we've seen several strange things that, alone, probably don't mean anything but, together, might suggest that a very interesting part is about to hit the market. Will nVidia attack the more powerful Radeon cards with a dual chip GTS450 solution? KitGuru dons night vision specs and a rubber wet suit (in the name of science) and investigates.
nVidia invented SLi. We can all argue about who's idea it was to first put more than one graphics chip into a system, but when it comes to making dual chip solutions accessible to the mass market, then nVidia was definitely the pioneer.
Slowly at first (held back by Rich Heye and others), ATI started to consider the possibility that multi-GPU solutions might have a place in the market. More than anything, it was nVidia's drive on dual slot mainboards that finally caused a reaction from ATI and CrossFire was born.
Now, many years on, nVidia has no chipset business to speak of and everyone has a multi-GPU solution. Not only that, but AMD has now included multi-GPU support within the core of the processor itself.
Multi-GPU chipset pioneer has no chipset and the Multi-GPU-a-phobe has it integrated into everything. Nice.
Having more than one GPU doesn't always give you a huge boost, but it normally gives you something. Futuremark scores over play the benefits far too much, using alternate frame rendering (AFR) to effectively double the throughput when you use 2 cards at once. Let's just say that, in the majority of cases, you will get a significant benefit by doubling the amount of graphics processing that your system offers, but you are at the mercy of driver teams more often than you would choose.
Then we come to the biggies. The fastest cards in the world. Each generation has had a dual-GPU mega card that simply slaps every other product silly. Right now, we can see the effect of that with the Radeon HD 5970. Unless nVidia finally pushes its 375w GTX490 into the market (as predicted by KitGuru back in May), nothing will touch the 5970.
We have seen 5970 at he high end. We all know about AMD Fusion's ability to include multiple GPU cores in a single APU. What about the affordable mid-range?
When we first heard about the GTS450, there were 2 variants on the sheets we received. We were uncertain how they related to each other – both seemed identical – but one rated at 75w and the second at 150w.
Second piece of info was the lack of a refresh part for the GTX470 and GTX480 – even though they both need it. While the timeline for GTX475 and 485 (if that's what they're finally called) moves later and later – maybe into 2011 – how does nVidia fight with AMD's toughest products?
Lastly, the driver. nVidia released a driver which listed the GTS450 twice. Now why would you need 2 entries for one card?
We're gonna go out on a limb and say that nVidia is preparing a dual-GTS450 card for launch in November which will retail in the UK at just over £200. The aim will be to knock sales of the Radeon HD 5850/5870 and also make life harder for the incoming Radeon 6000 parts.
Performance prediction? Depends on the benchmark, but you'd have to guess around 10% quicker than a Radeon HD 5850 and 10% slower than a 5870. So if you scored 36 frames per second in Crysis on a 5850 and 44 frames a second with the 5870, then the dual GPU GTS450 would splice-n-dice around 40 fps. But it may not exist! Still, speculate to accumulate, that's what we say.
KitGuru says: Dual-GPU technology is proven. It definitely works. Instead of competing with a brand new product, nVidia can easily strap 2 of the fast/cheap/clockable GTS450 GPUs to a single card, pick a sensible amount of memory, and score serious benchmarks. Come Xmas, will we stand proud or stand corrected? Also, what would you call this card?
Comment below or in the KitGuru forum.