Test SetupFuturemark 3DMark03 Pro (version 340)
Although we would like to throw in the fastest Athlon 64 processor in this exciting SLI testing, we decided to use an Athlon 64 3500+ CPU for reasons of result compatibility. Along with this CPU, we used two sticks of 512MB Corsair XMS DDR400 memory operating at a conservative CAS-2.5, 3-3-6 parameters on the MSI K8N Diamond nForce4 SLI motherboard. The system is installed with Windows XP Professional (patched to SP1) and DirectX 9.0c. As per the title of this review, we conducted the SLI testing with dual MSI NX6600GT-TD128E graphics cards. For those concerned on power supply requirements, we utilized an AcBel 400W power supply unit in this test bed.
In the results section, we have outcomes from a single card, dual cards in SLI configuration and a single NVIDIA GeForce 6800GT 256MB PCIe card. The motherboard drivers were installed from NVIDIA's Unified Driver Package version 6.31 (beta) and the choice of graphics card drivers for all cards was NVIDIA's ForceWare 66.93 WHQL driver set. The test suite used in this article is as follows:-
Futuremark 3DMark05 Pro (version 110)
Unreal Tournament 2004 Demo
Halo: Combat Evolved
Command & Conquer: Generals
GunMetal demo benchmark
High Dynamic Range (HDR) lighting demo
Our criteria to assess if a GeForce 6600 GT SLI setup made its mark is based on whether it is able to offer performance within 10% of the GeForce 6800 GT, which is influenced by both the pricing and performance of these products. Currently, the official suggested retail price (SRP) of a single GeForce 6600 GT PCIe card is US$199 while the higher-end GeForce 6800 GT PCIe card retails for US$399. The price of a GeForce 6600 GT SLI setup currently equals that of a single GeForce 6800 GT. However, nobody would be inclined to purchase two of these mid-range cards at the same time, not when a single graphics card at roughly the same outlay is able to get the job done without the need of an SLI motherboard. The highlight of SLI for the mid-range graphics cards is the ability to upgrade the graphics processing power sometime down the road and at that point of time, a secondary GeForce 6600 GT would be available far less than the current SRP. Hence, the total cost of ownership for a GeForce 6600GT SLI would certainly be much less than US$399.
Apart from price, performance is also a consideration. Take for example a 2-way Symmetric Multi Processing (SMP) system, the performance advantages over a single CPU is hardly two-fold unless the tasks happened to be purely CPU bound and are efficiently dispatched to utilize the CPU architecture wisely. Likewise for SLI, there are other factors involved and it is not possible to obtain 100% gains. Combining both the pricing and performance quotients, our personal benchmark for the GeForce 6600GT SLI setup is to obtain results within 10% of the GeForce 6800 GT. This is quite a reasonable goal considering that it doesn't have the memory bandwidth advantage of the higher-end models.