Dual Graphics Cards: Explained

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Ten years ago, Nvidia released its SLI configuration that allows two or more graphics cards to be used in a single PC, ATI technologies announced the same multi-GPU configuration for AMD’s Graphics cards with the name of CROSSFIRE. The theory behind both is, it will allow 2x graphical performance or as the companies might say futuristic graphical performance with today’s hardware.

But back in those days, the dual graphics technology was not endorsed by the game developers, as the technology progressed many games started utilizing this. However, it is not that common yet because some modern titles also do not support SLI or Crossfire.

Image Gigabyte
Image Gigabyte

Starting with the configuration part, it’s not as complicated as the name sounds, you only require “SLI bridge” in case of Nvidia cards or “AMD northbridge” in case of AMD cards, connect the cards using the bridge, and you are good to go. SLI for Nvidia is only supported for the graphics cards that are built on the same GPU chip, no matter the manufacturer that means you can combine a ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1070 with an MSI GeForce GTX 1080 using one of the SLI bridges because both of them are based on the same GP 104 GPU.

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In case of AMD, you can connect the DX 11 whole range of the similar generation Graphics cards using the Crossfire technology, but it is only supported for the graphics cards, the DX 12 cards use software Crossfire to work, but it has its limitations. For much time the dual graphics were exclusive for desktop builds only, but due to advancement in technology especially the Nvidia’s Max-Q design has allowed manufacturers to add dual Graphics cards in the laptops such as MSI GT73VR and Origin Eon17-SLX.

Now that you know Dual graphics cards exist, you may want to know about the performance boost. Theoretically SLI or Crossfire should double the graphical performance of the graphics card, but the law of marginal productivity holds true and we see performance that is not double than the performance of a single GPU, there are some anomalies we actually got framerates higher than the double of the single GPU in games like GTA V and Rise of the Tomb Raider, the reason behind it is better optimization on the part of the developer. But some of the games got crashed when tested using dual GPU at much higher resolutions such as 8K.

Now to get the idea of the performance boost caused by the addition of another GPU we tested single Nvidia GTX 1080Ti against 2 SLI Nvidia GTX 1080Ti at two resolutions Triple 4k(11520×2160) and 5k(5120×2880) as the texture rendering is the main reason behind dual GPU configuration. Some games manage to crank up the performance while other manage to stay at least the same, the reason behind this is the optimizations, the results are as follows:

Image: NCIX Tech Tpis
Image: NCIX Tech Tpis
Image: NCIX Tech Tpis

There are a number of reasons why should you be interested in the dual GPU setup, if you are a developer you might want to render the program at an upscaled resolution, if you are a content creator you might want to work on texture filtering of your work, or if you are a gamer then you might want better resolution and performance whatever your purpose of opting for the dual GPU is, you should consider your decision thoroughly.

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Because dual GPU setup might have many advantages, it has many disadvantages as well; it requires more power to run, it requires more optimization from the developer, it is costly, the list goes on. If you have the means to buy more than one graphics card these days and you can complete the pricey requirements of building SLI or Crossfire rig, then there should be no reasons not to opt for one as you might end up getting “Futuristic performance using Today’s hardware.”

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