Single card SLI: Gigabyte GV-3D1, GA-K8NXP-SLI

In a great display of innovation, Gigabyte has taken NVIDIA's SLI graphics principle, which enables two individual graphics cards to be linked together in the same system, and applied it to one graphics card.

That is, it has installed two GeForce 6600GT graphics chips on one circuit board in SLI mode.

These two 6600GT graphics chips work together to provide SLI graphics in very much the same way as a two-card setup does, in that each graphics chip is designated to either render the top or bottom half of the screen, or to render every alternate frame on the screen, thereby evenly sharing the load between each chip. The card uses the full 16 lanes of available PCI Express (PCIe) bandwidth and each chip has its own 128MB DDR3 frame buffer (memory). Both chips on the GV-3D1 have a clock speed of 500MHz and their memory chips run at 1120MHz.

If you are looking to build an SLI system for faster graphics, the GV-3D1's design means one less expansion card in your SLI system. It also means you won't have to hunt around for two identical SLI graphics cards. It's a price-competitive solution too, as Gigabyte will bundle this card with their GA-K8NXP-SLI motherboard for around $930.

That price is equal to some of the high-end graphics cards from NVIDIA and ATI, and is slightly more cost-effective than buying two separate GeForce 6600GT-based cards (which can be bought from around $350 each) in addition to an SLI-capable motherboard (which can be bought from around $300). We tested this Gigabyte combination using Doom 3 at a resolution of 1280x1024 with high detail and 4x anti-aliasing enabled. In single chip mode the card managed 40 frames per second (fps) in our demo, while in SLI mode this figure soared to 70fps. This figure compares favourably against a single 6800GT-based card, which will garner around 65fps. By this point you are probably wondering if it is possible to connect two GV-3D1 cards together to achieve a total of four graphics chips in one system. Unfortunately, the answer is no, this isn't supported.

The nForce 4 SLI chipset-based GA-K8NXP-SLI motherboard that's bundled with the GV-3D1 supports the latest Athlon64 and Athlon64 FX Socket-939 processors and has plenty of Serial ATA and peripheral ports, plus it ships with an 802.11g Wi-Fi card. This board performed solidly in our PC WorldBench 5 application testing and its setup and ease of use was exemplary.

It's hard not to recommend this bundle to anyone who wants to build a cost-effective, high-end PC.

Gigabyte is the first vendor to bundle a motherboard with a graphics card: in this case, their new GV-3D1 dual-GPU card, which makes setting up an SLI-capable system child's play. It's a recommended bundle for the serious gamer itching for fast frame rendering at high resolutions.

Price: $929; Distributor: Rectron; Phone: (02) 9748 7725; URL: www.rectron.com.au

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