Nvidia GTX295 Quad SLI

Balls to the Wall

Balls to the Wall & Fanny to the Floor

Recently I have been asked to overclock the system as far as it will go in the reviews and while thats not really appropriate in most situations, this time I believe it is justified so in answer to your prayers, here's the 'Balls to the Wall' section of the review.

Although the setup would quite obviously clock higher on water and indeed extreme cooling, I clocked this on air, with no hardware mods or software tweaks other than using the BIOS and Rivatuner. This should hopefully give a fair representation of what to expect on a standard air cooled setup but I would be surprised if someone who spends this amount of cash on a PC would not invest a little more in watercooling.

Never the less I'll see what I can do:

Using the Gigabyte EX58 UD5 motherboard, I managed to overclock the OC3D test rig i7 920 CPU to 4000MHz. This increases to 4200MHz during load (Turbo Technology) which should give the GPU's adequate headroom and minimise any CPU bottlenecks. I say hopefully as we are talking about a serious amount of GPU power here.

The GPU's would not clock as high together as they did when clocked alone, with a measly (in comparison) 651 MHz on the cores and 1202 on the memory being the maximum semi-stable clockspeeds I could reach. We could have flashed the BIOS to EVGA versions and then used 'Precision' to increase the GPU voltages over stock. This would have allowed the cards to clock in excess of 700MHz but as they are not owned by OC3D, I didn't relish the thought of killing the cards, explaining to the editor and no doubt paying for replacements thereafter!
During testing, I had the hair brained idea of adding a further card to run PhysX on its own and leaving the Quad SLI setup to deal with the graphics. For this, I intended to use the fastest single GPU available in the form of the Nvidia GTX285. 
Vista picked up the GTX285 and installed drivers and sure enough it showed up under devices and the NVidia control panel. I duly set the 285 as the PhysX enabled card and ran a quick Vantage test. Everything worked a treat but even with the GTX295's overclocked and the CPU running at 4200MHz, Vantage returned a relatively weak score of 32k, little more than when I ran the cards at stock.

Despite repeated tests it was clear that the system was slower with the GTX285 in-situ than without. This is most likely owed to the fact that when 3 cards are used on the UD5 two of the slots are reduced to 8x PCIe which then throttled the GTX295. So, taking the GTX285 out I ran another test and the score was back up to what you see below.
It was a shame we couldn't breach the 40k mark but I am under no illusion that the cards are easily capable of that under the right conditions. With the voltage tweaks available under the EVGA banner, the extra MHz allowed would  certainly make a difference as the scaling we have seen this far with the raw grunt of the cards is nothing short of amazing.
No LOD bias or other 'cheat' tweaks we used to attain the Vantage score, just the overclocks applied to the card. I would like to have shown that adding a third card for PhysX was worthwhile but with the power of 2 GTX295's there is really no benefit at all and in our case, it was actually detrimental to performance of the system. I never thought I would say adding a £300 GPU would not increase performance!

Call of Duty 4 saw some improvements at higher resolutions, thanks in part to the extra 400MHz  CPU clockspeed allowing the GTX295's more breathing space. Interestingly though, at the lower resolution FPS test actually decreased on average! I still feel that the tremendous amount of raw GPU power was still being held back with our CPU but alas, 4.2GHz was all our poor i7 had to give.
Well that about wraps up the extended overclocking section. It would have been nice to have some pots and LN2/dry ice to push things to breaking point but that would give the reader an unrealistic view of what was easily attainable. Still, it would have been fun seeing the editors face while I attach hulks of copper to the £400 GTX295's and pour liquid nitrogen in them.

Let's move on to the conclusion where I explain the pro's and cons of owning a GTX295 setup....

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Most Recent Comments

03-03-2009, 11:20:16

holy crap at the fps it gives

insane price though, maybe if i win the lottery lol Quote

03-03-2009, 11:24:31

Tis a strange set of results. Part of me, the "more power" part, loves that the Quad SLI scales at insane resolutions and allows for the AA and AF to be cranked up whilst still providing enormous frame-rates in everything on the planet.

The "I'm a pauper" part of me is surprised that as a single 295 still provides fully playable frame-rates (over 60fps) in everything so I wonder why anyone would bother paying for another one to Quad it. Even the 30" brigade have no real need to go Quad-SLI.

So I'm in absolute awe of the results, demonstrating that PC hardware has reached a peak we couldn't have possibly forseen a year ago. But I'm still aghast that anyone would even consider going Quad for anything other than bragging rights.

Phenomenal all around. And 4.2ghz on air! You hero Quote

03-03-2009, 11:33:04

Lovi'n the "Balls to teh Wall" section, nice touch

Good review, but I agree with VB, 30fps is ample, as nice as 260 or something ludicrus in CoD4 is, my 4870 can make that game playable.

Still, if I also won the lottery...Quote

03-03-2009, 13:00:14

Great review as usual. This looks to be the peak in performance at the moment and whilst I have never been a fan of multiple card setups, it is insane Quote

03-03-2009, 16:52:06

Need and want are always going to be debatable points when it comes to the pinnacle of hardware.

Do we really 'need' 4ghz CPU's and quad sli - I doubt it. Wanting however is another matter entirely and with that thought Jim is going to have to move hell and earth to get me to return these cards.

Do I need them? No, I'm quite happy with my 280SLI rig thank you very much, do I want them...too bloody right I do.Quote

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