by June 2, 2005 0 comments

Last month we reviewed 50 mouth watering video cards, ranging from entry level AGP to the highest end of PCI-Express. The highest score we got 
using the 3DMark 2005 benchmark was 3267. That’s pretty high by any standards, but the extreme gamers always want more. The option then is to upgrade the machine to a better processor, add more RAM, or possibly get a better motherboard with overclocking capabilities. Still, the best you could achieve with all this would be a 20% increase, unless of course you start using a liquid Nitrogen based super cooling system for your graphics card. Even then, you might get another 10% boost. In this
review, we’ll take you through a machine that will go beyond this limit by more than 100% . 

With SLI enabled, 3DMark 2005 scores almost double

The Zebronics machine is a custom assembled system that uses NVIDIA’s SLI (Scalable Link Interface) technology. As a quick refresher, SLI is a hot technology for gaming cards, which allows you to use two GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit) on a
single machine, meaning you can plug in two SLI capable graphics cards in the same machine. 

Coming to performance, the only benchmark we ran on the machine was 3DMark 2005, because we wanted to take its score to as high as possible. We used two sets of SLI cards for the tests. Both were based on NVIDIA 6800 ULTRA GPU, but one set had 256 MB of video memory, while the other had 512 MB. Though we didn’t get too much of a performance
difference between the cards themselves, the differences with and without SLI were truly amazing as can be seen from the chart. The performance jump was close to 90% without doing any

After some minor overclocking from the motherboard, the performance shot up to 10289 3DMarks. Possibly we could have taken this even higher, but we received the machine just around the time our
magazine was going to press and were, therefore, hard pressed for time. Nevertheless, the scores it churned out are 
impressive by any standards. Having said that, let’s look at how this machine is built.

A peek inside the SLI machine 
Setting up the hardware to create a SLI based system isn’t very difficult, but you need all the right components for it. Currently, some of these are a little hard to find in India, such as the 620 Watts SMPS and the excellent cabinet we received for review. It had perforations on the front, sides and top with fans placed all around for proper cooling of the machine. Plus, the cabinet came fitted with fan rpm speed controller and LCD panels to display fan speed, CPU and cabinet temperature. 

The highest score we could achieve on the SLI 
machine after doing some mild overclocking

You need a SLI capable motherboard and two SLI cards. The cards should preferably be from the same manufacturer. An SLI ready motherboard has two PCI-Express slots, one for each SLI-based card. Plus, the board also comes with a small bridge connector, which is used to connect the two graphics cards once they’re fitted. 

Typically, SLI-based graphics cards require plenty of cooling, and therefore come with a heavy fan and heat sink of their own. The fan requires a separate power connection from the SMPS to run. So you also need to ensure that your SMPS has the connectors for this.

The machine we received came with an Asus StarIce CPU cooler, which looks more like an aircraft engine, and sounds like one too while it’s running. You need a proper CPU cooler because with so much hardware fitted inside the machine, tremendous heat gets generated. Plus, running high-end games at super high screen resolutions also gives the CPU quite a workout causing its temperature to shoot up. 

Keep watch on CPU temperature and control the fan speed here

The cabinet has four fans, two on side, one on top and one at the front

Bottom Line: It all depends on how much are you willing to pay for your dream machine. If it’s a dream, then sky is the limit. And the price of this machine definitely reaches for the sky while being the best at performance. 

The bridge that connects the two SLI cards 

The Asus StarICE CPU cooler, with looks of an aircraft engine

Anil Chopra, Anindya Roy and Sanjay Majumder

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