If it seems like we’ve been going on about SLi graphics technology for ages, it’s actually because we have. We first reported that nVidia was bringing back SLi back in June 2004, and here we are, a mere eight months later, actually reviewing a PC based on the technology.
The reason for this delay is that its introduction hasn’t gone as smoothly as nVidia would have liked. First, there has been a distinct shortage of compatible cards, with GeForce 6800GTs hard to get hold of, and 6800 Ultras virtually mythical. Indeed the two SLi set-ups we’ve tested have been based on the less impressive 6600GT rather than the 6800.
It also took a while for nVidia to get the technology working, in fact, the SLi connector on top of early samples of compatible PCI Express cards doesn’t actually work. Then once SLi finally appeared it turned out that games required driver support, a fact which wasn’t made apparent with the initial announcements. The current list of games that fully support the technology is pitifully small and of those that do, even now there are driver issues. That said, nVidia is finally getting its act together with SLi and on a recent visit to our offices an nVidia spokesman claimed that an upcoming driver update will include SLi profiles for another 24 titles, which is positive news.
The result of this means that SLi has been very much the preserve of brave early adopters, who tend to be willing to spend big money on their gaming set-ups. Up until now, the pre-built SLi machines have been impressively hardcore but very expensive machines costing between £2000 and £3000, from specialist builders like Scan and Alienware. Of course, a company liked Evesham is more interested in actually selling PCs rather than showcasing technology and as such, has produced an SLi system for the masses. The machine that’s currently sitting before me will set you back a mere £1,644 including VAT, which considering what you’re getting, makes the Decimator a real bargain for serious gamers.
So what’s the difference between the Evesham and previous SLi machines? With components such as a powerful Athlon 64, 1GB of DDR memory and two GeForce 6800GT cards, it’s not as if it’s short of gaming muscle. But as is generally the case, the devil is in the detail.
Evesham has selected an Athlon 64 3500+ to power the Duel SLi. This processor is certainly no slouch, but it’s considerably less expensive than the likes of an Athlon FX chip, and while it may not produce the sky-high benchmark numbers associated with the top end chips, it certainly offers a higher bang-for-buck ratio.
Evesham has also been sensible with the memory, going for two sticks of fairly stock Kingston PC3200, rather than the more esoteric memory that you’re likely to find in more prestigious systems, which offer higher clock speeds and/or lower latencies. This is another cost effective measure, as this ‘posher’ memory will in practice, only be a few per cent faster for a much greater cost outlay. The two sticks provided ensure that the best use is made of the dual-channel memory controller inside the Socket 939 Athlon 64 chip, and there are two more slots available for further expansion.