The other half of HybridSLI is HybridPower. From now on you can expect every Nvidia chipped motherboard to include an IGP with graphics ports on the I/O panel regardless of how many graphics slots it has, although the name has changed from IGP to mGPU. In the case of the K9N2 Diamond the connector is a single DVI-D with an HDMI adapter supplied in the package. Connect your monitor to the IGP and your graphics cards will remain in stand-by until you put a heavy load on them, for instance by playing a game.
In principle it’s a fabulous idea that saves power and reduces the cooling load on your PC, when not doing intensive tasks, however the idea does have a few flaws. For one thing it is only supported in Windows Vista and for another the graphics card or cards have to be GeForce 9800 GTX or 9800 GX2 models. Now obviously, it’s early days and no doubt we’ll look back in a year or two when XP and the GeForce 8800 are long and wonder what all the fuss was about, but at present it’s a fairly severe limitation.
Also, saving power is welcome but in the Nvidia demo we were shown HybridPower didn’t have an automatic switch to kick your graphics cards into life and instead you had to tell the drivers that it was time to party. I don’t know about you but it’s precisely that sort of thing that I would forget to do until I’ve just started loading a game. So you have to wait until it’s loaded and closed again before you can switch the right graphics on.
The final problem, for the time being, is that HybridPower has only just been persuaded to work. Over the Bank Holiday weekend MSI was given BIOS code that will enable the feature in the K9N2 Diamond but the BIOS won’t be here for a week or two.
So what we have here is a Phenom motherboard that supports Tri-SLI and which will have HybridSLI in the near future. It’s a safe bet that anyone building a gaming PC with that sort of specification will walk right past the Phenom aisle on their way to some Core 2 Duo loveliness. Phenom is a reasonable choice for low to mid-range PCs but its place in a Tri-SLI PC is hard to justify. That said, while the board supports three graphics cards you can always use it with fewer.