The back plate of the card features a DVI and a D-Sub connector, as well as S-Video and component output via a break out box. Unlike on standard 6600GTs, 6800GTs and Ultras’s there’s no SLi connector at the top of the card, as all of the PCI bandwidth is used up running this card – so if you were dreaming of a quad 6600GT set-up, give up now!
While we’re not reviewing the motherboard here, rest assured that the K8NXP-SLI gives you everything you would expect to find at this level, as well as extras such as a Wireless card and Gigabyte’s own Dual Power System module for clean power. Also included in the box is the game Thief: Deadly Shadows, pleasingly supplied on DVD-ROM and the title Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising.
So how did the Gigabyte 3D1 perform compared to ‘conventional’ SLi? For reference we compared to the scores we obtained from the recently reviewed MSi K8N Diamond SLi motherboard, which was tested with two 6600GT and a single 6600GT. The Gigabyte board fared well. It was a tad slower in Half-Life 2, and a shade faster than the MSi set-up in Far Cry, while in Doom 3 it was both a touch quicker and a mite slower depending on the resolution. In SYSmark 2004 it matched the MSi, but lagged behind in PC Mark 2004.
Overall, it’s pretty even stevens, with the differences attributable to normal benchmark variations. In 3DMark03 it was the same story, while in 3DMark05 it was able to complete more tests than the MSi set-up was able to. This was due to their being a newer version of 3DMark 05 available when we conducted the tests on the Gigabyte, though the results are still comparable.
Taken as a whole though I was impressed with 3D1. It manages to do what it says on the tin and deliver the same performance of a two card SLi 6600GT set-up on a single card. The cheapest I was able to find the Gigabyte bundle was for £361 from Tekheads, which compares favourably with the price of the MSi motherboard and two 6600GTs, which comes in at around £398, £37 more expensive.
However, even more significant than the cost saving is the reduced heat and noise that the single card system delivers. It’s by no means a silent solution but it’s certainly quieter than having two graphics cards in your machine. It also produces less heat, which should ensure greater system stability.
However, if it’s real power you want for you’ll probably find that the 3D1 or indeed any 6600GT-based SLi system just won’t give you enough grunt to truly impress. In my mind at least, SLi implies being able to run at mouth wateringly high resolutions with all the image quality enhancements (IQ) turned on. As the scores prove this just isn’t possible, either with two 6600GTs or with the 3D1, at least if you want truly playable frame rates.
Unfortunatley at 1,600 x 1,200, the memory bandwidth limitations of the card became clear once we enabled image quality settings and it was not able to complete the tests at this resolution. In all SLi compatible tests, at 1,600 x 1,200 with 4x FSAA and 4x AF, the 3D1 just doesn’t have enough grunt and things aren’t that much more impressive at 1,280 x 1,024 with full IQ on.
It’s clear from this is that when really pushed at the highest settings the 128-bit interface and the 128MB addressable memory limit of the 6600GT core is a limiting factor and having two chips doesn’t help in this situation.