It’s been a long time since nVidia graphics card fans, who also happen to like AMD CPUs, have had some good news. For many months, there has been no love for the SLI goodness that many of those users have been wanting.
The use of the HydraLogix chipset, developed by LucidLogix, was only available on a few motherboards, and the results were less than overwhelming, so most wanting the killer graphics of an SLI setup either tried to make an ATi CrossFire setup work, and accept the limitations of the frequently buggy drivers, or saved up much more money for a massively endowed (with memory) and overclocked nVidia card, hoping it would do the job on its own.
Neither of those scenarios gave truly satisfying results (except perhaps for the short time when the ATi 4740s were cheap and powerful, and the drivers took a respite from mediocrity).
Now the news that nVidia realizes that, for the foreseeable future, it is out of the motherboard glue chip business, brings the word that it will now allow the licensing of SLI, both 2- and 3-way, on the upcoming AMD Bulldozer chipset motherboards. This is good news, but there are a couple of limitations which may be some bad news if you thought you might be able to do some magic on an extremely tight budget.
First, the ability to buy in will be limited to only those manufacturers who are already buying in to SLI on Intel, that means first tier manufacturers. This is good in that it means the boards will be fully scienced out, but also that you won’t be getting rock bottom pricing on your compatible motherboard. The second thing, which is going to increase your cash outlay, is that the only motherboards which will be able to support SLI (legally – we’re not talking about any of the ASRock-type efforts to get around the system in place), are the ones with the 990X and 990FX motherboards. For the uninitiated, that means the top-of-the-line boards. Again, very good in that you will not experience problems (and on the small chance you do, it will be easy to get support from the manufacturer), but you will be paying much more for a full featured motherboard (think 2 bills).
Less important to many is that no support of the nF200 chipset will be available, and the same support needed on Intel boards from the SBIOS, will be needed on the Bulldozer boards.
Because the LucidLogix chipset did not really hamper, just did not improve upon, the use of SLI in otherwise non-supported motherboards, I look for at least one manufacturer to release a similar motherboard for Bulldozer. It will most likely be MSI, but there is a chance that ASRock will do the same, trying to carve out a little more top-end market share.
The one bad thing about this for the early buyer is that it probably will be some time before the best implementation of SLI support on the newest AMD motherboards is determined. A bit of waiting will be needed to obtain the best example.
Another bad thing, for those thinking that there might be some backporting of this SLI goodness to older chipsets is that AMD board manufacturers are expressly forbidden from doing any of that for the standard 9xx series boards, as well as any of the 7xx or 8xx series motherboards. So there’ll be no upgrade to an SLI setup with older AMD AM-2, or AM2+ CPUs. It will have to be an AMD AM3 CPU or a Bulldozer in those T-O-L 990 motherboards, or some other arrangement, as there will be no compromise on that point, either.