SLI to make a big comeback - should Apple adopt?

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Nvidia made a couple of very interesting announcements today. First was revealing that all 6800 series Geforce cards are SLI capable. Second was the announcement of the nForce 4 motherboards which will bring PCI Express and Soundstorm 2 audio to the AMD line. And naturally, you will be able to buy a dual x16 PCI slot versions as well (Q4, this year). There have been other motherboard annoucements on the Intel Xeon side that will incorporate dual x16 slots as well.



This is exactly what I predicted would happen after Alienware announced their high priced SLI rig. Now everyone is getting on the bandwagon and you can be sure ATI will be close on their heels. Nvidia suggests that we should see up to 90% improvement in processing power with a dual card solution (I imagine, where you're not CPU bound). A couple of low priced 6800GTs working in series makes more sense than a single high-end 6800 Ultra/UE. A DIY nForce box should also be *considerably* cheaper than Alienware's box and I'm very tempted to wait until it arrives before upgrading my home box.



Even if it's from just a marketing standpoint, I think this is something Apple should consider adopting for their high end PMs.



Thoughts?



C.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,259member
    Why not?



    GPU's are far more important to Apple than what gaming would suggest. Quartz Extreme and now Core Image and Core Video will utilize as much GPU power as a user can muster. If there's a need for it and programming support isn't too difficult I see no reason why not.
  • Reply 2 of 27
    existenceexistence Posts: 991member
    Apple needs PCIe fore this. Expect new PowerMacs before Christmas.
  • Reply 3 of 27
    onlookeronlooker Posts: 5,252member
    I hope we get some indication of what future plans in-tail in PowerMacs again soon. With Maya Unlimited coming, and Seybold right around the corner, and everybody, but Apple showing off Dual PCIe capabilities Apple is not going to look as good as I think Apple had planned to look at Seybold with that huge presence. I had no idea Nvidia was going to double up on the GPU's I figured they were a huge leap ahead of ATI as it were. Now thy are just rubbing ATI's face in it.
  • Reply 4 of 27
    onlookeronlooker Posts: 5,252member
    Funny how two weeks ago we were all torn between the actual level importance of PCIe, and how it would affect the Mac if Apple waited on it.
  • Reply 5 of 27
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,259member
    Boy adding two topflight cards in one system is a spendy proposition. There are people crazy enough to do it though. I bet you'd see people buy two cards for two systems. When they went to a LAN party they'd remove one card from the other computer and beef up their game rig.



    Apple is kinda painting itself into a tight corner with this reliance on GPU performance. GPUs are where Apple likes to cut corners. Now with the performance of many apps relying on good performance Apple will be scrutinized moreso about what choices they offer.
  • Reply 6 of 27
    concordconcord Posts: 312member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by hmurchison:

    Boy adding two topflight cards in one system is a spendy proposition. There are people crazy enough to do it though.



    It's just like any other high priced, but desirable item ($3,200 cinema display anyone? ). I think many will buy a dual capable rig with just a single Gx card, then buy the second card 6+ months later when they're a lot cheaper.



    I think Apple is savvy enough to pick up on this idea... but the question is when?



    C.
  • Reply 7 of 27
    lemon bon bonlemon bon bon Posts: 2,383member
    I think 'Tiger' shows just how massive a contribution a single 6800 Gpu can make.



    CPU processing isn't irrelevant yet.



    BUT programmable GPUs are crashing through Moore's Law it seems.



    It won't be long before real time 3D rendering reduces the disparity between the 'wallet' class and the 'creative' class when it comes to 3D content.



    Core Image and Video are stunning! The Mac is becoming THE WORKSTATION computer.



    However, considering this and everything 'Tiger' has to offer...it's a little disappointing that we didn't make '3 gig' but MORE disappointing that the PowerMacs didn't get PCI Express which apparently makes AGP x2, x4 and x8 seem prehistoric. Doesn't PCI Express run bi-directional? And wouldn't that have massive implications for Apple's Final Cut Pro HD app and market?



    As much as I'm impressed by the dual 30 inch DVI monster monitor driving beast, the 6800, it would have been nice to have that on PCI Express?



    And with that SLI prospect? PLEASE let us have THAT card as an option by the FALL!



    A dual 3 gig, PCI Express SLI 6800 card? That's MY set up.



    That's my buy.



    STILL waiting. 6 years and counting.



    Lemon Bon Bon



    PS. So, WHEN are we going to get 3 gig? It's obvious that the 'FX' 970 WAS the chip to get us there. Will it be the 975 by FALL or more likely, a San Fran 2005 intro'.



    Steve said in the Keynote that Apple was still striving for that '3 gig'...
  • Reply 8 of 27
    lemon bon bonlemon bon bon Posts: 2,383member
    SLI capable.



    Does that mean that the GPU load will automatically be shared on a given GPU task?



    eg Apple only need to have a dual slot PCI Express motherboard on the next PowerMac revision?



    Lemon Bon Bon
  • Reply 9 of 27
    lemon bon bonlemon bon bon Posts: 2,383member
    http://www.nvidia.com/page/sli.html



    WOW!



    Apple have GOT to have this in the next PowerMac revision!



    Two 6800 Ultras! 90% speed up. Twice as fast in some instances. Or all the effects at high resolutions.



    Sounds like THE card for the 30 incher...



    THE card to go with a 975 dual 3 gigger?



    Sayyyyy, considering the lifespan of the G3 to G4...shouldn't we be closer than ever to the G5 Mark II? If the Fx couldn't make 3 gig, doesn't that leave only one candidate? Unless they're still speed binning 3 gig fx parts... Doesn't look likely considering the cooling on the 2.5 gig fx. Surely a new chip will take Apple to the 3 gig threshold?



    Apple?



    Lemon Bon Bon
  • Reply 10 of 27
    pbpb Posts: 4,233member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Lemon Bon Bon

    If the Fx couldn't make 3 gig, doesn't that leave only one candidate? Unless they're still speed binning 3 gig fx parts... Doesn't look likely considering the cooling on the 2.5 gig fx. Surely a new chip will take Apple to the 3 gig threshold?





    I think it is quite possible that the 970FX will be the chip that will bring us to the 3 Ghz mark. No one knows really of course, but I can hardly imagine Apple/IBM to not push further this chip that it is already at 2.5 GHz and it just has started its life. In fact, we have yet to see the 970FX in mass production, comparable to the production of the previous (130 nm) generation.
  • Reply 11 of 27
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,756member
    Well I look at the FX currently as a flop. Truthfully I'm begining to believe that it is not a process issue. That is IBM's 90nm process may have issues but I think it is likely that IBM's automation tools have generated a slow core. This may require IBM to either improve their automation tools (the smart move) or to hand optimize the core. So reaching 3GHz may require a FXb revision.



    The other problem that seems to be glossed over is that IBM's automation tools seem to produce very hot processors. Hot as in the thermal sense. I do suspect that IBM has alot of work ahead of it with repsect to these issues.



    As to a newer processor (the rumored 975) it may very well be that all of the problem addressed above would be solved on a new platform. The FX would be considered water under the bridge. The FX is hear it serves a purpose but dwelling on it is really not the productive thing to do. It's a tought anyways, that is IBM's efforts are now being directed at other hardware and the FX is in stasis.



    Dave





    Quote:

    Originally posted by Lemon Bon Bon

    http://www.nvidia.com/page/sli.html



    WOW!



    Apple have GOT to have this in the next PowerMac revision!



    Two 6800 Ultras! 90% speed up. Twice as fast in some instances. Or all the effects at high resolutions.



    Sounds like THE card for the 30 incher...



    THE card to go with a 975 dual 3 gigger?



    Sayyyyy, considering the lifespan of the G3 to G4...shouldn't we be closer than ever to the G5 Mark II? If the Fx couldn't make 3 gig, doesn't that leave only one candidate? Unless they're still speed binning 3 gig fx parts... Doesn't look likely considering the cooling on the 2.5 gig fx. Surely a new chip will take Apple to the 3 gig threshold?



    Apple?



    Lemon Bon Bon




  • Reply 12 of 27
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,259member
    Quote:

    Well I look at the FX currently as a flop.



    @ 2.5Ghz in it's first incarnation. I'll gladly take more flops like this in the future.



    Heat is caused by leakeage from the transistors. The POWER5 utilizes Low K dielectric technology to reduce this "crosstalk". I expect the POWER5 derivative will use this as well. Personally I never expected the 970fx to take us to 3Ghz. It's possible that it might but all the roadmaps that i've seen from IBM have the 970 going no higher than 2.5 and in most cases just list 2Ghz.







    What the hell has happened to American culture when IBM goes Hip Hop?
  • Reply 13 of 27
    henriokhenriok Posts: 537member
    SLI seems great but..



    The nVidia 6800 card Apples is offering is taking up two expansion slots. the AGP and a PCI slot, leaving two slots free. Adding another card would reduce the available slots to zero. Seems like a good idea?
  • Reply 14 of 27
    Quote:

    I had no idea Nvidia was going to double up on the GPU's I figured they were a huge leap ahead of ATI as it were. Now thy are just rubbing ATI's face in it.



    You figured wrong.



    If you look at the benchmarks the 6800 ultra gets outperformed by the x800 on 90% of the tests run.



    Nvidia desperatly needed this.



    Although I would love to have a dual card setup, it just isn't feasable, especially with the way the high end nvidia cards are designed. They take up the PCIe/AGP slot they are using *plus* the one directly below it! That means that if you have two of these cards, you've rendered 2 other pci slots on you motherboard useless. Not to mention price. The price of two 6800 ultras is near to, if not over a grand.



    I would love to see this implimented, but I cannot really see this taking off, except for with the select few professionals who need it (who actually shouldnt be running the 6800, they should be running the quadro), and the hardcore gamers who have their parents credit cards.
  • Reply 15 of 27
    hobbithobbit Posts: 532member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Henriok

    The nVidia 6800 card Apple is offering is taking up two expansion slots. the AGP and a PCI slot, leaving two slots free. Adding another card would reduce the available slots to zero. Seems like a good idea?



    When moving to PCI Express Apple could easily take this opportunity to redesign the whole PowerMac layout e.g. moving the dual CPUs from a vertical to a horizontal layout making room for more or wider PCI slots above.



    On top of that I'm sure watercooling offers exciting new design possibilities which Apple hasn't even started to incorporate yet.
  • Reply 16 of 27
    amorphamorph Posts: 7,112member
    You'd think the release of Core Image and Core Video would clue a few people in, but oh well...



    That "lowly" FX5200 that Apple "chintzes" on has a more sophisticated shader engine than any ATI GPU they're using. I think we just found out why they'd want to ship it standard, haven't we? It's not all about framerates, folks. Heck, Apple hasn't even exposed the full capabilities of the 5200 yet, and you guys are already writing it off.



    Personally, the thing I find most stunning about Core Image and Video is that I didn't think they could do that until they added PCI Express. The conventional wisdom was that that 1x writeback across the AGP bus was a dealbreaker in practice. Apple just blew the conventional wisdom out the window and into next week.



    All of a sudden, it's not about whether Apple will hobble themselves by not moving to PCI Express, it's about what they're going to be capable of once they do move to PCI Express.
  • Reply 17 of 27
    hobbithobbit Posts: 532member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by zpapasmurf

    If you look at the benchmarks the 6800 ultra gets outperformed by the x800 on 90% of the tests run.



    The 6800 Ultra wins with games based on OpenGL since nVidia's drivers are highly OpenGL optimised.

    On the other hand the x800 (those 90% you quote) wins with games based on DirectX as ATI optimises its drivers for DirectX.



    Please note that the latter is completely irrelevant to us Mac users. 90% or not.

    Whereas a GPU focussed on OpenGL optimisation is something of great importance.



    Maya e.g. generally works better on nVidia pro cards than ATI's FireGL line because of nVidia's better OpenGL implementation.



    Because of this and Apple's focus on using the GPU more and more as a co-processor I wouldn't be surprised to see the Apple - nVidia relationship intensify over the years, including implementations like SLI in future PowerMacs or Mac workstations (if they ever happen).





    Quote:

    I would love to see this implimented, but I cannot really see this taking off, except for with the select few professionals who need it (who actually shouldnt be running the 6800, they should be running the quadro), and the hardcore gamers who have their parents credit cards.



    In case you haven't realised, the 6800 Ultra Apple is offering is much closer to nVidia's Quadro pro card than the PC variant of the 6800 as the PC variant only comes with single link DVI. It's only the pro Quadro cards that offer dual Dual Link DVI.
  • Reply 18 of 27
    concordconcord Posts: 312member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by zpapasmurf:

    Although I would love to have a dual card setup, it just isn't feasable, especially with the way the high end nvidia cards are designed. They take up the PCIe/AGP slot they are using *plus* the one directly below it! That means that if you have two of these cards, you've rendered 2 other pci slots on you motherboard useless.



    I see... And I assume then you've actually seen a dual x16 mobo to speak so authoritatively about them.

    Quote:

    Not to mention price. The price of two 6800 ultras is near to, if not over a grand.



    Except for the fact that all 6800 series cards are SLI capable and nothing prevents you from buying just 1 card, then upgrading with a second card when the prices come down.



    I think this idea will end up being quite successful (if the performance boost measures up IRL). Remember, we are only seeing just the bleeding edge of this technology. Prices will come down, availability will go up. Having two Gx card slots makes for a very convincing upgrade path. In a few years I can see this kind of motherboard becoming the default configuration for performance mobos.



    C.
  • Reply 19 of 27
    Since Apple seems to be considering the GPU as a co-processor (Core *), and that engineers at Apple are keen on dual-proc designs, a dual-CPU+dual-GPU configuration in the next Powermacs is an option.



    However, I don't know if SLI is the best way to go dual-GPU. When using Core Image and Core Video, that does not make much sense : it would be just as if on a dual-CPU configuration, you'd ask the 1st CPU to process the 4 first bits of each byte and to the 2nd CPU to process the 4 others. I might be wrong on this one since I don't have much info on Core*.



    Anyway, dual-GPU is neat, but maybe not SLI... would it be feasible to put 2 GPUs on the same graphic card by the way, or would it lead to lame performances due to some bus bottleneck?
  • Reply 20 of 27
    telomartelomar Posts: 1,804member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by The One to Rescue

    Anyway, dual-GPU is neat, but maybe not SLI... would it be feasible to put 2 GPUs on the same graphic card by the way, or would it lead to lame performances due to some bus bottleneck?



    Easiest just to send you over to Tom's Hardware Guide. I'd say the biggest problem would be that of power.

    Quote:

    SLI via Dual-GPU Board: Looking at this development, the question arises why NVIDIA didn't simply put two graphics processors on one board to begin with. One problem with this concept is the PCI Express bus, which isn't really a bus at all but a point-to-point connection. To be able to use two graphics processors, you would need to use some sort of bridge or logic to distribute the signals on the card. Additionally, greater size of such a card and the heat problems associated with a dual-chip setup would also need to be solved somehow. Lastly, one of the strongest arguments in favor of SLI is the option of upgrading at any time.



    One issue with SLI on the mac is we don't have 3 different 6800 Nvidia cards to choose from and the prices and aftermarket purchases are nowhere near as easy though. Certainly for upfront workstation purchases though it'd be attractive.
Sign In or Register to comment.