Back in June NVIDIA surprised friend and foe with their introduction of the SLI, scalable link interface, technology. As a derative of 3dfx’s SLI, scan line interleaving, technology of late it allowed two PCIe graphics cards to work as one. It wasn’t until December though before we started seeing products show up on the retail shelves. Asus was the first manufacturer to ship their A8N-SLI Deluxe motherboard and many online and retail stores quickly sold out their A8N-SLI stock. Unfortunately not many people got it up and running properly right away as many online forums quickly had more than a few posts about problems with the motherboard and SLI not working.
Many of these posts talked about general stability issues with the motherboard, even when not using SLI. We were only able to test SLI ourselves starting in the first week of January when NVIDIA dropped off a pair of GeForce 6800 Ultras and Asus shipped us their A8N-SLI Deluxe. We initially had quite a few problems getting it up and running properly and went through a period of extensive trail-and-error, swapping out power supplies, graphics cards and memory modules to get it to run stable. Unfortunately the motherboard manual is pretty unclear about what settings could influence stability, for example it is automatically set to overclock the PCIe slots, using Asus’s proprietary PEG Link feature.
To add to the confusion NVIDIA has yet to put their foot down and demand their board partners label their products properly; many people were not able get SLI working as although their graphics cards were listed as SLI capable by the retailer, they simply wouldn’t work in SLI. Sorting through all of these problems we wrote a FAQ for the A8N-SLI and SLI in general which we posted in our forums. This forum thread is twenty five pages long already which should give you a good indication that problems with this motherboard and SLI are commonplace and not isolated cases as some of the manufacturers would like you to believe. The fact that Asus has gone through almost ten BIOS revisions in about a month’s time and that we, till this day, can’t get two 6800 Ultras up and running properly is another.
Adding to all of that is the fact that NVIDIA only released new drivers for the Nforce 4 chipset last week, although their graphic cards drivers are now a few months old, dated in November. If NVIDIA wants to keep marketing SLI as the fastest money can buy we’d suggest they start addressing some of these issues soon. A good place to start would be to firmly put into place their SLI certification program and making sure their board partners stick to it. Secondly a new set of drivers for the GeForce 6800 series as well as a list of recommended parts and configurations, such as power supply recommendations that go a little further than just stating it need 500-watts. We talked to NVIDIA’s Steve Sims about all of this last week and he assured us NVIDIA is on the ball though, so we expect to see some of these issues addressed, in the meanwhile the FAQ can be found right here.