Last week we made a build for 4k gaming and used two GTX 970s in SLI in order to have enough performance. One of the main concerns that some had was if the pros outweigh the cons when you SLI/Crossfire. Today, we're going to look over some of the pros and cons of using two graphics cards in SLI from Nvidia or Crossfire from AMD and discuss when, if ever, should you put in a second graphics card.
Pro: Better Performance
Obviously, right off the bat, you can get better performance. Having two graphics cores sharing a workload is like having two burly dudes lifting a fridge. It's a lot better than one working by itself. Above 1080p resolution you'll see better performance indefinitely compared to one card because of the shared workload. It usually isn't recommended to use two cards for 1080p setups, because it would basically be overkill.
Con: Diminishing returns
Since Crossfire/SLI requires two graphics cards to be in a system, the law of diminishing returns hits home. While there have been really good cases, such as Crossfire and SLI running games like the latest Tomb Raider, it is rare to see SLI configurations completely double performance, going from say 60FPS to 120FPS with the same settings. It is even less common to see triple or quadruple performance with three and four card configurations. What does this mean? It means you're spending double and not getting it.
Pro: Better Graphics
While performance can increase your numbers, you can also make your games look better. Say you put two cards into your machine, and you're now running at a higher refresh rate than your monitor allows, you can increase the graphical fidelity of your games while still maintaining playable framerates compared to one card. You can also opt for higher resolution monitors or even multi-monitor setups for better pixel density or better angles, respectively.
Con: Power and Heat
When you put in another component that is going to pull in power and pump out heat, things can get pretty hot. If you decide to run SLI/Crossfire, you'll need an adequate power supply, good case air flow, and possibly even good room air flow to make sure the cards can breathe in their new setup.
Pro: Badass Kudos
Let's face it, SLI and Crossfire looks awesome. It's definitely something you can show off and brag about, despite what some may think. It's awesome that there are not one but two graphics cards in your machine, side by side, allowing you two do things people with a single card could only dream of.
The last thing you'll want to be weary of is compatibility. While the amount of games with SLI/Crossfire support increases almost monthly, it could take until the next driver update or game patch to enable SLI/Crossfire, meaning one or more of your cards could just be left doing nothing, wishing it could join in the fun.
So, when should you use SLI or Crossfire? The consensus seems to be when a single card will not cut it. High Resolution gaming, hardcore 3D rendering, and graphics heavy applications seem to be when SLI and Crossfire are needed. The pros don't outweigh the cons, and vice versa. You have to give something up in order to get the best performance your setup can get. If you want to game at 4k, SLI and Crossfire might be right for you.
Are SLI and Crossfire any different, you might ask? Well, yes, in fact, they are. But I think we'll save that for another day.
What do you guys think? Is SLI/Crossfire a great way to boost performance, or should you opt for a single processor solution? Let me know in the comments.