After much consideration, I have decided to put my PS4 dreams on hold and (once again) renew my membership to the PCMASTERRACE. My current system includes:
ASUS Z87-A mobo
Intel i7-4790 CPU @ 3.60GHz
GeForce 970 GPU
ASUS 27" 144Hz primary monitor
Windows 10 Home
Note that I don’t overclock anything. I’m also using air cooling. That’s just how I am.
I would like a little more power out of the build. The only option available was to get a new GPU else I would have to get a new motherboard and start over with processor, etc. I feel like there’s still some life left in this system (the mobo, RAM, case and monitor are almost 2 years old) so I opted for the GPU. Rather than spend the money on a new 980Ti, which would be $625+, I decided to purchase another 970 for half the price. I once said I would never again use SLI in a single-monitor setup but I thought I would give it another try. This has allowed me to collect some comparison values.
All tests were conducted at max settings for each game unless otherwise noted. Frames-per-second (fps) were measured using Nvidia Shadowplay because I’m cheap and lazy. These tests were performed quickly, over a short time span, and mainly for the lulz. I also downloaded a (likely spyware-infested) GPU monitor for this.
single 970 75-80 fps
970 SLI ~80 fps
Dirty Bomb is listed as an SLI game on the Nvidia website. Reddit tells me that Dirty Bomb is actually terrible with SLI. Can confirm. But GPU monitor showed the SLI temp around 63C while playing.
single 970 100-110 fps
970 SLI 100-170 fps
Borderlands was a mess. Frames varied on a whole new level once I added the second card. I hope that was due to the age and simplicity of their game engine. Pretty sure Battleborn uses this same engine (recommended GPU is a GeForce 660). Temps ranged from 69-73C at 25% fan speed.
single 970 ~70 fps
970 SLI ~100 fps
Temps stayed around 72C with a 30% fan speed. Not much else to report.
single 970 55-60 fps (high settings)
970 SLI 90+ fps (high settings)
I was given a free copy of The Division for purchasing the GPU. The game recommended high video settings (as opposed to ultra) so I used those for the test. I consistently had 75-78C temps on the main GPU at 40% fan speed. But the game did look pretty. I might try raising to ultra settings and see what happens.
single 970 ~90 fps
970 SLI 125+ fps
Overwatch seemed to do rather well once I properly set the SLI profile (did not use “Nvidia recommended”). I don’t think I ever dropped below 125 fps. Temps generally stayed below 75C but would occasionally rise above for brief periods when action would get slow. I assume the fans would decrease speed and this caused the momentary rise in heat.
So what does all this mean? Is SLI a viable option?
My initial goal was to find a cost-effective solution to maximize my current system and achieve frames-per-second near 144 (refresh rate of my monitor). I believe I have found that by adding a second GeForce 970 to my build. For half the price of the 980Ti I have increased fps on some of these games by 40% or more. The big win is to maintain framerates above 60 which I think is easily attainable.
The main point here is that I already owned one GeForce 970 card. If I had owned a lesser card I definitely would have spent the money on a 980Ti.
But I do not feel that SLI is the bad thing many people feel it is. When I first installed the second card I had an issue where my Nvidia control panel disappeared. I had to reinstall the drivers with only one monitor hooked up (little bit of voodoo) to make it work again. So far I have had no other problems.
Maybe I will revisit this thread in a couple weeks and update on how these SLI cards are doing. Dark Souls 3 comes out on Tuesday and I assume it will support SLI. That might be a great test for the setup.