The History of Multi GPU graphics cards
Since the 90s there are graphics cards with more than one GPU. PC Games Hardware takes a look at the famous and unknown multi GPU graphics cards.
When exactly the first dual or multi GPU graphics card was introduced to the market is a question of interpretation. PC Games Hardware just starts with the Voodoo graphics that cause a furor in fall 1996. One Pixel-FX and one Texel-FX each made the Voodoo "1” the first dual GPU card in a broader sense. It was succeeded by the Voodoo 2 (with SLI option) and the Voodoo Rush. The Voodoo5 6000 had been the crown of 3dfx's multi GPU development although it never hit the market.
Ati and Multi GPU
Ati's multi GPU entry in the desktop market was the Rage Fury Maxx in 1999 - the card failed to succeed because of poor driver support for Windows 2003 and XP. The next attempt came several years later in form of the Gecube X1650 XT Gemini (two X1650 XT chips) in late 2006 for example. After customers saw some more cards in the next years (based on two X1950 or HD 2600 XT chips) the HD 3000 provided a base for several dual GPU graphics cards in 2008. Up to now there models of the HD 3850 X2, HD 3870 X2, HD 2850 X2 and the HD 4870 X2 of course.
Nvidia and Multi GPU
It has been rather late before Nvidia also jumped on the multi GPU bandwagon and initially it had even been projects of the board partners only. In 2005 Asus presented the Geforce 6800 GT Dual at the Cebit, but the card never reached the retail market in big numbers. Several solutions based on the Geforce 6600 with two GPUs followed. After that Asus' Geforce 7800 GT Dual became one of the early dual GPU cards that actually were introduced to the market. At the Cebit 2006 Nvidia finally came up with the Geforce 7900 GX2 with onboard SLI. Almost at the same time as the 9800 GTX Nvidia introduced the Geforce 9800 GX2 which actually was able to beat the Radeon HD 3870 X2 in most cases. In January 2009 the Geforce GTX 295 was released. The card with its sandwich design had been Nvidia's first desktop card that exceeded the one TFLOPS limit and was supposed to win the performance crown back from the Radeon HD 4870 X2.
Multi GPU Exotics (selection)
Besides 3dfx, Ati and Nvidia there are other companies that introduced multi GPU graphics cards to the market. One of the most famous is the XGI Volari V8 Duo. But unfortunately the card that was supposed to take the lead in the graphics card market in 2007 suffered from driver problems, had a huge power consumption and was comparatively slow. Another exotic device is the Quantum 3D Obsidian X24. Anyone with enough money could run two 3dfx Voodoo2 cards in SLI, but the 3dfx subsidiary Quantum introduced SBSLI - Single Board SLI - which was quite useful if you ran out of PCI slots.
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