NVIDIA breaks down and allows for SLI/Crossfire compatibility on X58 motherboards

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It hasn’t been a good year for NVIDIA.  Chipset failures, extra warranty claims, fierce competition from ATI…they all add up to decreased profit expectations and trepidation on the part of buyers.  Then came the news that they weren’t able to get the okay from Intel to manufacture Nehalem-compatible chipsets.  This is obviously bad news for any enthusiast who wants to run SLI with Intel’s new processor line.  It’s no surprise, then, to see the big green take a 180 and allow SLI support on non-proprietary chipsets.

Originally, NVIDIA had decided to allow SLI only on motherboards that carried its proprietary chipsets.  Forcing board partners to use NVIDIA’s technologies allowed the chipmaker to tightly control who could offer SLI technology.  It also granted them a second revenue stream: license fees stemming from the sale of their graphics card technologies as well as license fees and chip sales resulting from the sale of SLI-supported motherboards.

Intel fought back in its way by not granting NVIDIA a license to use its QuickPath Interconnect technologies, a necessity for NVIDIA to be able to effectively compete in the release of the Intel Core i7 platform line.  NVIDIA countered this by offering the nForce 200 bridge chip; manufacturers who licensed it could enable SLI on any motherboard without the need for an entire NVIDIA chipset.  For a while it was uncertain how it would shake out: would Intel cave first, or would NVIDIA? 

As it turns out, NVIDIA waved the white flag and has decided to allow the implementation of SLI on select upcoming X58 boards.  It comes with a caveat, however, in that manufacturers must supply NVIDIA with hardware units for testing and certification.  Certification will only be granted if the board follows a list of specifications, including board layout, slot placement, etc.  Since it is no longer forcing its nForce chips on board makers, certification will not come free, or likely even cheap.  Manufacturers whose products pass inspection and pay the fees will be given a fingerprint to be placed in the BIOS; NVIDIA’s ForceWare drivers will check for the presence of this fingerprint, and, if found, enable SLI. 

Apparently NVIDIA is well aware that enthusiasts will likely find a way to hack the BIOS of their motherboards and place the data from a licensed board therein such that lower-cost, unlicensed products will still be able to take advantage of SLI technology.  It’s not worried, however, saying that their concern is centered on the stability and quality of products featuring SLI technology (a.k.a. license fees from board partners). 

This is good news for hardcore gamers who want the freedom of choice to go with the solution that fits them best, and now they can, since Intel’s X58 gaming boards will allow both SLI for NVIDIA cards and Crossfire for ATI cards.  The X58 boards will launch with the rest of Intel’s Core i7 line this fall.

This is good news for hardcore gamers who want the freedom of choice to go with the solution that fits them best, and now they can, since Intel’s X58 gaming boards will allow both SLI for NVIDIA cards and Crossfire for ATI cards.  The X58 boards will launch with the rest of Intel’s Core i7 line this fall.

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