Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi3 Review

by Charles P. Jefferies Reads (72,204)

by Charles P. Jefferies

The X205 is Toshiba’s top shelf gaming notebook, featuring single or dual Nvidia GeForce graphics cards and an expansive 17-inch widescreen display. The SLi3 unit tested here today has dual 8600M-GT video cards with 256MB of video memory each. The focus of this review the SLI technology and how much of a difference it makes.


Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi3 dual graphics gaming notebook (view large image)

Our review unit is configured as follows:

 

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 (2.2GHz/4MB L2/800MHz FSB)
  • 17-inch WSXGA+ TruBrite glossy widescreen display
  • Dual Nvidia GeForce 8600M-GT graphics cards with 256MB each
  • 2GB DDR2-667 RAM
  • Two 160GB 5400RPM hard drives (non-RAID)
  • HD DVD-ROM/DVD Super Multi drive
  • harman/kardon speakers and subwoofer
  • External USB HD TV tuner

The Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi3 retails for $2,499 and is available at a variety of retailers. An important note, this review will focus only on the gaming and performance aspects of the Satellite X205-SLi3. If you would like to read more about the overall physical quality, ports selection and screen related analysis please view the original Satellite X205 Review.


Satellite X205-SLi3 lid (view large image)

Nvidia SLI – is it worth getting?

SLI technology harnesses the power of two graphics cards by linking them together. Before reading the benchmarking section of the article, those unfamiliar with Nvidia SLI Technology should see Nvidia’s website for more information. According to Nvidia, up to a 2X increase in performance can be gained if the game being played supports SLI.

Is SLI technology worth the extra money? That is a good question because there are many games on the market that do not support SLI. I benchmarked a selection of the latest games to see how much of a difference SLI made.

Toshiba currently sells two versions of the X205; one series (reviewed earlier here) has a single 8700M-GT (30 – 40% more powerful than a single 8600M-GT), and the other X205-SLi3 being tested in this review has dual 8600M-GT cards. The fundamental problem with SLI is that if the game being played does not support SLI, then only one of the cards will be used, therefore giving the performance of only a single card. In a situation like that, having a single more powerful card would be an advantage because the performance would be higher. Given that the models carry similar pricetags, which X205, single graphics or dual graphis, is the better choice for today’s gamer?

The Benchmarks

Benchmarking notes: All benchmarks were performed with the system plugged into AC power. I removed all bloatware on the system and minimized the number of running processes. I defragmented the hard disk drives and ran Windows Update. The video drivers used are the Nvidia 169.09 beta. All games tested were patched up to the latest version. Game benchmarking was done with FRAPS: http://www.fraps.com/

All game benchmarks were done during actual in-game play for 60 seconds. All FPS are rounded to the nearest tenth.

I used the following titles for testing:

  • Crysis
  • Call of Duty 4
  • Half-Life 2: Lost Coast HDR Demo
  • Quake Wars: Enemy Territory
  • Unreal Tournament 3 Demo
  • Soldier of Fortune 3: Payback

Let the games begin!

Synthetic Benchmarks

3DMark06

 

SLI Enabled

SLI Disabled

3DMark06 Score (Marks)

6,479

3,738

SM 2.0 Score (Marks)

2,966

1,553

SM 3.0 Score (Marks)

2,645

1,352

Return to Proxycon (FPS)

22.9

12.2

Firefly Forest (FPS)

26.5

13.7

Canyon Flight (SM 3.0)(FPS)

22.7

11.7

Deep Freeze (SM 3.0)(FPS)

30.2

15.3

Take a look at those numbers! The SLI score is about 73% higher than the non-SLI score, which is extremely impressive and while not the 2X performance increase Nvidia claims is possible, certainly impressive.

Below is a comparison of the Satellite X205-SLi3 performance in 3DMark06 to other gaming notebooks, including the Satellite X205 with the Nvidia 8700M-GT graphics card:


Notebook 3D Mark 06 Results
Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi3 (Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 2.00GHz, Dual Nvidia GeForce 8600M-GT with 256MB each) 6,479
Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi3 (Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 2.00GHz, Nvidia GeForce 8600M-GT 256MB with SLI disabled) 3,738
Toshiba Satellite X205 (Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 1.80GHz, Nvidia 8700M-GT graphics card) 4,734
Alienware M9750 (Intel Core 2 Duo T7600 2.33GHz, Nvidia go 7950 GTX video cards with 512MB) 7,308
Sager NP9260 (2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E6700, 2x Nvidia GeForce Go 7950GTX video cards with 512MB DDR3) 9,097
Alienware m5790 (1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1800 256MB) 2,625
WidowPC Sting D517D (Core 2 Duo 2.33GHz, Nvidia 7900GTX 512MB) 4,833
Apple MacBook Pro (2.00GHz Core Duo, ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 128MB) 1,528
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB) 2,183
ASUS A8Ja (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 512MB) 1,973
Dell XPS M1710 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7900 GTX 512MB) 4,744

 

Crysis

Crysis is one of the newest first-person shooters on the market, and arguably the most demanding.

I used the following settings for benchmarking:


Main Settings (view large image)


Advanced Settings (view large image)

 

 

SLI Enabled

SLI Disabled

Minimum FPS

15.0

10.0

Maximum FPS

36.0

23.0

Average FPS

24.1

14.9

When multi GPU support is enabled in Crysis, there is a substantial improvement in performance. The game goes from playable to unplayable when dual video cards are enabled. The average framerate when SLI is enabled increases by 61.7%.


(view large image)

Call of Duty 4

Call of Duty 4 is another recently-released first-person shooter with a high level of graphics detail and intense action. I used the following settings for benchmarking:


Call of Duty 4 Settings (view large image)

Note that I enabled dual video cards when SLI was enabled and disabled it for the single card benchmarking.

 

SLI Enabled

SLI Disabled

Minimum FPS

27

26

Maximum FPS

94

78

Average FPS

53.5

42.7

There is a small improvement enabling SLI in Call of Duty 4, but the difference is not earth-shattering and not nearly the difference we should be seeing with SLI enabled. The average framerate only increased by 25.3%, well under the improvements we saw in 3DMark06 and Crysis. Fortunately, both the single- and dual-card setups were able to produce fluid framerates.


(view large image)


(view large image)


(view large image)

Half-Life 2: Lost Coast

This is an older game but has a good built-in benchmarking utility. This was the only game where I used built-in benchmarking tools provided with the game. I benchmarked with the following settings:


HL2 Settings (view large image)

 

 

Average FPS

SLI Enabled

SLI Disabled

0X AA

113.5

90.8

2X AA

111.0

79.5

4X AA

95.7

59.8

The SLI technology definitely went to work in this game, but the difference between one and two cards was not drastic. Without AA, the average FPS was only 25% higher, but when the AA was increased to 4X the FPS was 60% higher. Fortunately, both the single- and dual-card setups are able to produce more than playable framerates.


(view large image)

 

Quake Wars: Enemy Territory

Quake Wars is a recently-released first-person shooter with demanding graphics. It is primarily an online multiplayer game. I benchmarked with the following settings:


Quake Wars basic settings (view large image)


Quake Wars advanced settings (view large image)

 

 

 

SLI Enabled

SLI Disabled

Minimum FPS

32.0

10.0

Maximum FPS

64.0

30.0

Average FPS

52.2

21.8

SLI makes an enormous difference in this game, more than doubling all the framerates. SLI is the difference between a playable and a non-playable gameplay experience at these settings. Most impressive!


(view large image)


(view large image)

 

Unreal Tournament 3 Demo

UT3 is the much-anticipated successor to UT2004. It is graphically demanding and takes advantage of a dual-core processor.

Benchmarking settings:


UT3 Basic Settings (view large image)


UT3 Advanced Settings (view large image)

 

 

 

SLI Enabled

SLI Disabled

Minimum FPS

15.0

16.0

Maximum FPS

40.0

42.0

Average FPS

27.5

28.2

Unfortunately UT3 does not appear to gain any performance improvement from enabling SLI. I found that the game actually ran smoother with it disabled.


(view large image)


(view large image)


(view large image)


(view large image)

 

Soldier of Fortune 3: Payback

Soldier of Fortune 3 is a brand new game based on the Havok physics engine. The game looks similar to Call of Duty 4 and proved to be as demanding.

Benchmarking settings:

 


(view large image)

 

 

SLI Enabled

SLI Disabled

Minimum FPS

11.0

14.0

Maximum FPS

32.0

39.0

Average FPS

20.0

23.2

SLI technology actually made Soldier of Fortune 3 run worse; I can safely make the assumption that this game does not support SLI technology. At the settings I benchmarked, the game is choppy.


(view large image)


(view large image)

 

All Games Overview

Below is a chart of the average FPS of all the games I tested added up. I used the average FPS for the 4X AA benchmark of Half-Life 2: Lost Coast.

 

SLI Enabled

SLI Disabled

Performance Increase from SLI

Average FPS

273.0

190.6

43.2%

 

SLI Enabled Games Overview

Below is a chart of the FPS of only the games that showed a noticeable increase from enabling SLI.

 

SLI Enabled

SLI Disabled

Performance Increase from SLI

Average FPS

225.5

139.2

62.0%

 

Using only the benchmarks from the SLI games, the increase is more substantial. SLI technology can do wonders for framerates if the game supports the technology.

Below are images showing the average temperature readings from the X205-SLi3 listed in degrees Fahrenheit:


(view large image)

(view large image)

 

 

Conclusion

Overall, the effectiveness of SLI technology is hit or miss. While it has plenty of potential as seen in Quake Wars: Enemy Territory and 3DMark06, the difference simply does not add up on the whole. One-third of the games I tested did not show any gain from enabling SLI and from those that did, only one showed a performance increase matching what Nvidia claims is possible (2X). Other games showed at best a 60 to 70% improvement (which is still impressive). The point is, do not expect an SLI gaming setup to literally double framerates.

As I stated at the beginning of the article, Toshiba sells two series of the X205 gaming notebook; one has a single 8700M-GT card and the other series, tested here, has dual 8600M-GTs. A single 8700M-GT is 30 to 40% faster than a single 8600M-GT on average. From looking at the all games average FPS table above, the 8700M-GT should be on par with the SLI setup for the games I tested from an overall FPS point of view. The performance of a single 8700M-GT would be considerably better than the 8600M-GT SLI setup in games that do not support SLI and therefore would provide a better gaming experience.

To those looking at the SLI notebooks, base your buying decision on the games you are playing. If only a few support SLI, then it would be best to get the non-SLI notebook with a stronger single video card. If the majority of your games support SLI, then get the SLI setup because it can do wonders for framerates.


LEAVE A COMMENT

0 Comments

|
All content posted on TechnologyGuide is granted to TechnologyGuide with electronic publishing rights in perpetuity, as all content posted on this site becomes a part of the community.