XBit Labs reports that by the end of this year, there will be some mobos capable of handling multiple video cards.
The article makes the assumption that this technology will be aimed at getting extreme extortion from extreme gamers. If you can get %500 from some with more sense than money, why not $1,000?
No doubt this is just what the component manufacturers have in mind.
However, technology has a way of being used to follow agendas others than those initially intended.
Why Not Two Cheap Cards?
If this technology works at all reasonably well, and given that this capacity is built into the latest video specs, would it not be at least possible for two lower-end cards to outperform one high-end one?
Instead of looking upon this being a situation where a $1,000 purchase beats a $500 purchase, why not look upon this as a chance to make a $300 purchase beat a $500 purchase?
Obviously, the $1,000 solution will still win, but given the performance level of the latest video cards, it’s hard to see how the $1,000 solution would help you kill any better than the cheaper approach, or offer anything more than subtly better eye candy.
Block and Hack
I doubt that the video card manufacturers are unaware of this. I doubt even more they like this idea.
Any multiple video card arrangement is going to require rather more complicated drivers to make this work. One might think it would be simple enough to write these more complicated drivers for just the high-end cards, and that’s probably what nVidia and ATI will do.
However, it’s one thing not to invite people to the party; it’s quite another to keep them from crashing it.
Both nVidia and ATI have been writing broad-based drivers usable across much of their product line. Sheer inertia will be a factor in keeping things that way.
More importantly, though, it’s hard to see how they can conveniently AND effectively block any video cards using the same GPUs as the big boys from the action.
They could do a castration act for chips meant for lower-end cards, but I doubt the third-party video card makers would like that very much. The reference design could in some way block it, but as we’ve already seen, such limitations in reference designs can be and are ignored by at least some of those video card makers.
In all likelihood, any blocking will be done on the driver/BIOS level, and since there are already more than enough people hacking those now, enabling the cheap cards for dual action ought to be a bump, not a block.
The Mobo Matters, Too
Getting dual video cards to work is not just a video card issue. The mobo has to be ready to do this, too.
Unlike PCI, all PCI Express slots are not created equal. At least initially, there will be x1 and x16 slots. Put simply, x16 slots are meant for video cards, x1 slots are meant for everything else. x16 slots are much longer than x1 slots.
To get dual-action to work, you need two x16 slots, and most early PCI Express mobos will only have one x16 slot.
So if you’re going to do this, or even think you might do this, you must make sure any PCI Express mobo you buy has two x16 slots.
If you don’t, well, you will have just wasted at least $100. You’ll be calling your mobo a mofo, but in reality, you’ll be the mofo (and a really dumb one at that).
The New Paradigm: Noah’s Ark
The high-end PC is turning into Noah’s Ark. Everything is getting paired up.
First, we had dual-channel memory. Next will come what is effectively dual-channel memory. After that will come dual-core processors.
This ought to tell you something. The high-end PC is evolving into a different species than the mainstream PC.
Introduction To Humanity
Something that never ceases to amaze me are the number of people who think that everyone else on the planet thinks and feels the same way about computers that they do. They think I’m crazy whenever I say otherwise.
I shake my head and say to myself, “Do these people live in a bubble?” Have they ever even met an average computer owner, like family members?” You see some comments from people, and you’d think their grandmother writes Linux drivers while watching the soaps.
I could write a bunch about this, but rather than doing that, just consider this:
Neither Grandma nor Dad nor Mom nor the guy at the bowling alley are going to pay more to get a dual-core XPU, dual-channel memory and video system when they can get something cheaper which will suit them just fine.
There’s at least twenty Grandmas or Dads or Moms out there to every one of you, and, take my word for it since you obviously haven’t noticed, but the odds that Grandma or Mom or Dad will share your passion for a killer game machine are about as long as them sharing your interest in the latest underground indie band or tattooing or nose rings. Really.
If you want to see what computing will look like, just go to the Dell site and look at desktops. A Dimension 2400 is already a rather different beast than a XPS, and the difference is going to grow, not shrink in the years ahaed.
More importantly for you, there’s a considerable price gap between the 2400 and XPS, and that’s going to grow in the years ahead too.
Grandma wants a cheap PC. She’ll get it. You want more, you’ll get it, too, but it will cost you.