Nvidia Adapts SLI Technology For AMD Chips

Computer motherboard makers can use Nvidia's SLI technology to boost graphics processing on systems that use AMD's upcoming FX-series processors.

Chandler Harris, Contributor

April 29, 2011

3 Min Read

Nvidia confirmed Thursday it is licensing its Scalable Link Interface (SLI) technology to motherboard manufacturers for use with upcoming Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) CPUs.

This will allow Nvidia to expand its GPU market to motherboards that run AMD's upcoming FX-series Bulldozer processors, including the Zambezi processors, which are expected to launch soon. It will also create another market for AMD's new chips.

Nvidia's SLI connector is a proprietary link between GPUs that transmits synchronization, display, and pixel data. The SLI connector enables inter-GPU communication of up to 1 GB per second. SLI is primarily used for high-end gaming that requires high bandwidth processing of graphics. SLI is licensed to motherboard companies that will soon use AMD's 990FX, 990 X, and 970 chipsets. Asus, Gigabyte, ASRock, and MSI are among the first motherboard manufacturers to offer this new capability, and more are expected in the coming months, Nvidia said in a blog post.

The move is in direct response to requests from gamers that have been asking for AMD chips for their gameplay, said Tom Peterson, director of technical marketing for Nvidia's Gforce business. Previously, gamers could only use Intel chipsets in order to bring two Nvidia cards together in a SLI configuration.

"For years we've been getting requests from system builders and gamers to have our SLI compatible with AMD CPUs," Peterson said in an interview. "We resisted and didn't think there was much of a demand. But that is now changing and it is primarily because of gamers looking for good values to make that happen."

In the past, Nvidia has felt that AMDs chips simply weren't powerful enough for modern gaming, so it only licensed SLI for motherboards with Intel chipsets. Yet Nvidia has been hearing reports that the upcoming AMD Bulldozer chips will be a force to be reckoned with, especially when it comes to gaming.

AMD's next generation FX-Series processors with the Bulldozer micro-architecture and x86 cores are expected to offer substantial performance improvements for high-performance desktops, workstations, and servers. They are even expected to compete with Intel Core i-series "Sandy Bridge" CPUs.

It wasn't that Nvidia was opposed to having its SLI compatible with AMD's chips, but that the ROI for creating that compatibility didn't make sense, Peterson said. Now it does.

"AMD hasn't been super competitive in the last couple years; it has a reduced share in the high-end CPU market," Peterson said. "This is the first real opportunity we've seen that it could be different. When AMD comes out with a faster processer, suddenly we had to come back and think about it. This time we thought the right thing was for our customers to be able to use the new AMD processor in our SLI."

Nvidia's SLI Zone website claims: "By investing in SLI instead of an overrated CPU, you get a faster gaming PC for less money. So while your opponents may feel indestructible showing off their "cool" new CPU, that will all change when they're crying for mercy after you've wrought destruction on them, their convoy, and all of their special forces."

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