For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it into a Seasonic Power Angel. For idle numbers, we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and recorded the measurement. For load numbers, we measured the peak wattage used by the system while running the game World in Conflict at 1920×1200 with very high graphics quality.
Power Consumption Results: When it comes to power consumption the ATI cards use less idle and load. Power consumption varies from game title to game title, but this is a good idea of how much power will be consumed at load.
NVIDIA has done a great job with Quad-SLI and with some driver improvements it should only get better. The XFX GeForce 9800 GX2 graphics cards running in a quad-SLI showed increased performance in every application we tested versus a single GeForce 9800 GX2, which is something that can not be said about the ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 as they had some driver issues on Tomb Raider: Anniversary. We almost didn’t include Tomb Raider: Anniversary in our testing, but our two store-bought DVD versions of Bioshock say they have been installed too many times, so this game was a last minute addition. If you were wondering where BioShock wasn’t included you can thank the idiotic DRM they use, which limits you to five installs (SecuROM, please respond to our emails). Overall, Quad-SLI is impressive, but mostly on older game titles. We played a bunch of older game titles like The Sims 2, Quake 4, Doom 3 and Star Wars Legos without finding any issues with Quad-SLI. This is good news and far better than when Quad-SLI originally came out back in 2006.
After spending some time with both CrossFireX and Quad-SLI testing it is obvious that both seem to leave us a little disappointed when it comes to gaming performance on the game titles that need the most help. The game that needs the biggest boost in performance in Crysis and neither ATI or NVIDIA seem to be able to offer a solution that can run Crysis with ‘very high’ quality settings at 1920×1200. One would think that two $589 XFX GeForce 9800 GX2 video cards in Quad-SLI along with a $1,059 Intel QX9650 processor, a $372 eVGA 790i Ultra SLI motherboard and two $608 Corsair DOMINATOR 1800MHz C7 memory kits would be able to play a video game at 24″ LCD monitor resolutions with no AA or AF enabled. With the test system going north $5,500 after you add the LCD monitor, power supply, water cooler, hard drives, case, cooling fans and optical drivers into the equation it makes it hard to suggest going with a platform like this unless you have some serious coin and to be honest many do. What’s an extra $589 to someone that just spent $5,000 on a system? If you’re going to go big grab an extra XFX GeForce 9800 GX2 video card and make it a Quad-SLI system. You’ll have bragging rights and have the envy of all your friends. The rest of the World can ponder which GeForce 9600 GT or GeForce 8800 GTS 512 the need as they are half the price and pack a serious punch!
Legit Bottom Line: NVIDIA has done a great job with GeForce 9800 GX2 in Quad-SLI, but at nearly $1200 it will be reserved for enthusiasts with deep pockets that stop at nothing to get the most in gaming performance.