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Guyver1

Everything You SHOULD know about laptop SLI

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Guyver1

Its been 3 months since I received my brand new, top spec, top of the line, premium SLI enabled gaming laptop from Alienware, the brand new Aurora m9750. Fully spec'd out, this was top of the line in terms of components (apart from RAID). When I first received the laptop I was hugely impressed, until that is I tried to update my graphics cards drivers. Now before I go on, anyone who is a hardcore/competitive gamer knows how important keeping your GFX drivers upto date is, increased performance and compatibility in new game releases, general bug fixes, game specific bug fixes and new SLI profiles and SLI driver code improvements/features/updates.

Anyone who has actually gotten their hands dirty inside their PC tower, tweaking, changing hardware, overclocking, BIOS tweaking etc. etc. understands what a crucial role drivers play in a smooth running PC.

Nvidia's SLI technology comes directly from their acquisition of 3dfx's Scan Line Interface tech. For a god write up on 3dfx you can read the wiki article here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3dfx

Both nVidia's and ATI/AMD's SLI/Crossfire tech comes directly from 3dfx's original SLI technology, but the algorithms used are different (and one would assume, now much more advanced).

I wont bore you by repeating widely available information on what SLI is or does, there are countless articles outlining how SLI works etc. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scalable_Link_Interface )

This article is about SLI on laptops. More specifically this article is about what your NOT told about SLI on laptops that could influence whether you would even spend £2000+ ($4000+) to actually buy one.

Let me re-iterate, at NO point was any of what follows available on any laptop manufacturers website, nor was it available on nVidia's website.

Currently nVidia do not produce a competitive notebook chipset, and as such laptop vendors are left with having to use chipsets such as Intel's i945/i965 chipset. The problem here is that SLI doesn't work on anything other than an nForce chipset..... well... actually, that's what nVidia would like you to believe. The reality is that SLI will actually work on any PCI Express chipset. To protect their technology, nVidia put hardware locks into their chipsets and software locks into their drivers to stop SLI being enabled on non SLI. From my own research and help from others, it would appear that part of the nForce SLI chipset is nothing more than a hardware 'dongle', similar to the parallel port dongles Autodesk used to use with their AutoCAD software. With AutoCAD, when you start the software, the exe sends a request to the parallel port to get a response from the dongle, if it gets the correct response, the software is allowed to load and the user can then use AutoCAD. If no response is received from the parallel port because there is no dongle, then the software is aborted and cannot load. Hackers can get around the dongle by hacking and re-compiling the files that look for the dongle and simply remove it our of the start-up process.

With nVidia it would appear to be a similar scenario, when you install the latest forceware drivers the driver installation program sends out a request to the chipset expecting a specific code response, when it gets the appropriate response then the SLI code is enabled and SLI is then installed correctly and the customer can then make use of the power of 2 GPU's. If the driver does not detect the appropriate code response from the chipset then the SLI code is not installed and the SLI portion of the nVidia control panel is either missing totally or you get a message like this one:

sli_disabled_message.jpg

Uli got around this 'dongle' lock by doing exactly what hackers did to Autodesk code, they hacked the nvidia drivers to by pass the chipset checks and unlocked the drivers to successfully get SLI running on non nVidia nForce chipset hardware. There were also other hacks that got SLI working on any chipset: http://3dgpu.com/archives/2006/03/02/sli-p...ny-motherboard/

http://www.guru3d.com/newsitem.php?id=3666

This proves that SLI technology is simply a PCI Express based technology and not an nVidia chipset specific tech as nVidia would like you to believe.

To get round this problem in laptops, nVidia entered an agreement with other chipset vendors (such as Intel for the Alienware m9750) and produced the n100 chip. The n100 chip allows SLI to 'work' on a non nVidia nForce chipset. End of story I hear you say.... no.. sadly far from it, and this is where it gets messy. To actually get SLI working with a non nForce chip and the n100 chip nVidia have to supply laptop vendors with specially unlocked driver code via a DDK (Driver Development Kit), what this means is that nVidia have to write special one off driver code for a given driver version, pass that onto the specific laptop vendor, the laptop vendor then has to build their 'version' of the driver build to include code specific to their laptop models (generally compatibility switches, power saving features etc.).

The problem here is that nVidia only appear to do this at the request of a laptop vendor. They don't update this DDK code in tandem with their regular Forceware releases. What this means is that anyone buying a laptop without an nForce chipset is at the mercy of the laptop manufacturers driver department. What that means is that if you buy a top spec, £2000+ premium your not going to be able to update your drivers, you are going to be stuck on woefully out of date drivers with out of date SLI profiles, out of date driver code, out of date SLI features/enhancements (Alienware's drivers are now some 8-9 months out of date!!)

Given that the majority of games cant use SLI correctly without a SLI profile seems like utter lunacy. Add to that the fact that 9 month old drivers will struggle and suffer on new releases (Bioshock, Crysis, UT3, etc. etc.) and you have a brand new premium AAA laptop that's only really good for playing games that are a 6 months to a year old (if you buy a laptop with a screen that can run at 1920x1200 with 2 GPU's, its not unreasonable to expect to be able to play your games at the native resolution).

Many people who have owned and do own laptops know what an invaluable service the LaptopVideo2go website provides. Their modded inf files allow laptop users to install the very latest Forceware drivers to gain the maximum in compatibility and performance. When I first began my SLI laptop journey and having owned an Acer 9300 with a Go 7300 GPU I naively assumed that I could simply use the modded inf's and enjoy the latest Forceware drivers. It was not to be.

Phoning Alienware tech support was a waste if time, I was told that drivers were coming and that I would get an email when they were released, at no point was I told the whole story, and that drivers would only be released when Alienware felt there was a serious enough incompatibility problem to request updated DDK code from nVidia so they could then put together a new driver package. As of now Alienware feel that their 'fastest gaming laptop on the planet' £2000+ premium AAA+ product and the customers who bought one can plod along quite happily on 9 month old drivers with no way of updating them. nVidia obviously seem to think that their mobile SLI customers aren't really worth bothering about as their such a small portion of their revenue. Why make a product if your not going to bother supporting properly/appropriately for the market your selling it to???

After lots of research and help from other enthusiasts it did become apparent that there is a 'hack' that can at least get you the SLI profiles from newer release forceware drivers onto the old outdated drivers that the laptop vendors supply as part of their DDK licence. It involves extracting 2 .xml files from the latest Forceware drivers and overwriting the .xml files supplied in your laptop vendors driver set. But this has to be done before the drivers are installed. As most people only find out about this after they have installed their drivers, this means that they have to do all of the above, plus unistall their existing drivers, reboot into safe mode and use one of many 3rd party applications to clean out the remaining registry entries and files left behind by the nVidia uninstall process. Then reinstall the original drivers with the new .xml files.

While this can improve performance for some games it still doesn't provide the updated driver code/performance enhancements and general bug fixes provided by newer 'official' driver releases. More importantly its appalling that paying customers should have to go to such lengths to get what should be provided by nVidia and the laptop vendors from the very outset. Being a hardcore gamer doesn't not automatically make you a techno 'geek' who's comfortable or even knowledgeable enough to start hacking up driver installations. Most people expect things to work straight out of the box, when they install something they don't expect to have to create a 'Frankenstein monster' just to install the latest drivers.

So to sum up:

1.If you want SLI, get a laptop that has a genuine SLI nForce chipset

2.If you want to be able to have control of what drivers you can use, be able to use the latest Forceware drivers with all the benefits that come with updated driver code, make sure the laptop has a genuine nForce SLI chipset.

3.nVidia have to supply DDK driver code to vendors before they can update their SLI enabled drivers.

4.Laptopvideo2go modded inf files don't work, its the actually driver code that locked, its not an inf 'switch' that you can turn on or off.

5.While you can 'hack' drivers to use the latest .xml profile files from newer Forceware releases, paying customers should not have to resort to 'hacks' of this nature. Paying customers should be supported 100%, with the same equality and respect as customers who buy single GPU solutions or desktop SLI solutions.

For me personally this whole situation is a mess, its incredibly poor customer support to produce a product and then not support it appropriately for the very market its sold to. PC gaming is at the cutting edge of technological advancement and while SLI technology for laptop users has some special constraints compared to desktop users (thermal and space being the prime constraints), paying customers who invest a substantial sum of money in something that is advertised and marketed as the best of the best should receive the best of the best in support and should not be relegated to second class citizens once they've bought the product.

nVidia for all their slick marketing and advertising over their 'unified driver architecture' still refuse to include mobile GPU's in their inf files to allow laptop users to install the very latest Forceware drivers. They also could have made life easier for mobile SLI users by adding the n100 code to their regular Forceware drivers so that at the least SLI users could use a modded inf and get working SLI.

Laptop vendors are equally guilty in that they put all their effort into getting you to part with an enormous chunk of your hard earned cash, and deliberately leave out pertinent information regarding your purchase. Had I known before I purchased my m9750 that I would be stuck on 9 month old drivers with no way of updating them or having absolutely no control over what drivers I could use, then quite simply I wouldn't have bought it. After reading up more and more on SLI and SLI performance over the last 3 months it is even more clear to me know that SLI is simply not mature enough as a technology even for desktops, let alone notebooks.

Nvidia's 'logic' of SLI needing 'profiles' is counter productive and relies on their driver team spending the time writing profiles, when surely it could have been much better for the games themselves to handle SLI so that each game publisher could control how well their game worked with SLI, and letting nVidia provide some fall-back SLI methods for games that didn't have SLI code. SLI performance itself is very hit and miss, some games scale incredibly well, while others scale very badly, When you pay this much money, it would be nice if the technology you bought was at least consistent.

nVidia should, in a utopian ideal, be updating their n100/DDK driver code as part of their normal every day driver development. Everytime they release a new beta driver, the DDK code should have already been done and sent to the laptop vendors so they can then add the .inf lines that are needed for their particular laptop models(that way everyone gets the same drivers on the same release schedule that nVidia use). Ultimately there's no technical reason why nVidia couldn't do that job either, laptopVideo2go have shown that even part time enthusiasts can add all the .inf tweak for mobile cards and laptops in a very short space of time and keep those .inf files updated on a regular basis.

My advice after 3 months of frustration, think VERY very long and hard about whether you need a SLI configuration. Read and read and read every single review you can find that has benchmark results, check the games you actually play and are going to play in the immediate future and check how well SLI scales on those games, ignore benchmarks of games you will not or don't play as the results are irrelevant. All that matters is what you WILL play.

Secondly, Ask yourself, if you really do want SLI because your game base scales very well to warrant the purchase of the second card; do you REALLY need/want a laptop? Are you really that stuck for space? Do you really travel and game that much that you absolutely need to get a laptop? Would you be better off with a Shuttle or a small form factor mini ATX type setup? Do you really want a £2000+ machine that's un-updateable? Would you be happy being stuck on 9 month old drivers? Would you be happy paying a premium for what amounts to 3rd class driver/customer support?

If nVidia and Laptop vendors actually made all this information available before you paid for your laptop on their websites, would you actually buy it? Chances are, no you wouldn't, you would think a lot longer and a considerable percentage of the target market would be put off by not having any control of what drivers they can use and stick with a single GPU solution or go back to a desktop SLI setup.

My opinion, if you want to play the new up and coming titles such as Crysis, UT3, COD4, etc. etc. at framerates that are considered appropriate and at the resolution you expect from such a high end machine, stick with a desktop solution, If you absolutely have to have a laptop, make sure its got a genuine nForce SLI chipset, otherwise stick with a single GPU solution and avoid the sheer headaches and frustrations I've suffered in the last 3 months.

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Guest laberlaber

ok, i have an nforce based sli chipset, and therefor im not suffering that much on this problem.

but i can abolutely not undestand the driver and support policy of nvidia and alienware. by selling their products as dedicated as gamingmachines at the absulute premium (price-) marketsegment im abolutely unsatisfied with their after-sales support.

talking to them on the outdated driverproblem and many other issues is just a waste of time.

to me its quite clear: never ever, under no circumstances i would ever spend my money for buying their products.

//i wouldnt have spent my money, if i knew that their just a division of dell.

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Guyver1

let me try and illustrate how serious this is by the use of a simple motor car analogy:

Alienware are the 'supercars' of the laptop world in a similar fashion that Ferrari or Lamborghini are supercars.

Every retail road legal car on the planet allows the paying customer to go to a garage and fill up their own car with fuel. It is the customers choice when they do this and they can use any garage they like.

Now, imagine that you bought a brand new Ferrari, the most awesome new production model,thats been getting rave reviews, you go along to the dealer, take it for a test drive, you love it, it does everything you imagined it would do. You pay your hard earned money and drive away from the dealership a very happy bunny, they've even filled the tank up for you.

1 week later your running a little lowon fuel so you decide to go to your local garage to fill up. you release the petrol cover lid, take the pump, go to put it in the hole only to realise the pump doesnt fit, your car's been fitted with a special F1 car type nozzle that requires a special piece of re-fuelling kit. Obviously a bit bemused by this you phone the dealer and they say 'yes due to the unique fuel system and fuel tank on the car it needed a special fuel cap, you'll have to bring the car back to our dealership garage everytime you want to refuel as Ferrari will only allow dealers to use the special pump nozzle technology'

You then go back and forth arguing that they should have told you that vital bit of information BEFORE you bought the car, they argue that. hey its just fuel, your not paying any extra for it, you just have to come to our dealership for it.

If you'd have known this vital information before buying the car would you have bought it? HELL NO!

This is exactly the scenario with SLI tehnology on laptops.

Every single nvidia user on the planet can pop along to nvidia.com and download the latest forceware drivers whenever they want and install them whenever they want. SLI users on dekstops or laptops with genuine nForce SLI chipsets can do the same(the practice of using normal forceware drivers and a modded inf from laptopvideo2go can be likened to the car being fited with a special fuel nozzle that can be bypassed by buying a small adaptor from any high street motoring shop, the adaptor fits onto your car and then allows you to fill up your car with fuel as normal, at any garage, whenever you want). Laptop SLI users who have a hybrid chipset cannot, and they are not told they cannot before they make their purchase. This is misrepresentation.

People take drivers for granted, you buy any piece of hardware for a PC, and it is a natural process that the manufacturer keeps their drivers updated on their website, you pop along to said website every now and again to check for new releases,you download and install them and life goes on and its a very transparent, simple process. Even with laptops this process is identical, you find out what hardware your laptop has,then pop along to all the relevant websites to check for updated drivers. This is how its been and how it always will be.

Imagine if a car manufacturer actually did they above, there would be uproar, heads would roll, there'd be court cases all over the place. Just because the market is smaller for SLI laptops doent make misrepresentation any less important or serious.

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Guest clinton
let me try and illustrate how serious this is by the use of a simple motor car analogy:

Alienware are the 'supercars' of the laptop world in a similar fashion that Ferrari or Lamborghini are supercars.

Every retail road legal car on the planet allows the paying customer to go to a garage and fill up their own car with fuel. It is the customers choice when they do this and they can use any garage they like.

Now, imagine that you bought a brand new Ferrari, the most awesome new production model,thats been getting rave reviews, you go along to the dealer, take it for a test drive, you love it, it does everything you imagined it would do. You pay your hard earned money and drive away from the dealership a very happy bunny, they've even filled the tank up for you.

1 week later your running a little lowon fuel so you decide to go to your local garage to fill up. you release the petrol cover lid, take the pump, go to put it in the hole only to realise the pump doesnt fit, your car's been fitted with a special F1 car type nozzle that requires a special piece of re-fuelling kit. Obviously a bit bemused by this you phone the dealer and they say 'yes due to the unique fuel system and fuel tank on the car it needed a special fuel cap, you'll have to bring the car back to our dealership garage everytime you want to refuel as Ferrari will only allow dealers to use the special pump nozzle technology'

You then go back and forth arguing that they should have told you that vital bit of information BEFORE you bought the car, they argue that. hey its just fuel, your not paying any extra for it, you just have to come to our dealership for it.

If you'd have known this vital information before buying the car would you have bought it? HELL NO!

This is exactly the scenario with SLI tehnology on laptops.

Every single nvidia user on the planet can pop along to nvidia.com and download the latest forceware drivers whenever they want and install them whenever they want. SLI users on dekstops or laptops with genuine nForce SLI chipsets can do the same(the practice of using normal forceware drivers and a modded inf from laptopvideo2go can be likened to the car being fited with a special fuel nozzle that can be bypassed by buying a small adaptor from any high street motoring shop, the adaptor fits onto your car and then allows you to fill up your car with fuel as normal, at any garage, whenever you want). Laptop SLI users who have a hybrid chipset cannot, and they are not told they cannot before they make their purchase. This is misrepresentation.

People take drivers for granted, you buy any piece of hardware for a PC, and it is a natural process that the manufacturer keeps their drivers updated on their website, you pop along to said website every now and again to check for new releases,you download and install them and life goes on and its a very transparent, simple process. Even with laptops this process is identical, you find out what hardware your laptop has,then pop along to all the relevant websites to check for updated drivers. This is how its been and how it always will be.

Imagine if a car manufacturer actually did they above, there would be uproar, heads would roll, there'd be court cases all over the place. Just because the market is smaller for SLI laptops doent make misrepresentation any less important or serious.

Wow, i did nt realise any of that stuff was true. So in short which laptop would you recomend?

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Guyver1

honestly, none

for gaming i've come to the realisation that no laptop is suitable (for my needs as a competitive gamer)

I'm going back to a desktop, where i have control, and the best performance.

if you REALLY REALLY need/want a laptop for any reason, and you want SLI make sure its got a genuine nForce chipset and the vendor isnt tied into using DDK 'locked' drivers. Phone them before purchase and make sure you get a technical/correct answer from them (prefereably an official written response). If your serious about spending £2000+ on a premium high end gaming laptop then theres nothing wrong with getting official answers before you buy to make sure your getting exactly what your expect.

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Guest Guest vwcalbug

is the new m9750, with the 8 series cards, is that genuine nForce? Would that make these problems "go away"

-Justin

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Guyver1

the m9750 does not use a genuine nForce SLI chipset

it uses an Intel 945 chipset with an nvidia n100 chip to allow SLI to work. (irrelevant of whether it has a 8 series GPU or the 7950 GTX)

if you mean the brand new Alienware models yet released here:

http://www.alienware.com/intro_pages/m17x_m15x.aspx

there's not enough official info released yet to confim what chipset its using.

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whitetigerx7

There are actually very few laptop vendors that use Genuine NForce SLI chipsets in their designs. Most laptops than come with Intel CPUs can be guaranteed not to have an NForce chipset due to Intel forcing the Centrino specification down on laptop vendors. Most AMD Sempron, Athlon64, and Turion64 CPUs use NForce chipsets by default due to Nvidia pushing maximum support out to AMD (which oddly is their biggest competitor in the graphics market thanks to the ATI branch of AMD).

Alienware is not actually the "dream car" of Laptops. Alienware is owned by Dell and Alienware models are actually repackaged Dell XPS laptops and desktops. They use the same hardware, same customer service, and same designs.

This is the ONLY known NForce using laptop at this time:

http://www.malibal.com/products/laptops/veda.shtml

Malibal's Veda uses the NForce 4 SLI chipset with twin GeForce Go 7800s, Go 7950s, or Quadro FX Go 1400s as of the current design. No word yet on if they plan to start using the NForce 610M/630M/650M lineup with the GeForce 8x00/9x00 series.

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Grey728
is the new m9750, with the 8 series cards, is that genuine nForce? Would that make these problems "go away"

-Justin

I own an m9750 and yes, there are problems installing drivers, but if you are a little tech savvy and can install drivers and follow directions, it's not too bad. I definitely wouldn't recommend it though if you're new to windows and are scared to touch settings.

The drivers now DO work across all intel laptops with the nv100 chip. They work with Alienware's m9750 as well as Sager/Clevo 9261. They all work with new drivers now.

In fact, the ones that have the most trouble with drivers are the ones with true Nforce chipsets. I wouldn't recommend an nForce chipset laptop because it would most likely have and AMD chip in it. Since AMD bought Ati last year, AMD is now in direct competition with nVidia which may affect they're decision on future driver support. It would actually be more in Nvidia's interest to support intel and whatever bridge chip they decided to use.

There are still reasons why you should avoid an SLi laptop such as is it's HUGE cost to own and the con's of owning an SLi laptop so far outweigh the pros. Heat, virtually no upgrade ability, etc come immediately to mind, but video driver support, no problems there thanks to Laptopvideo2go.com and the fine work they do.

Instead of coming here to seek advise on SLi laptops from people who don't own the laptop, you should try another forum like Notebookreview.com and ask there. There's a lot of misinformation that passes here on these SLi forums and unless someone is specifically talking about drivers, whatever is said should be taken with a huge grain of salt. FACT: Dell does own Alienware. FALSE: Alienware laptops are rebranded XPS Dell laptops. That's just bias and misinformation. The m9750 is based on a laptop made from a Taiwan company called Arima, not a Dell rebrand. Another fact is that while Dell owns Alienware, they largely stay out of Alienware's way and let them be their own entity. Also, I've NEVER seen an Alienware laptop that looked remotely looked like a Dell laptop. Ever. It's not the same, nor is the service.

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whitetigerx7

However there is one problem yet to be seen so far.

SLI support is currently supported in Nvidia's BETA drivers for a reason. They are testing them on various platforms including laptops. Official driver sets with WHQL certification are not going to carry nForce-100 chip support. When these BETA series of drivers come to a halt in releases for a period of time, you will see less and less SLI support except through vendors only.

My advice is either genuine SLI or just get the most powerful single chip you can get anyway. SLi does have problems with games still and it's really hit or miss with compatibility. My advice if you want the best laptop... get one with the 8800M GTS/GTX in it.

As for the Nvidia vs AMD issue... actually AMD platforms have had the most success with genuine nForce. In fact some of the most recent SLI products with the best equipment are aimed right at AMD. AMD and Nvidia have had an unofficial truce of sorts for now with chipsets because they have supported AMD so much in the past. It was actually the nForce 1 and nForce 2 chipsets that saved AMD after Intel had the Pentium 4 crawling all over the Athlon XP/MP series. the nForce chipsets released the power of AMDs processors to their fullest by supplying the best performance on par with VIA with the stability of SiS chipsets at the time. In fact it was VIA that nearly killed AMD with bad and unstable chipsets and horrible drivers. Nvidia was what saved their butts.

Edited by whitetigerx7

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Grey728
Official driver sets with WHQL certification are not going to carry nForce-100 chip support.

And where exactly do you get this information from? Unless you work for nVidia or know someone that does, I highly doubt this is true. If you really want to get technical about it, ALL laptop drivers are essentially performed in this way and we're at the mercy of laptopvideo2go to provide us with .inf to allow us to use new drivers. There is seldom ever an official driver release from a vendor for laptops and this includes desktop cards as well.

Nvidia has already released a WHQL candidate to become official non-beta drivers. Granted, this is primarily for desktops, but if the official WHQL driver gets certified, and Laptopvideo2go makes an .inf that does work for people on laptops which in turn works for SLi laptops, does that still count?

AMD basically screwed themselves by purchasing ATi. You're absolutely right that it was the nForce chipset that pretty much saved AMD by giving them a stable platform for their CPUs, but I'm sure AMD will focus more toward ATi's Crossfire platform now. There's no reason for AMD to go with an nVidia chipset unless it's for SLi and that's in DIRECT competition with their Crossfire platform. It's like asking intel to make a chipset to work for AMD chips. It's just not going to happen. Bad move on AMD's part but oh well, their choice. As for upcoming AMD platforms with an Nvidia nForce chipset, it's virtually non-mainstream now. You listed one vendor supporting an nForce chipset with an AMD chip. If more come out, then I'm obviously wrong on this, but it makes much more sense business-wise to support intel despite using a bridge chip.

Edited by Grey728

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whitetigerx7

History tends to repeat itself with drivers. Official drivers that are released have never supported the nForce-100 SLI-to-SLI bridge. They won't do it now or ever.

This is why Nvidia has license agreements with various vendors who did not chose to use NForce products with GeForce products for SLI with the nForce-100. Vanilla WHQL official drivers will not carry the code because of this agreement. Vendors will therefore have to provide the drivers they are given or choose to get from Nvidia at intervals with the code compiled at at build time.

As stated earlier their is not magic INF switch that controls SLI. It's "in the driver itself" and if the driver doesn't contain the code, it will not use SLI if operated in a non-nForce chipset environment. As I stated above BETA drivers ALWAYS have had many things included in them that are not normally in drivers because they use these drivers on desktop, workstation, and mobility platforms to test them thoroughly before pushing a Release Candidate to Microsoft for WHQL certification.

AMD really didn't screw themselves by purchasing ATI at all. They actually did themselves a favor in the long run. While Forbes and other analysts have said the purchase was too expensive and they overpaid for ATI as a whole. AMD now has a fulltime subcompany that can produce in-house chipsets just like AMD originally used to do before they solely concentrated on CPUs. Should they chose to fully support Crossfire is up to them but for now AMD owes a lot to Nvidia and Nvidia has offered some of it's best products for AMD only platforms.

Edited by whitetigerx7

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Grey728

I wouldn't knock SLi support based on history. It's relatively new and laptops with SLi have only been around for roughly 1 year, at most 1.5 years. This also isn't an argument over innovation so I really don't need the history lesson, but thanks. From a business perspective, sure, AMD owes nvidia a lot, but it doesn't mean nvidia has to play nice to AMD particularly at this point in time. They have very little if any reason to support AMD now and there is no cush 'help the little guy' touchy feely stuff here in silicon valley. AMD purchased a direct competitor of nvidia. There's no reason why nvidia has to support AMD in any way at this point in time, not through drivers, not through chipsets, not through anything.

You really want to believe that after the drivers become official nvidia will just take out support of this bridge chip. I highly doubt it and there's little if any reason to even believe in this theory. The support is relatively new as only the newest betas (most likely mid to post October) gave support.

The only history that's going to repeat here is the one of growth and maturing hardware; perfecting the technology so-to-speak and it has nowhere to go but up.

Of course, between you and me, only time really can tell who's right and wrong on this. We'll see when official WHQL drivers come out from nvidia and see if those support SLi or not with our bridge chips.

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whitetigerx7
I wouldn't knock SLi support based on history. It's relatively new and laptops with SLi have only been around for roughly 1 year, at most 1.5 years. This also isn't an argument over innovation so I really don't need the history lesson, but thanks. From a business perspective, sure, AMD owes nvidia a lot, but it doesn't mean nvidia has to play nice to AMD particularly at this point in time. They have very little if any reason to support AMD now and there is no cush 'help the little guy' touchy feely stuff here in silicon valley. AMD purchased a direct competitor of nvidia. There's no reason why nvidia has to support AMD in any way at this point in time, not through drivers, not through chipsets, not through anything.

You really want to believe that after the drivers become official nvidia will just take out support of this bridge chip. I highly doubt it and there's little if any reason to even believe in this theory. The support is relatively new as only the newest betas (most likely mid to post October) gave support.

The only history that's going to repeat here is the one of growth and maturing hardware; perfecting the technology so-to-speak and it has nowhere to go but up.

Of course, between you and me, only time really can tell who's right and wrong on this. We'll see when official WHQL drivers come out from nvidia and see if those support SLi or not with our bridge chips.

Need I and Guyver remind you that Nvidia "licenses" it's nForce-100 chip to vendors at a price. This price includes support for the nForce-100 chip inside a special source tree branch of driver code. To get SLi working on non-nForce chipsets these vendors like Alienware and others MUST pay fees to Nvidia to use SLi on non-nForce chipsets and then Nvidia gives them access to the driver sources to compile and get working.

Not too often do these vendors actually update the drivers because with each update a royalty fee must be paid to get the driver code. This leaves the consumer at the mercy of the vendor entirely for SLi support because Nvidia literally puts it where if you want SLi support for your Intel 945 for the laptop your company designed you must pay a fee and get a chip and then we'll give you the drivers.

This now places Nvidia in full control of how they want to market SLi and which chipsets they wish to allow to work with Vanilla code. As I said, BETA drivers will have this code i them because they are being "tested". BETA drivers aren't official releases. They are released more overly to developers, system testers, and analysts to use in various environments including desktop, workstation, and mobility to determine how code is working and what needs to be fixed. Normal users may use them but benefits are few other than sample, test, and debugging code being turned on.

The BETA drivers code that supports SLi is a "sample code" that was turned on to test applications and games like Crysis using SLi notebooks of various designs with the GeForce 8x00M series and other series they use.

When the BETA driver releases end and Crysis and other applications and games are fully supported as Nvidia sees fit, the SLi code will more than likely be turned off in Official and WHQL releases from their website and vendors will be required to pay royalty and licensing fees to get SLi working again.

It all boils down to the SLi licensing and royalty fee. This is why me and Guyver did some searching to find vendors not only with Genuine nForce series chipsets but also with updated drivers with SLi support turned on and why one of the most recent drivers we could find was from the 156.xx driver series.

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Grey728

By this logic in which you state, bridge chip or Genuine Nvidia chipset, a vendor MUST PAY a royalty fee for the use of the chip regardless of the type. Just because a vendor specifically uses the nForce chipset doesn't mean nvidia will continue to support it without said royalty fee. If this is true, then I can fully understand why the first generation of SLi laptops WITH the genuine nForce chipset is having the most difficulty in regards to installing drivers BETA or otherwise.

Nvidia is not in the business of making motherboards so what makes you think there's a difference in how they support the nv100 chip vs genuine nforce? What makes you believe they will not ask for such a royalty fee to unlock their own chipset for vendors selling said chipset integrated within their systems? Where's this guarantee?

I know you want to believe there's a difference between certified SLi vs guaranteed SLi, but really, where's that written?

If nvidia does in fact operate in this manner then obviously that's pretty low, but not an unheard of tactic. If so then that's the case with ALL chipset types. It's not selective.

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Grey728

Perhaps I should point you to Nvidia's own website. 169.21 are WHQL certified.

http://www.nvidia.com/object/winxp_169.21_whql.html

A few Alienware 9750 owners including myself have tested these drivers out. Unfortunately, despite being certified there are still bugs making it less desirable to install them then the beta 169.09 set.

http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=202449

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whitetigerx7
By this logic in which you state, bridge chip or Genuine Nvidia chipset, a vendor MUST PAY a royalty fee for the use of the chip regardless of the type. Just because a vendor specifically uses the nForce chipset doesn't mean nvidia will continue to support it without said royalty fee. If this is true, then I can fully understand why the first generation of SLi laptops WITH the genuine nForce chipset is having the most difficulty in regards to installing drivers BETA or otherwise.

Nvidia is not in the business of making motherboards so what makes you think there's a difference in how they support the nv100 chip vs genuine nforce? What makes you believe they will not ask for such a royalty fee to unlock their own chipset for vendors selling said chipset integrated within their systems? Where's this guarantee?

I know you want to believe there's a difference between certified SLi vs guaranteed SLi, but really, where's that written?

If nvidia does in fact operate in this manner then obviously that's pretty low, but not an unheard of tactic. If so then that's the case with ALL chipset types. It's not selective.

It's mostly the bridge chip they make vendors pay for mostly because they have to still buy and get rights to use the n100 chip itself on a non-nForce board like the Intel 945 for example. It's not at all a low and seductive tactic. Nvidia owns SLi and when ULi attempted to hack it they broke a law and paid dearly for it.

Genuine nForce boards have SLi built directly into their inner workings. Call it hardcoded if you wish. Intel 945 boards do not have SLi or even CrossFire in them natively. They strictly are PCI-E only. When two GeForce 7600 boards are used for example on a Intel 945, they don't know how to use the motherboard's PCI-E because it doesn't carry native SLi hardware to open the door and allow the boards to communicate with each other. The n100 carries the SLi functions and acts as a translator allowing the door to open and the cards to start communication and enable SLi just like an nForce 4 SLi chipset does natively.

This is where Certified SLi causes problems because most vendors don't tell people that they had to use a secondary chip to get SLi. If you were to take a normal non-SLi Intel 945 with two x16 PCI-E slots and plug twin GeForce 7600s into them and attempt to enable SLi it would fail because no hardware is acting through the PCI-E bridge to process the SLi functions. That's why the n100 came into being because vendors were getting offers for cheaper chipsets from Intel, VIA, SiS, and other rather than use Nvidia nForce which by comparison are much more expensive with Genuine SLi built natively into the chipset without the need for a secondary chip.

SLi isn't even in the GeForce cards themselves. It's actually part of the PCI-E bridge itself, the same as CrossFire. CrossFire is part of ATi's chipsets. If you want CrossFire for your Radeons you will have to get a motherboard with a CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset or similar ATi chipset with CrossFire support.

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Grey728

Two WHQL Drivers known to work and pulled directly off nVidia's website. inf File provided by Laptopvideo to go.

WHQL Driver 163.75 for XP 32-bit

Release Date: November 6, 2007

Functional and proven to work with SLi on an Alienware 9750 Laptop

3dMark06 Orbscore: http://service.futuremark.com/orb/resultan...mp;UID=13133158

16375SLiScreenCapture_2.jpg

WHQL Driver 169.21 for XP 32-bit

Release Date: December 19, 2007

Functional and proven to work with SLi on an Alienware 9750 Laptop

Screenshot to be added later, but I think there's enough evidence out there now that I don't need to do this.

Edited by Grey728

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whitetigerx7

If Nvidia has started to support the n100 officially in Vanilla drivers then it's actually about time, but the long term picture is one you have to think about. Will Nvidia go back to vendor distributed driver only SLi support for n100 using motherboards? The answer is we don't know and since Nvidia does use a chip like the n100 this is why we say be mindful of what you buy, read the labels and get more information, and make absolutely sure you are getting what you are paying for. Support could continue for many releases. Support could end during the next release. The point is "know what you buy and make sure it's properly supported before you buy it" which is why we say go for Genuine SLi only if you can.

I also considered this as well. What about when the n100 or the Intel 945/965 becomes obsolete? What then? Will Nvidia continue to support a chipset or chip for a series that Intel may push under their legacy lineup? Will Intel based vendors pay for the extra cost from Nvidia to even have SLi? No one knows and vendors are always going to go with one of two paths. It simply works or it's more cost effective. This is why most boards in laptops use Intel+n100 based SLi because it was cheaper to afford at the time due to the kickbacks from Intel and cost effectiveness. Now since they have found out the n100 was such a gamble and how people are not getting into SLi outside of Desktops as much SLi is now considered old news. The fact is people are going to buy system that are simpler and easier to maintain. SLi was a fad for laptops and a passing fad at best.

If anything SLi only proved how poorly laptops are designed and how much more design effective desktops are.

As Guyver said. If you want dependable and guaranteed no strings attached SLi you have to get either a desktop unit with an nForce 4/5/6/7 series chipset, or hunt down a rare laptop with a genuine chipset which sadly is only on one known unit that is well showing it's age.

I'm goign to say once Intel sweeps the 945/965 under the rug. Kiss support for the n100 goodbye.

Edited by whitetigerx7

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Grey728
This is the ONLY known NForce using laptop at this time:

http://www.malibal.com/products/laptops/veda.shtml

Malibal's Veda uses the NForce 4 SLI chipset with twin GeForce Go 7800s, Go 7950s, or Quadro FX Go 1400s as of the current design. No word yet on if they plan to start using the NForce 610M/630M/650M lineup with the GeForce 8x00/9x00 series.

I'd be hard pressed to recommend this laptop AT ALL. This technology is based off the first gen laptop and firmly places it in the same category as Alienware's m9700 or an mALX and until I actually see hard evidence out there of people getting newer drivers to work on their system, stay away. Even then, the clock is ticking and you're purchasing roughly 1.5 year old technology. It only takes approximately 3 years to go from bleeding edge top of the line to sub average and the premium price you would have to pay wouldn't be worth it. Even if this laptop was reasonably priced, which I'm sure it's not, the driver issue is still holding this system back and I have yet to see a valid reason/excuse why this Genuine NForce laptop has issues installing new drivers. The only reason I can think of is that nVidia no longer wishes to support any AMD SLi laptop system.

To update people in simple terms of REAL issues:

AMD Laptop with SLi (Genuine nForce Technology) = STAY AWAY until there's proof of new driver installation.

Intel Laptop with SLi (nForce100 Bridge chip) = OK with driver updates so far since November 2007.

In regards to how long a certain technology will be supported is largely determined by the user base, not royalties. If there's enough of an installed user base, nvidia AND the vendors will support the product. This comes from the possible number of consumers who may go from satisfied with their purchase to extremely dissatisfied with large repercussions to their business. Let's take Guyver's experience on this as an example. Due to the fact that drivers were not out in a timely fashion but are out now, will that change his decision on purchasing an SLi laptop in the future? Absolutely not. Alienware has lost his business almost permanently. Multiply that experience by the thousands and you've got a serious business predicament. You can bet Alienware will pay the royalty fees necessary if it has to.

On the other note, let's take Agea's Physics card, which is seemingly good tech and those who first purchased it paid the premium price of $300US dollars. There is currently a VERY low install base and very few developers are even willing to spend the time to code for it. Obviously, customers who do own the card are pissed about their purchase but there's nothing they can do and because the install base is so low, no one cares except Agea.

It is VERY possible that SLi technology could have been an Agea experience, but nVidia took it upon themselves to develop and push the technology. It's not in the hands of developers but in nVidia's. Some people may argue this logic but I think they made a smart decision.

Back to support and reasons why AMD's Genuine Nforce chipset laptops may not be supported. There are roughly only two vendors that supplied such a laptop: Clevo and Arima, two Taiwanese primary distributors who have virtually no mainstream name recognition. The install base is low so it's possible these users will get left behind.

Lets take a look at a laptop with Intel using an Nforce bridge chip: Arima, Clevo are still there, but the big mainstream brands like Toshiba and Dell are now onboard. These two added companies and their sales could make or break SLi support in laptops and I'd wager that support for the nforce100 bridge chip is here to stay.

Edited by Grey728

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whitetigerx7
I'd be hard pressed to recommend this laptop AT ALL. This technology is based off the first gen laptop and firmly places it in the same category as Alienware's m9700 or an mALX and until I actually see hard evidence out there of people getting newer drivers to work on their system, stay away. Even then, the clock is ticking and you're purchasing roughly 1.5 year old technology. It only takes approximately 3 years to go from bleeding edge top of the line to sub average and the premium price you would have to pay wouldn't be worth it. Even if this laptop was reasonably priced, which I'm sure it's not, the driver issue is still holding this system back and I have yet to see a valid reason/excuse why this Genuine NForce laptop has issues installing new drivers. The only reason I can think of is that nVidia no longer wishes to support any AMD SLi laptop system.

To update people in simple terms of REAL issues:

AMD Laptop with SLi (Genuine nForce Technology) = STAY AWAY until there's proof of new driver installation.

Intel Laptop with SLi (nForce100 Bridge chip) = OK with driver updates so far since November 2007.

Actually new nForce drivers were recently released that support not only the new nForce 780i but others as well. Newer drivers than the 15.01s do exist (though the 15.01s are very stable drivers) for installation but you have to manually install them. The 15.08s and newer 9.46 releases all support various nForce 4 series used by Malibal and if the INF Malibal has provided uses either a vendors specific hardware and subsys ID anyone here could take their out of date INF and easily update it. If it uses the vanilla GeForce GO 7 series driver released by Nvidia then the laptopvideo2go.com INF can do just as much if not more.

Do not try and say Intel releases drivers. I and others know them all to well from previous dealings. All they do is release an INF for the original Microsoft drivers with custom switches. Nothing else. Check the driver version number per each driver before and after updating Intel equipment using their INF package. They'll be the exact same numbers.

In regards to how long a certain technology will be supported is largely determined by the user base, not royalties. If there's enough of an installed user base, nvidia AND the vendors will support the product. This comes from the possible number of consumers who may go from satisfied with their purchase to extremely dissatisfied with large repercussions to their business. Let's take Guyver's experience on this as an example. Due to the fact that drivers were not out in a timely fashion but are out now, will that change his decision on purchasing an SLi laptop in the future? Absolutely not. Alienware has lost his business almost permanently. Multiply that experience by the thousands and you've got a serious business predicament. You can bet Alienware will pay the royalty fees necessary if it has to.

On the other note, let's take Agea's Physics card, which is seemingly good tech and those who first purchased it paid the premium price of $300US dollars. There is currently a VERY low install base and very few developers are even willing to spend the time to code for it. Obviously, customers who do own the card are pissed about their purchase but there's nothing they can do and because the install base is so low, no one cares except Agea.

It is VERY possible that SLi technology could have been an Agea experience, but nVidia took it upon themselves to develop and push the technology. It's not in the hands of developers but in nVidia's. Some people may argue this logic but I think they made a smart decision.

SLi is like PhysX. It's a novelty at best but the design is more suited for desktops because SLi on laptops is not that reliable. This is also why I recommend the Genuine nForce to guarantee SLi will have functionality. Most games are coded only for GPUs and single ones at that. Only a few use the PPU of PhysX to offload the CPU and GPU and even fewer truly utilize SLi features to gain the maximum benefits. This is why there are several different modes for SLi.

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Grey728
Actually new nForce drivers were recently released that support not only the new nForce 780i but others as well. Newer drivers than the 15.01s do exist (though the 15.01s are very stable drivers) for installation but you have to manually install them. The 15.08s and newer 9.46 releases all support various nForce 4 series used by Malibal and if the INF Malibal has provided uses either a vendors specific hardware and subsys ID anyone here could take their out of date INF and easily update it. If it uses the vanilla GeForce GO 7 series driver released by Nvidia then the laptopvideo2go.com INF can do just as much if not more.

Noted. I just hope someone WITH and a Genuine nForce Laptop would come here and give some kind of feedback in terms of installing drivers. Believe me, I WANT to see compatibility and I want to see their laptop functioning well in SLi.

Do not try and say Intel releases drivers.

Wasn't trying to imply that. Just stating what laptop types on the market currently work and what don't. My intention was to clarify that intel laptops with this bridge chip work in SLi with the current crop of drivers but I have not seen a positive experience yet with nForce AMD laptops. If I ever see the user "ATi--->nVidia" get his laptop functioning in SLi with new drivers, then I'll believe it. There have been others who have come on here stating it works but did not help "ATi--->nVidia" out nor has it really been quantified.

SLi... is more suited for desktops because SLi on laptops is not that reliable.

That's an oppinion and we don't really know that yet. What works on an SLi desktop should work on an SLi Laptop and what doesn't work on a desktop also doesn't work on a laptop. Only that much is really known so far. The major hurdle of SLi laptops was that of driver updates. With that cleared, more games can be tested and played and better comparrisons can be made.

Most games are coded only for GPUs and single ones at that.

People seem to confuse what goes on with how SLi works and how Dual/Quad Core CPUs work. Game developers code to a platform only, be it Directx or OpenGL and optimize as best they can in that environment. They stay completely away from hardware like SLI or Crossfire or any hardware in general. Of course they have a QA process to test some of the most common setups out there, but SLi is most likely NOT one of them. It's nvidia's responsibility through driver updates and SLi game profiles to implement SLi which is why driver updates are CRUCIAL in an SLi system.

Intels and AMD's approach with dual core CPU's is to let the developer "take advantage" of the cores and use them as they see fit which is much like how Agea did with their Physx card. Unfortunately for Agea, people need a CPU in their rig and not an add-in card. Most games still don't benefit from a computer with 2 cores. If there's any novelty here, it's dual-core and quad-core cpus where you pay for two CPUs but really only utilize one. We really don't have much choice in this matter nor can we make game studios develop better code. There's no doubt in my mind that dual/quad-core benefits multi-tasking such as playing an MMO, whatching a DVD and checking a website simultaneously, but there's virtually no gain in any game I've seen and the benefit has been much MUCH less than SLi. This an oppinion of a GAMER. I don't rip music or do rendering or whatever that really utilizes multi-core CPUs. I'm stricly talking about gaming.

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Guyver1
People seem to confuse what goes on with how SLi works and how Dual/Quad Core CPUs work. Game developers code to a platform only, be it Directx or OpenGL and optimize as best they can in that environment. They stay completely away from hardware like SLI or Crossfire or any hardware in general. Of course they have a QA process to test some of the most common setups out there, but SLi is most likely NOT one of them. It's nvidia's responsibility through driver updates and SLi game profiles to implement SLi which is why driver updates are CRUCIAL in an SLi system.

Again i'll chip in here and say your slightly off the mark again.

Its a known fact from my passion for the Unreal series (which I've been in since the original Unreal back in 98) that PC Development is far more 'involved' for game developers than console development. Every interview i ever read with CliffyB, Jeff Morris, Mark Rein etc continually stated the need to ensure maxmimum compatibility with as much PC hardware as possible to make sure as many people could play their games as possible.

Consoles are a static medium in terms of writing code, the developers know they wont change, they have a fixed performance band in terms of hardware, and they also have a fixed feature set in terms of what that hardware can achieve.

PC Development compared to console development has a HUGE gamut in terms of performance and features. It IS the game developers responsibility to ensure their game can run on as wide a variety of PC configurations as possible to ensure maximim saleability of their game and to achieve as wide a market coverage as possible.

Who do you think buys SLI? Its a gamer specific platform to maximise GAME performance. Game Developers therefore will always have SLI testbeds in their testing and Q&A process to make sure that SLI works.

You need to seperate 2 VERY distinct and very different area's of game development.

1. Engine development - there are very few companies who actually write their own engines, Epic make the Unreal engine, ID make the Doom/Quake engine, Crytek have their engine and the Stalker guys have their X3dr engine, its these people who have the ultimate goal of optimising their engines for SLI modes as they can hard code this support and compatibility at the lowest level in the machine code.

2. Game developers - These people lisence the engines from the people in 1. and then build a game from it. While they can optimise, tweak and change they can only do so much in terms of adding support or optimising for any given featureset such as SLI or HDR etc. They are paying for code already written and can only do so much on top of that. These people WILL have SLI testbeds as do the companies who write the engines.

SLI is a recognised technology from the LEADING GPU manufacturer in the world. These comapines work directly with nvidia on ALL their technology. All these Games compaines will have SLI testbeds because they have to ensure that their games work on ALL possible PC configurations (in the age range of hardware they've decided to support). Granted some compaines have better Q&A than others, but if a company wants to maximise product distribuation and sales then its in their best interests to ensure they produce the best product they can.

Look at Crysis for example, NO SLI support at all in the demo, Retail release has poor SLI support, Crysis forums full of complaints about poor SLI/Crossfire support. Release notes for first patch - Improved SLI/Crossfire support. Its not in any companies best interests to NOT support or cater to SLI technology as its Gamers who buy SLI for a very real performance boost

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whitetigerx7

This is probably also why a good number of BETA drivers rolled out of Nvidia when they did and also why SLi support started surfacing full-time in the 169 series even on non-nForce chipsets. The 169 BETAs were breaking ground never broken into before for developers but users as well with games like Crysis. This is how and why I say SLi/Crossfire is a fad technology now. Yes it can probably open new directions for GPUs and help with rendering times but the true advancement will be the multi-core GPU like most CPUs today are.

SLi/Crossfire still needs to be mainstreamed into not just 5% of games. All games have to start utilizing the technology or else SLi/Crossfire will go the way of the add-on VGA card, multiple GPUs on one PCB, and even the PhysX PPU (only 1% of games utilize it).

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mlee49

I would hope this could be updated sometime soon. I believe there are some new drivers out for the SLI mobile cards.

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