Graphics, Hardware

nVidia Officially Confirms Return of SLI to AMD Platform

Director of technical marketing at nVidia, Mr. Tom Petersen today confirmed in a blog post, that SLI will be opened up on AMD 9 series chipsets. This is the official confirmation for what we reported about almost a month ago.

Petersen acknowledges that a lot of gamers requested SLI to be enabled on current AMD platforms again. He also mentions that back in the day AMD offered great high-end CPUs, but that the company lost mindshare with gamers once Intel started to outperform them. For this reason nVidia licensed SLI only for Intel chipsets. Now with the competitive landscape changing the company decided to welcome users on the AMD platform again. This and some other recent moves in the industry prove there is a lot of momentum surrounding the upcoming high-end desktop CPUs dubbed AMD FX.

It should be mentioned, that nVidia’s SLI technology debuted on the AMD platform when the nForce 4 SLI chipset was launched for Athlon 64 CPUs. Following a courtship by Intel, the comapny also released an Intel version of the chipset. Back then SLI was enabled on nVidia chipsets (and some select Intel workstation chipsets) only. This went on for some time until two things happened. Merger between AMD and nVidia failed (2005) and AMD went on to acquire ATI Technologies, with AMD platforms became less interesting for nVidia due to Intel’s performance leadership from 2006 until today. On the other hand, Intel denied nVidia a license to offer updated chipsets for their Nehalem and contemporary CPUs. Fast forward to today, nVidia was forced out of the chipset business and now is receiving large sums of money from Intel.

Tom also pointed out, that based on the Steam Hardware Survey between more than 35 million gamers – about 93% of all multi-GPU setups are based on their SLI technology. So business-wise the decision to open it up to a greater audience makes perfect sense. However nVidia failed to acknowledge that in March 2011 – about 28% of gamers used processors from AMD according to the same survey. Considering AMD’s current x86 market share, this is a solid number and can be explained by AMDs very competitively priced offerings that are popular among buyers looking for a steal.

Those people hoping for SLI support on previous AMD chipsets will be disappointed though. Due to the way SLI licensing works this is not going to happen. nVidia charges $5 per mainboard sold with official SLI support. Enabling SLI on AMD 7xx/8xx chipsets would mean retroactively licensing SLI, something that simply is out of the question even though technically possible. Instead the company announced that SLI has been licensed to major mainboard vendors for their upcoming AMD 990FX, 990X and 970 chipsets. Tom explicitly mentions ASUS, Gigabyte, ASRock, and MSI in the blog post. Interestingly since our report, apparently support for the 970 chipset has sneaked in.

By the way, with this move nVidia was faster in confirming AMDs upcoming chipsets than the creator itself.