Can You SLI Two Different GPUs?

The simple answer to this question is: yes, you can SLI two different GPUs together.

NVIDIA’s Scalable Link Interface (SLI) and AMD’s CrossFire are prevalent technologies among PC gaming enthusiasts. SLI allows users to connect multiple graphics cards simultaneously to work in harmony, harnessing their combined capabilities for improved gaming performance. 

My name is Ty Robinson. My favorite pastime is tinkering with my gaming PC, and researching new ways to mess with it. In this article, I’ll share my passion with you!

SLI (Scalable Link Interface) is NVIDIA’s multi-GPU technology that enables users to link two or more NVIDIA graphics cards together to work as a single unit. By utilizing 2 GPUs in parallel, SLI aims to increase graphics processing power and enhance performance.

SLI Requirements

To successfully set up an SLI configuration, there are several essential requirements to consider:

Identical GPU Model

SLI typically requires the use of identical NVIDIA GPUs. Mixing different models, even from the same series, can lead to compatibility issues, decreased performance, or even system instability.

The GPUs should be from the same series and have the same specifications, including VRAM capacity and clock speeds.

SLI Bridge

A physical SLI bridge is necessary to connect the two GPUs. The bridge enables communication between the graphics cards, ensuring efficient data sharing and synchronization during rendering tasks.

SLI-Certified Motherboard

The motherboard must support SLI and provide sufficient PCIe lanes to accommodate multiple graphics cards. It’s crucial to check the motherboard’s compatibility list to ensure proper SLI functionality.

Adequate Power Supply

SLI configurations demand significantly more power than a single GPU setup. A high-quality power supply with enough wattage to accommodate both GPUs and the rest of the system components is vital.

Sufficient Cooling

Multiple GPUs will create double the heat, which can heavily impact performance. Great cooling, proper airflow, and even aftermarket GPU coolers are mandatory to maintain optimal temperatures.

SLI with Different GPUs

While SLI traditionally requires identical GPUs, NVIDIA introduced a feature called “SLI with Different GPUs” with the launch of the Pascal series (10-series) graphics cards.

This feature allowed users to combine two different GPUs from the same architectural generation and use them in an SLI configuration. However, it was subject to certain restrictions:

GPU Series Compatibility

SLI with Different GPUs worked best when combining GPUs from the same series, such as a GTX 1070 with a GTX 1080. Mixing GPUs from different generations, e.g., a GTX 980 with a GTX 1070, was not officially supported and often led to unpredictable results.

Performance Disparities

When using two different GPUs, the performance of the slower card would be boosted to match the faster one. However, this meant that the quicker GPU’s potential was underutilized, resulting in a less efficient configuration.

Game and Driver Support

SLI support in games has historically been inconsistent, and with different GPU configurations, this issue was exacerbated. Many games simply did not support SLI with Different GPUs or encountered performance problems when attempting to use it.

AMD’s CrossFire

On the AMD side, CrossFire is the equivalent multi-GPU technology to SLI. Like SLI with Different GPUs, AMD CrossFire also allows users to combine different graphics cards within the same generation. However, the same limitations and considerations apply, including the need for similar GPUs and variable game support.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, while NVIDIA introduced the concept of SLI with Different GPUs to combine two different graphics cards, the technology came with certain limitations and compatibility concerns.

The traditional approach to SLI requires identical GPUs, and even with SLI with Different GPUs, mixing GPUs from different generations or manufacturers can lead to issues in performance, stability, and game support.

If you’re considering a multi-GPU configuration, I highly recommend that you use identical GPUs to ensure the best compatibility and optimal performance. However, keep in mind that multi-GPU setups have become less popular in recent years due to advancements in single-GPU performance and the lack of widespread game support.

As technology evolves, new solutions may arise, but for now, it’s essential to research and choose a setup that best fits your specific needs and budget.

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