When discussing the perfect gaming computer in the mid-2000s, gamers often imagined a top-tier Intel CPU with at least 16GB of RAM and a staggering four premium GPUs. These graphics cards support Nvidia SLI or AMD CrossFire technologies.
However, over 20 years later, no one talks about this type of sheer strength. Instead, the focus is on high-end GPUs, bitcoin, and 4K TVs.
So, what exactly happened? Are multi-GPU configurations still worthwhile for gamers? Let’s look at the advantages and negatives to determine whether it’s still worth the money.
The Pros of Multi-GPU Gaming Systems
A GPU is particularly built to handle massive amounts of graphical data. As a result, if you’re a gamer, you’ll require a good video card in your gaming setup to provide high-quality visuals. However, from the mid-2000s to the mid-2010s, gaming growth outpaced hardware capability, resulting in even the most powerful GPUs unable to enable high-FPS 4K gaming.
As a result, several gamers designed PCs with two or more GPUs. Here are two major benefits that multi-GPU machines provide.
Better Resolution, Higher Frame Rates
Your computer may share the workload across the video cards by adding two or more GPUs. This method enables your PC to handle more data, enabling you to have a higher resolution while yet keeping fast frame rates.
High-FPS 4K gaming, for example, needs at least a 3060 Ti or 2080 Super. However, in a YouTube video, DudeRandom84 shown how to run Grand Theft Auto V on extreme settings in 4K. This was in 2017, almost a year before Nvidia released their RTX GPUs.
DudeRandom84 powered his system with two Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti GPUs coupled through SLI and an overclocked Intel Core i7-7700K.
You’ve Got a Backup GPU
Another benefit of having several GPUs is the availability of a backup card. If one of your video cards fails, you may still play games on the other while waiting for the damaged GPU to be repaired or replaced.
Furthermore, multi-GPU configurations are significantly more beneficial in professional settings. If you’re a researcher, video editor, or have any application that demands a lot of computational power, using several GPUs will allow you to do your task considerably quicker than using just one card.
Multi-GPU PC Drawbacks
While having many video cards increases power, it’s not all flowers and sunshine. Multi-GPUs have their own set of challenges to address before installing a second GPU.
GPUs Are Expensive
Prior to the 2020 pandemic, most GPUs were reasonably priced. The Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti, for example, has an SRP of $699. However, if you get two of such cards, you must pay $1,398.
Prices, however, had shifted dramatically by 2022. Forget about the GPU scarcity in 2021 and early 2022; the Nvidia RTX 3090 and Nvidia RTX 3090 Ti cost $1,499 and $1,999, respectively. So, if you want two RTX 3090s, you’ll have to fork out about $3,000.
Multi-GPU Computers Consume a Ton of Electricity
GPUs are among the most power-hungry components in any computer. If you’re using an RTX 3090 Ti, the GPU has a 450-watt TDP, which is more powerful than certain power supplies. If you want to install two of these cards, you will need at least a 1,300-watt power supply to accommodate both GPUs as well as your CPU and other components.
Given that these cards currently require 450 watts apiece, they will produce a same amount of heat. As a result, you should anticipate the area where your computer is to get quite heated. This implies you’ll need to invest in an air conditioning or heat exchanger machine if you don’t want to overheat while gaming.
Multi-GPU Systems Require Specific Video Cards
If you’re updating your gaming PC, you may be tempted to keep your old GPU. But it’s not quite that straightforward. Multi-GPU systems typically need GPUs of the same model and series. So, if your current PC has a Radeon RX580 and you wish to connect the R9 390 GPU from your previous gaming system, it won’t work.
Cards of varying performance levels may function together in certain instances, but the lower-performing GPU will limit the faster card. The RTX 3090 Ti, for example, could hypothetically be linked to the RTX 2080 Ti. However, you aren’t getting the most out of your faster GPU since the older card is bottlenecking it.
Your Games Must Specifically Support Multiple GPUs
Assume you’ve finally installed two RTX 3090s on your PC and are ready to put them through their paces with your favorite games. However, it is not as simple as just opening your favorite title. You must first determine if it supports multi-GPU technology.
Grand Theft Auto V, for example, operates easily with it since it includes in-game support. Other games, such as Forza Horizon 5, do not support this at all. If a game requires DirectX 9, 10, or 11, you may still play it by getting driver profiles from the maker of your GPU.
But, if the game you’re playing uses DirectX 12, it must natively support multi-GPU technology. Otherwise, the game will only use one GPU in your system. The rest will stay idle while you’re playing.
Some games which support multi-GPU systems also require complicated setups. Furthermore, there are times that titles with multi-GPU support end up with poor performance, like frame drops and stuttering, due to poor driver implementation.
So, Should You Use Multiple Graphics Cards for Your Gaming PC?
The short answer is: no. Given the pros and cons above, investing in two or more cards doesn’t make sense unless you use them professionally. If you have specialized software that processes billions of data points or hours of 4K video, then multi-GPU systems have a place in your workflow.
However, multi-GPU gaming systems are simply done for good. That’s because newer GPU models, architectures, and technologies are more than enough to deliver ultra-quality gaming with high frame rates. Even current mid-range GPUs like the 3060 Ti can now perform as well as last-generation enthusiast cards.
If your job necessitates such a machine and you like gaming, then go ahead and get a multi-GPU PC. However, installing a second GPU into an already strong machine is a waste of money. The increased cost—$2,000 for the 3090 Ti—is not worth the improved performance.
Be a Wise Gamer
If you have an infinite budget, you may add a second (or third, or fourth) GPU to optimize your system’s potential power. But that’s all it is: potential. No other game, present or previous, makes use of that much power. So, unless you’re utilizing your beast of a PC for business, you don’t actually need another GPU to game at the highest quality possible.
Instead of spending $2,000 on a second card, why not upgrade your peripherals? For that kind of money, you can acquire a large 4K or 8K monitor, some high-speed SSDs, gaming keyboards and mouse, a slew of gaming controllers, wheels, and throttles, and even a full VR system to boost your immersion.
You’ll even have enough money left over after setting up your system to treat yourself to a great supper.
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