While we were out in Germany at CeBit 2005 from 10th to 14th March, we spotted an interesting world-first 'digital' SLI bridge on MSI's stand
. It allows switching between SLI modes via the motherboard's BIOS with no user interaction required at all.
You can literally uninstall your current video card drivers, and replace the single card with a pair of SLI-ready video cards and boot straight in to Windows. After installing the video card drivers again, you will then be able to use the video cards in SLI mode without ever needing to enter the motherboard's BIOS menu. If you just want to use the standard 8x / 8x PCI-Express lane configuration with two video cards installed there is no need to enter the BIOS. However, there is the option to enter the BIOS should you want to change the configuration of the PCI-Express lanes.
This is great news, because it means that there is minimal user configuration required in order to enable SLI. There's no need to unscrew your motherboard from the case; there's no need to remove the primary video card to insert a second, matched, video card; and of course, there are no jumpers required to change SLI modes.
We know that ASUS have already got a similar solution in the works for their A8N-SLI Premium motherboard, but we understand that this is the first 'digital' solution, of many, for the Intel version of the NForce 4 SLI chipset. Now, the pedants amongst you will realise that the term digital switch
relates to nothing more than a discrete switch - all current SLI implementations use a discrete switching device of some description. However, the current SLI switches that we have seen on the four AMD-based NForce 4 SLI motherboards are known as hard switches, as they require user interaction. Thus, we would rather refer to the switch as a soft or electronic switch.
We hope to bring you a review of the Intel version of NVIDIA's NForce 4 SLI chipset, and this motherboard, over the coming weeks - for now, we will leave you with some high-resolution shots of the SLI bridge.
- Tim Smalley.