How to Build a Quad SLI Gaming Rig
The launch of GeForce GTX 590 brings with it the ability to build a Quad SLI gaming PC – four GTX 500 GPUs combined to deliver some wicked FPS. The system requirements of Quad SLI may not be for the faint of heart, but if you have the budget and the skills to build a Quad SLI rig, then you’ll end up with the sweetest PC on the block.
To help you get started we’ve outlined the essential components needed for a reliable and fast Quad SLI dream PC, and some system design considerations you may wish to consider.
The Shopping List
Of course, you’ll need two GeForce GTX 590 graphics cards. With SLI, you can mix graphics card manufacturers, so one GTX 590 card from Firm A, and a second GTX 590 card from Firm B is AOK.
GeForce GTX 590 in a Quad SLI configuration requires a SLI-certified motherboard with an extra PCIE slot between the two, double-width cards to ensure both receive enough cool air. If you’re water cooling the cards, you can get by without this extra slot, but for air-based cooling it is a necessity.
The clear air between the two GeForce GTX 590 graphics cards ensures that thermal performance remains within acceptable limits.
Quad SLI certified motherboards that have the correct connector spacing for use with dual GTX 590s are as follows:
- ASUS Maximus III Extreme
- ASUS P6T7 WS Supercomputer
- ASUS P8P67 Deluxe
- ASUS P8P67 Pro
- ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution
- Asus Rampage III Extreme
- ASUS Rampage III Formula
- ASUS Sabertooth P67
- DFI LanParty_DK_P55_T3EH9
- EVGA P55 E658
- EVGA X58 FTW3
- Gigabyte GA EX58 Extreme
- Gigabyte GA-P55-UD5
- Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD5
- Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD7
- Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7
- Gigabyte GA-X58-UD9
- MSI Big Bang – Trinergy
- MSI P67A-GD65
- MSI X58 PRO-E
With the combined power of four GTX 500 GPUs, Quad SLI can be easily bottlenecked by the central processor. Therefore, it’s important in this case to have a fast CPU to get maximum performance. Core i7 CPUs with Turbo Mode enabled are highly recommended, and for even better performance, you may even want to consider overclocking your processor.
Operating a Quad SLI GTX 590 system requires a power supply that has four 8-pin PCI-Express supplementary power connectors, each of which must receive 150 watts. Because of the complexity of designing, building and ensuring that the power supply meets these necessary requirements, NVIDIA works directly with power supply manufacturers to certify their products for Quad SLI use. The list of power supplies certified for use with a Quad SLI GTX 590 configuration is as follows:
- AcBel PC8055-000G 1100W
- Antec HCP-1200
- Corsair AX1200
- Nexus RX-1.1K Gold
- Silverstone ST1500
- Thermaltake Toughpower W0171 1500
A good computer case provides the proper airflow for cooling the graphics cards, without sounding like a jet engine. The optimal chassis has multiple fans that draw in cool air and push out hot air, with a large fan positioned on the door or side panel to blow cool air over the graphics cards. The case must also support an 11 inch graphics cards. As with the power supplies, NVIDIA works with manufacturers to ensure that their cases are certified for use with Quad SLI configurations, and as of today the list of certified cases is as follows:
- Coolermaster HAF X
- Silverstone Raven RV02
- Thermaltake Element V
While the right case and air-cooling setup can result in low temperatures in a Quad SLI PC, water cooling can take thermal performance to the next level, resulting in an even cooler, quieter system that can be heavily overclocked. We’ve worked with several of the top water cooling companies in the world to build custom water blocks for the GeForce GTX 590, including:
System RAM / Operating System
For the best performance possible in a Quad SLI configuration, 6GB of system memory is highly recommended, and because of this the use of a 64-bit operating system is required. Windows 7 64-bit is recommended, though Windows Vista 64-bit will also suffice.
System Design Considerations
Now that you have all right hardware to build your Quad SLI system, here are a few tips for building your rig:
1) Cable management
Keep your power and SATA cables tidy and out of the path of airflow between the system fans and the graphics cards. The same applies for hard drives, optical drives, and any other cables.
2) System fan settings
Check your BIOS to make sure your system fans are set to high to maximize thermal performance, or enable PWM-cooling so your system remains quiet when idle, but cranks up the fans automatically when heat levels rise. Utilities like SpeenFan can allow you to dynamically control your system fans based on the temperature of the GPUs.
Make sure you have the latest BIOS firmware for your motherboard - important updates may be available that improve PCI Express and SLI performance, or enable compatibility with new components.
Finally make sure to grab the latest driver for GTX 590 Quad SLI support.
With the correct Quad SLI-certified components and some basic system-building skills, you should be well on your way to a having a great Quad SLI gaming PC, capable of playing games at the highest possible quality settings and resolutions. Have fun!