Nvidia's Hybrid SLI technology no longer matters

Written by Tim Smalley

February 26, 2009 | 13:39

Tags: #hardware #nforce

Companies: #nvidia

One of those technologies that showed so much promise, but delivered so little last year was Nvidia's Hybrid SLI technology. We covered this in quite a lot of depth even before the actual products arrived. And when they did arrive, they weren't exactly brilliant.

To me, the most interesting part of Hybrid SLI was in fact Hybrid Power, which would essentially allow gamers to switch off their power hungry graphics cards when they weren't being used for gaming or GPU computing and instead use a more power-efficient integrated GPU to drive your display. And it was the one reason to introduce the GeForce 9800-series because a number of the cards in that line up were simply re-hashed G92 based GeForce 8-series products that featured Hybrid Power technology.

Ever since Nvision ended a massive bombshell, where Nvidia announced that it was to open SLI out to Intel's X58 chipset, we've been wondering where Hybrid SLI - and in particular Hybrid Power - stood in the DIY market today. We managed to get some answers that shed a lot more light on Nvidia's plans for the technology than our previous attempts where the water wasn't left quite as clear.
Lars Weinand, Senior Technical Marketing Manager at Nvidia, explained that "it's still a technology we're driving forward, but primarily in the OEM space and especially in the Notebook space. GeForce 9400M/MCP79 fully supports Hybrid Power and desktop OEMs using GeForce 9400/MCP7A can also still implement Hybrid Power if they like. What we're no longer pushing forward is Hybrid Power in the channel/etail market on GPUs and motherboards."

But why?

"It simply didn't have the acceptance that we hoped for," said Weinand. "With all the possible combinations of GPUs, motherboards and their BIOS revisions, it requires a very solid QA and testing to ensure a flawless experience. That's a high cost for us and it leads to higher prices for our products. It's also why we started to implement more complex power states into our GT200 products to ensure lower idle power consumption."

I found the last part of this quote rather interesting because GT200 was being developed at the same time as the first chipsets to adopt Nvidia's Hybrid SLI technology. I'm not sure I believe that the lower power states were added at such a late stage in the development process and the plan was that they'd be included in GT200 all along - the first nForce 780a SLI motherboards came to market in May, only a few weeks before Nvidia held the GeForce GTX 200 series editor's day.

With Nvidia opening SLI for Intel X58-based motherboards (providing they are certified by the graphics card maker) and Intel taking Nvidia to court over four-year-old licensing agreements it claims are not valid for CPUs with integrated memory controllers, it's safe to say that Hybrid Power is another technology that we're not going to see on Intel motherboards any time soon. And I'm not sure we're going to see it deployed in desktop environments where it could be useful - on chipsets and products targeted at gamers with multiple GPUs in their system - on the AMD front either.

It can therefore be added to the list of promising ideas that never made it big in the enthusiast market and it joins the likes of ESA, TurboCache, SLI Memory, First Packet, ActiveArmor, nTune and SoundStorm.
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