The Tri-SLI feature affects every aspect of the Ultimate Q8 starting with the OCZ power supply, which is rated at a colossal 1200W. Despite this huge power figure, the PSU doesn’t seem especially sophisticated, although it does have the all-important six PCI Express graphics power connectors.
Tri-SLI is a finicky beast and requires precise levels of Volts and Amps to ensure it works correctly. The OCZ has a single 80mm fan at the rear of the unit which has to draw air through the length of the PSU. It’s a long time since we saw a power supply that had any pretension to greatness that didn’t have some sort of venting or cooling on the large inner surface of its casing, the bit that faces the motherboard.
Inside the Q8...
During our testing the power supply remained reasonably cool. However, it was monumentally noisy. Indeed it was so loud that we rigged up a CoolerMaster 850W PSU externally to see what difference it made and found that while the noise level dropped by half, it couldn’t provide enough juice to run any benchmark tests.
The five case fans are very quiet, the CPU fan is near-silent and the three graphics cards deliver a steady drone but the power supply is a killer. On the bright side, you have to assume that Mesh can specify a different power supply without too much trouble.
...with the three Leadtek cards
What other impact does Tri-SLI have? Well there's no expansion capability whatsoever as every slot is covered by the three enormous graphics cards, so you have to use the integrated Realtek 7.1 audio unless you plug in an external X-Fi unit. The other integrated features should be sufficient to keep most people happy: dual Gigabit LAN, and six USB 2.0 and one Firewire on the rear on the I/O panel, with four more USB and a second Firewire on the front of the case.
I wonder how old I will be....
when someone finally outputs a consumer machine that can play Crysis at 40fps with everything on high.
Crysis and graphics
A number of points: If you want to run SLI or Tri-SLI (Or CrossFireX for that matter) then you're getting towards the territory where 32-bit Windows and 4GB of RAM is a limitation. I wouldn't say that 64-bit is a necessity at this point because most of us tend to play games in isolation with a minimum of background activity and multitasking.
Sticking the Mesh on the scales - it's heavy. Does it matter exactly how heavy? Heavy enough to make you go 'Gawd!'.
Multiple 8800 GTX cards are indeed packed very close together and I am sure it increases the noise level. Ordinarily a single 8800 GTX is incredibly quiet but these three cards made a steady muted roar. No doubt the new angled fan on the G92 8800 GTX has been introduced for this very reason.
You can play Crysis on a single graphics card. I have an HD 3850 in my own PC and play on Medium quality settings at 1,920x1,200 in DirectX 9. The problem comes when you bump up the quality settings and especially is you want everything on Max in DirectX 10.
Perhaps a stupid question
Let me say first that I've not had more than one video output card in a machine since the days of Voodoo II, and I don't recall that it had a fan.
There looks to be about 3 mm between the sandwiched video cards. For the two that have their fan intake up against the next card: does not the narrow space negatively affect cooling performance? If so, then the noise output will be higher from those two cards because of turbulence induced by moving air through such a narrow space compounded by the higher resistance to air movement.
Is this a reasonable analysis?
WRT Game Titles
I gather that Crysis is very demanding of video cards, so much so that most people - myself included - probably cannot play it on their single sub $200.00 video card. That is fine, a test ought to offer results from a strenuous program. Most of us have no idea what it means to get X, Y or Z FPS in Crysis. It would be meaningful for a lot of people to see numbers for other games that they can can actually play. Quake 4, Quake Wars, Doom 3, FEAR, the latest version of Half Life 2 all come to mind (I am an FPS monkey). But thanks for the review also, I am not dissing it.
"according to our bathroom scales, weighs in at 22kg"
I am LOVING the extremes that El Reg go to in order to carry out a review. :-)