1440P Surround Tri-SLI Testing Part 1


In the last entry we walked through setting up the three QNIX panels.  Things worked out pretty well and they are definitely a great deal.  Stripping off the accessory display, I put them in surround and learned that the current NVIDIA bug seems to not occur if the accessory is disabled.  For me a least, it is definitely a four panel bug.  Unfortunately, it seems that you cannot add a custom res in surround mode.  The fun just keeps coming these days with NVIDIA!  So in surround you are stuck back at 60Hz even though the monitors are perfectly capable of 120Hz.  It appears to be a driver issue since the basic option to create custom resolutions leads you to a greyed out “create custom” button.  This really sucks and is yet another strike against the NVIDIA surround support.

The first thing I noticed with 3 27’s in surround is that they form a really wide plane of view.  To my eye the plane of view was almost too wide.  Also, 7680 x 1440 creates a pretty extreme aspect ratio.  I decided that for the first round of testing, I would actually give portrait a try instead.  Portrait gives you a very cool 4320 x 2560 surface or in other words just north of a 4k display.  Here is how it looks:

2013-12-14 23.39.48

You’ll notice there the lovely view of the skies above Dalaran.  Sure enough, I decided that I would give World of Warcraft a test drive first!  Looking sharp in portrait with all settings at my usual (Ultra, with literally everything maxed out save shadows which are dialed back one tick to high), the framerate above Dalaran was rock solid.  Here is a closer look:

2013-12-14 23.39.56

The framerate ranged from an absolute low of 62 up to around 190 or so (vsync off obviously).  The overall feel was silky smooth.  The bezels are definitely absolutely horrible, but in a game they do start to kind of vanish.  It’s hard to describe, but I’d say it’s similar to how you don’t really notice the A pillars framing a car windshield once you’re driving.  To see if the performance held up with new content, I ported on over to the Vale of Eternal Blossoms:

2013-12-14 23.41.33

Another really impressive scene.  I have to say that it is even more immersive in person and the feeling of portrait is similar to seeing a movie on the big big screens.  Pandaria content was as pretty much as performant as Lich King content with framerates ranging from a low of 60 or so up to about 180:

2013-12-14 23.41.39

So the first round is a pretty solid success, if not really a surprise.  Tri-SLI Titan can definitely handle World of Warcraft in 4k+ resolution and the experience was impressive.  I’m not sure I can say it was more immersive than 3D, which was actually extremely cool, but there is also no fatigue in playing in portrait at this resolution.  With 3D Vision I found that long play sessions weren’t really possible.  An hour or so and the glasses would start to cause fatigue.

Next up I decided to test Metro 2033 (the original release) because it has that nifty built in benchmarking tool and it has allowed me to compare performance characteristics going back a few generations now.  Here is how it stacked up:

Screenshot 2013-12-15 22.48.25

So far, not so great.  It seems like tri-SLI Titan is really not up the challenge of 3 x 1440P surround!  I did some run through tests of the first level of Crysis 3, and the results were even more brutal.  With all settings set to “Very High”, and AA/AF on their minimal settings, framerates hovered around 30fps.  Occasional highs could be found up to about 60, and the lows dipped into the mid 20s.  Pretty depressing!  So far it looks like “maxed settings” (even leaving aside AA which isn’t that important at this resolution in my opinion) aren’t going to be possible!  780Ti, despite having some great performance (surpassing Titan) at more normal resolutions, doesn’t help out much either.  Surveying some SLI testing of 780Ti that has been done by a few of the pro sites, it seems tri-SLI Titan at this resolution would probably offer up maybe 5-7fps more.  A nice boost, but not the type of real “game changer” performance that is needed.

Next up I formalized the testing on Crysis 3.  The results, as always with this game, were interesting.  Some things to note with Crysis 3… It is important to switch the 3D Settings in the NVIDIA control panel to maximum performance rather than adaptive as otherwise the cards will often not boost to maximum clock for whatever reason.  Possibly the way Crysis manages the 3D pipeline causes the cards to think the load has dropped, or it is some bug in the NVIDIA drivers.  The other thing is scaling in Crysis remains strange.  Tri-SLI isn’t being fully exploited and sometimes you will see even the second card dropping in utilization despite the CPU being asleep (Sandybridge-E 3960 at 4.5Ghz) and framerates being low.  These are the settings I chose to run with:

2013-12-17 14.23.27 2013-12-17 14.23.39

So with those caveats in mind, here is how things looked when  I did a FRAPs 3.5.99 benchmark run through from the door of the “Welcome to the Jungle” level through the first checkpoint, disabling the land mine, and up the stairs to the cut for the cinema:

 Min  Max  Avg
32 50 42.647

Not super great, but, the minimum did stay over 30fps which is interesting.  The fact that the framerates aren’t varying much makes it all feel fairly smooth.  here is how it looks on the histogram:

C3-histo

You can see that frame consistency visualized here.  Very few cases where a frame had an outlier delay.  The vast majority of time the frame to frame delay in ms was very close.  Overall I’d definitely call this “playable” and I do think the trade off in absolute framerate is worth it for the immersion you get from portrait surround in 4K+ resolutions.  Of course this is subjective!  Here is a shot of the game in action and a close up of framerate at that moment:

2013-12-17 14.23.03 2013-12-17 14.23.14

Last but not least, a shot of what the GPU’s were up to at that moment.  Keep in mind that I frequently saw VRAM usage go well above 3GB and peak at nearly 4GB.  In my opinion, 1440P surround with maxed details requires more than 3GB of VRAM.  This makes the current crop of 780Ti boards, with their 3GB VRAM cap, a much less attractive prospect.  Perhaps when aftermarket 4GB+ boards come out, or TITAN 2 releases (assuming this happens), an upgrade to TITAN 1 will be more appealing for super high resolution surround, but at this point I’d be very worried about the risk of VRAM starvation:

2013-12-17 14.24.59

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