While the concept of using more than one GPU has been around since the mid 90s, it was only in the early 2000s when multi-GPU systems really took off.
Nvidia brought SLI to the market, allowing consumers to join two identical graphics cards together to improve performance, while ATI did the same in the form of Crossfire.
The drawback of these technologies was that it required users to go out and purchase two graphics cards – so each company thought to themselves, instead of connecting two graphics cards via a bridge or dongle cable, why not put two graphics cards together?
The result was the birth of the dual-GPU graphics card.
While the GeForce 7900GX2 may have been the first dual-GPU offering to connect via a single PCIe slot, the 7950GX2 was the card that many remember. Smaller, quieter and ever so slightly faster, the 7950GX2 also brought Quad-SLI technology to the masses, allowing users to make use of four GPUs to power the most visually demanding games of mid 2006 (Think Oblivion, F.E.A.R, Doom 3).
While the 7900GX2/7950GX2 may not have been the first card to offer two GPUs on one printed circuit board (PCB), they were the first dual GPU-cards available to the masses.
GeForce 9800 GX2
Nvidia’s second attempt at a dual GPU solution, the 9800GX2 was a dual-GPU solution based on the G92 core.
Nvidia skipped creating a dual-GPU solution in the 8 series, possibly because getting around the heat output of two G80 based cores (they were big, they were hot) would’ve involved costly cooling that wasn’t really possibly on a consumer level offering.
However when they introduced the 9 series, the G92 core provided the company with a great platform to create a dual-GPU card that would regain the single card performance crown.
Third time lucky for Nvidia – this time they attempted to create a dual GPU offering based on the GT200b core.
The card was for all practical applications two GTX275 cores stuck together on one graphics card. Blistering performance was the order of the day and as a testament to the sheer grunt of the card it can still handle current games at medium to high detail settings with acceptable framerates, three years after it was released.
Nvidia followed up the original GTX295, which made use of two PCBs (one for each core), in the same way as previous dual GPU cards, with a single PCB that housed both cores. This was the first time Nvidia placed two cores on one PCB, and the latter version ran cooler and was easier to install third party cooling solutions onto.
The current big daddy of the single graphics card industry, the GTX590 is Nvidia’s latest dual-GPU on a single card offering.
Nvidia once again skipped making a dual-GPU card on the first generation of a new core (in this case the first version of the Fermi core was GF100), and instead based the GTX590 on the second generation Fermi core (GF110).