It’s been a while since I’ve made a new video based of my curious geek series, but just last week an idea popped up in my head that I could do something with these two GTX 1050 in front of me which I had at that time – a GTX 1050 SLI.
But, as we all know GTX 1060 and GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti series were left out outside, door shot from Nvidia’s SLI party, which was kinda disappointing to say at least as their price point is pretty tempting in a context of SLI. We don’t know the true reason for that, but you can, of course, guess a few on your own, but I will not go into that right now. Thankfully, as you can see by the title of this video, the solution to that problem is slowly showing itself on the horizon.
How is GTX 1050 SLI even possible?
So, you’re probably wondering how I’m planning to do a 2 way SLI configuration with two same models of the graphics card which do not support it? As some of you may know the answer to that is Microsoft’s DirectX 12 API. Instead of using traditional SLI or CrossFire links, DirectX 12 API has something that is called heterogeneous explicit multi-GPU support which basically eliminates their need. What this in translation means is that game developers now have tools which enables them to simultaneously utilize different GPU’s in the same system, not depending GPU of same brand, model or even VRAM size, with much lower overhead and without any need of them using in so to speak in official multi-GPU linking technology, like SLI and CrossFire. With this kind of transformation technologies like the aforementioned SLI and CrossFire could in theory become a thing of a past, which should free up a portion Nvidia’s and AMD’s developing departments so they could maybe put their resources to somewhere else, for example in helping developers optimize their games for this purpose, as that kind of developing can be rather difficult and challenging on game developers end.
For you, as an end-user, this basically means that you can pair up any DirectX12 capable graphics card with each other and play a game or run a GPU benchmark. That particular scenario is one of which I’m exploring today, and it is called heterogeneous explicit multi-GPU configuration with a 1050 SLI scenario. This enables you to do a cross-model pairing, like coupling an AMD graphics with Nvidia’s graphics, as long as it basically has DirectX12 support. As you may notice I said one of which, implying that there’s a second scenario, and yes there is, and that one is called homogeneous explicit multi-GPU configuration. This one represents a direct DirectX 12 control over SLI or Crossfire systems, so it’s like your regular official SLI / CrossFire multi-GPU pairing, like for example two GTX 1080 in SLI or two RX 480 in CrossFire, but relying more on DirectX 12 for their control and performance.
My situation is maybe a bit confusing since in theory two GTX 1050’s make a homogeneous scenario as we have two same GPU, but since this series doesn’t support SLI, it’s considered an explicit heterogeneous multi-GPU configuration scenario. Bottom line, in both the homogeneous and heterogeneous explicit multi-GPU cases DirectX12 is bringing game developers the ability to more easily harvest the full power of GPU at hand, which was not the case with implicit multi-GPU configurations. On that note I’ve decided to pair up until now unpairable GTX 1050’s, as they don’t officially support GTX 1050 SLI configuration and since they are a very interesting and before all a pretty reasonable buy which should, in theory, bring in a decent performance output when put together.
You don’t need a SLI bridge for GTX 1050 SLI setup
Installation is simple, just put the second graphics card onto your motherboard and that’s it, no SLI bridges, no nothing, you don’t even have to have an SLI certificated motherboard, as long as it fits the PCI-express slot, you’re good to go. Of course check if the driver installation went smooth, you don’t even need to reinstalled them if you already have your first Nvidia GPU and drivers installed before putting the second one, just restart your PC after booting for the first time, let the drivers do their thing, and check if the GPU-z and device manager is registering the second GPU. Although this worked for me, to be 100% sure, I advise you to make a clean install of the drives. Of course, let’s not forget about having Microsoft 10 operating system as it supports DirectX12, but I think we are all already familiar with that requirement.
Of course, all of this wouldn’t work if we didn’t have an application which supports DirectX12 multi-GPU pairing, and we do, but as for now that much. For my first, and unfortunately as you’ll see later on why, also my only game, I’ve used the Ashes of Singularity which was basically the first game ever on the market which supported this kind of explicit multi-GPU DirectX12 SLI or CrossfireX pairing, particularly for the heterogeneous scenario and in one hand as a tech demo of the DirectX 12 API. As you can see by looking at the results, the performance bump in comparison to a single solution is all over the place.
Looking at the 1080p results using high settings preset, you’ll see about 30% performance increase, while jumping to 16:9 1440p it goes up to about 45%. So far so good, still not financially viable and not making sense in a form of a real purchase of a second GTX 1050 so you can pair it up, but it’s interesting to see performance gains based on something that wasn’t marketed as such so to speak. On the other hand, I’ve experienced few anomalies, like for example going up the 21:9 3440×1440 resolution the results are in favor of a single card solution as you can see it here, while using lower details and less complex texture, I saw performance gains dropping to just around 10% performance through first two resolutions, which was odd to say at least.
Does the performance output justifies a heterogeneous explicit multi-GPU DirectX12 SLI setup?
GPU utilization varied from 20-80%, depending on the scenario, but I feel like the main problem in my case was lack of video memory. Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1050 are coming in with 2 GB of default VRAM amount, which is a bit low even for 1080p resolution nowadays and especially when it comes to DirectX12 API. That buffer was basically topped out in all of my benchmarking scenarios, so that could also be one of the potential reasons, besides probably the lack of further optimization for this particular scenario, why I saw pretty inconsistent GPU utilization and results depending on the resolution and graphics present in terms of the multi-GPU setup.
As I mention, unfortunately, that was the only game I could do some test with.
Although other games like Deus Ex Mankind Divided, Rise of The Tomb Raider and Hitman do support multi-GPU DirecX12 configuration, they still don’t support or to be more precise weren’t developed for heterogeneous explicit multi-GPU DirectX12 configuration. For example Tomb Raider, which was developed together with nVidia, only supports homogeneous explicit multi-GPU Direct12 setups, so my setup didn’t work since GTX 1050 series doesn’t officially support SLI, although I technically had two same GPU’s in a 1050 SLI wannabe setup.
This could in theory be only a matter of time when will we see that support expand to more games and to both scenarios, homogeneous and heterogeneous, but then again, it can also depend on direct support from these two GPU manufactures, so I wouldn’t exclude your usual industry shenanigans, while the majority of the work, in the end, falls onto developers of those games and if they decide they don’t want to go that extra mile for a certain feature, we will be left empty-handed in terms of these niche scenarios, and I don’t blame them, that’s a lot of work for a few percents of the market, if so. I can just hope that in the near feature we will have more titles and better in-game support which will enable homogeneous and especially heterogeneous explicit multi-GPU DirectX 12 configurations in both the green and red side of the market, so I can revisit this topic or some kind of variation of it once one again.