Is Laptop SLI Worth It Nvidia 1070 SLI. We’re going to find out if paying extra for a second graphics card in your laptop is worth it. We’ll perform some gaming benchmarks with and without a second graphics card in use and find out how much extra performance Nvidia’s SLI actually gives us in various games.
Nvidia allows us to run multiple graphics cards together in order to get better performance. This is known as SLI, and is available in laptops. While this sounds great, SLI has some drawbacks. SLI is not perfectly scalable, for instance if you get 50 FPS in your favourite game adding a second GPU will not increase you up to 100 FPS. The real result will depend on many factors, including how well the game developers implemented multi GPU support.
Not only do you have to pay more for a second graphics card which physically requires more space in your laptop, an additional card will increase power usage and heat output, as well as create extra noise due to the extra cooling. Not only will the additional graphics card also add additional weight to the laptop, but the additional cooling will also add more weight too.
These various aspects need to be carefully considered in a laptop environment, as you only have as much power as the battery installed unless you’re always plugged in. In order to determine if the extra performance is actually worth it, I’ll perform some benchmarks so we can get an idea of how the laptop performs with a single graphics card and with two in SLI. This particular laptop has dual Nvidia 1070s installed, and I’ve done a full review on it previously if you’re interested. We’ll start with some real world gaming benchmarks and then move onto synthetic benchmark tools.
The laptop also has an Intel 7700K desktop CPU, I’ve overclocked it to 4.9GHz in order to help reduce the CPU as a potential limiting factor as much as I possibly could. For reference I’ve also included the non overclocked results as well, however I didn’t actually record the CPU maxing out at all during any of the tests anyway. Additionally I didn’t experience any thermal throttling throughout any of my testing.
In GTA 5 I’ve disabled VSync and tested with FXAA on with MSAA set to x8 with a 1080p resolution. With SLI disabled we averaged 75 FPS, and with the CPU overclocked this remained the same. With SLI enabled, we averaged 86 FPS, and with the CPU overclocked the average increased to 101 FPS. In the Witcher 3 I used the Ultra preset, disabled VSync and NVIDIA Hairworks, and again ran at the full 1080p resolution.
With these settings and with SLI disabled we averaged 78 FPS, and with the CPU overclocked this actually dropped slightly to 77 FPS. With SLI enabled, I was able to get an average of 108 FPS, and with the CPU overclocked this increased a little to 115 FPS. In Shadow of Mordor with ultra settings at 1080p a single 1070 averaged 151 FPS, and 150 FPS with the CPU overclocked. With SLI enabled we averaged 169 FPS, and this result did not change with the CPU overclocked.
From these tests it appears that the difference with and without CPU overclocking with a single graphics card is basically the same, the differences are within the margin of error, however it does appear to make more of a noticeable difference with SLI enabled. I suspect that because with more graphics power available the faster CPU may be of more use. It will also depend on other variables such as how much does the particular game rely on the CPU. In my opinion these real world gaming benchmark tests that I’ve covered so far are what you should mostly consider, as they show how much practical difference you would actually expect with and without SLI.
The synthetic benchmarking tools that I’ll be using next aren’t as useful as a practical indicator. In real games adding a second graphics card doesn’t scale perfectly, whereas in these tests they are designed to perform very well with additional resources, making it appear that SLI is a larger boost than it really is, so take them with grain of salt.
In Heaven benchmark with the quality set to ultra, tessellation set to extreme, and anti-aliasing set to x8 at 1080p, a single 1070 averaged 91 FPS and 92 FPS with the CPU overclocked. With SLI enabled, the 1070s averaged 152 FPS, and with the CPU overclocked this increased to 161 FPS. In Valley benchmark, with the quality set to ultra and anti-aliasing on x8 at 1080p, a single 1070 averaged 90 FPS and this stayed the same even with the CPU overclocked.
With SLI enabled, both 1070s managed to average 112 FPS. With the CPU overclocked this increased to 123 FPS. Next I ran the both the Fire Strike and Time Spy benchmarks from 3DMark, and in Fire Strike got a score of 14,546 with a single 1070, and a score of 21,207 with SLI enabled. With the CPU overclocked, I got a score of 14,590 with a single 1070, and a score of 22,147 with SLI enabled.
As for Time Spy, I got a score of 5,384 with a single 1070, and a score of 9,082 with SLI enabled. With the CPU overclocked the single card score increased to 5,394, while the score with SLI enabled rose slightly to 9,129. Based on my results, without performing any CPU overclocking on average having a second 1070 in SLI improved the average frame rate of the games tested by 17.2%, while the synthetic benchmarks saw an improvement of approximately 33%. With both types of results combined, we saw a 26.2% improvement on average over all tests with SLI enabled.
Overclocking the CPU did not appear to change things with a single 1070 in use, however as we have seen with SLI enabled we did actually see a small boost in all results. With the 7700K overclocked to 4.9GHz we saw an average improvement with SLI enabled of 23.3% in the games tested, and an improvement of 36.2% in the synthetic tests. With these results combined together we saw an overall improvement of 30.7% with SLI while the CPU was overclocked.
After considering the results of these tests, I find it difficult to recommend getting a laptop with SLI unless you really want the extra small increase in gaming performance. You may get a better bang for your buck by simply getting a better single graphics card, for example while this laptop has two 1070s it also has the option of a single 1080 which is cheaper, and may perform better in various games, I can’t say for sure as I’ve not personally tested a 1080 yet.
In general getting a better graphics card instead of SLI is a better choice, with SLI you’re relying on the game developers implementing multi GPU support in an efficient manner which will vary based on the game, essentially the additional card just doesn’t scale that well for me to think it’s worth spending hundreds of dollars on.
If the extra weight, heat, noise, and cost aren’t an issue and you’re still interested, then by all means go for it, however if these other factors matter to you then you may need to think twice before buying an SLI based laptop. If you’re getting a laptop with SLI also make sure that you pair it with a display capable of a higher refresh rate, a standard 60Hz panel for instance is probably not a good idea if you actually want to be able to take advantage of those higher frame rates that you’re paying for.
So what do you guys think about getting SLI in a laptop? Is it something you’d consider paying more for to get the extra performance, or would you just get a more powerful single card? Be sure to let me know your thoughts down in the comments, and leave a share on the video if you found it useful. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to bookmark for future tech posts like this one.