Does the age-old saying, “Two heads are better than one,” ring true when it comes to your gaming GPUs? If you’re an avid gamer, you might have asked yourself, “Are two GPUs better than a single high-end GPU?”
While dual-graphics cards do have significant benefits, opting for two cards also comes with a few negatives. So, if you are wondering if two GPUs are better than a single high-end GPU, we’re here to help. Below, we take a closer look and explore the pros and cons.
What is a GPU?
Before we dive in, let’s do a little refresher. Also known as a graphics or video card, a graphics processing unit (GPU) is a single-chip processor that’s used to manage and enhance videos and graphics. As you can imagine, a GPU is a critical component of your gaming system.
There are two types of GPUs:
- Type 1: This is an integrated or embedded GPU that lives directly on your machines’ processor.
- Type 2: The second type of GPU is a separate GPU with its own card and memory.
It’s important to note that not all gaming PCs can actually run two cards in an SLI setup. In order for your PC to run multiple cards, you need specific software from either AMD or NVIDIA. AMD’s graphic solution is CrossFire, and NVIDIA’s graphic solution is SLI. Until you have installed one of these software programs, your PC will not be able to run multiple cards.
To run SLI or CrossFire on your PC, you need:
- An SLI compatible motherboard
- Two of the same compatible video cards
- A bridge that connects the two cards together –these usually come with your motherboard or video cards
When it comes to SLI, you need two cards with the same GPU, but they don’t have to be the same brand. (Two GTX 780 Tis.) Meanwhile, with CrossFire you can pair some GPUs with other similar cards. (Radeon 7950 with a Radeon 7900.) If you need further help with which cards are compatible, both websites have detailed information on this.
Once you have installed both cards and the bridge, you can open your drivers’ control panel and enable SLI or CrossFire. Make sure your drivers are up to date (you can do this by downloading Driver Support) and test it by playing one of your favorite games that you are very familiar with. You should notice a significant performance boost.
The Pros and Cons of Two GPU SLI Setups
There are a few main benefits of running multiple video cards, which include:
- Multiple graphics cards can offer an enhanced 3D gaming experience.
- Two GPUs are ideal for multi-monitor gaming.
- Dual cards can share the workload and provide better frame rates, higher resolutions, and extra filters.
- Additional cards can make it possible to take advantage of newer technologies such as 4K Displays.
- Depending on the make, running two mid-range cards is likely to be slightly cheaper than running one comparable high-end card.
- It can be cheaper to buy a second of your current card than upgrading to a newer model
As with anything, there are a few disadvantages that come with running multiple GPU cards over one. These include:
- Running two cards requires both significant power and storage from your PC. So, be sure your gaming PC has enough wattage before purchasing multiple cards.
- Not all games perform well with multiple cards, and some games may run even slower.
- Two video cards running in close proximity will produce more heat and additional noise.
- SLI and CrossFire can sometimes cause a glitch called micro stuttering that makes the video look choppy.
- Not every game supports SLI and CrossFire. This often depends on your video driver, not the game itself. So, you might have to tweak your driver settings to get the game working yourself.
So, What’s the Best Option?
As you can see, investing in two GPUs has both advantages and disadvantages. And, of course, it all depends on your budget, storage, and personal requirements.
For the Average Gamer
For the average gamer, we think two graphics cards is unnecessary. If you’re not after extreme graphics performance, have multi 4k monitor setups, a singular high-end graphics card will be more than enough. Some new graphics cards don’t even have SLI support.
For Hardcore Frame Chasers
However, if you know that you’ll benefit hugely from an enhanced 3D performance that multiple cards offer, go for it. Just remember, you’ll need a motherboard, extra storage space, and might have to tweak your drivers, and only certain games even support it or benefit from it.
The biggest advantage gamers can look forward to in an SLI setup is when it comes to streaming. Having a dedicated card for the game to run on, and one dedicated card for rendering a stream for Twitch, Youtube, or Facebook can help keep your game from having frame drops when you hit the “go live” button.
For Multimedia Experts
The Adobe Suite has select SLI support, and it can help when you use software like Adobe Premiere or Adobe Lightroom. Make sure you’ve enabled GPU Acceleration and your exports may take up less of your computer’s resources.
For Everyone Else
There’s a good chance you don’t need to buy a second card to upgrade your computer’s performance. Consider a faster GPU, or checking to see if other components in your machine are holding you back first. Use a tool like UserBenchmark to see how your components compare to other builds.