Never afraid of venturing into esoteric territory, Taiwanese tech behemoth Asus has revealed a new expansion card for its Rampage III Extreme motherboard, which enables Nvidia's four-way SLI technology.
Although the Rampage III Extreme comes with four full-size PCI-E graphics slots as standard, Nvidia's four-way SLI specification requires the addition of two NF200 bridge chips. This means that the Rampage III Extreme needs the extra chips if it's going to get the best out of four Nvidia graphics cards.
The answer, according to Asus, is the new RoG Xpander board, which slots into the first and third PCI-E slots on the motherboard, and provides four dual-slot PCI-E slots, as well as the two NF200 chips.
So why didn't Asus just put these chips on the original board? The company explained to us that it wants to support four-way SLI, but that it's such a niche market that it's not worth bumping up the cost of a standard motherboard just to support it. As well as adding considerable extra cost to the motherboard, the two NV200 chips also add an extra 12W of power consumption to the board.
Basically, the Rampage III Extreme already costs £322.15, so the resultant extra cost could result in potential buyers going elsewhere if they're not interested in four-way SLI.
With the Xpander board in place, the graphics cards won't draw any power from the motherboard, but will instead draw their juice directly from the PSU via three Molex connectors, and an additional six-pin PCI-E slot, positioned on the edges of the board. Meanwhile, a single fan helps direct airflow over the heatsinks covering the NF200 chips.
There's just one problem here, which you may well have already spotted: how on earth are you going to get this contraption into a standard case? After all, your graphics card's backplates aren't going to slot in neatly if they're sitting well above the usual motherboard level.
The answer, according to Asus, is that you can't get the Xpander into a standard case; it's simply not designed for that. This may seem a bit silly at first, but Asus points out that you'd need two powerful PSUs and four hot and power-hungry graphics cards in order to use four-way SLI. Let's face it; your average PC case just isn't prepared for that sort of treatment.
Instead, Asus is aiming the Xpander at benchers and overclockers – those who want to break benchmark and frame rate records with a skeleton system sat on a work surface, and probably cooling it all with dry ice or liquid nitrogen.
Asus hasn't confirmed a price for the Xpander yet, but the company tells us that it expects it to be available in the UK somewhere around July this year.