Nvidia joins Intel to bring SLI to all

Nvidia announced that Intel's P67 chipset, designed for the forthcoming Sandy Bridge line-up of processors, will support its SLI technology from the get-go, in a move that could signal greater things are to come of the partnership.

While the two companies have been at odds concerning the design of Intel-compatible chipsets - where an Nvidia claim a licence agreement it penned in 2004 is valid for the Core i architecture was met with Intel's lawyers in a legal standoff - the rumours of a collaboration to stave off AMD's success in designing it's Fusion "APU", could gain some ground.

According to the announcement, any motherboard with a P67 chipset and sufficient electrical capacity can have its BIOS updated to support dual-SLI mode. And if a motherboard vendor opts for an NF200 chip on board, it can provide even tri-SLI capacity. Nvidia claims this will work down the pecking order from i7 to i3 and even Core 2 Duo chipsets will get the boost. However, there is no reference as to whether motherboard vendors will get a free ride or whether this involves a fee.

Moreover, Nvidia has applied something of a glove to the face of AMD by including support for SLI in any Phenom II-capable system. A BIOS upgrade will be in order, more than likely, but this particular brand of subliminal messaging may draw away some of the faithful from AMD.

On the Sandy Bridge side of things, the CPU already includes what is regarded as a very capable GPU as part of the main silicon. Unfortunately, it does not support DirectX 11 and is far from the high-end of graphics performance by today's standards. Adding SLI support will level things off for Nvidia in the Intel-based market. AMD's graphics division, formerly ATI, already provides support to any (relatively) modern chipset, provided the real estate and electrical capacity is on the motherboard.

The option of having SLI on any motherboard is likel to be tempting for some and will leave AMD with a dilemma in hand.