Some people have asked me, “Is it really okay to have a dual-video card setup? Would it really benefit me, especially with my gaming experience?” Well, I often provide a long-winded answer. I always state the obvious that there will most definitely be a significant boost in game speed and quality. But having a two-card graphics setup is a double-edged sword.
Let’s talk about the advantages of PCs with dual video cards. The most apparent reason why you’re even considering having this setup in the first place is to achieve better frame rates while playing PC 3D games, giving you more room for improved graphics quality. If you look around the internet, AMD CrossfireX and Nvidia SLi setups have evolved greatly in the past number of years in terms or PC graphics performance improvement.
When this setup began about a decade ago or so, some configurations only net an average of 50% improvement in frame rates, but today, with 2 video cards, you can actually achieve double the performance of a single video card. Let’s say one video card can deliver 60 frames per second on a specific game, adding one more video card and setting it up in CrossfireX or SLi, depending on the card, may actually give you 120 frames-per-second performance.
If you want to improve the graphics quality, such as: turning on Anti-aliasing, which minimizes boxed corners; anisotropic filtering, which improves the quality of the environment; in-game graphics detail, which you could turn to high/ultra to have better overall visuals, your dual-video card setup would most likely be able to utilize them while still maintaining smooth frame rates. In a nut shell, you’ll achieve excellent-looking and smooth gameplay, overall.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” That holds true as well with dual video cards. First and foremost, you need to buy, obviously, another video card. And not just another card, you need to buy the exact same card or another brand with the same chipset and configuration. It may be possible. Let’s say you have an AMD Radeon R9 270x. In order to use CrossfireX, you need to buy another R9 270x with the same speed and memory capacity. For other possible combinations, you may refer to the manufacturer’s website.
Apart from shelling out a significant amount of money for the additional video card, you need to invest in other computer parts as well. First off, you need a motherboard that is capable of utilizing 2 video cards. Usually, these motherboards are expensive compared to budget motherboards, and some of these high-end motherboards could even cost you above $250.
You also need to buy a more powerful and efficient power supply. Another video card means additional power requirement. It is not recommended at all to use high-wattage generic power supplies for dual-video card setups. I would recommend branded power supplies with 80+ ratings, which means that it can deliver at least 80%-plus efficiency, especially when on full load, which is while you’re playing graphics-intensive games. And, of course, with great computing power comes great electric bills.
You also need to consider the heat inside your computer case. With another powerful component being installed, it is imperative that you keep things cool. Aside from improved and stable performance, keeping your intricate computer parts cool will usually result in longer life. Buy bigger fans and install them correctly in the PC case to improve air flow. Or better yet, buy an advanced cooling solution such as liquid cooling. You may also end up in need of a bigger computer case with good intake/exhaust vents.
Those are just on the hardware side of things. What about software? Some games do not behave really well when it comes to dual-video card setups. You could see garbled graphics and some won’t even run. A specific configuration may be needed in order for a game to run flawlessly, or at least almost flawlessly, with dual video cards. Nowadays, they do work, but there may still be times when things go wrong and you’d end up having a much worse gaming experience instead. Oh, and not only games, in a few cases, it may even hamper desktop performance. Installing updated drivers usually fix these.
As you can see, setting up a dual-video card computer is not as simple as buying a second video card, then installing it and expect it to run outright. The extra performance usually comes at a steep price and a bit of know-how in setting them up and maintaining them. It’s quite exciting for an enthusiast, but it all comes down to what you really want and what you can afford.