"What's the best graphics card on the market these days?" It's a common question, but one that is starting to seem somewhat void.

Since the uprising of multi-GPU technology such as nVidia's 'SLI' and ATI's 'Crossfire', the question has become "what's the best graphics solution?". With the options of one, two, three or even four GPUs available for your graphics solution, the world is your oyster when comes to the outlay of large amounts of cash for a powerhouse gaming machine. So for today's review PlayTech has once again proudly stepped up to the plate and supplied us with the cream of the crop for a no-holds-barred slugfest between the finest video cards available right now.

The contenders

First up, nVidia's current flagship video card, the 9800GX2. This brute has two onboard GPUs connected via an internal SLI bridge - this means you don't need an SLI compatible motherboard to run the card, unless you plan on running two of them, like we are going to here today, in an arrangement called Quad SLI. This means four GPUs working simultaneously to provide smooth, high resolution on-screen graphics.

Next up, another recent addition to nVidia's performance-class video cards, the 9800GTX. This card is only endowed with a single onboard GPU but it has a higher clock speed than the cores on the 9800GX2. We have no less than three of these cards to put through the paces, and we'll be running them in three different configurations - one card by itself, two in SLI, and three in Triple SLI. Yip, three cards plugged in and running at once, who'da thunk it?

And lastly, the impressively large and largely impressive 3870X2 from ATI. Like the 9800GX2 this also has two onboard GPUs and is able to be run in pairs using what ATI call "CrossfireX" technology for another 4 GPU setup. I'm a long-time fan of ATI gear, so here's hoping they can hold their ground against an aggressive nVidia line-up.

Test setup

The gruntiest video cards need the gruntiest hardware to back them up, so here's what PlayTech has also supplied for today's review:

CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad QX9650 overclocked to 3.75GHz
RAM: 2x2GB G.Skill PK series RAM @ DDR2-1000 5-5-5-15
Motherboards: XFX MG-780-ISH9 (nVidia SLI) / Asus X48 Rampage Formula (ATI Crossfire)
Power Supply: 1200W Silverstone Decathlon DA1200
O/S: Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
Screen: Samsung 26" 2693HM widescreen LCD @ 1920x1200
Drivers: nVidia 174.74, ATI Catalyst 8.4


For those of you like to dribble over specs, here's what we are looking at today:

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