Do you want to upgrade your PC with an addition of another graphics card? Perhaps you want to build your dream rig and are looking for a motherboard that can support your dual VGA cards.
Scalable Link Interface or SLI is a technology used by NVIDIA to link two or more NVIDIA graphics card together. Since the technology is scalable, the more graphics you have linked, the more graphics processing power you will have available.
In this article we will have a look at the best motherboards for SLI. There is 2-way, 3-way and even 4-way SLI motherboards out there.
However, for the purpose of this article we will only stick with 2-way SLI motherboards since that is the most viable for an average elite consumer.
Comparison of Top SLI Motherboards
|MSI MPG |
|GIGABYTE TRX40 |
List of Best Motherboards for SLI in 2021
The following list shows our highly recommended motherboards for SLI
- ASUS Prime Z390-A – Budget ATX Motherboard for SLI
- MSI MPG Z490M Gaming Edge – Micro ATX for Compact Builds – LGA1200 Socket
- Gigabyte Z490 AORUS MASTER – Premium ATX for High Expandability
- Asrock X470 Master SLI– Budget ATX – X470 Chipset
- Asus Prime X570-Pro – Premium ATX Board
- GIGABYTE TRX40 AORUS Master – AMD sTRX4 Motherboard for 3-Way and 4-Way SLI
1. ASUS Prime Z390-A – Budget ATX Motherboard for SLI
An essential motherboard for SLI setups with Intel based processors. Supports LGA1151 socket and features Intel Z390 chipset.
We personally love this motherboard because it offers exactly the essentials at the most affordable price tag for an SLI setup all the while looking extremely gorgeous.
The motherboard is based on the ATX form factor and supports the LGA1151 socket for the latest mainstream Intel processors ranging from Celeron all the way to Core i9.
It offers a total of 3 x PCIe X16 size slots. However, only the top two can be occupied with an NVIDIA graphics card for SLI configuration. As mentioned earlier above, when using the SLI configration, both slots will work in X8 mode instead of Xx16.
The last X16 size slot works in X4 mode and hence is useful for other expansion cards requiring lower bandwidth.
Besides that, the motherboard offers 8 channel 7.1 audio, RAM support of upto 128 GB, a heavy duty construction with, and 2 x M.2 slot for SSD drives.
While this is expensive than an average gaming motherboard, for SLI setup, this among the cheapest there is and for that reason we have selected this as the best motherboard for SLI setup at a budget.
2. MSI MPG Z490M Gaming Edge – Micro ATX for Compact Builds – LGA1200
A premium grade LGA1200 motherboard with the latest Z490 chipset and mATX form factor. It is suitable for compact gaming builds. Comes with built in WiFi 6.
Next up we have motherboard for those want to build a compact Intel-based setup with the latest 10th gen processors.
This motherboard features the latest LGA1200 socket as well as the latest Z490 chipset. Like the previous Z390 chipset, the Z490 is the cream of the Intel chipset dedicated for high end gaming systems.
Other than support for newer processors, the Z490 chipset also support more USB 3.2 ports, WiFi 6 and faster speed RAMs.
As you may have noticed this has a Micro ATX form factor. The rest of the motherboard here have ATX form factor, making THIS the smallest in the list.
An ATX form factor has the dimension of 12 x 9.6 inches. A Micro ATX, on the other hand, has 9.6 x 9.6 inches dimension. Therefore, if you prefer to build a small rig, then this may come in handy.
However, being a Micro ATX card, it does sacrifice on a few expansion slot. The first thing you will realize is that it misses out on the 3rd low bandwidth X16 size slot that works in X4 mode. You will also notice that it has fewer X1 PCIe slots. Therefore, there is a tradeoff.
The motherboard offers 2 x PCIe X16 slots which can both be used of installing the NVIDIA graphics cards for SLI configuration.
Aside from the size, there is one more thing that should catch your attention. The motherboard has a built in WiFi. This will save you from investing in a separate WiFi expansion card.
In short, if you want a compact Micro ATX form factor or WiFi or both, then this is the best motherboard for SLI.
3. Gigabyte Z490 AORUS MASTER – Premium ATX for High Expandability
Finally here we have a premium Intel based motherboard for SLI. This is an ATX motherboard that offers the right environment for those who love overclocking.
Note that unlike the previous Z390 Aorus Master, this offers the LGA1200 socket for the latest 10th gen processors.
The first unique aspect to find is that it offers a whopping power phase design of 12+1 Voltage Regular Modules for processor and RAM with huge 90A power stage. Voltage Regular Modules basically help in stabilizing the voltage which is highly important when overclocking.
An average mother has fewer VRMs. Read in detail: What is VRM on motherboard?
Furthermore, this is one rare gem that offers 3 x M.2 slots. Therefore, you can install upto 3 x NVMe SSDs on this if your work demands a lot of fast storage.
And finally, this also offers built in WiFi which is a always a please to have since installing one separately on an expansion slot can interfere with the nearby large graphics cards.
It should be noted that this mobo features the latest WiFi 6 protocol.
As far as the PCIe X16 slot configuration goes, it is like any other we saw above. The first two X16 slots can support the NVIDIA graphics card in X8 mode each, the one at the bottom only works in X4 mode.
However, one thing to note here is that in most motherboards, the third X16 slot at the bottom (the one that works in X4 mode) is never reinforced. On this motherboard, however, all three PCIe X16 size slots are reinforced.
In the end, if you are an overclocker, or if you value the triple M.2 connectors for SSD, then this is one of the best motherboard for SLI.
4. Asrock X470 Master SLI – Budget ATX SLI Motherboard for AMD
One of the most affordable AM4 Motherboard with support for NVIDIA SLI and AMD Crossfire support. Premium grade build quality.
This is one of the cheapest and also one of the most loved AMD based motherboard for NVIDIA SLI setup.
If you are looking to build an economical gaming beast using AMD processors, then we highly recommend this.
The motherbord does support the latest 3rd generation Ryzen processors along with the rest based on the AM4 chipset.
It offers 2 x PCIe X16 slots. Both of them can be fitted with with the NVIDIA graphics cards for SLI configuration. However, as mentioned above, if the first two PCIe X16 slots are occupied, they will both operate at X8 bandwidth each.
Besides that it offers a lot of expansion capability. For starters it offers not just 2 x M.2 slot for your SSDs, but also 6 x SATA ports.
Being the cheapest motherboard for SLI on an AMD system, this does a few drawbacks the biggest of which is that it only offers a single HDMI port for display connectivity. Therefore, from the get go, you would note be able to have a dual monitor setup.
In short, if you came here looking for an affordable AM4 based model, then this is the best motherboard for SLI on a budget.
Also Read: Best Motherboards for NAS
5. Asus Prime X570-Pro – Premium ATX Board
Premium AM4 motherobard with X570 chipset. Suitable for NVIDIA SLI as well as AMD CrossFire configuration. Great for those who love overclocking.
If you are looking for a high end motherboard for AMD based system for your SLI configuration then this gorgeous piece of work may appeal to you.
While it has the same PCIe X16 configuration as the MSI X470 Gaming PRO Carbon above, it adds plenty of extra goodies that make it an excellent choice for enthusiasts.
For starters, this is a motherboard for overclockers. It comes with plethora of software as well as hardware features that make it a highly capable MOBO for overclockers. It has phase power design of 12+2 – meaning it has 12 Voltage Regular Modules (VRM) for the CPU and 2 for the RAM.
The higher the amount of VRMs, the better voltage control and stability the motherboard has. This is essential for overclocking based motherboard.
Read in detail: What is VRM on motherboard?
In addition to that, it feautres 5-way Optimzation technology – a proprietary ASUS feature that delivers optimized overclocking and cooling profiles for your motherboard.
On top of that, you should note that this motherboard is filled to the brink with all the latest core technologies. It offers the latest PCIe v4.0 protocol. This essentially doubles the bandwidth of the slots as compared to the PCIe v3.0.
To put this into perspective, the PCIe v4.0 is so fast that you don’t even need to put your graphics card in full X16 lane slots. You can use the X8lane and they will have enough transfer speed to cater to your high end GPU.
This of course makes the motherboard future proof too. In the future, faster graphics cards will require the faster speeds of the PCIe v4.0.
To use the PCIe v4.0, however, you will need to use atleast the Third generation Ryzen series processors.
The motherboard offers 3 x PCIe X16 size slots. 2 of them can be installed with NVIDIA graphics card for SLI. The third X16 slots only has 4 lanes and thus works in X4 mode and therefore is viable for devices like RAID controllers or SSD expansion cards.
6. GIGABYTE TRX40 AORUS Master – AMD sTRX4 Motherboard for 3-Way and 4-Way SLI
If you are building a workstation PC for purposes that requires very high GPU power like machine learning or deep learning, then 3 or 4-way SLI maybe the solution.
In that case, the first step is to get yourself a workstation grade processor. So you are looking at Ryzen Threadripper processors for AMD or Core Extreme processors from Intel.
Not only do these processors have cores in the range 64 with multithreading enabled, they also have sufficient PCIe lanes to cater to the amount of graphics card you will install.
A typical processor has 16-24 PCIe lanes. Workstation processors can have 128 PCIe lanes.
Furthermore, these CPUs require a completely different breed of motherboards. For instance, this particular motherboard uses the sTRX4 socket instead of the normal AM4 socket.
On top of that, it has a whopping 4 x PCIe x 16 slots. Two of these work at x16 more and the other two work at x8 mode. All of them are capable of handling an NVIDIA card for a 4-way SLI.
Sure this motherboard is expensive, but its high performance socket, high power 70 Amps VRMs, a whopping 16+3 VRM phase power design, 3 x M.2 slots, high performance WIFi 6 module, a large Extended ATX form factor, 8 x DIMM slots for quad (not dual) memory channel support, overclocking capacity, and a plethora of headers and ports makes this an ideal motherboard for workstation.
Note that this motherboard features no video output ports since threadripper processors do not come with integrated graphics.
So long story short, if you came here looking for a 3 way or 4 way SLI motherboard, then we highly recommend this as the best motherboard for SLI.
Do You Benefit from SLI? Is SLI Worth it?
When it comes to industrial levels of Deep Learning, Machine Learning, or AI applications, SLI does matter. The more graphics cards you have the more data you can process.
This is attributable to the fact that NVIDIA graphics cards are made up of many cores (called cuda cores), that can significantly improve the parallel processing of a large data set.
However, when it comes to gaming, the question of whether an SLI configuration can help you or not is actually an age old question.
The answer is a resounding YES. An SLI setup can certainly improve the gaming performance. However, for starters, do not expect DOUBLE the improvement.
Secondly, the performance improvement is heavily related to how well the game in question supports the SLI. Not ALL games support SLI configuration so you have to check that out too.
Thirdly, you have to read and look at the benchmarks. You have to see whether getting an SLI setup is worth it or not. For instance, you may see that dual GTX 1070TI is better than a single GTX 1080Ti, however, if the SLI setup is costing you a lot (considering the cost of the motherboard too) and you can get a single RTX 2070 that performs better than dual GTX 1070Ti for cheaper, than that would be our preferable way to go.
For instance, if you already have two graphics at hand, then going for a motherboard with SLI would be the obvious way to go for.
But then again, you have to take into consideration the added cost of operating two cards, the heat generated etc.
Essential Knowledge to Have for an SLI Setup
Before we delve into the motherboards, there are a certain things with regards to SLI on motherboards that you must have.
How Many PCIe Slots Do You Need?
In order to run two NVIDIA graphics card in SLI mode, you will need to have 2 PCIe slot with X16 or X8 bandwidth.
However, things do get very confusing when looking at the actual PCIe slots on the motherboard. You will notice that some motherboard will have 2 x X16 size PCIe slots on them, however, only one of them would offer X16 bandwidth and the other would operate at X4.
In this case, you SLI would not be possible since it requires a minimum of X8 bandwidth per slot.
PCIe X16 Works in Reduced Bandwidth
You will also notice that most motherboard with two X16 slots if populated with two graphics cards will dial down their bandwidth to X8 each.
This has to do with the number of PCIe lanes you have available. This is determined mainly by the CPU and to a lesser degree by the Motherboard Chipset.
Most mainstream processors have a6 PCIe lanes which are enough only to support a single graphics card at full X16 bandwidth or 2 graphics card at X8 bandwidth each.
The difference in performance, however, for a graphics card running at X16 compared to that running at X8 is not substantial though.
Only the Extreme processors have a high amount of PCIe lanes that can support two or three graphics card at full X16 bandwidth
How Many Graphics Card Can I Install?
As mentioned above, this depends upon the availability of the PCIe slots as well as the PCIe lanes.
To have a 2 way SLI you will need at least 2 PCIe slots working in X8 mode AT LEAST.
To have a 3 way SLI you will need at least 3 PCIe slots working in X8 mode at least.
Can You Do SLI on AMD Motherboards? Yes, But AMD SLI Motherboards are Rarer
While there most certainly are AMD based SLI motherboards available, they are rarer.
You will notice that most AMD-based AM4 socket motherboards that feature 2 x X16 PCIe size slots, will have one working at X16 bandwidth and the other working at mere X4 bandwidth.
As such, the X4 bandwidth slot is incapable of supporting an NVIDIA graphics card since SLI requires X8 bandwidth ATLEAST for each of its cards.
AMD CrossFire (AMD Equivalent of NVIDIA SLI), on the other hand, CAN work on an X4 slot.
How Many PCIe Lanes/Bandwidth a Graphics Card Needs?
Ideally, a graphics should be installed in an X16 slot working in full X16 mode. Graphics cards is a High Speed Input Out device and therefore, the more PCIe lanes it has, the faster it will work.
However, since PCIe lane amount is limited, then as mentioned earlier, for NVIDIA SLI, each graphics card can work at X8 mode.
AMD Graphics Cards, however, can also work with 4 PCIe lanes in CrossFire mode.
What Do You Need to Do a 3-Way or a 4 Way SLI?
Well basically, you need a lot of money, and then you have to go out looking for specialized workstation grade processors and motherboards.
In order to run 3 or 4 NVIDIA graphics cards, you basically need a lot of lanes (8*4 = 32 lanes to be exact at the minimum or 16*4= 64 lanes ideally).
An average processor can have about 16-24 lanes. Intel processors generally offer 16 whereas as the AMD Ryzen processors offer 24 lanes (some of the lanes are occupied by other systems and controllers).
At an average, however, a processor has enough lanes to support a single graphics card in X16 mode or two graphics card in X8 mode due to the limited amount of lanes.
And then there is the matter that an average motherboard does not have sufficient PCIe slots anyways.
In order to have 3 or 4 way SLI what you need is a workstation grade processor such as the AMD Threadripper processors or Intel Core Extreme processors. These have support for PCIe lanes ranging from 64-128.
On top of that, you will need premium motherboards as well. For instance, motherboards with TRX40 chipset and sTRX4 sockets are suitable for Threadripper processor. For Intel you would be looking at the likes of X299 motherboards with LGA2066 sockets.
Finding the best motherboard for SLI is not tough if you know exactly how the PCIe configurations work. The good news is that motherboard models with SLI capability are in fair amount and in varying price ranges.
Therefore, whether your are someone looking to save cost or if you are an enthusiast overclocker looking for a premium board, you will find one that can cater to your needs.