When it comes to video cards, I've always been in the "don't spend more than $200" school of thought. My logic is: video card technology moves so fast that paying a lot of money for the "first six months" of any new technology level is very expensive. Bless all of you who are early adopters - you're helping keep nVidia and ATI humming, but it's an expensive hobby to main an up-to-date machine.
This is one of my favorite tables (there is a similar one on Wikipedia for ATI). It shows performance of graphics cards and when they came out. Compare the GeForce 7950 GT2 and the GeForce 8800 GTS. If you want 24,000 MT/S of fill rate, you could buy a top-of-the-line two-cards-in-one-via-SLI 7950, but if you waited six months, a SINGLE intermediate-speed 8800 would give you the same thing while supporting DX10 shaders (e.g. geometry shaders, instancing, and all that awesome stuff). The 7950 GT2 apparently retailed at $600+, which was a real discount compared to actually chaining two separate 7950's together (that'd get you up around $850). Look on newegg.com and you'll see that GeForce 8800 prices aren't that expensive (compared to an SLI combination). And the 7950 GT2's come down a lot from what it used to cost.
For another datapoint, compare the Geforce 7600's to the GeForce 6800's. The 6800 was the monster card when it came out, putting nVidia back in the number one spot. But the next-generation's intermediate range cards can do what was top-end before. (The 7600 can be had for a little over $100. Compare that to several hundred for the 6800 ultra about one year earlier.)
Simply put, you pay a huge premium to get a given performance level when it's new and top-end. Wait one generation of cards (by buying last-year's top end cards or this-year's middle-range cards) and you save a lot.
It's in this context that I don't believe that SLI makes a lot of sense. In an environment where (IMO, and my opinion only) the top-end video cards are already expensive for what they do, SLI simply makes the situation worse, by allowing you to spend double what the already-high-end cards cost to get performance that will be available in one card in the next generation.
To do the math, does it make sense to spend double the price on your video card to extend its useful life by six months? Only if you intend to change cards every six months.
(nVidia makes an argument that SLI allows developers to preview the next-gen hardware, and this is true. My strategy is different: simply run X-Plane slowly and assume that the next-generation hardware will go faster.)
I don't feel good about criticizing nVidia and ATI because overall I feel that their products provide an extraordinary value at a very good price, and the growth of performance in video cards has been astounding. Todays cards just hit it out of the park.
But to me SLI and CrossFire strikes me as a solution looking for a problem. They solve the problem of making the most expensive cards more expensive, but I don't think they're the best way to spend money on a flight simulation system. (Better might be to not buy at the "SLI/Crossfire" level of video cards, meaning spending $700+ on your video cards, but rather to go down a level and upgrade your motherboard/CPU more frequently.)
Some users email me asking for video card recommendations, in particular whether to buy an SLI/Crossfire configuration. The bottom line is, it depends on how much you value your money vs. your graphics card performance. If money is on object, and you want maximum speed, SLI configurations will provide the fastest performance (by some marginal amount). I believe that a good value lies below $200.
On the other side of the equation, I do recommend that everyone spend at least $100 if you're going to buy a video card at all. Below $100 the price cuts come from remaindering really old inventory and removing parts from the card to save cost. For the savings of $25 you might lose half your card's performance or half of its VRAM when you get down to the really cheap cards.
The other thing I tell users is the truth: no one at Laminar Research has an SLI system, so the reports we get on SLI come from users. Some users have told us they've gotten some benefit at very high FSAA levels. But at this point a single 8800 wll do the same thing. And SLI doesn't address CPU speed at all. Consider this list of features - nothing on the CPU side will get even remotely faster with SLI.
And in full disclosure: my two Macs have a Radeon X1600 Mobility, a Radeon 9600, and a GeForce 5200 FX sits on the shelf for testing purposes. (This isn't intentional bias toward ATI, it's what Apple ships.)