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GTX 770 SLI / 780 .OR. HD 9950 CF / 9970 for RTS Gaming/CGI Rendering Workstation?

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August 19, 2013 1:03:52 PM

I'm building a CGI Rendering & RTS Gaming Workstation, which will feature a Dual CPU configuration (More then likely Dual Xeon Ivy Bridge-E).

The workstation will serve two main purposes:


  • RTS Gaming: No FPS/Shooters/Crysis etc! Only RTS games like StarCraft II, Diablo III, Company of Heroes, etc. I want to play these games on Max settings. Playing StarCraft II on 2 X HD 5870 Crossfire, I can only go up to Ultra, not Extreme; and even then, if there's too many units on the screen, I start to experience lag. Company of Heroes does the same.

  • CGI/Rendering: Mainly Maya, zBrush, RealFlow development & modeling; and Maxwell Renderer for rendering. GPU Usage is very minimal - only for Viewport display purposes, which any good gaming card can handle. If there's a very high Polygon/Mesh count on the screen - lag can be experienced - so I do need a powerful gaming card.


  • An important thing to note is, this will be a DUAL MONITOR / 1200p setup; not a single monitor or a 1080p setup. So the graphics card should be able to handle Dual Monitors at a 1200p resolution very well.

    I have a budget of around $700 which if needed, I can stretch to $800. That puts Titan out of my budget.

    Initially I had decided on 2 X GTX 770 SLI but I was told GK104 is weaker then other offerings. I was swayed in favor of either 2 X 7970 or 1 X 7990, that either option would be better then a single GTX 780; and then I was advised that HD 9950/9970 are about to release in October, so I should wait till then. Waiting is absolutely fine, since my Xeon's aren't releasing till September anyways and I don't expect this build to complete by October/November.

    The problem is, I then started to read about Crossfire issues, especially with more then 1 monitors, at resolutions higher then 1080p. I definitely do not want to spend $800 and find out there's driver or other issues with the technology. My setup is obviously qualifying for the Crossfire issues as it's a Dual Monitor / 1200p setup.

    If crossfire truly is an issue for Dual Monitor / 1200p setup, then that eliminates 7970 or 9950 as options. I'm not sure what price 9970 will come in at - if it's like Titan, then that won't be an option either.

    Which really leaves me with either GTX 780; or my initial choice of 2 X GTX 770 SLI.

    So you can see I'm thoroughly confused.

    Given my $700 ~ $800 budget; the fact that I can wait till Oct/Nov; and I will have a Dual 1200p Monitor setup; please give your suggestions & recommendations.

    Thanks!!
    August 19, 2013 2:06:35 PM

    im stuck in the same posiotion it think i might for 770 sli or 9950
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    August 19, 2013 2:11:39 PM

    The GPU won't really help for playing SC2 on extreme. That game is heavily CPU limited. The problem is that the game is only coded to use two cores, so even great CPUs don't have the opportunity to show their potential. The only thing you can do to try to deal with that is to overclock your CPU as much as possible. But you can save money on the GPU. You might as well save some cash and get a single 760. It won't make any difference in SC2.
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    August 19, 2013 2:29:00 PM

    jryder said:
    The GPU won't really help for playing SC2 on extreme. That game is heavily CPU limited. The problem is that the game is only coded to use two cores, so even great CPUs don't have the opportunity to show their potential. The only thing you can do to try to deal with that is to overclock your CPU as much as possible. But you can save money on the GPU. You might as well save some cash and get a single 760. It won't make any difference in SC2.


    Didn't realize that.

    Aside from SC2, there's other games also though - like Diablo III, Company Of Heroes, Supreme Commander, Warhammer, etc. The entire GPU decision is definitely not based on SC2's settings. I also want the GPU to be somewhat future-proof (as realistic as possible), as newer Warhammer, CoH and even SC are on the cards for next year.

    And although I don't require a Professional (FirePro / Quadro) level of Viewport display support for Maya / zBrush / RealFlow etc. ... I do want really good computational power from the card to handle moderate to high poly/mesh count in Viewport displays.

    760 sounds a little too low, quite honestly.



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    August 19, 2013 2:35:06 PM

    MrAcd said:
    im stuck in the same posiotion it think i might for 770 sli or 9950


    I've found quite a few people here in a similar conundrum; quite honestly SLI 770 vs 9950 CF was my main choice -- until I started reading about Crossfire issues w/ Dual Monitor on 1080p+ resolutions ... which pretty much eliminated 9950 CF as an option for me.

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    August 19, 2013 2:45:06 PM

    luci5r said:
    jryder said:
    The GPU won't really help for playing SC2 on extreme. That game is heavily CPU limited. The problem is that the game is only coded to use two cores, so even great CPUs don't have the opportunity to show their potential. The only thing you can do to try to deal with that is to overclock your CPU as much as possible. But you can save money on the GPU. You might as well save some cash and get a single 760. It won't make any difference in SC2.


    Didn't realize that.

    Aside from SC2, there's other games also though - like Diablo III, Company Of Heroes, Supreme Commander, Warhammer, etc. The entire GPU decision is definitely not based on SC2's settings. I also want the GPU to be somewhat future-proof (as realistic as possible), as newer Warhammer, CoH and even SC are on the cards for next year.

    And although I don't require a Professional (FirePro / Quadro) level of Viewport display support for Maya / zBrush / RealFlow etc. ... I do want really good computational power from the card to handle moderate to high poly/mesh count in Viewport displays.

    760 sounds a little too low, quite honestly.





    Yeah, it might make a difference in other games anyway -- although not in any of the ones you named at 1080p. I'm slightly annoyed that my $400 GTX 770 doesn't do much more than a dirt cheap Radeon 7770 in SC2. But the expensive GPU does help with Bioshock Infinite and games like that. Shooters seem to be the most GPU demanding games for some reason.

    Anyway, I would probably get a single 780 if I were in your situation. SLI seems to introduce bothersome complexity that can result in bugs or just extra time messing with settings. You could always add a second 780 in the future if you wanted an absurdly powerful machine.

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    August 19, 2013 2:54:20 PM

    jryder said:
    luci5r said:
    jryder said:
    The GPU won't really help for playing SC2 on extreme. That game is heavily CPU limited. The problem is that the game is only coded to use two cores, so even great CPUs don't have the opportunity to show their potential. The only thing you can do to try to deal with that is to overclock your CPU as much as possible. But you can save money on the GPU. You might as well save some cash and get a single 760. It won't make any difference in SC2.


    Didn't realize that.

    Aside from SC2, there's other games also though - like Diablo III, Company Of Heroes, Supreme Commander, Warhammer, etc. The entire GPU decision is definitely not based on SC2's settings. I also want the GPU to be somewhat future-proof (as realistic as possible), as newer Warhammer, CoH and even SC are on the cards for next year.

    And although I don't require a Professional (FirePro / Quadro) level of Viewport display support for Maya / zBrush / RealFlow etc. ... I do want really good computational power from the card to handle moderate to high poly/mesh count in Viewport displays.

    760 sounds a little too low, quite honestly.





    Yeah, it might make a difference in other games anyway -- although not in any of the ones you named at 1080p. I'm slightly annoyed that my $400 GTX 770 doesn't do much more than a dirt cheap Raedon 7770 in SC2. But the expensive GPU does help with Bioshock Infinite and games like that. Shooters seem to be the most GPU demanding games for some reason.

    Anyway, I would probably get a single 780 if I were in your situation. SLI seems to introduce bothersome complexity that can result in bugs or just extra time messing with settings. You could always add a second 780 in the future if you wanted an absurdly powerful machine.



    Actually that is something that I have considered; putting in a single GTX 780 right now; and then adding a 2nd one down the road when they are cheap.

    Only thing with that is,
    (i) I'd have to wait & see the actual Price on a 9970 before I pull the trigger on 780.
    (ii) That also opens up the discussion of 780 vs 7990 -- Both can be had for $699 and both remove the complexities of SLI/Crossfire.
    (iii) Lastly, if I were to put 2 X 770 SLI against a single 780; forgetting about any SLI complexities, the 2 X 770 would win over single 780 any day.

    I really wish this wasn't this complex; OR, there was a single derivative resolution to this.
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    August 19, 2013 3:08:09 PM

    There is no better video card on the market right now than the Galaxy GTX 780 Hall Of Fame (HOF). All those games you mention, Diablo III, Starcraft II game better on Nvidia hardware. In fact, the Crossfire drivers for StarCraft II are not really working very well at all.
    http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/EVGA/GTX_780_SC_ACX_...
    http://www.hardocp.com/article/2013/08/14/galaxy_geforc...

    And you're correct, if you're talking about multiple monitors then Crossfire anything is a waste of money, you'll only get the performance of a single GPU. Add on the fact that the new 13.8 drivers do not address frame pacing issues in OpenGL applications, i.e. Maya, then there's another reason to avoid it.


    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-gtx-770-gk1...

    If there were some tangible advantage to a Crossfire setup, then that would be one thing, but really in terms of Crossfire its hard to find a positive. Meanwhile, with SLI or a single GTX 780, there's really very little negative you can say at all.
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    August 19, 2013 3:26:50 PM

    17seconds said:
    There is no better video card on the market right now than the Galaxy GTX 780 Hall Of Fame (HOF). All those games you mention, Diablo III, Starcraft II game better on Nvidia hardware. In fact, the Crossfire drivers for StarCraft II are not really working very well at all.
    http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/EVGA/GTX_780_SC_ACX_...
    http://www.hardocp.com/article/2013/08/14/galaxy_geforc...

    And you're correct, if you're talking about multiple monitors then Crossfire anything is a waste of money, you'll only get the performance of a single GPU. Add on the fact that the new 13.8 drivers do not address frame pacing issues in OpenGL applications, i.e. Maya, then there's another reason to avoid it.


    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-gtx-770-gk1...

    If there were some tangible advantage to a Crossfire setup, then that would be one thing, but really in terms of Crossfire its hard to find a positive. Meanwhile, with SLI or a single GTX 780, there's really very little negative you can say at all.


    Ah! Some real data and concrete direction; now we're getting somewhere.

    My Dual Monitor / 1200p setup is what has brought me in to the GTX camp; I was convinced by some fellow gamers about going with Radeon as opposed to GTX for a better $/performance value. However, I started reading page after page, thread after thread on Crossfire Driver issues, SPECIFICALLY dealing with multiple monitors and high resolutions, and that really made me very nervous about spending close to $800 on a technology that may be insufficient/spurious.

    Also, your link to Crossfire issues w/ SC has swayed me strongly towards GTX. I can't see a reason to go with Radeon at this point.

    And finally your chart on OpenGL w/ Maya is a deal-closer. I had never seen that before. Maya is the Application I'm using for CGI. If GTX performs better for Maya, then I don't see any reason to consider Radeon.

    While we're strictly talking about GTX, let me ask you a couple quick questions:
    (i) Would you recommend a single GTX 780 over dual GTX 770 SLI? If yes, why?
    (ii) I have seen people talking about a possible price-drop on GTX 780 when 9970 comes out in October ... do you think that "might" be true? I could easily wait & see since my Xeon's aren't out till September anyways.

    The only other question I would have; not talking about Crossfire, but a single card -- Would there be any reason to look at the upcoming 9970? For example, would they have possibly addressed the issues that exist now, like the OpenGL frame pacing or Crossfire for multiple drivers?

    Thanks! Appreciate your response.

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    August 19, 2013 4:31:35 PM

    luci5r said:

    While we're strictly talking about GTX, let me ask you a couple quick questions:
    (i) Would you recommend a single GTX 780 over dual GTX 770 SLI? If yes, why?
    (ii) I have seen people talking about a possible price-drop on GTX 780 when 9970 comes out in October ... do you think that "might" be true? I could easily wait & see since my Xeon's aren't out till September anyways.

    The only other question I would have; not talking about Crossfire, but a single card -- Would there be any reason to look at the upcoming 9970? For example, would they have possibly addressed the issues that exist now, like the OpenGL frame pacing or Crossfire for multiple drivers?

    Thanks! Appreciate your response.

    No problem.

    (i) I would recommend a single GTX 780 over a pair of GTX 770's in SLI. This is mostly a matter of personal preference, out of convenience and ease of use. You could go either way, and certainly GTX 770's in SLI will be much higher performing. I would go for a single GTX 780 just because it will be quieter and cooler; and because it will do more than you 'need' it to do. StarCraft II on a pair of GTX 770's in SLI just doesn't make sense when a single GTX 780 is already pushing 160 FPS... you know what I mean?

    (ii) I actually do subscribe to the notion that the GTX 780 might see a price drop around the end of October. A price drop on the GTX 780 would be a logical way to crash the 9970 release party.

    (iii) I could see someone wanting to wait for the release of the 9970 to see what it's all about, and how Nvidia responds. I would have tempered expectations though. The 9970 is still based on the same basic 28nm GPU as the 7970, so there won't be a radical change in its behavior, just in its performance. This will be more like a refresh than a generational change. What I have read is that the 9970 is aiming to unseat the GTX Titan in terms of performance and price. Well, a nice factory overclocked GTX 780 has already unseated the Titan, so my expectations of the 9970 are placed into that framework.... maybe a little better and a little cheaper, but not a full-on sledgehammer. It's unlikely OpenGL performance will be proportionately any better than it is now. On the plus side, the frame pacing problem is strictly a dual GPU problem; a single 9970 would presumably not be affected. AMD has promised continued fixes for its frame pacing problem to include DirectX 8.1, DirectX 9, Multiple monitors, and 4K resolutions; none of which are fixed at this time.

    Overall, I tend to look at the track record, it just seems like AMD is a step or two behind in terms of R&D, driver support, innovation, foresight, and responsiveness. Over the past few years if there was ever any report of seriously negative flaws from one side or the other, it has consistently come from the AMD side. Hardware Canucks said it best amidst the euphoria of the 13.8 beta frame pacing driver:

    "AMD’s new driver is an impressive step forward but we can’t help feeling that it took AMD ages to get to this point. While review sites have been actively reporting and recording AMD’s problems with frame times for the past year or so, the root causes have been around for far longer. Remember, NVIDIA stepped in and fixed their issues without any fanfare years ago. Even though frame pacing does represent a large improvement for Crossfire solutions, we just can’t bring ourselves to laud it as a technological achievement. Late is certainly better than never but with the 13.8 beta drivers, AMD is simply fixing something which shouldn’t have been broken for so long in the first place."
    http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-r...
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    August 19, 2013 5:01:51 PM

    17seconds said:
    luci5r said:

    While we're strictly talking about GTX, let me ask you a couple quick questions:
    (i) Would you recommend a single GTX 780 over dual GTX 770 SLI? If yes, why?
    (ii) I have seen people talking about a possible price-drop on GTX 780 when 9970 comes out in October ... do you think that "might" be true? I could easily wait & see since my Xeon's aren't out till September anyways.

    The only other question I would have; not talking about Crossfire, but a single card -- Would there be any reason to look at the upcoming 9970? For example, would they have possibly addressed the issues that exist now, like the OpenGL frame pacing or Crossfire for multiple drivers?

    Thanks! Appreciate your response.

    No problem.

    (i) I would recommend a single GTX 780 over a pair of GTX 770's in SLI. This is mostly a matter of personal preference, out of convenience and ease of use. You could go either way, and certainly GTX 770's in SLI will be much higher performing. I would go for a single GTX 780 just because it will be quieter and cooler; and because it will do more than you 'need' it to do. StarCraft II on a pair of GTX 770's in SLI just doesn't make sense when a single GTX 780 is already pushing 160 FPS... you know what I mean?

    (ii) I actually do subscribe to the notion that the GTX 780 might see a price drop around the end of October. A price drop on the GTX 780 would be a logical way to crash the 9970 release party.

    (iii) I could see someone wanting to wait for the release of the 9970 to see what it's all about, and how Nvidia responds. I would have tempered expectations though. The 9970 is still based on the same basic 28nm GPU as the 7970, so there won't be a radical change in its behavior, just in its performance. This will be more like a refresh than a generational change. What I have read is that the 9970 is aiming to unseat the GTX Titan in terms of performance and price. Well, a nice factory overclocked GTX 780 has already unseated the Titan, so my expectations of the 9970 are placed into that framework.... maybe a little better and a little cheaper, but not a full-on sledgehammer. It's unlikely OpenGL performance will be proportionately any better than it is now. On the plus side, the frame pacing problem is strictly a dual GPU problem; a single 9970 would presumably not be affected. AMD has promised continued fixes for its frame pacing problem to include DirectX 8.1, DirectX 9, Multiple monitors, and 4K resolutions; none of which are fixed at this time.

    Overall, I tend to look at the track record, it just seems like AMD is a step or two behind in terms of R&D, driver support, innovation, foresight, and responsiveness. Over the past few years if there was ever any report of seriously negative flaws from one side or the other, it has consistently come from the AMD side. Hardware Canucks said it best amidst the euphoria of the 13.8 beta frame pacing driver:

    "AMD’s new driver is an impressive step forward but we can’t help feeling that it took AMD ages to get to this point. While review sites have been actively reporting and recording AMD’s problems with frame times for the past year or so, the root causes have been around for far longer. Remember, NVIDIA stepped in and fixed their issues without any fanfare years ago. Even though frame pacing does represent a large improvement for Crossfire solutions, we just can’t bring ourselves to laud it as a technological achievement. Late is certainly better than never but with the 13.8 beta drivers, AMD is simply fixing something which shouldn’t have been broken for so long in the first place."
    http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-r...


    In just the last 15 minutes, I have gained a tremendous amount of respect for you & value for your insight; so before anything else, I must sincerely thank you for stepping in. I've been revolving in massive confusion over the last couple weeks, swaying back & forth, without any conclusive direction. In just two posts, you have given me quite a lot. I honestly feel that there more people in my situation should be listening to you. I found countless posts here & elsewhere with the same questions, same GTX vs. Radeon discussions, with no direction & no resolution.

    There is concrete data & knowledge backing your advice; so I'm definitely grateful you decided to chime in.

    (i) Agreed! Makes a lot of sense. I'm actually quite impressed with the Galaxy GTX 780 HOF which is only coming in at $689 ... over a $100 short of my budget. I don't see any reason to SLI two 770's.

    (ii) That seems to be a consensus; I would be a fool not to wait & see if it actually happens. Good news is, price information (quite reliably) usually trickles out shortly before the actual release; so I may not even have to wait long. Hopefully nVidia won't wait very long to drop the 780 price - if they intend to do so.

    (iii) That is a very constructive point. You hit the nail on the head that an OC'd 780 has already unseated Titan; so if that's all 9970 is going to do -- it still may not fair better then a 780; and even if it does - perhaps a margin; not an onslaught. But more importantly, your quote from Hardware Canucks sums it up ... why would I want to wait for a piece of hardware from a manufacturer just to see if they have fixed a problem that shouldn't have been there to begin with? Why not go with the one leading the pack; and setting the bar.

    Makes a lot of sense!!

    I think I've reached a conclusion to my confusion; all THANKS to you. I'm quite convinced about getting the Galaxy GTX 780 HOF for $689, but waiting till October for the purchase just to see if there's any significant price drops in the 780 lineup owing to 9970's release.

    Thank you so much; I really appreciate it.
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    August 19, 2013 5:38:47 PM

    Damn, it's nice to be appreciated.

    You know the 9970 will actually be revealed on September 25th, just under a week, but won't be on sale until October. So you should have a little more info sooner rather than later.

    The latest report says that it will cost "less than $600", leading me to more firmly believe a couple assumptions: 1) It will not be a lot faster than the GTX 780 (a "leak" showed a 25% improvement over the 7970 GHz), 2) The GTX 780 will drop in price to compete.
    http://videocardz.com/45368/amd-hawaii-graphics-card-to...
    http://videocardz.com/45324/possible-specs-of-the-amd-v...

    Any more questions/comments, don't hesitate.
    Good luck!
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    August 20, 2013 8:01:11 AM

    17seconds said:
    Damn, it's nice to be appreciated.

    You know the 9970 will actually be revealed on September 25th, just under a week, but won't be on sale until October. So you should have a little more info sooner rather than later.

    The latest report says that it will cost "less than $600", leading me to more firmly believe a couple assumptions: 1) It will not be a lot faster than the GTX 780 (a "leak" showed a 25% improvement over the 7970 GHz), 2) The GTX 780 will drop in price to compete.
    http://videocardz.com/45368/amd-hawaii-graphics-card-to...
    http://videocardz.com/45324/possible-specs-of-the-amd-v...

    Any more questions/comments, don't hesitate.
    Good luck!


    I quite agree with your assumptions; I'm assuming the same. It's quite interesting to read some of the User comments posted in the threads you linked above. It appears GTX 780 (And GTX in general) seems to be the "correct" choice.

    I don't have any questions at this time about this decision; although it would probably be beneficial to check in with you around October once we have concrete specifics on 9970 in terms of price & performance.

    However, I did want to put in my entire build here just so you could eyeball it once and share any comments, if you had any.

    CPU: Dual Xeon E5-2640 V2 8-Core / 16-Thread / 20MB L3 (Release: September 30th, 2013)
    Motherboard: Supermicro 2P EATX (Will decide around CPU Release)
    GPU: Galaxy GTX 780 HOF
    Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster Z 5.1 PCI Express x1
    Memory: 32GB (8 X 4GB Kingston 1600 ECC Registered Modules)
    PSU: Thermaltake Toughpower 1275W
    SSD: (RAID1) Dual 120GB Samsung M40 SATAIII (OS)
    HDD: Toshiba 2TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s
    Case: Thermaltake Level 10 GT
    Cooling: Corsair H100i + Corsair H80i
    Monitor: Dual ASUS VS24AH-P Black 24" 5ms (GTG) LED IPS 1200p
    Keyboard: Microsoft SIDEWINDER X4
    Mouse: Razor Orochi
    UPS: (Still Researching)

    Some of these I already have; some haven't released yet; some are dependent on what I get.

    Let me know if you have any specific thoughts.

    Thanks!!

    byogamingpc said:
    Currently, the GTX 770 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CU9GOAE/ref=as_li_q... SLI is the better performance for the price.


    You're correct about the "price", it's definitely the cheapest out of all options and in SLI would be a great card; however, I've looked at differences between GK104 & GK110 and it does appear that GK110 seems to be better & more powerful. My plan is to put in a single GTX 780 now (hopefully w/ a price cut around October which would make it even sweeter) and then add a 2nd GTX 780 sometime down the road - when they are really cheap - ultimately a better combo then 770 SLI.

    Thanks.
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    August 20, 2013 1:47:33 PM

    Your build looks great, awesome actually. Don't forget to include your OS and Office suite, if necessary.
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    August 20, 2013 1:57:07 PM

    byogamingpc said:
    If the GTX 780 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CUIVSNS/ref=as_li_q... receives a significant price drop then it would be a great option but if not then it's still a bit high when you compare the price to performance.


    Completely agreed; it's definitely on the high-side, and there's no two ways about it that the card is somewhat overpriced. I think primarily I'm very, very hopeful that there will be a price drop, and fortunately I can afford to wait for that price-drop.

    On the other hand, I would still be going with the 780, even if it's a tad overpriced. My initial budget was $800 for the GPU, I'm getting away with $650, so can't complain. And secondly, one of the differences between GK104 & GK110 is computational power that will be useful in my CGI Development side of things (Maya, etc.), so it definitely makes more sense for me to take the 780 route. But I do agree with the fact that it is a bit high on a $/performance value.

    17seconds said:
    Your build looks great, awesome actually. Don't forget to include your OS and Office suite, if necessary.


    Thank You!! That's actually quite pleasing to hear. You put all this research into selecting the best components that fit your budget appropriately - it's always good to get 2nd opinions.

    Yes, I actually have to look around for the best price on Windows 8 64-bit OEM. Amazon has it for $88 and Newegg has it for $99; but I'm hoping to score it cheaper on a deal/coupon. I'll keep looking between now & October for a deal.

    I have an Office license from work I can use; but I'm also gonna look at Office 365 & pricing.

    Thanks!!

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