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New Build:Future Proof: SLI board vs Single GPU board

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November 28, 2007 6:45:08 AM

Hi All ,
First off all let me introduce myself: Vince , first time poster on these parts but I have been reading reviews and sometime boards at tom's hardware for quite a while now, and as my rig is now about 5years old (don't laugh ! :non:  )
I am trying to plan a new one. :bounce: 

I am trying to build a machine within a budget of 1000 - 1500$, for gaming :ange: 
I would like it to last as much as possible (like 3-4 years and yes i know it will end with pretty crap performance after all that time)

I am pretty much decided on the CPU and the GPU
-CPU : Q6600 (or E6850 if somebody manage to convince me that it's better in the long term , but i doubt it :kaola:  )
-GPU : GeForce 8800 GT 512mo (or maybe the GTS v2 , depending on its price/performance and if it is released when i buy my parts...)
-For the case , the Antec 900 seems to be a popular one
-For the ram there are plenty of good review on this board , so some good quality DDR2 800 shouldn't be too hard to get, I am not sure yet whether I'll go for 2 or 4 Gb, it will depend on how it fits in the budget)
-As for the power supply, well it will mainly depend onthe main point I need advice on : the motherboard (...)

So there you go for the big question: (at least for for me , it's a headache :sweat:  )

-Knowing that I plan to keep the machine for 3-4 years, and that in the process i'll only change maybe one or 2 parts :
The graphic card most likely, and maybe the processor if it is worth it , but it rarely is... ( i usually don't spend a lot in upgrades , I have never found it was worth it , it's more likely to create bottlenecks, and so you loose some of the extra performance you could have gained buying beeter upgrade in the first place )

-Knowing that if I go for SLI board, i will buy only one graphic card, and buy another one for cheap in maybe 1-2 years

Is it better to go for an SLI board (eg 680i), or a Non SLI (like P35 or X38) ?

What I know (or think I know) about theses 2 possibilities is:

-SLI performance gain doesn't seem to be always worth it (but drivers will hopefully get better :D  )
-SLI boards are less stable\less OC possible. ( i'am am by no mean an extreme overclocker, but I've had experience with older hardware , and it seems to have gotten easier with huge performance boost with newer hardware.) but I am not sure whether the difference of overclocking between 680i board and P35 would be huge to someone like me.
-P35 and/or X38 seems to really be the best chipset for Quad processors, leading to very good overclocking possibilities.
-X38 boards support PCIe 2.0, so a graphic card upgrade on theses boards can be mor beneficial in the future that adding a second (maybe older) card on older PCIe 1 port (If anybody is aware of any P35 or SLI compatible board that support PCIe 2.0 please let me know)
-P35 , X38 board will be outaded anyway when and if i will consider changing processor ( the quad will last for nearly 2 years no problem I believe, by that time the penryn will be well out I suppose ,and from what I have seen Intel hasn't changed his old habit of producing cpu not compatible with older hardware....

Well that's about it , I know it was a bit long but hopefully some of you will not get bored before the end and will manage to give some advice , because i really don't know wich way to choose , SLI is very new for me , and my fisrt impression was that it was very cool , but the more I read about it the less I think it is truly THE best solution in my situation.
November 28, 2007 8:59:15 AM

Any input anyone ?
November 28, 2007 9:50:14 AM

Well first off,SLI is a good ideal as it will allow you to increase graphics performance without having to buy a new MOTHER BOARD.CROSSFIRE and SLI are becoming increasingly popular,and so logicaly,the drivers for both will get better.As for overclocking,system stability depends on several factors including CHIPSET,MEMORY,CPU,and the often overlooked POWER SUPPLY.Start with a good,solid,reliable PSU.Add to that a CHIPSET with good OC'ing ability,(ie;good control over voltages,multipliers,and timings).The CPU.Prefferably one with an unlocked multiplier,and comes from a line of reliable overclockers.Memory.Get the higher end stuff from someone like cruicial,or corsair.Get the memory at the fastest speedmto allow for more headroom when overclocking.I'm sure you know all this already,so I won't bore you anymore.Goodluck.

Dahak

M2N32-SLI DELUXE WE
X2 5600+ STOCK (2.8GHZ)
2X1GIG DDR2 800 IN DC MODE
TOUGHPOWER 850WATT PSU
EVGA 7950 GX2 550/1350
SMILIDON RAIDMAX GAMING CASE
ACER 22IN WS LCD 1680X1050
250GIG HD/320GIG HD
G5 GAMING MOUSE
LOGITECH Z-5500 5.1 SURROUND SYSTEM
500WATS CONTINUOUS,1000 PEAK
WIN XP MCE SP2
3DMARK 05 13,685
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November 28, 2007 10:22:03 AM

I wouldn't bother with SLI/X-Fire...you're better off getting the top of the range video card rather than 2x midrange cards which cost the same overall. The drivers are still crap for SLI and even 2 years or so after release Nvidia still suck at it...SLI will only give you 1.5x the very most for it (x-fire is the same) while a top of the range card can give you 2x over a midrange card. My advice? save your money and get a high end card. Most of the top end motherboards have SLI/X-Fire as standard so it won't matter too much about the board itself if you don't for dual gpu's.
November 28, 2007 11:51:09 AM

yes sounds good to me, anyway I suppose all X38 boards (and maybe some p35?) are supporting crossfire , so I could end up changing for ATI cards when my Nvidia becomes obsolete , if ATI cards are any good at that time ^^

as for cpu with unlocked multiplier , where can you see that ?
November 28, 2007 12:18:48 PM

No such thing as FUTURE PROOF for SLI at this time. Current SLI boards only support 1333fsb. very soon Intel will have 1600fsb stock. And from what I have read not even the X38 will have official support. Next month the 780i and mabie the X48 will be here.
November 28, 2007 12:52:19 PM

P35 should get you though until Intel releases Nehalem next year. X38 is good too, if you can afford it.

As for SLI and Crossfire, I wouldn't bother with either. By the time your 8800gt or HD3870 is obsolete you will be much better off just buying a new card than trying to double up.
November 28, 2007 12:56:21 PM

This one's tough. If you want a gaming rig that you'll update, say, the video card in a couple of years, you may end up bottlenecked by a PCI-1.0 interface (still compatible, just bottlenecked). The only(?) chipset out there that supports PCI-2.0 is the X38, which is of course a crossfire-compatible board, and fairly expensive. On the balance, you're more likely to upgrade a card whole-cloth than to match a pair, so the SLI or Crossfire option is likely to be wasted.

In around a year, Nehalem will be out (in theory), which requires a new socket, and Penryn will be near its end. At least some planned processors from Intel will require a 1600FSB, though decent mobos can reach that, though they're not "rated" for it.

It sounds like to me that if you want a comp to last you for a while, your best bet is to build a balanced system and consider not upgrading it at all, rather than an unbalanced system with good upgrade options.
November 29, 2007 5:56:39 AM

ok thanks everybody for your toughts, I suppose the way to go is X38 then if I want to be able to upgrade the graphic at some point and not be bottlenecked by PCIe 1.0. (if anybody knows of a cheaper alternative in P35 that supports PCIe 2.0 , please let me know)

otherwise i think the Q6600 won't pose any problem even in 2 years from now , even though there will be far better proc out there. i think it's the best ''futureproof'' proc for the money right now. (4 cores , good OC....)

as for the RAM I have seen 4Gb were not recognised. From what i understand this is true of all 32 bit OS ? XP and vista alike ? does that mean that XP 64bit AND vista 64Bit are using all the RAM ?

also , regarding dual channel for the RAM , would 4 times 1 Gb of RAM perform as well as /better/worse than 2 times 2Gb ?

and for 64bit OS , are there any Specific Hardware requirement ?
November 29, 2007 6:18:04 AM

Some Q6600 are of the older type without GO stepping and don't OC well. I had the same plan and was glad to learn that before buying a 'mystery' Q6600.

I agree that sli isn't all that it's cracked up to be. I think for high end systems of the rich it's good, but for a budget system it increases the mobo price a little, the case/cooling a little and the PSU price a lot. It's a better choice to get a new graphics card down the road in my opinion.

You mention a 64bit OS. I nearly bought a Vista 64bit setup and then I looked at games to buy and many that I want are not compatible. ( not just officially, but according to gamers who've tried as well )
Some are old games and will presumably never be compatible so I'll be getting XP because I doubt game makers will shoot themselves in the foot any time soon by excluding that popular OS.

This looks like a very unfriendly market to those of us who don't want to spend over $800/year on our computers, to play current video games for an hour or so a day.
November 29, 2007 12:25:12 PM

Yeah thanks for the info I have read about the G0 stepping ;o)

But I still don't get if there is any os other than 64bit os that support more than 3GB ram , does the incoming SP1 for vista 32 bit change this somehow , or having more than 3Gb is still a complete waste ?

Also i have read about 5-5-5-15 timings. and the supposedly better 4-4-4-12 timing for RAM , nver seen this anywhere until now , how can you tell the difference between the 2 ?
November 29, 2007 12:51:23 PM

Due to technical limitations a 32bit OS cannot address more than 4GB of RAM. This includes the address space allocated to your video card and some virtual space for OS related stuff. Depending on how much VRAM your GPU has you will only be able to use ~3.5GB at most. With a 512MB+ video card expect to see around 3.2GB. If you're hesitant to go 64bit I understand, and in normal usage and gaming you can't tell the difference between 3.2 and 4GB.

The major problem with 32bit windows is the 2GB application limit. This restricts any one application to only 2GB of address space, and can cause crashes if the application wants more. Supreme Commander used to suffer from this a lot, but patches have gone a long way to fix it.

Check this article out for a more in-depth explanation: http://www.anandtech.com/systems/showdoc.aspx?i=3060
November 29, 2007 1:59:10 PM

Only reasons to buy a solution that has room for two graphics cards are that those typically are the top of the line(so you get the fastest performing boards) and the possibility that one of those slots might go to GPU powered Physics(which seems to be some time away from hyappening, if it happens)
November 30, 2007 6:08:44 AM

2 problems with the OPs post and the responses below it.

1-I dont see much talk about the new version of DX10. This version from my understanding is supposed to replace the current version entirely. Alot of developers are dying to get hands on it and it looks like it will be adopted into the software industry very fast as the current version of DX10 sucks very badly.

The 8800GT is a very nice card. I own one and love it. The problem is MS has already said and Nvidia has already admited the current line of cards they have available will NOT be compatable with the new DX10. So basicly there is a very good chance that any Nvidia card you buy "right now" will not be up to par come the end of next year and very possibly need replacing for high end software. Alot of folks are predicting a mass migration to the new DX10 just because it sucks that bad atm. This does not add to the "long lasting" attributes of a system with a current Nvidia card.

2-I dont see the Spider system option talked about much here. In most games the X2 6400 keeps right up with the e6850. It is a good deal cheaper as well. It is also mountable on the new AM2+ spider system MBs. These Spider systems support Quad-fire a 4 card ATI crossfire setup. The entire line is geared twards guys like the OP in that you will not have to do a total transplant to upgrade in a year or 2. The system can be greatly scaled over time to meet the needs of the user. ATM there is no reason you cant build a Spider system with 2 core cpu and kick the tail out of any game or app.

The current downfall with Spider systems is the availability of the MB and graphics cards. Other then that its win win for the builder that wants longevity.
November 30, 2007 8:17:49 AM

Yeah i have read a bit about the spider system and the latest ATI cards that supports DirectX 10.1

Problem is , the only cards supporting DX10.1 are the Radeon HD 38XX and performance wise , i was not convinced. (and i was waiting for the release of those cards when i first heard of DX10.1, but i was disapointed....)

As for the spider platform, I don't really feel it's worth it, CPU wise, nothing seems to be available that could compete with the Q6600 in the same price range, and I was conforted in this idea when reading reviews from tom's:

http://www.tomshardware.com/2007/11/19/the_spider_weave...

I don't really plan to replace the processor soon, most likely I will stick with this platform for a while and replace the GPU at some point.

Currently my plan would be to:
- get a motherboard with PCIe 2.0 (to be sure not to be bottlenecked by the PCIe 1.0 when I change the GPU in about 2 years)
-Put a Quad 6600 on this board (because it seems awesome right now , and that the 4 cores make it likely that it will still perform well in the future, and i could always OC it to more than 3.0 Ghz if I put a good cpu cooler on it, extending it's lifespan performancewise)
-And for the GPU, a 8800GT, (or GTS v2 if possible) I am quite concerned with directX 10.1 which is why I would get a PCIe 2.0 board to be able to get a powerful gpu in the future, which would then support DX10.1

Does anybody knows if the GTS v2 will be DirectX 10.1 compatible ?

As far as gaming performance goes , I am well aware that I am unlikely to play the latest releases in 3 years maxed out with AA and Ultra high resolution, I am just trying to plan for a rig whose performance would decrease steadily , and not become suddenly completely obsolete after 1.5 years. (Which is why DirectX 10.1 got me worried in the first place....)
BUT , I'd like the system to be as kickass as possible in its prime at the same time, because for God sake , I am not spending money to build a machine after 5 years to get an average system ^^

But thanks for your input on that , and i am not forgetting totally about AMD, my old rig is AMD based, but i really feel that anything they are about to relase now would be either to late for me , or not good enough (and it's a shame :(  )
November 30, 2007 9:20:26 AM

I'm using 64bit Vista ultimate for about 6 months now and only some of the older games I have problems with like COD2..yoj have to disable AA.
COD4/Rainbow 6 Vega/Crysis/Airborne/Test Drive unlimited/ all newer games are all working fine in Vista. If a game shows support for vista then both 32 and 64bit will work fine. I've haven't come across one game yet that runs on 32bit vista and not on 64bit. (I have both as well as XP).

As for memory..the 4x1GB would be faster than 2x2GB.
However if you ever needed to upgrade more then you are losing by having to take out one or more of the 1GB sticks.
Better to take the performance hit and go with 2x2GB kits..you're not even going to notice it anything..it's all bloody benchmarks etc that you'll only see it on..
!