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Is SLI/XFire a good upgrade path?

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a b U Graphics card
March 6, 2008 12:38:03 PM

Hi, I'm currently planning a build and I was wondering if Multi-GPU (SLI or XFire) are good upgrade paths to prolong the life of a system for moderate gaming (we are talking about 2 year lifespan)? Would adding a second (now cheaper) card be more "money-effective" or would changed the card be a better bet?

Since I wanted an NVidia card, the SLI option would leave me with the 780i chipset which cost a lot for many "high-end" features I don't even want. Without SLI, I could get probably anything (like a cheap DS3L which costs about 3 times less).

What is your opinion?
March 6, 2008 12:50:27 PM

So far, my thinking is that it is better to just get one of the current top of the line cards, vs two middle of the road cards. Should you get a SLI/CF mobo, so you have the option of getting another card down the road?... Maybe, but most likely 2 years from now, the top of the line card will beat two of whatever you have now.

Personally, I think both CF and SLI are still kind of a gimmick and not really cost effective.
March 6, 2008 12:56:42 PM

I bought my board on the plan of getting another GTX to SLi when they came down in price.
It's worked out great, I bought my 2nd GTX for a pretty nice price 2nd hand on eBay and will now probably leave my system as is until a respectably fast Phenom is out. I would certainly consider doing the same again with my next board, but if I was to buy now, with the possibilty of a multi-GPU system in the future, I would go with a CrossFire ready system.
Specifically, an X38/X48 chipset in the case of an Intel machine and a 790X/790FX in the case of an AMD one.
:) 
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March 6, 2008 4:26:44 PM

Nah, Larrabee will render all video cards extinct so don’t invest. JK. I would say if you are gaming at higher resolutions (1680s and up) it would be a good option to leave SLI/xfire open since you come close to doubling your performance (close = 80% + scaling my def.).

If you are going at it with 1280 resolutions...I would question your reasoning to get xfire/SLI over a better performing single GPU.

Basketcase has a point but it is hard to predict when the next generation of GPUs will come out, how well they perform, and how available and costly they will be. The GTX as an example would bring home his point though. That card is still a baaaad mama jama by itself. I don’t think there is one unhappy GTX owner out there.

@Basketcase…why do you feel xfire/SLI is a gimmick?
March 6, 2008 4:53:05 PM

Well, it isn't a gimmick... I just feel like the performance gains are only worth it when you get two of the top of the line cards at the same time, for example getting two 8800 GTXs when they came out. The problem is the cost. You are looking at well over $1000 for that sort of setup, which most people can't afford. Also, most likely, 2 years from when you bought it, a single top of the line card will most likely be faster, or atleast match the performance. So, yes, it isn't a gimmick in that case. Currently the only way to get better peformance than the best card is to SLI/CF it.


I guess it just comes down to what you can afford. If you can justify dropping $1000+ on a graphics setup that will likely be bested by a single card solution, within approx 2 years, then SLI is a real option. But, if you can't do that, it seems silly to me. And yes, you could buy one now, and one later, but it is hard to say what the availablity will be like in the future. And it would be frustrating to have spend another large chunk of cash, 1-2 years down the road, hoping to match what the "at that time in the future" current "bomb" card can do.

But, I do think it is a marketing gimmick when PC companies try to sell 8500/8600 SLI setups. If people only knew you could get a single 8800 and would have better performance and less issues.


March 6, 2008 5:29:11 PM

If you are thinking about a 2-card solution or upgrade path, I definitely have to recommend using CrossFire (ATi). The option to put a 3850 alongside a newer card, or a card not identical is great. What kills SLI in my opinion is that you need two of the exact same card, but with CF you can buy a 3850 and CF it with a 4850 when they're out.
a b U Graphics card
March 6, 2008 5:30:16 PM

I only have a 22" LCD with a resolution of 1680x1050 so no high-res. I understand that with current games and cards, playing at this resolution won't require SLI/XFire (unless for games like Crysis).

My question could be rephrased as: in a year or so, with new games, will it be cheaper to buy a second card like the one I will buy now or buy a new mid-range card (200$-300$) to keep playing games at good FPS at the same resolution (1680x1050)?
March 6, 2008 5:39:21 PM

Dekasa said:
What kills SLI in my opinion is that you need two of the exact same card, but with CF you can buy a 3850 and CF it with a 4850 when they're out.



Stop spreading that assumption. ATI has made no indications that their RV770 GPUs will xfire with the RV670.


Zenthar said:
My question could be rephrased as: in a year or so, with new games, will it be cheaper to buy a second card like the one I will buy now or buy a new mid-range card (200$-300$) to keep playing games at good FPS at the same resolution (1680x1050)?



Warning: TMI to follow;

That question is hard to answer because there are a lot of variables that come into play that are based on how much $$ you want to drop, what your expectations are for “good FPS”, and when you want to buy. Do you want to run uber ultra high settings for the next two years or can you settle for high now and medium by year two? Do you want to buy a card tomorrow or a month from now? Do you want Nvidia, ATI, or Intel chipsets?

If your plan is to buy one now and then a second a year from now to xfire/SLI, I think you would get more play and worthwhile-ness out of doing it with higher end cards (8800 GTS or GT). For example, the people just now adding in a second 8800 GTX that had one a year ago are getting a good run out of that series.

If you were looking at 3850s or 3870s…I don’t think those will hold up two years from now given that they aren’t top notch at the moment and the fact that the 4000 series is around the corner (not officially named 4000 yet).

Plus, like I said above, there isn’t that added security to know if a 3870 will xfire with a “4870”…it would be great for longevity if they did but nothing has been announced yet.

“AMD: CrossFireX supports multi-GPU configurations of any combination of RV670- and R680-based products…”

^ Nothing about RV770.

I am not sure if it helps you, but I have decided that I want to use Intel chipsets which leads me to go for an xfire setup for my next build. So I am going to wait for the RV770s to pop up, get one on the release date and then another 3-4 mths down the road. I am perfectly fine if I have to play medium settings in 2 years so I am not worried that much about how the next generation performs.

Well, to end this bla bla bla fest, once again it is all up to $$$, timing, and your expectations. But to help with one thing at least…I do think you would be happy with xfire/SLI at your resolutions.
a c 140 U Graphics card
March 6, 2008 7:23:55 PM

My example. I bought a Sapphire x1900xtx ATi card a year and a half ago for $360. My board supports Crossfire. However now i needed a better card and they don't sell the crossfire card anylonger, I'd have to get one on ebay for $200. Plus 2 in crossfire are worse then a single 8800GTs 512. So i sold my old x1900xtx on ebay yesterday, got $100 for it and bought the new card for $300 several weeks ago. So it really only cost me $200.

SLI is good if you get a higherend card and do it right off the bat or soon after. If you are planning to upgrade a year down the line, you can still sell your old card and get the latest and greatest at the time. That is what I do with all my hardware.
a b U Graphics card
March 6, 2008 7:44:58 PM

I didn't have any specific GPU in mind, but the 8800GTS was really tempting. If such a card could give 30FPS in most games for the next 2 years without having to lower quality settings too much, I would be more than happy. But as jay2tall said, I could always sell my old card and get a new upper-mid-range one.
March 6, 2008 10:36:54 PM

At the moment, you could even do an EVGA 8800GTS and use their step up program to a 9800GTX. I have never owned an EVGA so I don't know their plan in detail but it is another option too.
a b U Graphics card
March 7, 2008 12:51:08 AM

SpinachEater said:
At the moment, you could even do an EVGA 8800GTS and use their step up program to a 9800GTX. I have never owned an EVGA so I don't know their plan in detail but it is another option too.
I looked at it, it's a good option if they release a new product in the next few months (the program only valid for 90 days after initial purchase), but it's good to know.
March 7, 2008 1:05:43 AM

I notice a difference with the 3870x2 in games that support Crossfire, so if you build with a Crossfire board to begin with, then you could get a 3870x2 for now and match it to a similar card later this year. CrossfireX supporting Catalyst 8.3 just came out and I'm using them now.

Nordic Hardware's article on the upcoming 4xxx series, with clocks and prices:

http://www.nordichardware.com/news,7356.html

I wouldn't bother with a 4870x2 and a 3870x2 together. The cards on that list that are expected to be similar in performance to the 3870x2 are the 4850 and 4870.

It all depends on what resolution you're gaming at and whether the cost of Crossfire is worth it for you. Take the need for a really good Crossfire certified PSU into account as well.

http://ati.amd.com/online/certifiedpsu/index.html
a c 140 U Graphics card
March 7, 2008 2:34:42 AM

As soon as you buy a new card. 2 months later a better one will be out. That is how the world turns. If you wait for the next card to come out you are going to be hitting that refresh button on newegg all day to pay a premium for the topend card and if you don't get it you will be waiting again in which all this time you could have had an 8800GTS. haha I know how it all works. I got all excited when the ATI 3870 was out and the 8800gt was on back order everywhere. They sold out in 10 minutes and when they got more it they jacked the price up to $280. I think right now is a good time to get a higher end card, the prices are starting to creap down in anticipation and there are mailin rebates. So be good to yourself and get a nice card.
March 7, 2008 4:09:18 AM

The best currently available path i see is a x38 MoBo with a 3870x2 now and another whenever you feel you need the 3&4 card added to your setup. Crossfire X i believe works on the Intel chipsets so seeing one X2 beats an Ultra then 2 would make a fairly good system. Having DX10.1 gives them a bit of longevity and it will perform at higher resolutions. But like always theres something better coming out all the time so nothing is future proof. Id say wait for the next ATI cards to come out and see how they perform against the current ones to see if crossfireX is going in the direction you hoping for, the same goes for Nvidia's cards and SLI.
a b U Graphics card
March 7, 2008 9:06:14 AM

kellytm3 said:
Newegg currently has the BFG 8800GTS G92 Card for $240,after rebate,and free shipping.http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
I'm in Canada so I can't order from NewEgg, but I can get EVGA E-GEFORCE 8800GTS Crysis Edition 670MHZ 512MB from NCIX for 299$. Costs a bit more and I have to pay shipping, but it comes with Crysis.
a b U Graphics card
March 7, 2008 9:15:42 AM

blotch said:
The best currently available path i see is a x38 MoBo with a 3870x2 now and another whenever you feel you need the 3&4 card added to your setup.
The 3870x2 is a bit out of my price range (200-300) and I'm not planning for a high-end gaming rig. Moreover, my LCD is only 1680x1050 so right now the x2 is probably overkill. But for a XFire path, I was considering buying a 3870 (not x2), then maybe add a second one in 6-12 months.
March 7, 2008 12:27:48 PM

The 680i mother boards will work fine even with three gtx's and the base gtx is now selling at a reasonable price now. SlI for me has worked great and made my gaming experience better in every way.
!