4870 single, CF, vs. 260/280 single, SLI - What is the > value?

Hi guys,

So I have gotten down to the nitty-gritty final details of my next system build, but am having problems making up my mind on graphics. The 4870 is an amazing card and for the money two in CF has got to be a killer combo, but what about the 260 and even its bigger brother the 280? What card or cards will offer the best value for a gaming system? Let me say a little more about me first.

I am a college student studying photojournalism and as a result I do a lot of work with Adobe apps editing large photographs, cutting video, and creating multimedia presentations. Because of this I have chosen to go quad core (9450 unless I can wait for Nehalem) with 4GB of DDR3 1600 mhz OCZ ram on Vista Home Premium 64 bit. I will probably add another 4 GB kit in the future to bring myself up to 8 GB to help with the tasks mentioned above. On top of this, I play a lot of video games.

So, what to do ...

Here is the ATI path. If I go the ATI 4870 root I will get a P45 motherboard (or again, wait for the accompanying P55, or X58 chipsets that will be released with Nehalem) like the ASUS P5Q3-Deluxe. If i do this, I also will probably bag two 4870s to enable a crossfire setup. Hopefully this way I can take advantage of my LCDs 1920x1200 resolution for gaming while still having all the eye candy turned up. So really the question here in choosing ATI is whether or not the best value for me as a gamer will be in a single 4870, two 4870s in crossfire, or possibly even a single 4870X2. Opinions appreciated.

Now for Nvidia ...

If i go the Nvidia root things get a bit more complicated. Within Nvidia my card choice has been narrowed down to either the 260 or the 280. In a strait comparison a 280 will be faster than a 260 or a 4870, but slower than two 4870s in crossfire. Likewise a 260 will be slower than a 280 and closer to a single 4870, but I am not sure what the performance level becomes when two 260s are put in SLI. Furthermore, would it make more sense to just get a 280 then and wait until I can afford a second for SLI? Basically my options are a single 280, two 260s, or a single 280 with the promise of a second down the road as well as the ATI plan mentioned above.

On a side note, I am also planning on buying an ASUS Striker II Extreme if I go the Nvidia root, but I have been told and read that this mobo is a waste of money. If I am going to get a SLI mobo, what is the best performance for value board out there right now?

Back to the main question ...

So when all is said and done what will be the best setup. It's clear that two 280s in SLI will be the best performing setup with probably the worst value and a single 4870 the best value with the lowest performance of the mentioned configurations, but what about the in betweens? Two 4870s in crossfire? Two 260s in SLI? A single 280? Any links to articles or personal experiences that could help me make up my mind would be invaluable. I have done a lot of research myself, but the specific data I want still seems to be out, namely a trusty review of two 260s in SLI versus these other more widely reviewed setups.

Thank you in advance for the help guys. Again, any links, opinions, or experiences are appreciated.

11 answers Last reply
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  1. 4870x2 is out soon. based on what we have seen performance looks pretty good. you start with that and then have the ability to crossfire it with another down the road. 2 would be cheaper than 2x280s and performance, i believe and someone will correct me if i am wrong, would be better in most cases. and i think 4870x2 is supposed to be better about same as single 280?
  2. The 4870 trades blows with the 260, with the 4870 on top more often than not and sometimes competing with the 280.

    If you go ATI you should get an x48 motherboard. A p45 with a 16x and 8x pci-e lanes will affect crossfire performance. Also, don't waste your money on DDR3, just get some good DDR2 unless you wait till nehalem. If you go with the 4870x2 you can just get a board with a single pci-e slot and have performance that will at most times trounce the 280, the exceptions being games with poor crossfire profiles (I'm looking at you Crysis).


    I'm sure there are more review with all three cards in and out of crossfire, but I don't feel like finding them ATM.
  3. Well the absolute best value would be 2 CF'd 4850s which would run you around $320 and would beat everything except maybe the 280. As for the cards you mentioned, I think your best bet would be to wait and pick up a 4870x2 as well as a nice P45 mobo or x38/x48 if you plan on sticking another card in there. As for the memory, just get some DDR2-800 especially if you're not planning on OCing. You can get 8GB of this stuff pretty cheap nowadays.

    I would personally shy away from Nvidia boards and SLI since their mobos seems to have problems.
  4. I would go with Ati combo :) People say nvidia mobos are not as good comparing to intel chipsets. From my point its not worth going ddr3 since the timings are high and for the extra dough you be paying for ddr3 instead of ddr2 the little gain is not worth it........for that difference you could add another hard drive or a blu-ray drive :)
  5. Hrmm ... What about getting a X48 board like the ASUS P5E3 instead of the P5Q3 with a 4870X2 and then adding another later to do quad crossfire? Maybe this is the best possible setup (if not also the most expensive)? Also, if I do wait for the 4870X2 should I just stick with a P45 board or go for a X48 one anyways? I do not want to limit my options so I'm thinking the X48 would give me the most wiggle room with full x16 lanes for crossfire, but obviously at a higher price.

    Thanks for the help so far. Also, as far as the argument for DDR3 ram/mobos goes I will probably just wait for Nehealm and X58 so I will stick with DDR3 memory, but wait for new mobo/CPU.

    OCZs DDR3 1600MHz 4 GB Reaper memory is also a good deal. $215.00 after a $30.00 dollar rebate for 4GBs with 7-7-7-24 timings is not bad.

    So the choices are clear. Wait for Nehealm, wait for X58, and wait for 4870X2.

    As always, more opinions/ideas are welcomed!

  6. Umm it's your money but if I were You I would never go for the first cpu from the totally new architecture. There can be bugs and such, if your a speed freak get a q9450 and overclock it to 3.4ghz and you will be set for good 2years. For 4-4-4-x ddr2 4gb kit you will pay $100-$125 :p So yes you pay double for ddr3 currently. As for 4870x2 its a good pick! :)
  7. +1 alvine

    you could be waiting a long time to do nehalem. and then by the time that is all released they will announce newer graphics cards just around the corner and then better cpus for the nehalem architecture and so on. you can get a great performance out of ddr, x48 and 4870x2 and crossfire if you want. last you a good amount of time. you could even get 8gb of ddr if you so desired allowing more ability for 3d stuff since you are already into photoediting.
  8. This is true. The waiting game in respect to computer technology tends to turn into a vicous cycle of always waiting for the next big thing to hit the market, but I think this is a little different. I could be wrong, but I thought I read that Nehealm CPUs etc. would be hitting the market this fall? That isn't too long to wait and it sounds like the performance boost will be worth it.

    To me it would be like buying a core duo CPU a month before the first Conroe CPUs came out. A little bit of patience for the next BIG thing can pay off, one just needs to know when to stop being patient.

    Well see what the final schedule for all this new stuff is. If we have Nehealm and P55 X58 this fall I'll wait, if not I'll pull the trigger on a X48 with a 4870X2. I will end up doing DDR3 simply to keep my future upgrade paths open, but that is an entirely different argument.

    Anyone seen any reviews or articles about anyone trying two 4870X2s in crossfire yet?
  9. I agree to wait on 4870x2. They just scale better than two 4870's. Also you will pay premium for the hottest technology well its up to you. I know I will not go with Nehealm or at least the first batch of them...I will go with q9450 and that will keep me happy for 2yrs. In two years there new cpus will be polished and then it will be a good time to upgrade. Its like with cars...you buy the '08 model and they haven't perfected the flaws lol
  10. Yea, it sounds like the waiting game will be too much waiting. I think that is exactly what I will do, wait for the 4870X2 and then get tet a Q9450 on a X48 until then. The DDR3 memory thing is still non-negotiable! At least that way once the new chipsets/nehealm come out I wont have to buy new RAM.
  11. yeah tats a good combination to go with ddr3 so when you replace boards you have one thing less to buy :) It's interesting how the new upcoming cpu will work best with tripple channel buffering meaning you will get most performance if you use 3gb or 6 gb of ram. Current intel cpus have dual buffering meaning 2,4,6,8gb.. are giving most performance so what I would do is get 4gb ddr3 kit with the lowest timing possible (I think 7-7-7-x would be good) and then just buy another 2gigs of exact same ram when u have ;) Also when you go with q9450 get a good aftermarket heat sink so you can run it at 3.4-3.6ghz at comfortable temps :)
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