Long-term GPU choice?

Hey guys,

I've found these forums pretty helpful, but I'm a noob at PC building. I know there's 50 million of these threads, but this is my first build so I should probably get some help. I think I got everything down except the Mobo/GPU selection (if my system will blow up, please let me know. that'd be appreciated ). I tried searching the forums and reading the comparisons but I still can't figure it out. I'm hoping to keep using this system for at least 3-4 years with minimal upgrades (this may be a noob notion). Crossfire looks appealing because then I can just slot in another cheap (at that time) card to continue to run the current games in a couple years (or do it now), right?

This is what I have so far, and I bought all but the GPU/Mobo and Case (was getting deals before they ran out). I was pretty sure the PSU could support any of the options I'm looking at but if not please let me know...

I will use this to play games, primarily Warhammer Online, SC2, DIII, probably something like Fallout 3 or Unreal Tournament 3, CoD4, etc. I don't care if it doesn't run Crysis well (I don't have the game anyway). I also hope to get an HD TV tuner so I don't need to get an expensive TV. My monitor is 24" and I will game at 1920x1200 resolution.

CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 2.83Ghz - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16819115041

GPU: ??

Mobo: ??

PSU: Corsair 650TX - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...orsair%20650tx

Memory: Crucial 2 x 2GB PC-6400 800Mhz DDR2 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...orsair%20650tx

Case: Antec P182 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...k=antec%20p182

HDD: Seagate 500GB 32MB Cache 7200RPM (only reason I'm getting 32MB is because it's about $4 more than the 16MB on eBay) - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...k=antec%20p182

My choice of motherboard obviously depends on the GPU choice. I am leaning towards an Intel chipset P45 because I have heard of stability issues with nVidia chipsets. This eliminates any option of SLI right? I've never OCed so I don't plan to do much, though to be honest I'm not familiar with how much I can gain from it.

With that in mind, I'm looking at the Gigabyte EP45-DS3R because of the Xfire option, though its x8 / x8 only. Is that going to limit my Xfire? If you don't recommend I use crossfire, then I can look at the EP35-DS3L right? Any other motherboards I should consider? The Asus P5Q seems to be a bit more expensive from what I've seen. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813128344

GPUs: ATI 4850/70 512MB, GTX 260 192/216 core. I've found the 260 and 4870(512mb) around the same price. 4850 is cheaper, but I was looking at the HIS 4850 512MB IceQ4 so I don't need an aftermarket cooler. Will I need an extra cooling solution for any of these cards (or if I Xfire the 4850)? Is there anything to gain with a 1GB 4850? Is the GTX 260 216 core that much better? Also, how does the new ATI 4850x2 compare to the Xfire-d version?

For manufacturers, which ATI guys have the best cooling? I've heard of temperature problems with the 4850/70. nVidia, I know I should look at EVGA or BFG.

I don't mind spending an extra $50-100 for significant improvement over a cheaper card, but only if that means I can keep using my system without upgrading the GPU (or PSU) for longer.

Thanks in advance,
6 answers Last reply
More about long term choice
  1. SLI has been a poor upgrade path in the past. It should be used only by
    those who will not currently be satisfied by the fastest available single vga card
    which is currently the 4870X2. The 4870, GTX260, or 9800GX2
    offer very good performance for the money now.
    To get SLI. you have to spend more up front for a SLI capable mobo,a
    more powerful SLI capable PSU, and better case cooling. Upgrading a single card later with a
    second equal card does not get you 2x increase, it is more like 1.1x to 1.5x depending on the game.
    At that time, you will still be paying top dollar for a card that is closer to
    being obsolete.
    It would be better to sell the old card and use the proceeds
    towards a better new generation single card.

    The Corsair 650TX will run the strongest single vga card out there today. It will run two modest cards that need only one pci power connector. Two medirm cards will not be as good as the best single card today. Therefore planning on sli with your PSU is not that practical.

    Any vga card that you buy today will be old stuff within a year. Enjoy what you get while you have it. A good card bought today will have value, and can be sold in favor of the newest and fastest card available later.

    I think I would look at a 4870/GTX260/9800GX2 which are comparable cards which should run most things very well. The GTX280 and 4870X2 are a bit stronger, but are also pricey. If you can get a good deal on one of them, go to it. There is supposed to be some 55nm Nvidia parts coming out soon. It might pay to wait. If you can't wait, then consider an EVGA card so you can have the option to "step-up" to anything better within 90 days.

    As to coolers, I would avoid any card that does not have a true two slot cooler. The vga cards are the biggest heat producing components in your PC. You want a cooler that gets that heat directly out the back asap. Don't let it recirculate.

    Here's my pick, the EVGA GTX260-core-216:

    I like your other parts, including the Gigabyte P45-DS3L.
    Compare the mobo's to see if there are any features that are missing. The gigabyte web site has an option for side by side comparison.
  2. Here is a review over @ TechReport that will give you a rough idea of the performance differences between the 260 & 4870 and the newer 260/216 & 4870/1GB.

    I like geofelt's pick.
  3. am i right it thinking its not sli you want to go with, as for motherboard i would stick with asus and get the 4870 the one with 1gig of v-ram and it should last,
    Ive got the asus p5q pro and can get my intel core 2 6320 up to 3.4 with 4 sticks of ram so im happy with it
  4. I don't like the GTX 260 Core 216, so my "vote" would go toward the HD 4870 or the GTX 260. They both perform about the same, but I'd prefer the 4870 for DX10.1 if they were the same price.
  5. First, that TR bench was done using an overclocked G260, so its not an apples to apples comparison. Basically the 4870 1gig is equal to the G216. But Id get the 4870 because it supports DX10.1, and for longer term, the DX10.1 will offer greater performance while using AA, and thus put the 4870 ahead of the G216 by possibly a good margin. We are getting close to the point where DX10.1 will matter soon, as a few games are coming and DX11 will be here next year which of course will have all the DX10.1 capabilities in it plus tesselation and a few other things
  6. Thanks for all your help guys. It gave me some good things to think about.

    I ended up getting the Gigabyte EP45-DS3R board, mostly because it was cheaper than any P5Q I could find. The DS3L was only a few bucks cheaper so I opted for the raid option.

    With the advice here I narrowed the cards down to the GTX 260/216 and HD 4870 512/1gb, since I plan to use 1920x1200 for gaming from now on. The TR bench is useful but with an OC 260, which I might end up doing anyway.

    I was about to order the 4870 1gig for the DX10.1, but I found a deal on the GTX 260 Core 216 for $220, which is ~$30 cheaper than the 1gig 4870s I could find. I couldn't justify it since I was previously budgeted for much less already. Also I like nVidia' OCing and drivers. Well, I got the EVGA model so if a 10.1 card comes out soon then I'll step up to it.

    Thanks for the help! Now I just have to find a deal on my case :)
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