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SLI vs. Single Card solution

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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December 7, 2008 10:41:46 AM

Hey all! I recently upgraded my setup with a completely new PC. Here are the specs:

Dell 630i
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 processor @ 2.66 GHz
NVIDIA nForce 650i SLI mobo
4GB DDR2 RAM (4x1GB chips, manufacturer = Elpida)
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT 512MB
Integrated Audio using a Realtek HD Audio driver

Also, I run the signal out to a 32" Toshiba TV monitor. In order to have the PC desktop fill the screen, I have to set my display resolution to 1360x768 @ 85 Hz (native for the TV is 1366x768 @ 60, but that doesn't work properly).


So. I'm loving the computer, but it's holiday time and I think I could do better in the graphics department. I suppose I could get a sound card instead, but the integrated audio has been working fine for my purposes. So my question is whether it would be a better idea to pick up a second 8800 GT 512MB and run in SLI or scrap my first 8800 GT and replace with some other card. I was thinking maybe the GeForce GTX 260; the would be about the right price range for the high end of what I'm willing to spend.

I should also mention that I don't plan to screw around with Overclocking or anything like that. I have nothing against getting a pre-OC'ed card, but I don't know enough about the process to feel comfortable doing it on my own. I've read that there are some issues running in SLI mode with NVIDIA's 650i mobo, so I've been leaning more towards a single card solution. Any advice would be very much appreciated. Thanks!
December 7, 2008 11:00:28 AM

Go with either a gtx 260,or a 4850.Bothe cards are great performers,twice the performance of a 8800gt.Either one will give performance levels you can only reach with 2 8800gt cards.Except you only need one of them.Hopefully I've helped in some small way.Goodluck.

Dahak

ASUS P5QL
C2D E7300 STOCK
2X1GIG DDR2 800 IN DC MODE
TOUGHPOWER 850WATT PSU
EVGA GTX 260
SMILIDON RAIDMAX GAMING CASE
ACER 22IN WS LCD 1680X1050
250GIG HD/500GIG HD
G5 GAMING MOUSE
LOGITECH Z-5500 5.1 SURROUND SYSTEM
500WATS CONTINUOUS,1000 PEAK
WIN XP MCE SP2
December 7, 2008 11:46:24 AM

I kind of figured I'd be best off just upgrading the card, but I've never had an SLI setup so I wanted to be sure. I think I'll probably stick with NVIDIA and go for the GTX 260.

Do you think I'll have to worry about bottlenecks anywhere? The Q9450 has proven itself to be quite the beast and I run all of my games off of an internal 500GB HDD (7200RPM), so I'm guessing I'll be okay.

Many many thanks for the advice. Now if only the 280 weren't so damn expensive....
Related resources
December 7, 2008 11:47:29 AM

Yikes! Sorry for the text blob in my initial post! Are html line breaks required when posting lists in these forums?
December 7, 2008 11:49:36 AM

the upgrade won't be much of a difference since the resolution is too low for a powerful card unless.....

you plan on maxing out the details the AA and AF when playing games.
December 7, 2008 12:11:36 PM

My suggestion would be the 4870. The cheapest price on Newegg for the 4870 is $190 after rebate while the GTX260 is $199 and the 4870 is faster. The cheapest 4850 is $129 after rebate so the 4850 and the GTX260 aren't in the same category price wise but they are similar performance wise. The 4850 @ $129 also happens to be the factory overclocked Asus TOP.

As for Dahak's comments, all the cards listed are from 10% to 40% faster than the 8800GT depending on the game and which card. They are not twice as fast, the 8800GT is still a very good card. Look at this review, at 1680x1050 in CoD 4 the 8800GT beats both the 4850 and 4870 and @ 1920x1200 it's tied with the 4850 and just behind the 4870, results like this are not uncommon.
December 7, 2008 12:29:46 PM

WHOA here, wait a minute everyone. A 4850 is not twice as fast as a an 8800GT. The difference, depending on what game or benchmark you are looking at can be nearly the same, to about 15~20%. Add a second 8800GT for SLI, and the 8800's will solidly beat the 4850 in nearly everything, and in some areas completely wipe the floor with it.
To the OP, use the VGA charts, check it out against the games you play and make your decision. There is some advice here that is a little tainted....IMHO. The main things to check are for are the resolution you can run, and whether you enable AA/AF. If you run higher res, or want to enable the eye candy, the SLI setup will be much stronger.
Just check the chart and form your own decision.....
http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/gaming-graphics-char...
December 7, 2008 12:30:50 PM

Having ran SLI and non-SLI setups, I don't think SLI is worth the extra cost unless your running very high res. I am only running 1650x1080 and didn't see any real improvement. On benchmarks I gained about 25% but on games that equated to basically nothing. I would rather spend the extra money and get a better single solution. You will have less issues and the performance will be the same. I wanted SLI for a long time after getting it I realize it was just a marketing scam to sell more video cards. Yes is does help on really high res but for the cost it's not worth it.
December 7, 2008 12:44:11 PM

It comes down to what you want to spend, and what you are expecting in the way of the upgrade. You can get a 8800Gt for about $120. But, to get a good boost and be happy with your upgrade, you need to be looking at something better than going from an 8800GT to the 4850 or 4870 I think. It does depend on the res and eye candy you want. The best is to look at the charts, and pick from there for what you do.
December 7, 2008 1:02:20 PM

At your resolution, hold on to your $$ and do a full system upgrade in a year or so. Your 8800GT is still plenty of card at that res.

EDIT: Just saw that this is a new system. Potenially you might be due for a vid card update in the next generation (HD5xxx GTX3xx I would assume) but for now your just throwing your money away.
December 7, 2008 1:20:33 PM

That's a great comparison chart, but it's missing the higher end GTX card I've been considering. As for all things relating to resolution, what games will be played, etc., there are a few elements which are unique to my setup.

Most importantly, my display resolution is always going to remain at a static 1360x768 @ 85 Hz. The PC is a part of my home media center and it connects directly to my TV, a Toshiba 32HLC56 (it has no EID). The only way I can get the image to fill the entire screen is by using that specific resolution/refresh rate and then manually repositioning the image using the TV controls.

As for the other factor, which games I play, that's a bit open to question. Most recently I've been playing Far Cry 2 (which looks phenomenal) and GTA IV (which looks great, but that thing will scale with new hardware for quite some time). The problem is, I'm a video games journalist. While I generally focus on console-based titles, part of the reason for investing in a new rig was so I could tackle PC-exclusive releases. My point being, I play a fairly broad cross-section of games on my PC. So rather than buying with one or two games in mind, I'm buying with an eye towards an overall performance boost. I've got nothing to complain about with the 8800 GT, but I know there are better options available out there.


EDIT: Just saw your post B-Unit. That's been my other concern, whether or not an upgrade will really give me a notable improvement for the money I'll be spending. This IS a new PC, but I don't think I'll be upgrading again in any major way for some time.
December 7, 2008 1:32:33 PM

I think what others have said is probably the best advice, just stick with what you have unless you are willing to spend $200-$300 for a modest improvement. At that res, you aren't going to get much bang for your buck by upgrading the GPU.
a b Î Nvidia
December 7, 2008 1:35:51 PM

1889393,6,70062 said:
My suggestion would be the 4870. The cheapest price on Newegg for the 4870 is $190 after rebate while the GTX260 is $199 and the 4870 is faster. The cheapest 4850 is $129 after rebate so the 4850 and the GTX260 aren't in the same category price wise but they are similar performance wise. The 4850 @ $129 also happens to be the factory overclocked Asus TOP.

I have them both and the 4870 is NOT faster. And it does NOT play games as good as the GTX260. Stop blowing smoke. As far as the 4870 goes, the only thing it does a little better is visually. The colors are a little more darker or pronounced.
December 7, 2008 9:29:36 PM

My only other consideration would be, as a journalist, if you need access to DX10.1. If thats the case, look into getting a 4850 or 4870. If your wanting to penny-pinch, a 4830 will pack about the same amount of horsepower your 8800GT has.
December 8, 2008 2:34:18 PM

My thanks to all who responded. That's a good point about DX10.1, but the more I think about it and read on it the more it seems clear that I should probably just hold off for the time being. If nothing else, then at least until NVIDIA releases a DX10.1 card of their own. Thanks again and happy holidays to all.
December 8, 2008 6:20:31 PM

ok to OP listen very carefully as a fellow XPS 630i owner i recommend you take these steps to get the full potential out of that pc, you NEED to replace the mobo. the 650i SLI thats in there is garbage, yes its SLI but at x8/x8. second its not the greatest cpu overclocker meaning yes you can overclock but you wont get far/high enough for a increase in performance. so get another SLI mobo if you want or any other ATX mobo and put it in there because that stock mobo is only going to let you down. i see you have the Q9450 also again another reason to switch mobo is because yes the 650i SLI is compatible with 45nm cpu's yet they arent fully supported which = absolutely no overclocking at all. i had a Q9300 and if i changed one thing in the bios the system wouldnt post. as for graphics i would get the GTX 260-216, i also play at 720p res (1360x768) and i run SLI GTX 260-216 and i get ridiculous framerates, i can max out graphics settings and put 2-4xAA depending on the game and never drop below 35 fps (crysis is a b****,but only 35 fps in intense area's). so get a new mobo and trash the dell mobo and get a GTX 260-216 are my recommendations. maybe get yourself some better ram, i got 4GB OCZ SLI ram with 5-4-4-15 timings and its great!

actually the mobo part is a demand/order lol

my XPS 630i is built like this (and ill put my parts vs. dells parts)

EVGA 780i SLI mobo vs. Dell limited 650i SLI
Q9300 oc'ed to 3.2GHz vs Q9300 stuck at 2.5GHz b/c of crap mobo
4GB OCZ SLI RAM (pc 6400) vs. X amount of Dell RAM (pc 6400)
Dell 750 watt psu vs Dell 750 watt psu/ probably the best thing dell put in the pc that doesnt need to be replaced
SLI GTX 260-216 vs SLI 9800GT (thats what i ordered in mine)
320GB HDD vs 320GB HDD/ the second part that doesnt need to be changed
26" HDTV monitor vs 19" Dell monitor (again thats what i ordered)
DVD +/- RW burner vs DVD +/- RW burner (i kept that too)

so i hope you use this info to help yourself get the best gaming experience possible from that pc. after i bought mine i built a pc for my dad's place and i will never buy a pc from a manufacturer again because i can get the same/better performance in a pc for hundreds less. my XPS 630i cost $2030 and for about $1800 i couldve had a way better pc (i mean vs the stock XPS 630i not MY XPS 630i)
!