This is my first post, but I have been a long time reader.
First off, I will most likely be running this machine through a 24" montior @ 1920x1200 resolution.
Right now my machine is this:
Asus Maximus Extreme x38 mobo (from what I read, it has crossfire technology)
Intel q6600 cpu
Nvidia 512mb 7900GTX
2gb ddr3 corsair RAM
I will be upgrading to Vista 64 and going anywhere from 4-8gb of RAM.
I am going to be a graduate student in architecture come Fall 2009. I want to put together a machine that can handle 3d architecture well. Programs I use include: AutoCAD, Sketchup, Revit, 3dsmax. The machines available in the schools computer lab are extremely slow and all they do is make me frustrated =P. I also am a gamer and mainly play World Of Warcraft.
I have always been an Nvidia fan, but the new ATI cards seem like the best bang for your buck. The Saphire HD 4870 1GB cards are ~$240 on newegg. If it is worthwhile, I wanted to use 2 of these in crossfire. Newegg also has the Saphire HD 4870 512MB card for $200. I have always been curious with SLI/Crossfire and wanted to try it out. I figure now is a good oppurtunity since I am going to be rebuilding my machine. I just want to make sure it would be worth it.
My other option is to pick up and run only 1 Nvidia GTX 260 or 280 card. From what I read/understand, my motherboard does NOT support SLI.
Ontop of this, my father has an unused Gigabyte x48-DQ6 mobo. It also supports Crossfire (i think), but only takes DDR2 RAM. Which would you pick between the 2 mobo's to use? Re-use my Asus Maximus Extreme, or use his new Gigabyte x48-DQ6?
Also, with either GPU option, what size PSU would I need to support the new card(s)
The GTX 260 Core 216 and 4870 are both about the same in terms of performance and price. Of course nvidia will probably out perform ATI in some games, as will ATI in other games -- but we can pretty much say they're equal for our purpose. Between these 2 cards it will come down to your preference. If you have a motherboard that supports CrossFire you should just go with ATI however. As for the GTX 280, while it's a great card (and beats any of ATI's single card solutions), I'm not sure if it's worth $400-500.
I went with the GTX 260 Core 216 (EVGA Superclocked) because I heard it was a cooler and quieter. Regardless of which card you choose, you'll definitely be pleased with the performance of these cards.. competition is good
Regarding your PSU, I think it will definitely handle any *one* of those cards, but I think it would be best to upgrade if you want to do any SLI/crossfire in the future to avoid any problems.
How big of a difference does the 1gb 4870 do compared to the 512mb 4870 card? If its only $40 more, why not? Twice the memory...seems worth it.
To be honest, I have used ATI cards in the past and was not impressed one bit. Since then I had gone straight Nvidia and have been extremely satisfied. But from what I understand, ATI really turned things around with the HD 4870. The card seems to be the best bang for your buck.
I guess if I had to choose, Id go nvidia..... However at the same time, I have always wanted to toy with SLI/Crossfire. Given the mobo's i have available to me right now (not buying a new one), ATI is the only option(if I want to use 2 GPU's)
The GA-X48-DQ6 will support two HD 4870 1GB cards. So will the Asus Maximum Extreme X38. Either will do Crossfire nicely, without bottlenecks. Neither will support SLI.
At current Newegg prices ($220*2 for two HD 4870 1GB cards, $530 for a HD 4870 X2), and considering you already have an X48 motherboard, I'd go with the two HD 4870 1GB cards. 700W is enough for this.
The HD 4870 X2 makes more sense if you don't have a MB yet and can only afford a P45. In that case a HD 4870 X2 does work better than two HD 4870 1GB cards because P45 is not quite as good for Crossfire as X48 and the two HD 4870 1GB cards would have to deal with bottlenecks. In your case though that's not an issue and you might as well go with the cheaper solution.