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1 good video card vs 2 cheap cards

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May 17, 2009 4:39:03 PM

I've been debating an upgrade so, started looking at all the new boards and cards etc.

I'm not a huge gamer, but do game and like ones like BioShock and Crysis, etc that eat a lot of memory.

I was looking at the Asus P5Q Intel P45 board, and as well, the Asus P5N-D Nvidia 750i SLI board.

I like Intel, never had a prob with it, but have been reading about SLI and being abble to connect dual video cards.

My question is... what would run better... 1 good video card? or 2 cheaper cards totalling about the same cost?

I'll be buying BFG brand NVidia video cards regardless, I had a warranty issue one and BFG service was great so, will stick with them, as well as ASUS boards.

Thanks for any input/feedback.
May 17, 2009 4:56:32 PM

Ah.. an example

- Twin BFG GeForce 9500GT 1GB @ $95 each
- Single BFG GeForce GTX 260 OC 896MB @ $245 each
-or-
- Single BFG GeForce GTS 250 OC 512MB @ $175 each

Twin BFG GeForce GTS 250 OC 512MB @ $175 each would be ideal, but, unlikely due to budget.

I am also looking at 4GB ram and an Intel CPU in the $250-$275 range... though not sure if a Core2Duo or Quad would be better. Aside from games, its more just to watch movies and surf the net on. I have an Apple MAC for all my design work. That's why the budget is a bit tight on this because I need to start looking at a MAC upgrade as well, and although you can dualboot Intel based MACs now, I suspect its still not the best for gaming.
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May 17, 2009 4:57:43 PM

it depends on the quality and power of the two cheap cards and what resolution you play at and if the more expensive card is just two cheaper cards SLI/Crossfired together in one card.

Two GTX275s are about the same cost as a GTX295 and the 275's outperform the more expensive 295
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-gtx-sli,229...
May 17, 2009 4:59:28 PM

Proximon said:
ATI Radeon HD 4770 In CrossFire: Unbeatable At $220

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: April '09

Anandtech's analysis of dual card performance vs. single Prices have not changed too much since this article, so it's still fairly relevant.

Don't forget to factor in power consumption and power supply cost.



Thanks... but ATI isn't a BFG NVidia card. I won't touch ATI again given the problems I had with the last 2 that I bought. The BFG card is great, and warranty service even better. The fan on my old BFG died, I sent the card in and they replaced my $65 AGP card with a new $250 upgrade.
May 17, 2009 5:08:57 PM

Wow... just checked the price on the GTX295... ya, no game is worth that much for me, I'd have to cap the budget at $300. When I say cheap, I mean cheap... $750-$1000 isn't worth it for my sistuation since not a hardcore gamer.

As for the other questions... I have a 22" Widescreen running 1680x1050 so, hoping to play at full resolution. I just want something that runs smooth at pretty high detail and that will last me a while.

I currently have a P4 3.0Ghz w/1gb ram and a GeForce7800GS and am still able to play games like BioShock, but... set relatively low and sometimes gets a bit glitchy when too much happens at once. Playable though. Computer is I think 5yrs old now so, hoping to build something very stable (no overclocking) and not a wallet killer.

I'm happy with something that runs smooth enough that I don't glitch and not know who killed me. :na: 
a b U Graphics card
May 17, 2009 5:28:10 PM

THRobinson said:
Thanks... but ATI isn't a BFG NVidia card. I won't touch ATI again given the problems I had with the last 2 that I bought. The BFG card is great, and warranty service even better. The fan on my old BFG died, I sent the card in and they replaced my $65 AGP card with a new $250 upgrade.


Did you bother to look at the links I provided? Only the first one was ATI specific.

Now that we have a budget it's pretty clear anyway. Two GTS 250s are about the same performance as a single GTX 260 core 216.
BFG GTX 260 Core 216
That's quite a premium however.

For 90 bucks less you could get an XFX version. Same performance, similar warranty and support
XFX GTX 260 core 216



May 17, 2009 5:40:07 PM

Ah sorry about that... saw the first ATI link and figured you may have been a die hard ATI fan trying to sway me to change over.

although I'm sure ATI is fine, and was probably just a bad fluke I got 2 bad cards in a row... I figured I'll not risk it and stick with NVidia. The way it was meant to be played. :lol: 

The GTX260 I'll have to say is more towards the budget I was looking at. Video cards always throw me off for perfomance... GTS250 vs GTX260, given the number in the name you'd assume the 250 was a slight step down from the 260, but if the 260 is that much better than a pair of 250's, well, probably best to stick with the GTX260 and I'll assume with a single card, less heat issues and power consumption.

When doing the dual-card ... do both cards have to be identicle?

Say, I buy a GTX260 now, and a year from now I have a few extra bucks and buy another card but, it's not identicle... would it work? would it fail? or like trying to dual-channel ram it may/not work or may work with lots of minor glitches?
May 17, 2009 5:44:04 PM

it wouldn't work if it was say a GTX 260 and a GTS 250, however ATi cards will do something like that e.g a 4890 and a 4870/50/30.
May 17, 2009 5:46:26 PM

Ah, ya I wondered if it would or not detect the other card and if not the same it simply just doesn't work. So... if going dual... I pretty much have to decide that now and hope when I buy the 2nd card, it's still on the market. :( 
a b U Graphics card
May 17, 2009 5:57:37 PM

There are other problems with SLI. Any system that can run SLI will be either an Nvidia chipset or X58 (core i7). Nvidia chipset motherboards are to be avoided, so that really just leaves X58 as an option for SLI.
The P45 board you listed will be more stable than the 750i, will overclock better, and will run cooler.


You can run a GTX 260 on a 500W PSU, but you'll want around 700W to SLI two of them.
May 17, 2009 6:05:23 PM

Ah... that right there kinda made my decision... I saw a few 'hints' while looking that the Intel boards were more stable. My current Asus P4P800 is an Intel and has been great... my last board was VIA and had SO many compatibility issues with almost everything else I had. Swapped to the Asus board and never had a problem since.

I haven't looked much into the core i7's yet... I tend to wait for the 'new' thing to come out so the step down becomes a bit cheaper, then I upgrade. :) 

Sadly, gotta watch the budget because I need a new MAC as well and well... enough said. Towers start at $2700.
May 17, 2009 6:16:24 PM

Why do you need a Mac computer? Why not buy a PC then just get MAC OSX installed. I say go for the ATI Radeon 4890 - as it is better then both the GTS 250 and the GTX 260 as well as the GTX 275 and is comparable to the GTX 285. (Im not an ati "fanboi" I'm using nVidia now, but this card offers the best bang for the buck and is in your budget of $300)


SAPPHIRE 100269OCSR Radeon HD 4890 1GB - OC Edition
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$260

You can also wait for the 1GHz of the card to come out. The i7 is currently the best processor family on the market, the cheapest chip is the i7 920 costing at $280 (even for it's price it is an awesome cpu) but with that you need a X58 mother ($200+) and DDR3 Memory (6GB is about $100).
May 17, 2009 6:41:47 PM

Well, MAC OSX has no decent games really so, I'd have to dual boot the PC run wun both Windows and OSX. And although I have yet to try it, I'm assuming OSX on a PC will probably run glitchy. I need it for design work so, not wanting to deal with problems.

Instead, I have a KVM switch... just toggles between my MAC and PC and that way I can run stuff on both computers at the same time no problems.
May 17, 2009 7:16:14 PM

Hardware has NOTHING to do with the PC. A lot of people buy Macbooks and use Windows XP/Vista on them. Don't waste money buying a pre built from Apple. And more design software is made for Windows instead of Mac, but it's your choice in the end. What you can do is do a dual boot. Same PC - two operating systems and when it boots up you can choose your operating system. Google dual boot for more info - "Vista & OS X dual boot instructions" or something similar.
May 17, 2009 7:46:52 PM

Hardware has nothing to do with it?

How about for drivers? For example... if I go to the NVidia site and look up the GeForce 200 series of cards... there are no MAC OSX drivers available.

I know when I install WinXP onto iMacs for people using BootCamp, the OSX install disc has all the drivers for the Mac hardware to be installed for WinXP. But I'm not sure how compatible OSX will be with certain pieces of hardware like soundcards and videocards.

Plus... again... dual boot is a pain in the arse. If I am in the middle of stuff on my Mac I can quickly switch to my PC using my KVM switch and take a break playing a game. I can also have a tonne running on my PC without it affecting performance on my Mac because two separate systems. I've setup many dual boot systems for people with a Mac, but, it's just not for me for how I use my 2 systems simultaneously.

Design wise... lots of programs are being made for PC and MAC, but comes down to compatibility in the industry. The BIG factor being the Fonts... not all fonts from a Mac will work on a PC and sending files back/forth to printers and creative directors. It's fine for an indiviual who designs webistes or photo editing but, for those who are in the Graphic Design industry... you avid headaches by using what everyne else is using. :) 
May 17, 2009 8:03:16 PM

If you are looking at mac - forget gaming - I have a mac and run bootcamp - guess what!? The damn normal heat safety software function for my ATI card doesn't work properly - I can run anything -any mac game, you name it, on mac with no overheat shutdowns - but on windows if I run an intense application it causes the graphics card to overheat to the point that it automatically shuts down - sometimes before the fan engages - so I have a feeling there is a software incompatibility issue between the two that is hindering proper engagement of cooling and throttling down of the GPU and CPU. - good thing you don't want that mate.
Go for a strait PC build or buy a mac - and if you get a mac - get a cheap one because I have a 2.2 Ghz macbook pro - but believe me they aren't worth the premium unless you run final cut or medical imaging programs.

Otherwise take Proximon's advice - he is one of the most experienced here. I personally would advise you to get either a single Nvidia GTS 250 or GTX 260 - SLI with Nvidia is only really safe on the X58 core i7 boards, and if its gaming you want then these might not be good bang for buck, as games are more gpu limited. Give ATI a consideration though - because even though you have had some bummers (me too - my mobility X1600 sucks mucho a**) they supposedly are much better now. At least that's what I have heard and my friend had a major problem with his Nvidia 8600 - it shut down after 2 months, so they both are flawed occasionally. For the most part I would trust NVidia quality - but they are taking too much of a price premium in the low-mid range - I think its a bit arrogant. The 9800 GT is definitely overpriced. Above that though the GTS 250 and GTX 260 are pretty well priced and good choices. Like proximon said - the dual ATI 4770's are the best bang for the buck - nothing else from ATI or NVidia comes close - but if you want NVidia - go for the more expensive cards (not the GTX 285 though), they are actually better bang for the buck. (strange but true)
May 17, 2009 8:09:18 PM

THRobinson said:
Hardware has nothing to do with it?

How about for drivers? For example... if I go to the NVidia site and look up the GeForce 200 series of cards... there are no MAC OSX drivers available.

I know when I install WinXP onto iMacs for people using BootCamp, the OSX install disc has all the drivers for the Mac hardware to be installed for WinXP. But I'm not sure how compatible OSX will be with certain pieces of hardware like soundcards and videocards.

Plus... again... dual boot is a pain in the arse. If I am in the middle of stuff on my Mac I can quickly switch to my PC using my KVM switch and take a break playing a game. I can also have a tonne running on my PC without it affecting performance on my Mac because two separate systems. I've setup many dual boot systems for people with a Mac, but, it's just not for me for how I use my 2 systems simultaneously.

Design wise... lots of programs are being made for PC and MAC, but comes down to compatibility in the industry. The BIG factor being the Fonts... not all fonts from a Mac will work on a PC and sending files back/forth to printers and creative directors. It's fine for an indiviual who designs webistes or photo editing but, for those who are in the Graphic Design industry... you avid headaches by using what everyne else is using. :) 


I learned something new today, I just automatically thought that hardware manuefactors would be smart enough to make drivers for all operating systems, what assholes. Okay sorry for trying to be smart, didn't know that. Good luck with your system, but yeah I still say give ATI a chance, there are barely any problems now, if any.
May 17, 2009 8:22:25 PM

MAC's are great... well, suck for gaming yes, but design wise, I doubt I'll buy a top of the line for running Adobe CS3 programs. I have a G4 1.25Ghz and just over 1Gb ram, and it actually runs pretty fast still... with the exception of Flash and the 3D option in Illustrator. Likely, I'll buy a used G5 Intel Tower w/4GB ram and one day update the video card if I find a cheap one.

The MAC I have now, I updated the video card with one from a PC modded for a MAC. Apparently it was as simple as unsoldering something and moving it to the left 1 hole and voila it's a MAC video card that sells for 2x the cost.

But ya... I agree... the full blown max'd MAC system is great, if I were rendering 3D scenes for a movie or medical software. I'm likely looking at the G5 Core2 2Ghz w/4GB ram... will likely last me a good 5yrs.

ATI wise... I always hear good things lately about them, I guess the other factor isn't that it's an ATI card but rather, watching out for who makes the card (ATI, Sapphire, PNY, VisionTek, etc). Maybe I was just getting a bad brand. Sadly, few years back now and can't recall who made them.
May 17, 2009 8:25:26 PM

philipV said:
I learned something new today, I just automatically thought that hardware manuefactors would be smart enough to make drivers for all operating systems, what assholes. Okay sorry for trying to be smart, didn't know that. Good luck with your system, but yeah I still say give ATI a chance, there are barely any problems now, if any.



Ya, I think the reason is, is that if say NVidia made drivers for video cards that MAC doesn't use on their systems, they can get into a law suit.

Reason being, "legally" you can't install Mac OSX onto anything that's not manufactured by Apple. So, them making drivers for parts that Apple doesn't use kinda promotes using OSX on a PC not a MAC.

Lame I know, but I think that's likely the reason for it. :( 
May 17, 2009 8:50:00 PM

Well I learned another thing today! I can understand now why nVidia wouldn't want to do it, and I finnaly understand everything now - Apple is one greedy mother f*cker.
May 17, 2009 10:25:48 PM

Ya... I'm 50/50 about how apple does stuff...

I mean, its great they made BootCamp which allows a dual boot on a Mac, and nice that I can read stuff on a Windows partition etc, where on a PC you can't read the MAC partition without special software.

But at the same, apple does a lot of jerk like stuff, like until recently, the audio ports were a slightly different size so needed apple only speakers, video cards needed adapters for regular non-apple monitors... even the screw nails in keyboards are small hex shaped heads that need jeweler screwdrivers to get out.

I don't mind them being different from PC but, they really do force the money out of you to buy their stuff only.
a b U Graphics card
May 18, 2009 12:13:09 AM

If you carefully design a hackintosh, you can get both stable on one machine, but I doubt it's worth it for any serious gamer.

I do understand Macs. I haven't used any since the 90's when I was doing newspaper layout, but I get it ;) 
May 18, 2009 12:57:39 AM

I'll have to say, I'm not a fanboy leaning towards either system, they both have their ups and downs.

Mac looks nice, built well, never a compatibility issue with components etc... but a gaming system, even for a minor gamer like myself... have to go PC for that.

But... will have to say thanks guys, you guys helped a lot. I know a fair deal about computers (well, compared to most end users) and have always built my own, but, I never keep current with technology. When I need an upgrade, I learn as much as I can as fast as I can about what's currently out, build my system, then ignore the new technology until I need another upgrade. :) 

Problem now is, there are way way more factors involved than their use to be. :) 

Likely, I'll get the Asus P5Q Intel P45 board, OCZ 2x2048 dual channel ram, and the BFG GTX260 Core 216 card (I know, costs more but they won my loyalty).

It was the GTX260 correct?

Though the Radeon HD 4890 1GB may change my mind... given the specs.

Hmmm decisions decisions... good thing I'm not in a big rush, likely be a month before I do the big purchase. Just getting an idea of what I need t save up.

a b U Graphics card
May 18, 2009 1:57:22 AM

There are still the slower GTX 260s around with 192 stream processors. Don't get one of those. Core 216, like I linked.
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