I am planning to do a cheap upgrade on my system, and I just wanted to hear some opinions of my graphics card upgrade thoughts.
My current specs are as follows:
MoBo: Asus Striker Extreme
RAM: 2GB (2X1GB)
PSU: 850W Corsair (they make PSUs, wth?!? )
Seeing how this is a cheap upgrade I'm not touching the MoBo. So for CPU I'm gonna go with E8400 and get another couple of 1GB sticks for RAM.
(I should mention I'm from Canada so all prices are in CAD$)
Now the graphics card question. I found 260 for $200 and 4870 for $150, usually that would've been a no brainer and I'd've gotten the 4870 (saving $50 for only a slight hit in performance).
However, I am thinking that 2, 3, maybe 4 months down the road I could get another 260 (for possibly $150 at that point) and setup SLI. Crossfire is out of the question for me as the mobo doesn't support it.
First question is how is striker's SLI support? I mean technically they say it supports it, but this was in the early days of SLI (if I remember correctly), so are there any funky problems with this striker and SLI?
As I understand it two 260's in SLI should outperform a 285 (is that right?), which the cheapest I found is at $400. So if I'm correct about this, and I indeed find a 260 for less than $200 down the road, I should have excellent performance for great price.
And I have two questions about that - would my power supply be able to handle it (I'm planning to do some moderate overclocking on both the graphics card and the CPU)?
And also, would the E8400 cause a major bottleneck, and is it worth to get an E8500 instead (it's about $40 more)?
One more thing, I'd like to be able to play Modern Warfare 2 at 1920 resolution with, let's say, medium-to-high settings, x2AA/x4AF, do you think 4870 would be able to handle that? (I can't think of any other graphics intensive game I'd definitely want to play)
Your power supply will feed any of your presented choices without difficulty.
You should be able to play MW2 at those resolutions/settings with a 48701gb card and that system (assuming it isn't a huge step up graphically from CoD5, though one can never be sure with games that haven't been released yet).
A 3.0ghz CPU will service you very well within these options, and since you plan to OC, it would probably be a waste to purchase extra stock speed, though there is an arguement to be made for higher clocked stock CPUs being more capable through OC, as they may be chosen for higher clocks for a reason. Moderate overclocking needs may not require that extra headroom.
Multi-GPU support is not universal across games... yet. I lean towards single card solutions, as what you pay for, you get to use all the time. Having said that, and seeing your budget, I would suggest scouting around for a deal on a 4890. Already, they can be found for just over 200CAD:
I did essentially the same upgrade, but I went from dual 8800gtx to single gtx285. I found the games I like to play could not take great advantage of SLI. I went with the GTX because it was quiet and powerful. This was also in a Striker board.
Read around about noise, the ATI card tends to be very loud. I prefer quiet computing. If I want noise, I turn up my speakers so I can better hear the game I am playing. My other historical problems with ATI surrounds their drivers, I just like my stuff to work without having to tweak it to. Get the 275 instead of the 260, essentially it is to the 260 what the 285 was to the 280.
For my second computer, I have a gtx275 which is also very quiet and fast, without having to deal with overclocking.
Stock scaling fan speeds are noisy, but unnecessary for many people. My sapphire 4870 512 spent almost it entire life at %40 fanspeed (until I overclocked it) and couldn't be heard above my casefans at that speed, and stayed very cool (70-75c under load depending on the ambient temp of my apartment).
Not saying it isn't loud, but it doesn't have to be as loud as many people make them out to be.
As far as drivers go, I have never had a problem with ATI, and have been using them exclusively for years. I follow a routine of properly removing the old drivers, rebooting, and installing new ones. In my experience through friends and family, it is only the least tech savvy users that have had driver issues (ATI or Nvidia) and usually when installing a new card that is often from the rival of the company that made the card they are replacing. Just some food for thought.
"First question is how is striker's SLI support? I mean technically they say it supports it, but this was in the early days of SLI (if I remember correctly), so are there any funky problems with this striker and SLI? "
@JofaMang: Didn't realize newegg is finally in Canada, I'm definitely gonna scout it for deals.
@kc5sym: "(if I remember correctly)" - apparently I don't
Still, '98 was what? When Half-Life came out I believe. If SLI did exist then, it was on nobody's radar and I'm sure it was buggy as hell. I'm probably way off on the striker but I do remember it was maybe a year or two after SLI came into mainstream before they worked out all the kinks.
In any case, based on everybody's suggestions I think I'll stick with one card (was never too crazy about SLI anyway), and seeing how that means I'm no longer "stuck" with NVidia I'm definitely leaning more towards ATI - they seem to be cheaper with only marginal performance hit (and really, I'm not gonna notice 10fps difference anyway). Now I just need to figure out if it'll be 4870 or 4890, where's a magic 8-ball when I need one
(I don't have the list of prices before me but I think 275 is a bit too premium for something I'm likely to replace within a year or so, and based on performance charts here on Tom's, it's only about 5% faster on average than 4890).