ATI Crossfire "noobie" - Upgrade to 4890x2

I could use some advice from you knowledgeable ones - ATI / Crossfire guru's - concerning upgrading to a Crossfire setup, dual 4890's

My current system specifications:

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X48-DQ6
CPU: Intel Q6600 Kentsfield C2Q
BIOS: Award (stock BIOS)
RAM: 4GB Corsair Xtreme Performance CM2x1024-6400
HD(s): Western Digital Barracuda's (x3, RAID setup)
Video: EVGA GeForce 9800 GTX 512MB
Audio: Realtek ALC889A (onboard audio)
PSU: Thermaltake Toughpower 700W
UPS: APC 1300
Case: Coolermaster Stacker (Full Tower)

Monitor (25AUG2009) Samsung Syncmaster 2232BW (22", 1680x1050 max resolution)

OS: Windows Vista Ultimate SP2 32-bit

A bit of history: I haven't bought an ATI board in over 25 years. Not a NVIDIA "fanboi" (and not wanting to debate it here), I just have a tendency to stay with brands I feel comfortable with over time.

As far as computers go, I'm a hobbyist and gamer. I consider myself knowledgable, maybe expert, but certainly not "guru" level (if that makes sense). I run components at stock speeds and rarely OC; I like performance but also value component longevity and stability.

The Gigabyte GA-X48-DQ6 was an emergency replacement for an ailing ASUS P5B Deluxe and looking more and more to me like one of the best purchases I've made in the last few years. It's been rock-solid and runs relatively cool (credit probably also goes to the Coolermaster case).

The Gigabyte board is a Crossfire board, not SLI. Sooo . . . . .I'm interested in purchasing two HD4890's for just that purpose. Two other components I either WILL have to upgrade, or potentially have to upgrade, are my PSU (maybe) and my monitor (definitely).
I've been pouring over the posts here and trying to find folks with similar setups or concerns but could use some "custom" advice.

Questions/advice requested & more info:

1. 4890 manufacturer.

I'm leaning towards XFX, although it looks like I'll have to buy adapters if I go with my current PSU. It seems like they won't supply them (and even strongly suggest you don't use adapters). Gigabyte's offering is tempting, also, with the Zalman cooling. I've heard / read some things about Sapphire support that makes me shy away from them. I'd also strongly consider a BFG purchase, I've dealt with their support in the past and it was stellar (however, they don't have any 4890 boards, at least, not on Newegg).

Any board purchase would be made through NewEgg unless there was a very good reason to shop elsewhere.

The current front runner:

. . but I'm also glomming over the boards on this page, including the HSI and Gigabyte boards featured:

2. PSU
Is the Thermaltake Toughpower gonna smoke if I get two 4890's? According to AMD's Crossfire Certified site, it'll run one (but not two ) of these boards. However, the AMD site's latest entries are for the 4870, not the 4890's. Are the 90's more or less power hungry?

According to the spec's board my PSU will run the 4890 . . . . . but that's probably only 1 and not Crossfire.

Is it even gonna work (connectivity). I'm looking at it right now, and eyeballing the two six-pin PCI-E connectors plugged into the NVIDIA 9800gtx. Can't spot or find any 8 pin's.

I think I'm looking at having to get a new PSU, sigh.

If that's true, can any suggest a rock solid but competitvely priced one? I'd prefer a 1000+ watter if I've gotta upgrade, but the price may be just too much. I'm hoping it's no more than $250 USD. Modular cabling would be a plus.

4. Temps.
I generally use stock cooling solutions, i.e, fan-based. I don't overclock unless the utility is very comprehensive, the configuration rock-solid-stable, and it doesn't void the warranty. Room temp is on average 67F, I have a front panel temp LCD (although it currently only monitors the 9800gtx, HD's, and CPU).

The Coolermaster is probably the closest to being a rackmount or caseless setup as far as airflow, and still be a case. It's also a dust magnet, but I clean it regularly.

Are temps, particularly with two boards, gonna be an issue? So much so I'll have to look at custom cooling solutions (I hope not) ? If the 4890's are designed to run hot, which is what I've read here, fine.

4. Board size and the Coolermaster Stacker.

Just how long ARE these boards? Longer than the NVIDIA 9800gtx? I've got some space, about 3-4", but it might require some inventive cabling if the board starts hitting the SATA cables going into my HD's.

I've slapped in two NVIDIA 7950's into this beast without a problem. It was the last time I've tried to go dual boards, though (trying to get quad SLI under Windows XP/DirectX 9 . . . . probably what broke my old motherboard :whistle: ).

5. Monitor
I understand I'm not gonna get full value here until I get a new monitor capable of supporting the higher resolutions (the Samsung Syncmaster 2232BW only supports up to 1680x1050). The monitor purchase is slated for the near future, especially if I have to cough up cash for a new PSU.

6. Games
I play (or plan to purchase*): Bioshock, Bioshock2*, Crysis, FarCry 2, Fallout3, CIV4 Complete, Left4Dead, Left4Dead2*, Team Fortress 2, Borderlands*, Dragon Age*, Mass Effect, Mass Effect2*. I like shooters and RPG's primarily.

Knowledgeable/expert advice is appreciated. Advice from folks owning the Gigabyte GA-X48-DQ6 and/or the Thermaltake Toughpower 700w would be especially valued. I'd be an ATI & Crossfire "noobie", and I'm doing the upgrade myself.
5 answers Last reply
More about crossfire noobie upgrade 4890x2
  1. Here's the cabling for the Toughpower 700w

    Looks to me like 1 4890, no problem. Two: problems.

    Man, that Sapphire board is tempting, though. 2gb, nice cooling, and native HDMI. If it has a decent warranty . . . have to hunt down threads concerning Sapphire's support, though

    EDIT: read some other posts (like dredsilver's) as well as reviews (Overclockers, etc), seems the extra 1gb doesn't provide that much of a performance increase, and can even be a liability at times (like if I do want to OC).

    Also, while the VaporX looks sweet, supposedly it underperforms (or just equals) conventional fan+heatsink rigs, at least as far as temps/performance goes. It's likely quieter, though.

    Back to eyeballing the XFX 1GB 4890 "black" edition board, gonna give this (and Sapphire) a pass.
  2. Guess it's a busy week for the ATI/Crossfire "guru's" out there :whistle: . I did stumble across the Crossfire FAQ which was informative.

    Read dozens of reviews, glommed over threads here, shopped around, and the winners are:

    Video Board
    XFX 4890:

    I looked about about ten different cards, from Sapphire's 2GB and 1GB VaporX offerings (as well as others from Sapphire), HSI, Gigabyte, BFG, and MSI. I don't like Diamond, and avoided PowerColor and VisonTek as I'd never heard of them before. Never saw anything that shook me from the one featured above, with the exception of a reported 1GHZ "Black Edition" model that XFX advertises as being out there, but I couldn't find a retailer selling it.


    Looked at the brands most suggested by posters here at Tom's Hardware, including Seasonic, PC Power & Cooling, a few Antec models, and Corsair.

    Settled on the Corsair HX850:

    Has modular cabling, ample power, 140mm fan, good reviews, and it's a Corsair, which seems a well thought of brand here on these and other forums.

    The next issue, assuming the dual 4890's fit on the Gigabyte GA-X48-DQ6, and the HX850 into my CMStacker 830 Tower, and there are no RMA's (fingers crossed), is going to be overclocking and heat. The 4890's reportedly run very hot. Currently I only have the front intake fan and the rear exhaust, both 120mm. The Q6600 is cooled by an Arctic Cooling Pro 7 and is not overclocked.

    Considering whether or not I'll have to get side panel fans (I've never had to use the side panel at all, it's not installed, but I've not OC'd any components, either) and whether or not installing a top exhaust fan is a good idea. Frankly, as hot as they cards supposedly run, I'm concerned about heat even if I don't overclock.

    If I do OC, it'll be a small amount, just squeezing a little extra out of the boards . . . or seeing if I can get the clock up to 1ghz like the Black Edition's. That's gonna require water cooling I'd imagine, and I've not yet done case modification & WC kit installs.
  3. You'll get a much better use of those two 4890's if you overclock your CPU, even a 2.4GHz quad would hold the two back.

    Having a Q6600 and a 4870X2 myself, I know for certain that it helps. Have my CPU at 3.6GHz 24/7.
  4. Thanks. I was wondering about that myself.

    Honestly, though, I've -never- yet overclocked anything before, CPU or Video board, so there's gonna be a learning curve as well as me watching the temps like a hawk.

    What kind of cooling are you using on your CPU? I currently have an Arctic Cooler Pro 7 on mine:

    The good news is, the 4890's fit just fine, they were smaller than the NVIDIA 9800gtx they replaced. I had to remove the cabling and backpanel connector for an external SATA drive (never used one), as it was blocking the airflow into the bottom-most board. Currently the boards are just using the stock XFX fans, are are idling at 38C, which is a lot less than reported by some purchasers.

    I just might be able to get away with some mild overclocking using air cooling alone.
  5. Actually, the readings I'm getting off the temperature sensor I pasted to the underside of the board is likely bogus, it's saying 32C, where the ATI Overdrive monitor is telling me 62C. This is at idle & not overclocked.

    Can anyone tell / show me where a sensor should be placed on the 4890?
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