I'm buying a completely new build that will be used for at least the next 2-3 years until a new upgrade and I have a couple of solutions, but I can't decide which one:
Radeon HD 5970:
+ Great, well insane performance
+ Upgradeability, just add another and new heavy future games should run good
- Performance on games that don't like multi-GPU
- 2-way CrossFire power consumption
Radeon HD 5850 OR 5870 CF:
+ Performance on par if not greater than 5970
+ Able to disable CrossFire for games that don't like multi-GPU, not possible with HD 5970 (?)
+ Cheaper to upgrade to 3rd card than 5970 to 2nd, money and power wise, looking at some benchmarks at least, but the power consumption seems to change madly from review to review...
? Not sure how 3-way CF compares to 2-way HD5970 CF... In future when games will likely use more of graphics card than CPU the performance with 3-way CF of either card will be greater than in todays benchmarks.
I pondered a lot which to choose, but now that I actually wrote it all down I guess it's easy decision, but I'll ask anyway for opinions.
This will be built on top of Asus P6T motherboard (this can be changed, but this board looks very good to me), Core i7 930, 3x2 GB tri-channel DDR3 memory, HAF 922 chassis. And it will be used for heavy gaming (which is the Primary reason for the build. Crysis, GTA4, etc...), HD video, virtual machines, 3D rendering, HD encoding, and whatnot.. It will very likely be also overclocked at some point along with the CPU.
1) Which graphics solution would you take (keeping in mind that it will be upgraded in the future) and why?
2) What kind of PSU would I need?
3) Should I wait for ATI card price drops? Is there any info if the prices will drop and by how much?
4) Please explain the game profiles, they're confusing me, one source says they're Required for you to run any games in CrossFire, another says they're just for tweaking things like V-Sync and whatnot...
The HD5970 is underclocked HD5870s. You can just put the speeds back up to normal(or higher) with an OC.
Yes, but I'm still debating, those games that really, I mean really don't like multi-GPU, concern me. I mean, in some games (I would paste the review where this came up, but I can't find it...) the minimum FPS goes to 10-20 with 5970, 5850 CF, 5870 CF, whereas with a single 5850 card for example it's well above the playable 60 FPS. With HD5970 you can't disable CrossFire (afaik) and you have to suffer with those low FPS's. The Average FPS is still higher than with a single card though. Should I even worry about this kind of stuff?
I'll be forward with my thoughts about one thing right from the start - Pricing.
I don't think ATI cards are going to drop in price. They have been proven performers within their current price ranges for up to 6 months now. Fermi's arrival may see some very slight shifting, but I do not believe there will be a drop in price for some time. Why? Because ATI's cards offer excellent gaming performance, vastly superior energy conservation, unique single-GPU Eyefinity, and excellent overclocking headroom. I really don't think we'll see any major shift until nVidia brings more to the table than the 470 and 480. Though we may actually see 5850's fall back under and at $300 permanently if the 470 comes in at ~$350. This would obviously make the 5850 the more affordable choice.
That said, for the price difference between two 5870's and one 5970, the choice seems rather obvious - ~$850-$900 for two 5870's, or ~$700 for a single 5970. How's that obvious? Well performance-wise, they will sometimes trade blows, with dual-5870's taking the lead most of the time. But the differences in performance tend to be rather slim in almost all cases. So from a performance per dollar standpoint at this very moment, 5970 wins. At least it, will once they're actually in supply again.
In terms of future upgrades, your options are likely to be much more limited with a 5970, as it has not been, nor will it ever be produced in the same quantity as single 5850's and 5870's. (We see this already...) This means that adding another one 6 months, a year, or two years from now may be far more difficult than finding one is right at this very moment. It could also be quite costly, as the cards themselves would become unique due to their lower production numbers. Also, take into account that in order to get the full potential of a 2nd 5970, you would have to have an X58 or 790FX (890FX when it's available) motherboard, otherwise both cards would use x8/x8 Quad-Fire, leaving x4 per actual GPU. (More on this later.) I feel the advantage goes to the 5870 when it comes to future upgrade options, which would include not only Quad-Fire, but Tri-Fire as well.
When I weigh the two options, and discount the obvious price advantage I first pointed out, I prefer the two 5870 (or even 5850) option for a few reasons.
1. A 5970 is a dual-GPU, single-slot card using a single PCIe x16 slot. This means you're getting an equivalent to x8/x8 CrossFire. In an X58 or 790FX motherboard (and eventually 890FX) using two separate cards, you'd get x16/x16 CrossFire using two 5870's or 5850's. Yeah, I've read all the arguments that have been made about it not having a "noticeable" difference. Yet the difference remains - 16 channels per card, or 8 channels per card. (Or even 4 channels per GPU with a dual-5970 config not on an X58 or 790FX motherboard.) These differences can lead up to a 2-7% performance gain, according to Anandtech: http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=3649
2. Previously mentioned upgrade options and availabilty.
3. Peace of mind. One thing that separates the two choices is the impact of a card failure. If anything goes wrong with only card you have, you're SoL til the replacement arrives. With multiple cards, should one die, you'll still be able to use your computer while waiting for a replacement.
4. Cooling. It's much harder to keep multi-GPU cards cool than it is single-GPU cards. This can affect overclocking potential.
5. Overclocking itself deserves a spot, as single-GPU cards tend to OC better.