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Best upgrade from GTX 260? $400 budget, 3-monitor gaming

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May 18, 2010 1:24:04 AM

Guys,

This is my first post here on Tom's Hardware forums, but I've been lurking for a while. I want to say "Thanks!" to all the people who fill these forums with useful information; I haven't had to post up until now because a search of the forums usually answers my question.

Having said that, I'm wanting to upgrade my GPU. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1) I have a Core i7-920, and after reading the articles on building a balanced gaming PC, I'm realizing that my computer isn't balanced. 2) I have 3 widescreen monitors that I'd like to use for gaming (as opposed to just 1). Read on for the details of my system and my budget, etc.

Thanks in advance for your advice!



APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: 1-2 weeks (really, as soon as I make a decision).

BUDGET RANGE: USD $400 After Rebates

USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Gaming (Oblivion+texture & city mods is currently my most taxing game @ 20-45 fps. I'm eyeing Battlefield: Bad Company 2 with lots of interest, though, and I know it's very taxing on both the CPU & GPU). I also do quite a bit of scientific computing on this machine...think parsing/visualizing multi-GB data files with Matlab.

CURRENT GPU AND POWER SUPPLY: Asus GTX 260 core 216 with 896 MB. The PSU is a 500W Delta, and supports up to 28A on the 3.3V rail, up to 26A on the 5V rail, and up to 18A on each of the 3 12V rails. The model number is GPS-500AB A, and you can find the details I just listed here.

OTHER RELEVANT SYSTEM SPECS: This is an Asus CG5290 desktop with a Core i7-920 that I've overclocked to 3.20 GHz (160 x 20) and 9 GB 1066 DDR3 RAM. I bought this computer on sale...it was a really good deal, but I almost wish I had built from scratch, since it comes with an underpowered GPU (when compared to the CPU) and PSU. Since purchasing the computer, I've installed an additional 80 mm intake fan at the front of the case, and I reflashed the crippled Rampage II Gene motherboard with the BIOS for the real Rampage II Gene to enable SLI/crossfire.

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg.com, Fry's Electronics

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA (Los Angeles, CA)

PARTS PREFERENCES: None

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe

MONITOR RESOLUTION: I have 3 LCD monitors. The main monitor runs at 1920x1080 and has HDMI/DVI/RGB. The other two monitors run at 1680x1050 and have DVI/RGB. None of the monitors have DisplayPort inputs.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: None


Just so you all know what I'm thinking, I'm eyeing the 5870 (1 GB), but I'm not sure how well games will run across 3 screens when all three don't have the same resolution. I also find distasteful the thought of having to purchase a $100 active DisplayPort-to-DVI dongle, since none of my monitors have DP built in, but Eyefinity requires at least 1 output to be DP.

So...given my budget and desires (3-screen gaming, balanced gaming PC), what suggestions do you all have for the best GPU upgrade? I'm open to upgrading my PSU, if needed (I'm resigned to the fact that, at some point, I'll probably have to).

Thanks!
Phillip
a b U Graphics card
May 18, 2010 1:37:24 AM

I can give you another option (maybe), besides a ATI card and their display port , solution.
Nvidia is going to be releasing a driver, that is supposed to backwards compatible with their older gpu's. With their multi monitor solution, you need two cards. A second GTX 260 would give you, 5870, gtx 470 performance. No DX11.
Your budget leaves out the current Fermi cards, but their are less models planned for July.
You would need two of those regardless for 3 monitors.
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Related resources
May 18, 2010 5:45:02 AM

notty22 said:
I can give you another option (maybe), besides a ATI card and their display port , solution.
Nvidia is going to be releasing a driver, that is supposed to backwards compatible with their older gpu's. With their multi monitor solution, you need two cards. A second GTX 260 would give you, 5870, gtx 470 performance. No DX11.
Your budget leaves out the current Fermi cards, but their are less models planned for July.
You would need two of those regardless for 3 monitors.


Hmmm...I don't know much about Nvidia's "Surround" technology; I wonder how it will perform. I have read, though, that dual GTX 260s in SLI perform similarly to a 5870. Power and heat, though, now that's a different question. A second GTX 260 would be very forgiving on the budget, though, and give me room to upgrade the PSU and do something better than the stock cooling, especially considering the fact the the CPU runs hotter than I'd like...

Phillip
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May 18, 2010 5:46:50 AM

wa1 said:
For 3 monitors, HD5850 with 2GB will be perfect...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

We must know the detail about your PSU...



Hmmm, I didn't know that the 5850 had come out in a 2GB version; I'll check it out. Thanks!

As far as the PSU, I'm fairly certain it's only 500W, but I'll have to crack open the case tomorrow and verify the power and brand. I'll post back then.
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a c 376 U Graphics card
May 18, 2010 6:13:36 AM

I believe people have successfully used certain passive adapters for eyefinity. Perhaps someone can direct you to the thread on the subject as my searching is failing.
As for the card, in general the best deal at the moment on the high end is the HD5850. At stock it is nice but it's the overclocking ability that makes it such a great deal. The card allows you to boost the core voltages(like on CPUs) which allows the card to go from a stock speed of 725mhz to over 1ghz which is just huge. Should give performance somewhere in the area of a stock GTX 480 at those speeds I believe but for much less money. The HD5870 OCs to similar levels but it starts at 850mhz so the improvement isn't as impressive. I will be slightly better(5-10%) in the end because of the extra stream processors but that isn't worth the extra $100 imo. This would be an excellent choice;
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
The 2gb versions of the card will be helpful for eyefinity but once again it's question whether it is worth the extra money. Furthermore I'm only seeing the Vapor-X card with 2gb on newegg and I believe that card does not allow for voltage modification which will limit its overclocking ability to around 850-900mhz.
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May 18, 2010 5:35:00 PM

jyjjy said:
I believe people have successfully used certain passive adapters for eyefinity. Perhaps someone can direct you to the thread on the subject as my searching is failing.
As for the card, in general the best deal at the moment on the high end is the HD5850. At stock it is nice but it's the overclocking ability that makes it such a great deal. The card allows you to boost the core voltages(like on CPUs) which allows the card to go from a stock speed of 725mhz to over 1ghz which is just huge. Should give performance somewhere in the area of a stock GTX 480 at those speeds I believe but for much less money. The HD5870 OCs to similar levels but it starts at 850mhz so the improvement isn't as impressive. I will be slightly better(5-10%) in the end because of the extra stream processors but that isn't worth the extra $100 imo. This would be an excellent choice;
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
The 2gb versions of the card will be helpful for eyefinity but once again it's question whether it is worth the extra money. Furthermore I'm only seeing the Vapor-X card with 2gb on newegg and I believe that card does not allow for voltage modification which will limit its overclocking ability to around 850-900mhz.


Hmmm...I haven't been able to find a success story with a passive adapter either, so that makes two of us.

I'm going to be near a Fry's Electronics this afternoon, but they don't have the Asus card. Should I consider this Diamond card? http://www.frys.com/product/6049668?site=sr:SEARCH:MAIN_RSLT_PG

By the way, to those who have suggested the 5850, what makes you confident that its gaming performance across 3 monitors will be sufficient? I've found very little information in the reviews of these cards that covers multi-monitor performance...

Phillip
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a b U Graphics card
May 18, 2010 6:25:47 PM

Either you SLI your current card,(witch probably need's a new psu, and I don't know about that driver, you should inform yourself good enough before making a decision) or go with HD 5870 2GB eyefinity version.

Make sure to read lots of reviews.
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May 19, 2010 6:12:49 PM

wa1 said:
...We must know the detail about your PSU...


I just got into the computer, and have these details. The PSU is a 500W Delta, and supports up to 28A on the 3.3V rail, up to 26A on the 5V rail, and up to 18A on each of the 3 12V rails. The model number is GPS-500AB A, and you can find the details I just listed here.
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a b U Graphics card
May 19, 2010 7:23:01 PM

Both JyJJy and wa1 are correct, the 5850 2gb version is going to be your best bet for your budget. This is especially so with the 2gb version because of your 3 monitor resolution. The higher the resolution, the more video card memory you're going to need.

Disregarding your PSU I would recommend a 5870 2gb, but the fact remains that you have a 500 watt PSU currently. I would recommend a minimum safe wattage PSU would be 550, as a 5870 2gb uses anywhere between 180-190 watts TDP by itself, however this isn't too far off of a 5850's TDP, so you *might* be safe with a 500. Personally, I wouldn't chance it.
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a b U Graphics card
May 19, 2010 9:30:30 PM

I'm SUPER paranoid about making sure I have enough power, I guess I rub that off on people (that's what she said).

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a b U Graphics card
May 19, 2010 9:42:01 PM

borisof007 said:
Both JyJJy and wa1 are correct, the 5850 2gb version is going to be your best bet for your budget. This is especially so with the 2gb version because of your 3 monitor resolution. The higher the resolution, the more video card memory you're going to need.

Disregarding your PSU I would recommend a 5870 2gb, but the fact remains that you have a 500 watt PSU currently. I would recommend a minimum safe wattage PSU would be 550, as a 5870 2gb uses anywhere between 180-190 watts TDP by itself, however this isn't too far off of a 5850's TDP, so you *might* be safe with a 500. Personally, I wouldn't chance it.


A 5870 will use only slightly more energy than a 4870 or GTX260. A 500watt PSU would be perfectly fine.
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a c 376 U Graphics card
May 19, 2010 9:50:04 PM

Well the HD5850 actually uses slightly less power than the HD4850. No reason to be paranoid. I can understand the paranoia because of all the sketchy PSUs around and the HD58xx series seems like they should use more power than they do but there are decent brands out there and the cards are really quite low power for the performance.
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May 19, 2010 10:38:48 PM

borisof007 said:
Both JyJJy and wa1 are correct, the 5850 2gb version is going to be your best bet for your budget. This is especially so with the 2gb version because of your 3 monitor resolution. The higher the resolution, the more video card memory you're going to need.

Disregarding your PSU I would recommend a 5870 2gb, but the fact remains that you have a 500 watt PSU currently. I would recommend a minimum safe wattage PSU would be 550, as a 5870 2gb uses anywhere between 180-190 watts TDP by itself, however this isn't too far off of a 5850's TDP, so you *might* be safe with a 500. Personally, I wouldn't chance it.


If I ever go with SLI or CF, then I'll need to upgrade my PSU. If I'm going to stay with a single GPU, I'd rather not upgrade if I don't have to. I know that 500W is slightly low, but if I replace the PSU, then I end up with a PSU that I paid for and may never use again...doesn't seem too prudent.

@Jyjjy: Thanks for that link about the passive DP-to-VGA adapter working with Eyefinity. $20 for a dongle is much easier than $100 to swallow!

Ok, so at this point, based on the recommendations made here, I'm weighing a couple of different options:


1) Get the 5850 2GB (Sapphire Toxic on Newegg). $390 total. Done.

2) Get a second GTX 260 (EVGA on Newegg). Replace my PSU with another one, Maybe this Antec EarthWatts 750. $200 + $110 = $310 total.


Is there any reason I should be considering a 5870 1GB card? From what you guys are saying, I need 2 GB to drive 3 monitors, and the 5850 can be overclocked to match the performance of the 5870, right?

P
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May 19, 2010 10:47:34 PM

jyjjy said:
The 2gb versions of the card will be helpful for eyefinity but once again it's question whether it is worth the extra money. Furthermore I'm only seeing the Vapor-X card with 2gb on newegg and I believe that card does not allow for voltage modification which will limit its overclocking ability to around 850-900mhz.


Wait, I just re-read your post...and it looks like I've got to choose between an overclocked 5850 1GB (to make it perform like a 5870) or go with 2GB at stock speed? That makes my previous question about whether to also consider a 5870 1GB somewhat more valid since I can't have the best of both worlds...

So, I guess the question now becomes the following: which is important for gaming on 3 widescreen monitors: speed & core # or larger vRAM?
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a c 189 U Graphics card
May 20, 2010 5:07:10 AM

For 3 monitors, more vRAM is necessary....
HD5850 is a strong card, non-overclocked version will still do the job nicely, even with 3 monitors.
well,what about you, jyjjy?
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a c 376 U Graphics card
May 20, 2010 5:16:42 AM

Yeah, it appears those are your choices.
Unfortunately there are surprisingly few benchmarks for eyefinity setups and none that I'm seeing that involve the 2gb cards. However there are some involving 2560x1600 monitors which should give you a clue. Your eyefinity setup would be 3150x1680(or 5040x1050)which is 5.3 million pixels while 2560x1600 is 4.1 million pixels. Not the same but in a similar ballpark at least.
http://www.overclockersclub.com/reviews/sapphire_hd5850...
From that review you can see the 2gb vs 1gb vs 2gb OCed at 2560x1600 and it looks like the OC is a much larger benefit. Even the 900mhz OC they managed put it on par with the HD5870. The DirectCu card will probably enable another 100-150mhz so it is probably your best choice especially considering the price difference. I suspect the extra memory may show more benefit once crossfire gets involved but then you are talking $800 and I don't have any actual numbers to see how much of a benefit there would be.
You could go for the HD5870 but they OC to the same speeds as the HD5850 in general(same processor.) The HD5870 does have some extra stream processors enabled but from what I've read when the two cards are at the same clock speeds they only give the HD5870 a 5-6% advantage. Not worth the extra money imo but that's up to you.
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