In preparation of Final Fantasy XIV coming out, I'm in the process of upgrading my computer a bit. Here are my current computer specs:
Intel (R) Core(TM)2 Quad CPU Q6700@ 2.66GHz with stock cooling
EVGA nforce 780i SLI Motherboard
Acer P221W Monitor
OCZ SLI-Ready Dual Channel 4096MB PC6400 DDR2 800MHz Memory (2x2048MB)
Apevia X-Discovery Black ATX Mid-Tower Case (with two additional 80m fans)
Corsair TX750W 750-Watt Power Supply
ASUS en210 gpu (my last one sizzled a month ago and this was only purchased as a temporary bandaid! Please don't hate me for it! LOL)
My first priority purchase will be a new graphics card. After reading several reviews, I've decided on an EVGA GTX 460 in SLI over a GTX 480. I am in favor of nvidia over ati because ati has proven to be nothing but headaches for me in the past. But further reading has raised a few questions.
Will my cpu bottleneck my gpus in sli? I do intend to upgrade to an i7 920 (most likely) in ~6 months or so along with a new mobo, but will my cpu be able to handle the 460 in SLI? Or would I achieve only the same performance as if I were to use only a single card?
Considering the price differences between the 768mb and 1gb cards, is the price worth the increased performance? I may upgrade to a 24" monitor after I upgrade my processor. Would that dictate a greater need for the 1gb card?
Also, will I achieve a noticeable increase in performance if I double my ram? (and on that note, which ram would be suggested?)
I do intend to overclock my cards, although I have never done it before. From what I have read though, it is fairly simply and highly effective.
I wouldn't do the 768MB version of the GTX 460 'personally'. It has less memory, a lower memory bandwidth, and less ROPs. The 1GB version is the "Real" GTX 460 in my opinion. It should effectively perform better.
Although your existing CPU would work fine with a single GTX 460, it would definitely need a pretty good OverClock to keep up with an SLI setup. Later, if you do indeed get an i7-920, you'll be fine. Especially since the 920's OC fairly well.
Since your Acer P221W is a 1680x1050 resolution max, a single GTX 460 is more than sufficient for the time being. When you upgrade to a 1920x1080 (or 1920x1200) 24" monitor later, that would be the time to do SLI.
I fully intend to get another SLI-ready mobo, for sure. Thus, I would be willing to get two cards before I upgrade my cpu and mobo, as they would both simply just pop over into my new one. I understand that my current Q6700 would bottleneck, but I was unsure if it would be to the effect that a second GTX 460 would show no noticeable increase in fps. From the responses, I assume then that it would, and there would be no point in purchasing a second one until I've upgraded other components?
There is always a bottleneck, or limiting factor. The question is, how do we get a balanced system?
The GTX460 looks like a very good card. The 1gb version gives you good value for the extra $20 or so, and I don't think that amoung should be an issue, I would go for it. The 1gb versions carry a lifetime warranty vs. 2 years for the smaller card.
The GTX460 scales well in sli, so that is good. GTX480 prices are coming down, and I think I would favor a single gpu solution, just so long as power and heat are not great concerns. Either will give you exceptional gameplay at 1920 x 1200. If you are considering overclocking them, why not get a superclocked version? They are priced just a bit higher, but you are guaranteed good binning, and a factory warranty.
I think you will end up with a balanced system with your current cpu and a GTX460. You can measure your system with the games you play to see if a cpu or graphics update is warranted. I like to suggest the following two tests:
1) Run your games, but reduce the resolution and eye candy to a minimum. This will simulate what will happen if you upgrade to a stronger graphics card. If your FPS improves, it indicates that your cpu is capable of driving a stronger graphics card to higher levels of FPS.
2) Keeping your graphics resolution and settings the same, reduce your cpu power. Do this by removing the overclock, or by using windows power management to set a maximum cpu% of perhaps 70%. If your FPS drops significantly, it indicates that your current cpu is a limiting factor, and that a faster cpu would help.
4gb of ram should be plenty unless you are doing lots of other things at the same time. Most programs are written to 32 bit specs which limits them to 2gb, 3gb max.
More never hurts, but I would not invest in DDR2 ram today.
Upgrading to a 24" monitor puts more pressure on the graphics card, and less on the cpu. That is the time when a second GTX460 might be in order.