The only holdover from my last build is my Radeon HD5770 which is outputting (is that even a word? ) to a 2.5 year old LG Flatron 20" 16:9 (1600x900) LCD monitor that still works flawlessly. As one would guess, this is where my problem lies.
I need to upgrade my GPU....but upgrade to what?
I'm looking towards picking up BF3 in the next few weeks and also waiting patiently for Diablo 3. Aside from those two games, my gaming covers a wide area. MMORPG, racing, action, FPS, strategy, simulation, etc. Just to make things easier, use BF3 as the proverbial benchmark since that's probably one of if not the most demanding game currently available.
I'm toying with a couple ideas and I can't really settle one any one in particular.
1) SLI with 2 GTX 560ti's.
2) Crossfire with 2 Radeon 6950's (1GB VRAM version).
3) Single GTX 570.
4) Single Radeon 6950 (2GB version).
I haven't really considered the Radeon 6970 because most of them are over 11" in length and my case can only handle cards 10.5" in length at the absolute max - 10" is being more realistic though.
Cost is also a consideration (isn't it always?). Dual 560 / 6950 would be in the $400 - $500+ range overall, but in 2 smaller expenditures at different times. At that price range, I'm into GTX 580 price territory but with a 580, I'd be dumping almost $500 all at once which I don't really want to do. My only hesitation about going with a multi-GPU setup is the dreaded micro-stutter.
From the "research" I've been doing, micro-stutter seems to affect AMD cards to a greater degree than Nvidia cards, but neither are immune to it. I'd really hate to spend that kind of cash on two cards and find out that micro-stutter annoys the crap out of me while gaming.
Finally, one last important thing to take into consideration....I'm not looking to play BF3 on Ultra with 4xMSAA @ 100FPS. I'm totally content to play on a mix of Ultra / High or even just plain High as long as I can maintain adequate frame rates.
I've been trying to wrap my head around my GPU upgrade more than the entire rest of the system combined.
Out of those options, the single GTX 570 is probably the best for you. It will handle BF3 quite well at 1600x900, it would even do well at 1080p. For 1600x900, SLI and Crossfire are overkill. You won't see any appreciable difference over any decent single GPU, and you would have to deal with higher power consumption, possible driver issues, and possible microstuttering. Only consider SLI or Crossfire if you intend to upgrade to a 1080p display or higher.
Might be a chore to convince my wife to let me blow another $300 all at once, but you do raise some excellent points. Power consumption as well as heat generated would be a lot lower. Avoiding micro-stutter is another plus.
Granted, the raw frame rates won't be as high with a single GPU vs. multi-GPU, but the hit to my wallet won't be either. I guess I'll have to keep an eye out on the sales later this week and into the weekend.
If you don't want to blow $300 at once, you could go for a slightly lower card. One 6950 or 560Ti would be more than enough for your resolution, even for BF3. Even cards down at the $200 price point like the 560 or 6870 would do fairly well at your resolution. The 570's main advantage is that you wouldn't have to upgrade again as soon compared to cards in the $200 to $250 price range.
You have them in the correct order. The factory overclocked 560 Ti's are the same price as the reference 560's making the latter irrelevant. These factory OC'd models have improved cooling and the 560 has by far the biggest headroom of any card over $200. 1,000MHz is just about guaranteed, most often w/o a voltage tweak.
Guru3D uses the following games in their test suite, COD-MW, Bad Company 2, Dirt 2, Far Cry 2, Metro 2033, Dawn of Discovery, Crysis Warhead. Total fps (summing fps in each game @ 1920 x 1200) are presented below:
Here's how ay 4 choices match up at 1920 x 1200:
1) SLI with (2) factory overclocked 900 MHz GTX 560ti's...... 862 combined fps for as little as $410
2) Crossfire with (2) factory overclocked Radeon 6950's (1GB VRAM version)....... 759 combined fps for as little as $470
3) Single GTX 570....... 524 combined fps for as little as $320
4) Single Radeon 6950 (2GB version)....... 484 combined fps for as little as $240
On a cost per frame basis:
1. Twin factory OC'd 560's - 48 cents per frame
2. Single Radeon 6950 (2GB version) - 50 cents per frame
3. Single GTX 570 - 61 cents per frame
4. Twin factory OC'd Radeon 6950's (1GB VRAM version) - 62 cents per frame
I like the 570 for a couple reasons but I also like the 560Ti SLI configuration for a couple reasons as well. Again, you both raise some excellent points in favor of both solutions.
The 560Ti SLI would be more expensive than a 570 overall but a lower "per transaction" cost. However, SLI / Crossfire eats more killowatts than a comparable single GPU setup. More power = more heat. I bought the 750w power supply because that would be able to run 560's in SLI or 6950's in Crossfire. I'm not willing to do a multi-GPU setup with any higher end cards so I adjusted my power needs according to my budget. I left the option open for SLI / Crossfire but that doesn't mean I have to utilize it.
After sleeping on the idea, I think I'm favoring Nvidia products at the moment. I haven't seen any BF3 benchmarks using the retail version yet, so that may change. Also, I know AMD cards tend to be less power hungry and run cooler as a result, but they also don't offer the same amount of "oomph" under the hood as well as Nvidia cards do.
The only reservation I have about any of the 1GB / 1.2GB cards is the talk about BF3 using more VRAM than that, but I don't know how much of an issue that would be at 1600x900.
At your resolution BF3 will not use more than 1GB of RAM. Video RAM is only an issue if you plan on getting a display with a resolution of 1920x1200 or higher, or if you intend to play the game across multiple displays. Unless you intend to get a higher resolution display or you are really obsessed with being as future proof as possible you probably don't need anything higher than one 560Ti. The only situation where the 570 would be really beneficial would be if you wanted to max out Crysis 2 with the DX11 patch with anti aliasing or you really want to run BF3 on ultra with higher levels of anti aliasing.