Alright, I've spend the better part of the past two days reading everything I can about this, but I'm still torn on what I should do.
I built my system last January on a strict budget and wanted a three monitor setup with an upgradable system. At that time the only game I played on PC was SC2 which doesn't allow Eyefinity so I skimped on the video card and now I have a Sapphire 5770. It's been a great card so far. I can play SC2 on Ultra with high FPS and watch netflix and browse the internet and such all simultaneously.
Now, I bought BF3 and started playing (yes, it actually worked on this card) but the FPS is around ~15 which is highly annoying, but I left it on auto settings rather than manually lowering them so I might be able to increase FPS slightly. I do realize this card is not going to power 5760x1080 (which is what I need) smoothly. This game is awesome so I need to upgrade, but I don't want to go crazy. I really don't want to spend more than $300. I'd prefer not to have to minimize settings, but ultra settings aren't a demand. Playable FPS is however.
ASUS Crosshair IV Formula AM3 AMD 890FX
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition Thuban 3.2GHz
SAPPHIRE 100283-3L Radeon HD 5770 1GB
CORSAIR Enthusiast Series CMPSU-650TX
Western Digital Caviar Black WD5002AALX RAID0
Mushkin Enhanced Silverline 8GB (2 x 4GB)
COOLER MASTER Storm Scout
3x 22'' Acer Slim LED Monitors
(Built completely including all this and more (extras) for under $1200 over a year ago)
Obviously there isn't much I can do with the 5770, but I can definitely pick up a 7770 now (assuming it will crossfire, 6670 if not). Then I can upgrade to another 7770 if needed and get rid of the 5770. Anyone have thoughts or experience with this. Keep in mind I don't need STELLAR performance, but smooth playablilty.
I can get rid of the 5770, and try finding a couple of 6850/6870 2GB used or cheap enough to afford. I found some on Craigslist in the area I could test out before I buy for under $100 a piece, but even retail I can get them for about $160 a piece. This is on the high end of my budget however, and I'll have to pick up mini display port adapters as currently I'm using a very pricey, but relaiable full display port adapter that's USB powered.
Of course it would be nice to just get a HD6990 or couple of 6950s, or the new 7970 but this is much more than I'd like to spend. All of that is $500 minimum. What about just one 6950/6970?
I can also wait for a 7870 or something? What should I do?
Also keep in mind, the motherboard I'm using is capable of quad Crossfire, so even throwing three 7770s in it isn't out of the question. Although I'm sure I need to find at least 2Gb memory on the cards.
All thoughts are valued, but let's keep the budget in mind rather than just stating the obvious that the most expensive card available is the best solution. That's what most of the information is about. I can't find any benchmarks of crossfire 7770s in eyefinity to know if that will work. I'm also relatively new to extreme gaming and the associated hardware.
Don't forget about nvidia surround. Kepler is right around the corner and so are the 78xx series. Not sure what prices will do when they arrive but whether to wait is up to you.
Your budget is your limit. Basically the more you spend the better your performance will be. The 7770's performance is very close to the 6850. Plus I don't see any 2gb 7770s yet. 2 x 6850 2gb will do eyefinity alright. I wouldn't expect high settings but you should get playable frames with reduced settings. I've never been affected but I do know that some people complain about microstutter when using XFire. Obviously spending more will get you higher settings and more frames but under your budget constriction the above seems to fit.
And with regard to your budget - I don't see anything that will fit your budget and perform better than the 2 x 6850 2gb combo. You could hold off and see what Kepler and the 78xx bring but as of now that's a pretty good choice for the $$.
You are right though and I may wait for the 7850 or similar, but I don't know where to expect the prices. I was surprised to see the 7770 as cheap as it is. I was suprised to see the benchmark the 7770 got with BF ultra settings at 1920x1200. It got almost 40FPS average. I know I'm asking for a lot more, but I figured with two I might get something similar if it wasn't for the stupid VRAM issue.
I might wait and see like you suggest. I can play on a single monitor for now. I'm not a fan of nVidia's prices, but I would like them for the Linux advantages.