After doing an obnoxious amount of research (and probably confusing myself in the process) I wanted to ask people familiar with the current GPU market about upgrading from a Radeon 5850 (stock overclocked).
I'm not upgrading because I want to but because I have to. A second computer in my house (the one we use for t.v. shows and movie watching) is having some sever graphic issues. I've removed that card and put my existing 5850 in it and it works fine. So I'm guessing the card in that second computer is on it's last legs (must be eight or nine years old now).
Instead of buying a cheap card for that computer and having the quality look like crap, I figured I'd move the 5850 to that box and upgrade the one in my main computer (which I use for gaming).
I'm debating on cards in the range of the 7850/7870 or the 570. I'm not sure I want to switch away from AMD, but I'm not big on brand loyalty. I've just never experienced any problems with AMD so I've stuck with them.
My price range is between $200 and $300. I'd rather NOT spend over $250. But if the quality I can get out of 7870 is worth how much more they cost than the 7850, I'll do it.
Any opinions on the differences between the 7850 and 7870? Is it worth the difference in price? Is the GTX 570 a better move? If I'm even considering the 7870, should I also look at the 580? The 7850/7870 are PCI express 3.0 and the GTX 570/580 are 2.0. Is that really important? I appreciate all the help. (Sorry for being long winded).
I'll be running the card on a Windows 7 64bit PC I built last year (2011) in Feb. Specs:
Intel i7 920 oc'd to 3.2ghz
Gigabyte UD3R X58A motherboard
6GB of Kingston RAM (don't remember latency)
2 x80GB SSD
1 x300GB hdd
nVidia hasn't put out their mid range 6xx series cards yet, but I have no info about when that may or may not happen.
If you are content to wait and see, you could wait for a gtx 660 or 660 TI, but 7850 is a great value at $250-$260 with a good aftermarket cooler. You will be able to get some great performance with a bit of overclocking.
I wouldn't hesitate based on what may or may not come out soon.
I will be overclocking this card, whichever I get.
So it looks like it's down to the 7850 and the 480 (after doing yet more research). I'm super cautious about spending ANY money a card that, while cheaper, is a few generations behind a current card. With the prospect of overclocking, I don't want to spend money equivalent to the 7850 just to make sure the 480 doesn't blow up.
Yes, heat is a big issue for me. I've had a problem with it in the past to which there is a sad-story ending. I'm pretty crazy about space in my tower and don't want to clutter it with more aftermarket fans/heatsinks. The CM Hyper 212 is a beast, but was well worth the headache it was to install.
I'd rather just be able to install the card, test ranges of OC values for a stable setting, and then play and not have to worry about heat/power consumption.
They're really about the same relative performance. and if OP doesn't want to go to the trouble of removing the stock heatsink, and installing a new one, 7850 will have much higher OC headroom since temps won't be as big of an issue.
Changing the heatsink will inevitably void your warranty. Yes, you could always swap it back on.
I'd shoot at the 7850 or maybe even a 6950, they're again, pretty close in price and performance. The GTX480 was a power hungry hot card, and yes, you can put on a special cooler, but by the time you add in the extra 55 to the 220 you're almost at 300 bucks again.
I'm not one for aftermarket coolers, if you just buy a good card in the first place you won't have the troubles and frustrations of monkeying around with the aftermarket cooling and potential warranty issues.
The other thing to think of is, yes, the GPU runs cooler, but it's still producing just as much heat, it's just being more effectively vented into your case to raise the temps on all your other hardware.
A 7850 is cooler, which means there's less heat getting into everything else.
Thanks for all the input guys. I'm concerned enough about heat and power consumption that I'm going to go with the 7850. Someone who responded mentioned that, while an after market cooling system will keep the gpu cool, it still produces the same amount of heat. It's just moved away from the gpu into the rest of the case. I'd rather the card just run run cool from stock.
I like the Cooler Master liquid cooling setup in those pictures.
(Apologize for crappy grammar/spelling, typing on my tablet is wonky.)
I think the 7850 is a good buy, and the 6950 is also an incredible card for the price and overclocks like mad. Mine has the unlocked sharers, which you can't find anymore. Even the reference cooler does a great job of cooling everything (though it sounds like a jet).
Honestly though, when I was picking my gpu for my build, it actually ended up being about looks. I didnt know much about much that sort of thing (which is why I wanted to build it in the first place). I really liked the look of the reference card and it looked promising.
Just my 2 cents on the 6950. The 7850 is always a good choice, and the 480 is like dirt cheap right now