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New Card – Memory considerations limiting Nvidia cards?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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August 20, 2012 3:12:53 AM

Hello, I'm looking to upgrade an HD 5850 to a 600 series Nvidia card, and before making a final decision I'm hoping to learn more about how VRAM and memory bandwidth affect gaming performance.

Normally, I'd just go with the in game benchmarks that indicate that the GTX 660Ti is 90% of the 670, the 670 is 90% of the 680, and hundred dollar cost increments make the 660Ti the best value. However, first the TH review of the 660Ti gave me pause, and then further search turned up a bundle of forum threads with lots of nonspecific pessimism about the 660Ti's performance going forward, due to the smaller memory bus.

I'm now thoroughly concerned about the 660Ti being a good value for current titles, but with a dramatic decline in performance going forward. Worse, I'm looking at the lower memory bandwidth and smaller VRAM on 600 series cards compared with Radeon 7900s cards, and wondering if the same might be the case for this whole generation.

Does anyone have a good explanation (or even just a link) that could confirm or allay my fears? I see from what little I've found that lots of factors affect VRAM requirements, so I'll include relevant personal considerations:

CPU: i5-2500k
CPU cooler: CORSAIR CAFA70
Mobo: Gigabyte Z68X-UD3-B3
RAM: 8GB, 2x4GB DDR3 GSkill
Graphics: HD 5850, 1GB VRAM
PSU: Kingwin ABT-730MM 730W
Case: LIANLI PC-A70F (two front, one rear fan)
Monitor: 1680x1050


I really value smooth performance, and appreciate pretty graphics, so my priorities are high FPS and then high settings. I can imagine getting a higher resolution monitor in the next couple years, but I don't think I'll be considering a multi-screen display.

At the moment, my favored titles are:
Battlefield 3 (and BF4, when it eventually hits)
Shogun 2: Total War
Batman: Arkham City

I'm looking forward to:
Dishonored
Company of Heroes 2
Rome 2: Total War


At the moment, I'm looking hard at two GTX 670 cards:

GIGABYTE GV-N670OC-2GD GeForce GTX 670 2GB 256-bit
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Galaxy 67NQH6DN6KXZ GeForce GTX 670 GC 4GB 256-bit
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Thanks in advance – any thoughtful advice is really appreciated.
August 20, 2012 4:32:27 AM

What VRAM is for, is to drive pixels faster at higher resolutions.

So, what you have to ask yourself is these 3 questions:

Am I going to game above 1080p?

Am I using more than 1 monitor?

Am I gaming on a screen larger than 24"?


If you have answered YES to any of these, a large VRAM would be neccisary.

My recomondation, if you going to game at 1680x1050, and have NO PLAN on upgrading to 3 screens or 1080p monitors, 2GB of VRAM is more than enough.

If your going to go 1080p or ABOVE, then I would recomend the 4GB card.
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a c 80 Î Nvidia
August 20, 2012 4:45:04 AM

There is some truth to the bandwidth and Vram limitations of the stock Nvidia cards, but the reality is, the Nvidia cards perform closely to their AMD counterparts, and isn't that what matters? Theory is great, and it does play a part, but the end performance is what matters.

I have not be able to find a single example of a game where 2GBs was not enough VRAM to drive up to 5760x1080p, unless it also included Tri-SLI or Quad-SLI. A single GPU currently, never runs low on Vram. The bandwidth on the Nvidia cards may slow up performance ever so slightly at higher resolutions, but hardly worth mentioning.

I don't know what the average performance is with all the games listed, but 2 of those games often show up as heavily Nvidia favored (BF3 and Batman).

If you are at 1080p, there is absolutely no reason to hesitate on the 2GB Nvidia. At 2560x1440, AMD's offerings gain some ground on the Nvidia cards, if not slightly faster at times, but again, hardly worth noting.

Anyways, both Nvidia and AMD cards do fine. Don't worry about VRAM limitations, unless planning on multiple graphics cards with multiple monitors.
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August 20, 2012 4:48:32 AM

bystander said:
There is some truth to the bandwidth and Vram limitations of the stock Nvidia cards, but the reality is, the Nvidia cards perform closely to their AMD counterparts, and isn't that what matters? Theory is great, and it does play a part, but the end performance is what matters.

I have not be able to find a single example of a game where 2GBs was not enough VRAM to drive up to 5760x1080p, unless it also included Tri-SLI or Quad-SLI. A single GPU currently, never runs low on Vram. The bandwidth on the Nvidia cards may slow up performance ever so slightly at higher resolutions, but hardly worth mentioning.

I don't know what the average performance is with all the games listed, but 2 of those games often show up as heavily Nvidia favored (BF3 and Batman).

If you are at 1080p, there is absolutely no reason to hesitate on the 2GB Nvidia. At 2560x1440, AMD's offerings gain some ground on the Nvidia cards, if not slightly faster at times, but again, hardly worth noting.

Anyways, both Nvidia and AMD cards do fine. Don't worry about VRAM limitations, unless planning on multiple graphics cards with multiple monitors.


100% True.

The only real diffrence is maybe you will lose one or two frames, and MAYBE some "screen tear"
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August 20, 2012 4:53:56 AM

You don't need more than 2 gigs for 1080p... All the tests between the 2 GB and 4GB versions of the same card shows little to no improvements at 1080p...

The OP already said he's gaming at 1680x1050 resolution...

Screen tearing isn't that much of a issue (unless the game itself is TERRIBLY coded like darksiders 2) and there's always vsync to fix screen tearing...
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a c 80 Î Nvidia
August 20, 2012 5:05:37 AM

killerhurtalot said:
You don't need more than 2 gigs for 1080p... All the tests between the 2 GB and 4GB versions of the same card shows little to no improvements at 1080p...

The OP already said he's gaming at 1680x1050 resolution...

Screen tearing isn't that much of a issue (unless the game itself is TERRIBLY coded like darksiders 2) and there's always vsync to fix screen tearing...


Yes, but he also mentioned he plans to upgrade in the near future, but unless he plans to go with multiple graphics cards on 3 monitor setups, 2GB's don't currently run into any issues. You'd have to have super high resolution and settings to run out of VRAM at this time.
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August 20, 2012 5:21:53 AM

bystander said:
Yes, but he also mentioned he plans to upgrade in the near future, but unless he plans to go with multiple graphics cards on 3 monitor setups, 2GB's don't currently run into any issues. You'd have to have super high resolution and settings to run out of VRAM at this time.


I assume that since he's not going into multiple monitors that he's not going to get a super high resolution monitor (both cost about roughly the same amount unless you're getting super nice ones...)

http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/graphics/display/evga-...
Even most games at 2560x1440 at high settings doesn't gain a advantage from more than 2 GB of vram...

so for his purposes, 2 GB is more than enough.

But as the GTX 660 TI has shown... memory bandwidth is a problem even if the memory is the same amount... So basically anything over $300 that's not a GTX 660 ti would be able to push most games at around 30-60 fps/maxed settings with high AA/AF...
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a c 80 Î Nvidia
August 20, 2012 5:28:34 AM

I agree. I was just letting him know that he'd have to go into the extreme before he'd run into issues.
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August 20, 2012 2:08:01 PM

Wow, thanks for the responses, all. I'm feeling much better about switching back to Nvidia again. I'm planning on making the purchase on Friday; probably I'll go with the Gigabyte windforce card.


Regarding memory, it seems that GeForce and Radeon cards had about the same bandwidth for the previous few generations (I just looked through the specs for second-tier cards from each, going back a few years). Now, however, the 7970 and 7950 have remarkably higher bandwidth than the 680 and the 670, with presumably more head room to play with based on the lower stock memory clock. It's still not enough to make me buy another AMD card after the 5850 fiasco (I only just learned that my GSOD wasn't a unique problem I encountered), but I'll be interested in seeing how this generation plays out with future games.

Thanks again.
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August 27, 2012 12:25:51 AM

Best answer selected by symbolsix.
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