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Finally need to decide on a Video Card

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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October 20, 2012 1:46:49 AM

Well, less than two weeks from now, I'll be hunting down a video card to put into my recently built PC. That said, and with the new nvidia cards out now as well as the 1GB Radeon 7850s, it's time for me to finally figure out what to get.

My PC's current configuration is as follows:

CPU: i5-3470 (intel graphics 3000)
RAM: 8GB (2x4gb) G.Skill Ares
Case: Corsair Carbide 300R (so the size of the card shouldn't be any issue at all)
PSU: Seasonic M12ii 520w

I don't plan to SLI or Crossfire. One GPU only, thanks, the PSU won't really allow for more than that. I also don't plan to do any OC'ing on my own, but if a card I buy is overclocked, that's fine with me.

My budget for a GPU is $200-230, which I may be able to extend up to $250. My current monitor is old and only displays 1440x900, so it's going to be replaced with a 1080p monitor in the near future. With that in mind, and from other posts and reading articles here and elsewhere, I've basically been looking at the 2GB Radeon 7850s ever since August. However, with the 1GBs (honestly, is there a huge difference between the two types of 7850s?) out and being even cheaper... well, I'm not really sure which way to go there. I have noticed that the 7870s have also fallen to close to that budget I have, but I'm not sure the PSU will handle the power draw.

That said, would the new nvidia video cards compare favorably to either of them, and still be within my budget? Any help (including the brand of the card, such as XFX, Asus, Gigabyte, HIS, etc) would be great.
a b U Graphics card
October 20, 2012 4:00:49 AM

You should go for a 7870 GHZ edition at that price point, although it will be overkill at 1440x900 (It will be fine at 1080p).

The issue with only having 1 GB of video ram, is that you have the ability to run games at high settings, but not the video ram. Its like having a horse with strong lungs... but short legs. One way to explain it, the 7850 runs Bf3 at 1080p Ultra w/ MSAA @ around 35 fps. Now the issue is, at maxed out settings, BF3 uses around 1.5 GB of video ram. So now you have a card that can play battlefield 3 at maximum settings, but not the video ram. Then you have to dial down the settings to get down to contain within the 1 GB restriction, which sort of makes the fact of buying a good card redundant. Its like two 560ti's 1GB. Lots of power to run games, not alot of vram, as SLI'd 560ti's are around one 680. Sorry if that explanation was confusing.
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a b U Graphics card
October 20, 2012 4:05:29 AM

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... -- Asus 7870 GHZ (Quiet and best cooling, helps it overclock further)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... -- Msi 7870 GHZ Hawk (Higher quality components I believe.)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... -- Gigabyte 7870 GHZ (Best of both worlds, cooling wise, and pre overclocked well.)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... -- (One of the best Radeon card makers -- Great cooler, good quality, good pre overclock)

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a b U Graphics card
October 20, 2012 4:31:07 AM

I agree that the 7870 is a great card. The 2GB version of the 7850 is an even better card considering its price though. That's a great psu you have there and it should handle the 7870 just fine. I actually own that psu and run a hyperthreaded Xeon, an overclocked 7850 (from MSI), 16GB ram, 3 hard disks and an SSD. It has absolutely no issue with it at all. I always recommend Seasonic.
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a c 105 U Graphics card
October 20, 2012 4:43:49 AM

if you're going to upgrade to 1080 res I'd stick with a 2gig card. FPS don't mean diddly squat if they can't be rendered smoothly.
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a b U Graphics card
October 20, 2012 5:26:41 AM

You actually have two choices. A lot of people like to forget that Nvidia still makes GPU's.

If you have it in the budget, don't skimp, get the 7870 (2gb) or the GTX 660 (2gb). I can show you benchmarks where they go toe to toe trading blows frame for frame.

Games are kind of split up right now, half run better on Nvidia and half run better on AMD. Depends on what you play.

EVGA GTX 660 FTW 2gb is the highest factory OC'ed card in the 660 lineup and can pretty much handle everything you throw at it at 1080. $248 shipped

Sapphire 7870 Ghz Edi OC 2gb is a very good take on the 7870. It's slightly OC'ed and will also do everything you need @ 1080. $250 shipped $235 after MIR

The way I like to look at it is if you need finesse (CUDA Cores & Phys X) and play BF3, SC2, WoW, Portal 2, Shogun 2 or either Batman games, go Nvidia.

If you want pure "horsepower" and play other games besides the ones I listed already, go AMD. AMD's eyefinity is better for multiple monitor setups in case you ever decide to go that route.
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a b U Graphics card
October 20, 2012 5:44:28 AM

dscudella said:
You actually have two choices. A lot of people like to forget that Nvidia still makes GPU's.

If you have it in the budget, don't skimp, get the 7870 (2gb) or the GTX 660 (2gb). I can show you benchmarks where they go toe to toe trading blows frame for frame.

Games are kind of split up right now, half run better on Nvidia and half run better on AMD. Depends on what you play.

EVGA GTX 660 FTW 2gb is the highest factory OC'ed card in the 660 lineup and can pretty much handle everything you throw at it at 1080. $248 shipped

Sapphire 7870 Ghz Edi OC 2gb is a very good take on the 7870. It's slightly OC'ed and will also do everything you need @ 1080. $250 shipped $235 after MIR

The way I like to look at it is if you need finesse (CUDA Cores & Phys X) and play BF3, SC2, WoW, Portal 2, Shogun 2 or either Batman games, go Nvidia.

If you want pure "horsepower" and play other games besides the ones I listed already, go AMD. AMD's eyefinity is better for multiple monitor setups in case you ever decide to go that route.



In Battlefield 3, the cards are actually very close now, not like before 12.7, so OP, don't look at old benchmarks, make sure they are Catalyst 12.7 or above.

Also, in Batman Games, all the Nvidia cards get smashed as soon as you turn on any sort of anti aliasing, even the 7870 beats the 670.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-gtx-660-ti-...

I also believe AMD cards have something called Stream Processors, which aren't as advanced as Cuda Cores, but there are much more. I'm not completely sure if they work the same way as Cuda, but I think its very similar. Its roughly 3 Stream Processors = 1 Cuda core. Correct me on it if I'm wrong, not too experienced in that part.
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a b U Graphics card
October 20, 2012 6:06:29 AM

Techspot does rerun the current generation cards when updated drivers become available. All these benches are with Catalyst 12.8.

I respect your opinion JJ1217, I've even turned to you a couple times, but don't try to discredit me. I'm also fully aware of the memory bandwidth limitations on the Geforce cards and that is displayed on the benchmarks, it's not hidden away somewhere. I'm simply stating that there IS another option besides AMD which all of these topics always turn into, AMD AMD AMD.
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a b U Graphics card
October 20, 2012 6:25:20 AM

dscudella said:
Techspot does rerun the current generation cards when updated drivers become available. All these benches are with Catalyst 12.8.

I respect your opinion JJ1217, I've even turned to you a couple times, but don't try to discredit me. I'm also fully aware of the memory bandwidth limitations on the Geforce cards. I'm simply stating that there IS another option besides AMD which all of these topics always turn into, AMD AMD AMD.


Woah, I'm not discrediting you, sorry if it seemed so :lol:  . You never even specified Techspot so I had no idea where you were getting the benches from, and assumed, like alot of benching sites, which hadn't updated their benchmarks either :)  . I wasn't even talking about where you got your benches, I was talking to the OP he shouldn't look at old ones, and make sure he looks at new ones.


Lots of AMD fanboys, including myself on this forum. I still like Nvidia, I just feel like that they are the Apple of graphics cards, patenting things that should be allowed on all sorts of technology. I'm not sure if others feel that way, and I respect if they don't. I also feel that the 660ti (As well as the 660) are overpriced at this pricepoint, the memory bandwidth feels too constrained for me to actually feel that it'll last more than 1.5 years. Maybe drop the 660 $20 and then I'll probably suggest it. The 660ti needs to be dropped further as well. I'm not going to go into a topic completely unrelated, so just ignore that last paragraph, its not VERY important. Also, those benches between the 660 and 7870 are within two fps, probably within the margin of error, and the overclocking capabilities on the Pitcairns and Tahiti GPU's are amazing. Look at my clocks as an example, lots of people get my clocks air cooled (Albeit at like 95-100 degrees, which is why I don't always run at these clocks, 1400 mhz core, 1500 mhz mem.), and my card soars past a 660ti.
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October 21, 2012 2:03:54 AM

Thanks guys. I've decided to put most of the cards mentioned so far into a wishlist on newegg, so if one comes down in price to somewhere near or within my budget, I'll be sure to snag it.

I'll probably keep with the 7870, though which one at the moment is up to debate. It is difficult to look past the fact that the 660's appear to be somewhat cheaper than the 7870's are, however, so I'll probably add one or two of them to the wishlist to keep an eye out. From what I've read, the 7870 does better at higher resolutions than the 660 does? Is that true, or did I read that incorrectly?
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a b U Graphics card
October 21, 2012 2:09:15 AM

It does do better at higher resolutions, and with AA on compared to the 660. Even on a Nvidia game (Batman), the 7870 still trumped the 670, even though that had an equal memory bandwidth. Although frames are still above 60fps, so really it doesn't matter.

It really comes down to the games you play. If you are going to play at like 1080p in the future, then a 7870 might be the superior choice; again depending on which games you play.
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October 21, 2012 2:20:12 AM

I'm planning to play games at 1080p in the future, so I think I'll keep an eye on the 7870s. If the Nvidia card drops in price due to a sale to make it more palatable (I'm willing to spend up to $250 on the 7870, after all, but I think that the increased performance at 1080p is worth the fact it's a bit more expensive than the gtx 660s). If I find the one that was linked (the FTW edition with the high factory-OC) dipping down to about $200, that might be enough to interest me. Other than that though, I'm leaning heavily toward the 7870s.
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October 23, 2012 6:38:07 AM

Well, I'm back, and I've been doing some more reading. It looks like the GTX cards aren't as bad as I originally thought they were in comparison to the 7870's, and only tend to fall behind significantly when you hit x8 MSAA in most games that I've seen in benchmarks. That, combined with my CPU (which is, as stated above, an i5-3470) which can't be OC'd, suggests to me that there may be a bottleneck somewhere if I use a 7870. Is that likely to be the case, and if so, would it really be a huge difference if I went with a GTX 660 instead?

Now, there is (was, rather) a 7870 on Newegg that was definitely in my price range- the XFX Double D, at $229.99 (with a $20 MIR, to make it $209.99 instead). As I mentioned in the first post, I'd like to keep things down to $230 or less. My budget can allow for a full price $250-260 Radeon, but I'm the first to admit that I'm not entirely familiar with how the fps equates to true smoothness for any given title, let alone the graphical details. To be honest, I only have older games at the moment, but I'm planning to get a few more recent titles- for example, my more 'recent' acquisitions include Mass Effect and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Any other PC games I own are older (Civ IV, and I plan to get Civ V eventually. I'm not huge into shooters (unless we're talking space-sim style, but hell, I haven't played one since the old Star Wars: X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter days, let alone ye olde Wing Commanders). FPS are not my cup 'o tea, basically. With that in mind, I imagine a 7870 or the 660 would basically be overkill, but I do want to keep a look out to the future as well. I know that these cards will be out of date within... oh, roughly a year or two, of course, but I'd like one that'll be viable for at least 2 years to be on the safe side.
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a b U Graphics card
October 23, 2012 3:44:45 PM

Wow, sounds like you really did your homework. Kudos to you my friend. You're right in that the Nvidia cards, while pulling away in some games (BF3, WoW, Portal 2, Batman: AC) lose the slight edge they had once you start turning up AA. The price difference between a GTX 660 & Radeon 7870 is ~$15 ON Newegg with the GTX 660 being cheaper. Also, AMD will be releasing Catalyst 12.11 which give the 7xxx series cards a nice boost of 4-10% (can't remember the exact % for 7870) making the 7870 more formidable and decreasing whatever lead the GTX 660 had in specific games to nothing.

Edit: I found the article over at TechPowerUp.
Here's the breakdown of the performance gains from Catalyst 12.11

HD 7750: +4%
HD 7770: +5%
HD 7850: +4%
HD 7870: +10%
HD 7950: +7%
HD 7970: +7%
HD 7970 GHz: +7%

Not to mention that if you buy a 78xx card once the drivers hit you'll get Far Cry 3 FREE and Medal of Honor Warfighter 20% OFF which is a nice little bundle.
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October 23, 2012 4:46:56 PM

Hm... Interesting. That would be nice, considering that with MIR, some of the 7870's do reach my budget for them. Or close enough, anyway.

I don't think I've seen anyone actually suggest Powercolor video cards... Are they just average or that bad? They seem to be among the cheapest of the video cards I see, is that indicative of their quality at all?
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a b U Graphics card
October 23, 2012 4:56:35 PM

Their cards aren't "bad". The company just doesn't offer any "umph" with the card. Most of their cards are reference as are their coolers. They tend to not factory OC their cards either. They're on the same level as XFX.

Like this one PowerColor 7870 is $230 shipped $210 after MIR. This is pure reference card with a reference cooler. No thrills, no frills but it's still a 7870 Ghz Edi.
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October 24, 2012 4:42:37 AM

Thanks for the help. Turns out the XFX Double D 7870 came back in stock today, so I went ahead and grabbed it while I could. Should be getting it around Saturday, I think. The bundled game was enticing, but to be honest, the game doesn't actually interest me so I'm not worried about missing out on an awesome deal like that. Even at $230, that's far more of a card than I was expecting to get even a month ago.

Makes me glad I waited.
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October 31, 2012 1:40:29 AM

Best answer selected by macgreen.
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