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GTX 680 SLI or AMD 7970 CFX

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December 17, 2012 1:17:19 PM

I'm currently in the process of building a monster of a gaming rig, I've currently spent about $2000:

Intel core i7 3770k unlocked

4 x Corsair 8GB high performance RAM

Koolance.com water cooling parts - 2 x 240mm radiators, Koolance 400 pump, quick disconnect no spill fittings, tubing wrap to avoid kinking, electronic flow rate/fan speed controller, 500ml reservoir, HDD + RAM + CPU waterblocks and I plan to buy blocks for the GPU(s) as well once I make my decision

Koolance 1000W liquid cooled PSU

Asus Maximus V Formula MOBO

1 x 30GB SSD and 1 x 2TB 7200rpm HDD for hybrid boot

Windows 8 Pro OEM

^ It's all sitting in a pile in the corner of my office, in the boxes, waiting to be installed. All that's left to order is the GPU - and I have to pick up a nice size tower from a local retailer, since I wouldn't trust myself to order one and possibly not have the correct measurements to fit everything inside.

I've been reading alot online, and watching reviews on YouTube, studying the current high end graphics cards. If I had the excess cash I'd spring for an AMD FirePro professional series graphics card - the kind they use at Pixar for 3D modelling in movies like Shrek, Madagascar, etc etc. However they run about three grand. At the consumer level, I've narrowed it down to 2 options: dual CrossFireX AMD 7970, or dual SLI Nvidia GeForce GTX 680.

Either option is about $850-1000 depending on the brand, and from what I've learned reading/watching the reviews is that there really isn't a whole lot of noticeable difference between the two. Which of the two would you recommend? Also, for the same price I could get a single GTX 690 - and save a PCIe slot in the process. Should I scrap the dual config idea and get a 690 instead?

Edit: I plan to overclock the hell out of the cards, and install waterblocks as well, so reference performance/cooling isn't a huge concern for me. I'm more interested in getting the most horsepower possible.

Edit 2: Since I've been getting alot more feedback than I expected on this, what would you guys think about buying a freon compressor at the local appliance repair/hardware store and building an external enclosure and a copper pipe loop specifically for the CPU, to achieve overclocks of 6+ Ghz? Hell I could just hook the freezer coil from my old mini fridge up to it if I really wanted to.
a b U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 1:20:52 PM

We I'd recommend it this way;

GTX 690 > GTX 680 SLI > 7970 XFire

And if you can then get a bigger SSD in future

EDIT: Overclock? Get GTX 690, and OC it like hell.

Single GPU is way better than Dual.
Why? Because Some games don't support Dual.
Way too much heat, less OC.
You'll have a room for another Card.
Easy to Overclock, rather than Dual ones
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December 17, 2012 1:21:58 PM

I definitely could get a bigger SSD but I don't see the point, I'm only going to be using it for the operating system - for a super speedy boot. All the actual data and game files etc etc will be on the HDD. What's the overclocking headroom on the 690 like?
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a b U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 1:33:45 PM

monitor?
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December 17, 2012 1:34:28 PM

I've been using a hybrid SSD+HDD setup for a year or so now on my current rig, and I find it works pretty well. SSDs are so bloody expensive, so I really don't see any motivation to drop another thousand dollars on a 600GB+ SSD when my 2TB HDD cost me under $400.

Thanks for the link though I'll give it a read.
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December 17, 2012 1:36:03 PM

@Spent, I have a 120hertz 30" monitor by HP for my current rig, but in the future I'll be buying two more for panoramic display.
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a b U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 1:38:16 PM

Leave that SSD. Fact is GTX 680 SLI beats 690.
But Heat, Slots & Compatibility is the factor.

If you want the Best now then get GTX 680 SLI.
Or else you can get GTX 690 SLI in future if you get GTX 690 now.
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December 17, 2012 1:40:07 PM

Get a single GTX 690, at stock speeds it runs the same as 680 SLi, with the added bonus of being able to get another for SLi when they become cheaper.

I never recommend starting your GPUs in SLi/crossfire as it leave no room for improvement without buying a completely new set of cards.
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a b U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 1:41:21 PM

+1 for the 690. Smoothest experience. The 680 sli being the second.

The 690 will put out less heat and maybe be quieter than 680's.

7970's kick out a lot of heat, draw more power and have awful stuttering in xfire. Tried them and didn't like them at all.
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December 17, 2012 1:46:35 PM

Can you give some examples of titles that would be incompatible with SLI/CFX? With the water cooling system I've purchased, I'm fairly confident that I can keep them under 40 degrees celsius regardless of single card or dual. Also the mobo I selected has more than enough slots available :p  all I use the PCIe for is GPU and my surround sound card. But the Asus Maximus V has on board FX studio quality audio - so I don't need to worry about that this time around.
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December 17, 2012 1:48:37 PM

Sumukh_Bhagat said:
You've seen that Review? GTX 680 SLI is mostly ahead. Only behind in Skyrim

Look at the difference, it is a tiny amount. Advising someone to get SLi when one card has equal performance is bad advice as it means they can't upgrade cheaply (by going SLi) in the future.
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a b U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 1:49:25 PM

Get GTX 690. Its just a 5 fps behind. But in that High fps Range you'll never Fell that.
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a b U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 1:49:36 PM

Pretty much every major title will support sli/crossfire. The one's that don't probably don't need that much GPU horspower anyway.
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a b U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 1:51:24 PM

SevenVirtues said:
Look at the difference, it is a tiny amount. Advising someone to get SLi when one card has equal performance is bad advice as it means they can't upgrade cheaply (by going SLi) in the future.



I've already Mentioned above there in the 1st Comment that GTX 690 is better buy.
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December 17, 2012 1:59:06 PM

Well based on the replies I'm likely going to get a 690. Thanks guys. I actually wasn't expecting the amount of feedback I got.
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a c 216 U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 2:00:11 PM

SevenVirtues said:
Look at the difference, it is a tiny amount. Advising someone to get SLi when one card has equal performance is bad advice as it means they can't upgrade cheaply (by going SLi) in the future.


I don't think either of you realize something very important here, but the 690 has two 680's on board and operates in SLI. The only difference between 680 SLI and a 690 is the 690 is downclocked, shares a PCIe slot and a heat sink and fan.

You'll get more performance with 680 SLI, the only times you won't is when the CPU is holding back performance.
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December 17, 2012 2:03:52 PM

bystander said:
I don't think either of you realize something very important here, but the 690 has two 680's on board and operates in SLI. The only difference between 680 SLI and a 690 is the 690 is downclocked, shares a PCIe slot and a heat sink and fan.

You'll get more performance with 680 SLI, the only times you won't is when the CPU is holding back performance.

What we have said is that with the 680 SLi t here isnt much room for improvement, whereas with a 690 he can just add another in a year or 2
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a c 216 U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 2:09:19 PM

SevenVirtues said:
What we have said is that with the 680 SLi t here isnt much room for improvement, whereas with a 690 he can just add another in a year or 2


As much as I'd like to agree with you there, I have never seen anyone choose quad-sli as an upgrade option. By the time that year or 2 comes, most people will sell it and buy the next great thing, like a 790 or 8990. Quad-SLI is a nightmare to deal with. It is only worth considering if you need that much power now, for something like 3D Vision surround.
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December 17, 2012 2:09:22 PM

@bystander, I don't expect any CPU bottlenecking with an i7 3770k - I can easily get that overclocked to 4.5Ghz. Higher if I use an external enclosure and a freon compressor which I could go pick up at the local hardware store for about $150.
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a c 216 U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 2:12:39 PM

Apanzee said:
@bystander, I don't expect any CPU bottlenecking with an i7 3770k - I can easily get that overclocked to 4.5Ghz.


If you run a single monitor, especially one at 1080p, you will have a bottleneck in some games. That is just the nature of some games. A lot of online games these days, tend to bottleneck beyond 60 FPS at times.

If you run 5760x1080p, then that will be less of an problem, as the resolution will hold back performance to a point the CPU won't get in the way as often.
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December 17, 2012 2:13:41 PM

bystander said:
As much as I'd like to agree with you there, I have never seen anyone choose quad-sli as an upgrade option. By the time that year or 2 comes, most people will sell it and buy the next great thing, like a 790 or 8990. Quad-SLI is a nightmare to deal with. It is only worth considering if you need that much power now, for something like 3D Vision surround.

Running 690 SLi is no problem
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December 17, 2012 2:15:03 PM

On 30" monitors I don't really plan on using resolution higher than 1920x1080 very often - it's hardly noticeable.
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a c 216 U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 2:15:28 PM

SevenVirtues said:
Running 690 SLi is no problem


This is where you keep coming off confusing.

690 SLI is actually, 690 quad-SLI. That is 4 680's in SLI. Read reviews on it, you'll see lots of notes of problems they experience and lack of game support.
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a c 216 U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 2:16:45 PM

Apanzee said:
On 30" monitors I don't really plan on using resolution higher than 1920x1080 very often - it's hardly noticeable.


Are you going with 120hz at least? I think you may be shooting too high for 1080p @ 60hz.
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December 17, 2012 2:20:12 PM

bystander said:
This is where you keep coming off confusing.

690 SLI is actually, 690 quad-SLI. That is 4 680's in SLI. Read reviews on it, you'll see lots of notes of problems they experience and lack of game support.

The 690 is a single card (regardless of the chips inside it), wile many motherboards can support 2 GPUs running in SLi, many do not support more than this.

If he gets 2 680's now, he would have to upgrade his motherboard to add more later. Either that or sell them and buy a new card in the future.

Whereas he can get a 690 now and just add a second 690 card in the future when he needs to upgrade.

Regardless of what is inside a 690, it is still a single card and is recognised by the computer as a single card.
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December 17, 2012 2:22:06 PM

If you read above, I think it's the 5th post, I already mentioned I have a 120hz HP monitor and I plan to buy 2 more in the future for panoramic display. The only time I'm going to be using 60hz at more than 1080p is when I've got the PC hooked up to my 60" TV for competitive gaming.
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a c 216 U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 2:23:53 PM

Apanzee said:
If you read above, I think it's the 5th post, I already mentioned I have a 120hz HP monitor and I plan to buy 2 more in the future for panoramic display. The only time I'm going to be using 60hz at more than 1080p is when I've got the PC hooked up to my 60" TV for competitive gaming.


You said it was 30", is that a 120hz TV? I'd love to see a link on it. I've never seen a 120hz 30" monitor and TV's can't receive 120hz of input.

Note: If it is a monitor, that would be pretty awesome.
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a c 216 U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 2:25:05 PM

SevenVirtues said:
The 690 is a single card (regardless of the chips inside it), wile many motherboards can support 2 GPUs running in SLi, many do not support more than this.

If he gets 2 680's now, he would have to upgrade his motherboard to add more later. Either that or sell them and buy a new card in the future.

Whereas he can get a 690 now and just add a second 690 card in the future when he needs to upgrade.

Regardless of what is inside a 690, it is still a single card and is recognised by the computer as a single card.


It is 2 physical cards, but 4 physical GPU's. It still has all the problems of quad-SLI, but you are right, it will fit into a motherboard easier.
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December 17, 2012 2:28:05 PM

No no, the 120hz display is a 30" gaming monitor by HP. I'll see if I can find a link.
I also have a 60" 60hz flat panel LCD TV that I currently use primarily for console gaming. Once I build this rig though I'll be running an HDMI cable and extenders down the hall to my office along with a USB extender for a controller. In the future I plan to buy two more of the 30" monitors for panoramic display. I'd simply unhook them and plug my TV in when I want to play a different style of game.
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December 17, 2012 2:30:58 PM

HDMI doesn't support 120Hz, you need to use DVI
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a c 216 U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 2:31:22 PM

To be honest, you'd save a bunch of money if you went with 670 SLI instead, and have almost exactly the same performance as a single 690.

However, if you go 5760x1080 @ 120hz, that would be one of those extreme situations where two 690's may be worth their trouble.
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December 17, 2012 2:35:44 PM

@Seven, I know. Lol. 120hz is for the gaming monitors, which will be sitting on my desk and use DVI. 60hz is my TV which is down the hall and will use HDMI. Like I said, I'd simply unhook the monitors and plug in my TV when I want to switch gears from an MMO to FPS.
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December 17, 2012 2:44:54 PM

SevenVirtues said:
What we have said is that with the 680 SLi t here isnt much room for improvement, whereas with a 690 he can just add another in a year or 2


His board had 3 PCI-E slots, which means a third 680 is a possible upgrade path for 1/2 the cost of a 690. I know the first response to this post is going to be a reference to x4 or x8 on the third slot. Please see the link below to answer that question.

http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/Intel/Ivy_Bridge_PCI...
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December 17, 2012 2:49:59 PM

@bystander, I can't seem to find a link on my monitor - they may have discontinued it. Take a look at some of HP's newer ones though, they are very nice.
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a b U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 2:50:14 PM

Watercooled 7970Ghz should allow for a lot of really crazy overclocking
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December 17, 2012 2:55:12 PM

@spent, that's one of the things that confused me a bit when I was looking at the cards. Is the Ghz edition the same PCB as reference? Or would I have to buy a universal waterblock instead of the reference block? - Even with my curiosity I think it would be pointless to buy a factory overclocked card when I can do it myself?
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a b U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 3:52:34 PM

Apanzee said:
@spent, that's one of the things that confused me a bit when I was looking at the cards. Is the Ghz edition the same PCB as reference? Or would I have to buy a universal waterblock instead of the reference block? - Even with my curiosity I think it would be pointless to buy a factory overclocked card when I can do it myself?


ghz edition may allow for further overclocking as the card was built for use with the specific firmware, the blocks should be the same but It would vary by card
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December 17, 2012 4:52:40 PM

http://www.anandtech.com/show/5805/nvidia-geforce-gtx-6...

Quote:
From a gaming performance perspective we haven’t seen a dual-GPU card reach the performance of a pair of high-end cards in SLI/CF since the Radeon HD 4870X2 in 2008, so it’s quite refreshing to see someone get so close again 4 years later. The GTX 690 doesn’t quite reach the performance of the GTX 680 SLI, but it’s very, very close. Based on our benchmarks we’re looking at 95% of the performance of the GTX 680 SLI at 5760x1200 and 96% of the performance at 2560x1600. These are measurable differences, but only just. For all practical purposes the GTX 690 is a single card GTX 680 SLI – a single card GTX 680 SLI that consumes noticeably less power under load and is at least marginally quieter too.
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December 17, 2012 5:17:51 PM

I would go 7970 Crossfire, beats the crap out of the 680, and is a little above the 690.
If you had double the money you had, I would buy 2x 7990's, and crossfire them, unbeatable.
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December 17, 2012 6:08:42 PM

@kiowa, the 7990 is the AMD equivalent of the GTX 690. Except the core clock is slightly lower, the memory speed is slightly lower, and it takes up 3 slots instead of 2 with the factory heatsink assembly. Also there doesn't seem to be any waterblocks available for the 7990 - so I'd still have to pick either SLI 680s or a 690 over it. I'm likely going to get a 690 and in a month I'll buy another one. 6 months from now when the 700 series comes out, I'll auction off both cards and buy a 700 series.

This entire build is going to be watercooled - from CPU to GPU to RAM to HDD. I have a Koolance 400 pump with an electronic flow rate controller, a 500ml reservoir and 2 radiators. I'm also looking into possibly getting a freon compressor from my local hardware store and making a copper pipe loop for solely the CPU so I can overclock it to 6+ Ghz. They're like 150$.
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a b U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 7:22:41 PM

I dont see the value in the 690 or 680s. 670s in SLI seem like the value cliff....you just drop off after that point. WC 670s should be fine.

As for single card vs sli later..who SLIs / CF later? Say I had a 560ti...should I buy a new one now or sell the one I have and just get a 660ti? You know the answer...sell the 560ti.... Point is, by the time you want to sli you probable will want to just sell the card you have. So just SLI now. Upgrade? Well sell the cards and get new ones. Your not landlocked if you SLI up front. Plus, you can get a pair of the same cards....and not have to stress out about them going out of stock.
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a c 216 U Graphics card
December 17, 2012 7:53:29 PM

One thing I noticed, when using the default settings, which everyone benchmarks with, the score was higher than when you flip Quenue 1, though this is a single benchmark. I'll have to read the article.

Anyways, I was also recommending 670 SLI to begin with, but then I saw he wanted to add two more 120hz monitor to make it 5760x1080p @ 120hz. Assuming he wants to take advantage of 120hz, he going to be considering tri/quad cf/sli.

EDIT: I notice that he was using RadeonPro. THG had tested that with crossfire/sli, and found it helped a lot there as well. Their only complaint is you have to setup a profile for each and every game, and considered it complicated. I guess that depends on the person on whether they want to fuss with it or not.
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December 18, 2012 1:12:41 AM

Yea, AMD needs to integrate radeon pro into CCC. It is a great piece of hardware but needs more usability.

GTX 670 isn't a bad choice too if you are going for OC, it is easy to use and require less messing around. But, HD 7970 ghz X2 will give the best raw power and the drivers are getting better and better.
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December 18, 2012 2:24:57 AM

@burnt, I still fail to see the purpose of buying a factory overclocked card when I plan to do it myself. The most compelling case I've seen for a non reference factory OC 7970 is by Asus with their ROG series card - it's got VGA hotwire ports to overvolt without soldering, a safe mode button that functions like a clear CMOS on a motherboard in case I screw it up, and physical +/- voltage buttons to raise the power while benchmarking. The biggest drawback I see with it is that the card is 3 slots wide - and has a completely overhauled PCB. So I would have to either deal with DirectCU II air cooling or remove it and use universal water blocks. I could fit two with the motherboard I selected but I don't know if the pro's outway the con's.
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a b U Graphics card
December 18, 2012 6:25:00 AM

The 690 is seen as 2 GPU's. The 7970 is not supported as quickly in SLI and radeon pro doesn't always work for the stutter.

The 690 SLI is almost as smooth as a single GPU straight of the bat with no mods needed.
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