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How future proof is 3GB of GPU memory?

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January 2, 2013 5:51:37 PM

I built my first rig this past summer and I'll soon throw in a second HD 7950 in Crossfire. With a new generation of consoles about to launch people are speculating on how they will compare to high end PC's. By some estimates, current gen GPU's will still be at least 2 or 3 times as powerful as anything Sony or Softie will put out in 2013. But I've been wondering about the shelf life of my system. I'm fairly certain that 2 7950's (XFX Black @ 900mhz to be precise) will provide enough juice for some time. However, still being new to how some of these technical aspects actually play out I wonder how far 3GB of video memory will get me, especially if I shift from 1080 res to 1440. It's likely no one has an exact answer to this but would some of the savvier folks here care to speculate which games this year or what graphical developments would begin to push 3GB of memory to the limit? Many thanks.

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a b U Graphics card
January 2, 2013 6:51:14 PM

Past 2560x1600/2560x1440 (around 4 mega pixels) is where we will see 3GB come in handy. Some newer titles like Far Cry 3 or Battlefield 3 in triple 1920x1200/1920x1080 (this is more than 6 mega pixels) uses a lot of VRAM. Especially if you apply AA. So with your setup right now, there's nothing to worry even if you upgrade to 2560x1600.
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a b U Graphics card
January 2, 2013 6:55:17 PM

3 gb of video ram is more than enough for at least a few more years.
in fact it is the gpu itself that is more of a concern than the amount of vram.3 gigs will look small only if resolutions of 4k or 6k is thrown at it using multi monitor.
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a c 358 U Graphics card
January 2, 2013 7:29:17 PM

The real question is how long is the Radeon HD 7950 last you?

The answer is...

It depends on your expectations. If playing games below very high or ultra settings and you want a minimum of 60FPS while playing games at 1920x1080 resolution, then the time to upgrade is now. The lower your expectations are, the longer the Radeon HD 7950 will last you. Unless of course the card simply dies... then problem is solved...
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a c 171 U Graphics card
January 2, 2013 10:01:06 PM

Likely you will want a faster performing card before you need to start worrying about running out of vram. You can always sacrifice on AA, texture detail or draw distance to lower vram useage.
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a c 144 U Graphics card
January 2, 2013 10:15:54 PM

^+1

3gb is excessive right now. very few games able to use mote than 2gb of vram unless you go for multi monitor
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a b U Graphics card
January 2, 2013 11:24:21 PM

iam2thecrowe said:
Likely you will want a faster performing card before you need to start worrying about running out of vram. You can always sacrifice on AA, texture detail or draw distance to lower vram useage.


+1, Ima have to agree with you on this as well.. I have a 660ti and the most ive seen was crysis 2 pushing 1.5GB i think i would of run out of raw gpu power before reaching 3GB of vram
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January 3, 2013 12:58:30 AM

BigMack70 said:
A pair of 7950s (or 7970s) almost certainly doesn't have the raw GPU required to handle the games/settings that will eventually require more than 3GB of vram.

Nothing really even needs more than 2GB of vram currently.


All the above responses and BigMack70's imply that I will likely need to be concerned with processing power before memory usage, even with 2 7950's. So the question then seems to be, if I'm the type of gamer who wants to be able to max everything out and squeeze out a minimum of 30 FPS, what is the shelf-life of 2 7950's in X-Fire?
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January 3, 2013 1:06:39 AM

BigMack70 said:
It's impossible to say what the shelf life of a pair of 7950s is.

My personal guess is that will max or nearly max everything for at least 2-3 years even at 1440p, but there really is no way to even have a reasonable amount of assurance about that one way or another. If you can live without some of the super GPU demanding settings like MSAA, their shelf life will be a lot longer.


That's a helpful answer. I want to be comfortable that spending another $320 or so is worth it rather than holding out to plunk down a bunch more money on the upcoming 8000 series cards (or Nvidia 700 series). I don't need the latest card but I do enjoy the geek bragging rights that come with the ability to max all settings, and it does make some games more enjoyable, i.e. Far Cry 3.
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a c 171 U Graphics card
January 3, 2013 1:43:54 AM

Don't forget you can add a 3rd card if you need more performance. There was an article a while ago that toms did that also saw a 3rd card reduced micro-stuttering that AMD crossfire is known for. While multi-card setups can have more raw performance, doesnt always mean you have a smoother playing experience, particularly with crossfire. since this is your first rig, you may not be aware of the phenomenon, i suggest you look into it. It ruined the gaming experience for me, and i ditched crossfire for a single card.
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January 3, 2013 1:49:28 AM

iam2thecrowe said:
Don't forget you can add a 3rd card if you need more performance. There was an article a while ago that toms did that also saw a 3rd card reduced micro-stuttering that AMD crossfire is known for. While multi-card setups can have more raw performance, doesnt always mean you have a smoother playing experience, particularly with crossfire. since this is your first rig, you may not be aware of the phenomenon, i suggest you look into it. It ruined the gaming experience for me, and i ditched crossfire for a single card.


Thanks. I am aware of micro-stuttering though poking around seems to indicate that people have experienced the problem to different degrees and the issue has irked some more than others, and some not at all.

I have also heard that a 3rd card helps, but I'm not sure that's an option for me. My mobo is an MSI Z77A-GD80. It has 3 PCIE 3 slots but at 16x/8x/4x. I had been informed that the 3rd 4x slot would be too slow to properly crossfire a 3rd card. Is that right?
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a b U Graphics card
January 3, 2013 1:54:02 AM

Not really. While it may run at 4x, it is a pcie 3.0 slot so it's actually equal to pcie 2.0 x8 or pcie 1.0 x16. The bandwidth is enough actually and I've seen reviewers tested this before
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a c 171 U Graphics card
January 3, 2013 2:18:40 AM

but the 4x slot probably shares its bandwidth with other things on the motherboard which is common, like sata or usb. after reading something like this http://techreport.com/review/24051/geforce-versus-radeo... I would be hesitant to buy one of those 7950 cards at all, let alone crossfire them. Hopefully that gets fixed in a driver revision.
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January 3, 2013 12:30:31 PM

iam2thecrowe said:
but the 4x slot probably shares its bandwidth with other things on the motherboard which is common, like sata or usb. after reading something like this http://techreport.com/review/24051/geforce-versus-radeo... I would be hesitant to buy one of those 7950 cards at all, let alone crossfire them. Hopefully that gets fixed in a driver revision.


Thanks for positng this but I am always a bit leery with respect to some of these performance tests. They certainly have their uses but they also sometimes seem to measure performance issues the eye can maybe just barely notice. For example, I've played a lot of Skryim with all settings maxed, the HD pack isntalled and a ton of mods, many of which enhance some aspect of the graphical presentation - I've rarely run into a situation where performance seemed to be compromised. Maybe if I played on a 660ti and went back I'd notice something but I doubt it. I should say, I don't write this as an AMD booster of any sort. I like my 7950 but I'd be just as willing to go with an Nvidia card if the right opportunity came along. My response is motivated more by the possibility for a disparity between what can be shown as a performance issue diagnostically but is really a non-issue for the typical gamer.
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January 3, 2013 12:34:19 PM

BigMack70 said:
Don't throw money at the microstuttering problem... spending 5 minutes on google fixes issues 99% of the time. Keep your driver installs clean, use Google when you need to, and you're golden. I've encountered stuttering in a few games on my 7970s and it's always been fixable (config adjustments/radeonpro/framerate limiters/forcing vsync/etc are all things I've used successfully to eliminate stutter when google directed me to them).

Also, it is worth mentioning about "future proofing" that sticking with a single 7950 now and then spending $300 in 2 years on a new card will net you more performance overall in the long run.


May I ask how you figure?
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a b U Graphics card
January 3, 2013 1:06:59 PM

^ +1.

Completely agree on you here
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January 3, 2013 1:16:34 PM

BigMack70 said:
Well, two years ago I believe the ~$300 card was a GTX 465. Now tell me, would you rather have GTX 465 SLI right now or an HD 7950?


Oh, I agree with you. But what your post implies is basically that in 3 years, $300 gets you something better than what you have now, and that is an obviously true claim. What I'm wanting to hear more about is how waiting rather than throwing in a second card is a better value proposition. Clearly, you spend $300 less, so it in a straightforward sense, you save money. But as a gamer, I wonder how we might measure value with respect to performance as an enthusiast. Assuming that my budget is indifferent to spending $300 now and then $300 again in a couple of years, and let's also assume I value playing games at very high settings, what is the reasoning for preferring to wait 3 years? that's not a snark question - I really want to learn more about how folks think about this. Many thanks.
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a b U Graphics card
January 3, 2013 1:21:51 PM

@claptrap22

The GTX480 was released early 2010. It can still run most games right now at high-ultra. Graphics development for games is pretty slow right now
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January 3, 2013 1:25:31 PM

BigMack70 said:
Well if your budget is fine spending money both now and later, it doesn't matter. ;) 

Just thought it was worth mentioning, as sometimes people get this idea about SLI/CF that it's this amazing value for futureproofing their system and they make the purchase not realizing that in the long run you get better performance spreading your purchases out.

The "futureproof" aspect of SLI/CF is a nice bonus, but if it's the sole reason for the purchase, you could wind up being very disappointed.


This is all very helpful. So thanks to you and EzioAs. Bigmack70 - may I ask: what compelled you, then, to Crossfire 2 7970's? :) 
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a b U Graphics card
January 3, 2013 1:26:15 PM

BigMack70 said:
Just thought it was worth mentioning, as sometimes people get this idea about SLI/CF that it's this amazing value for futureproofing their system and they make the purchase not realizing that in the long run you get better performance spreading your purchases out.

The "futureproof" aspect of SLI/CF is a nice bonus, but if it's the sole reason for the purchase, you could wind up being very disappointed.


+1 to this. I used to look at SLI/Crossfire as a perfect solution to longevity. The idea that I'm adding to my original performance so that the first card is still delivering for the cost was the really big thing to me. But lately I've been considering past purchases and the approach of owning a card relatively briefly (1-2 years), then selling it while it's still worth something and putting that money towards the next. I think that may be a much better way to go, especially factoring in microstuttering and SLI/Crossfire issues in certain games (even modern games from major developers).

EzioAs said:
^ The GTX480 was released early 2010. It can still run most games right now at high-ultra. Graphics development for games is pretty slow right now


True, except we're about to get Crysis 3! And GTA5, though it won't look anywhere near as good as Crysis, is still likely to brutalise hardware like GTA4 did.
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a b U Graphics card
January 3, 2013 1:33:52 PM

sam_p_lay said:
True, except we're about to get Crysis 3! And GTA5, though it won't look anywhere near as good as Crysis, is still likely to brutalise hardware like GTA4 did.


GTA4 just brutalize the CPU. I could run it at 1080p with max settings on a GTX460 and i5-3570K smoothly. Though I uninstall the game after 1-2 hour or so. I just can't really like the GTA series idk why...

Crysis tells a different story though (it chew up any video card at that time) and hopefully crysis 3 will continue that.
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January 3, 2013 1:37:12 PM

Best answer selected by claptrap22.
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a b U Graphics card
January 3, 2013 1:38:25 PM

EzioAs said:
GTA4 just brutalize the CPU. I could run it at 1080p with max settings on a GTX460 and i5-3570K smoothly. Though I uninstall the game after 1-2 hour or so. I just can't really like the GTA series idk why...

Crysis tells a different story though (it chew up any video card at that time) and hopefully crysis 3 will continue that.


Yeah, it's the classic example of a CPU-intensive game (along with Flight Simulator of course) and based on that, I spose it's reasonable to assume GTA5 will also be more CPU-dependant. As for Crysis 3 performance, there are benchmarks results from the alpha version (you'd have to Google unless somebody has the link).

Of course that performance will get much better at release with optimisation but it was still very demanding. GTX690 could only just handle it maxed at 1080p. At high settings (not ultra) and 1080p, it was much more forgiving - GTX560 Ti could handle it then.
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a b U Graphics card
January 3, 2013 1:49:37 PM

BigMack70 said:
The alpha didn't support SLI/CF so the 690 was equal to the 680.

Single 680/7970 setups were maxing the alpha at a very playable 40-45fps average at 1080p. So Crysis 3 will be demanding, but it's not going to be what Crysis 1 was.


Version I saw benchmarked did support SLI, but not yet Crossfire. Not one of the single GPU cards could even max the game at 1680x1050, though images were only available for 1080p and 1440/1600p.
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a b U Graphics card
January 3, 2013 2:02:14 PM

Whatever you tried obviously wasn't the same as what I saw because what I saw DID support SLI. The GTX690 had a huge performance lead over the rest. 30fps min and (I think) 41fps average.

Like I say, high was much more forgiving, and the numbers you're talking about line up exactly with the numbers I saw for high. So maybe the added texture res, polygon count etc of ultra hadn't been fully implemented yet in your version.

Obviously it's all speculation anyway - drivers obviously will be poorly optimised for a game that isn't even out yet so it's still just guesswork. All we can say for sure is it'll be a very demanding and very attractive game.
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