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How much graphics card memory do I need?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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February 3, 2013 7:46:46 AM

I currently have a ATI 6870 with 3 1080p monitors attached to it. The left screen is normally a high res video (720p to 1080p), the middle screen is normally a video game in windowed mode (most frequently it's WoW), and the right is for web browsing and everything else. The computer has an areca raid card eating up 8 PCI express lanes, so my single GPU only has half the bandwidth. I recently bought a motherboard/processor (i7-3770k) with PCI express 3.0 lanes so this should double the bandwidth going to the graphics card (once I get a pci express 3.0 one).

The graphics get sluggish when I've got a lot going on in WoW or if I have a 720p or 1080p video playing without much going on in the game. I've tried monitoring the amount of memory my GPU uses in real time, but the software I've tried reports everything BUT the one statistic I want. I don't know if RAM is my bottleneck or if it's because my current graphics card only has 8 pci express 2.0 lanes available to it. My 6870 right does have its cycles at around 95% under a heavy load so I know that will play a factor in this too. I know under normal circumstances GPUs don't see much of a performance decrease dropping from 16 lanes to 8, but I don't know how multiple monitors fits into this equation. Do you?

My main question is, based on my current habits, how much memory should I be looking for in a new graphics card? If I go with a nvidia 670 series card, I have the option of getting one with 2gb of ram or 4gb of ram. Would the extra 2 gigs of ram benefit me?

edit: i'm not dead set on a 670 as the replacement, just using it as an example.

More about : graphics card memory

a c 141 U Graphics card
February 3, 2013 8:06:09 AM

if you only game on one monitor then 2GB is more than enough. but if you plan on multi display gaming then you might want to consider the 4GB option. but 2GB should be fine even in triple monitor gaming as long as you don't go crazy with AA setting or tons of mods.
a c 132 U Graphics card
February 3, 2013 8:36:46 AM

Agreed. Especially if the limit of your gaming experience is mainly World of Warcraft which is more taxing on other system resources, CPU, and hard drive performance. Also keep in mind that from what I've gathered from other threads on the forums that Nvidia cards tend to handle world of warcraft a bit more efficiently I would agree though with renz that 2 gigabytes should be more then plenty. A 670 would be a good way to go however with the new news regarding the never settle plan that may sway your decision as well.

These 6 games cant be underlooked. That is about 75-80% of the major triple A games this year.
http://www.anandtech.com/show/6724/amd-announces-new-wi...
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February 3, 2013 9:11:10 AM

I know a 670 will be able to handle WoW alone, but what about if a 1080p video is playing on a screen right next to it? Will this take up a lot of memory on the video card or will it tax the gpu's cycles more (like cpu cycles.. max out at 100% usage.. idk what the term is for GPUs...). The computer already has a 550mb/sec intel SSD in it, the CPU never goes over 15% on a sandy i7, and it's got more ram than it can ever use.

I wouldn't have the PCI express lanes to SLI/crossfire cards due to my areca raid card eating 8 lanes, but yea, I did see two free games for getting an ati 7970 instead of an nvidia 670. It is definitely tempting. The main reason I was looking at the 670 was because of the extra ram for about the same price. Seeing as I have had better luck with ATI cards in the past I may go that route. To this day, my sapphire 6870 has yet to BSOD my computer.
February 3, 2013 9:18:43 AM

My other dilemma is that the 8000 series GPUS have already been released to the OEMs according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Islands_(GPU_family). Seems like they are giving away the free games with the 7970s just to empty their warehouses.
a c 132 U Graphics card
February 3, 2013 9:19:55 AM

You would destroy World of Warcraft on a 670. However with 3 monitors hmm that is tough. I would quite possibly favor a 7970 just because there tech is a little stronger with eyefinity being a little easier to setup you would just need to ensure that you had a displayport adapter if your monitor doesn't support it. Which shouldn't be an issue because if I were to take a guess you are already doing that with your current card.



a c 132 U Graphics card
February 3, 2013 9:20:26 AM

migit128 said:
My other dilemma is that the 8000 series GPUS have already been released to the OEMs according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Islands_(GPU_family). Seems like they are giving away the free games with the 7970s just to empty their warehouses.



I agree I think that is exactly what they are doing that and they are having a hard time financially and have been for some time.
February 3, 2013 9:36:23 AM

I'm not spanning wow across 3 screens though. I normally have a 1080p movie or netflix on another monitor which causes my frame rates to drop in game and the movie generally gets a little choppy. I'm curious what the bottleneck is in this case. The gpu's cycles getting maxed out, the limited pci express bandwidth (because the card is running in x8 instead of x16, or only having 1gb of ram on my 6870. Knowing the bottleneck would help me choose the best graphics card to upgrade to.
a c 132 U Graphics card
February 3, 2013 9:40:05 AM

What motherboard are you currently using that would cause your pci lanes to lower down to a slower bandwidth. Also if you are not spanning wow on 3 screens I would say a 2 gigabyte 670 would be more then enough for wow on its own if you wanted security sure get 4 gigabytes but it's more then likely overkill at that point.

Edit: I suppose it could take it up if you only had 2 slots of full 16x and in Sli would translate into 8x/8x
February 3, 2013 12:21:25 PM

It's not the motherboard. The processor is a 2600k which has a limited number of pci express lanes. Because I have an areca raid card consuming 8 lanes, there are only 8 lanes made available to the graphics card. This isn't going to change with the 3770k as it has the same number of lanes, but each lane is twice as fast if the card supports the pci-express 3.0 standard (which the raid card does not).

I know a 2gb 670 can handle wow on its own. that has never been the question. the question has always been how it will handle with the two extra 1080p monitors, one of with would be playing a 1080p video. This is all while it only has 8 lanes available to it. I want to know what the bottleneck would be in this specific case (video card memory, pci express bandwidth due to it being at half speed, or the gpu utilization (like a cpu's usage upto 100%).
a c 132 U Graphics card
February 3, 2013 12:28:30 PM

So are you saying you would be running a 1080p video along with a Game and then a empty desktop at the same time? I'm trying to understand your extended desktop setup you have in mind.
February 3, 2013 12:58:40 PM

Yes.

"I currently have a ATI 6870 with 3 1080p monitors attached to it. The left screen is normally a high res video (720p to 1080p), the middle screen is normally a video game in windowed mode (most frequently it's WoW), and the right is for web browsing and everything else." :) 
a c 132 U Graphics card
February 3, 2013 9:16:09 PM

Hmm, I would suggest a multi gpu solution its hard to really do the two at the same time with a single card you might get away with it with WoW but I'm not sure. I don't know if you know the youtuber swifty he runs on 3 monitors and uses nvidia cards 680's if i remember right and livestreams in HD which is kind of the same I would imagine you would need as much graphic help as you could get.
February 5, 2013 10:23:05 AM

I cannot do what you suggest because of other information I've already posted. I have an areca raid card using 8 lanes in the PC, so getting multiple gpu's is out of the question.

a c 132 U Graphics card
February 5, 2013 12:05:59 PM

You could get a 7990 but that isn't economical. Yea I'd give either a 4 gigabyte card from nvidia or a 3 gigabyte card from AMD and if you need more power then I would suggest purchasing a motherboard that can support more lanes. Like a extended atx motherboard like these.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...
a c 216 U Graphics card
February 5, 2013 2:21:45 PM

If you only played WoW on 3 screens, 2GB is plenty, the issue is with the Video playing as well. I am not even sure that is causing VRAM issues, but it definitely is causing problems.

You should download MSI Afterburner and monitor memory usage while in game. See how much memory usage changes with and without the video running in the background.

Then do the same thing with your system monitor, looking at core usage and RAM usage.
a c 132 U Graphics card
February 5, 2013 7:09:50 PM

Yea that is where I was going is that running a video to the side will cause issues I'm not exactly sure how to resolve it. I would think a more beefy video card would deal with it but I do think on the other hand that your i7 should help with the processing power needed to drive two high resource tasks.
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