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Crossfire - worth the trouble?

Hi folks,

I'm in the latter stages of putting together a new PC build and having run into some size/fit problems, I'm pondering the pros and cons of Crossfire. Queue parts list:

NZXT Phanton 820 Enthusiast with custom window panel (i.e. no side fan)
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
i7 3820 3.6-3.8 quad
Noctua NHD14 SE2011 cpu cooler
32GB G.Skill DDR3 1866
2x OCZ Vertex 4 VTX4-25SAT3-256G 2.5" 256GB SATA III drives
1x 10K RPM Raptor HD
2x 7200RPM Barracudas
2x MSI R7970 Lightning Radeon HD 7970 3GB 384-bit GDDR5
ASUS Xonar Essence STX Virtual 7.1 Sound card
Other bits n' bobs

So the problem I've run into is the Noctua cooler, with both fans on, in either orientation impedes the first 16x PCIe slot. There are, as I understand it, 2x 16x PCIe slots and 2x 8x slots. I believe I can make the 2 cards fit in a mix of slots, but not the 2 16x slots. I could do 1 16x slot and 1 8x slot or 2 8x slots, etc.

The formal spec on the motherboard states: 4 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x16 or x16/x8/x16 or x16/x8/x8/x8, red)
[from here:]

So, I'm unsure how to proceed. I can cut my losses and go with the one video card in the lower 16x slot and abandon crossfire altogether, or I can go with the mixed slots or 2 8x slots. I'm not sure how this may affect performance. I'm also not sure that with these big video cards I would see a performance boost big enough to warrant the trouble (not sure I wouldn't, either). My prior experiences with Crossfire are from when it first came out and that didn't go so well.

Also considering finding a smaller/different profile CPU cooler (e.g. Noctua NHC12P [] which might help, but the same issues may apply.

So, based on the video cards and mobo, I'd appreciate any advice on slots to use, performance impacts, etc.
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  1. end of my day and can't really pay attention to the thread much, but, no, crossfire isn't worth it unless you run 3 monitors.

    by the time your performance hurts so much that you would even think about crossfire, 2 generations have passed and the amount you paid for the 7970 will buy something that exceeds cross-firing anyways and you'll have better performance in the long run anyways.
  2. Best answer
    Most crossfire setups won't be running on 2 x16 slots, so you will be fine with 1 x16 and 1 x8. That is my understanding :-) Crossfire has come a long way from its early days lol, its a much better set up now. That said, I prefer single card set ups personally, less possibility of a headache :-) That's a heck of a system, what will you be using it for?
  3. Thanks for the feedback. I am using three big monitors, actually, but only one for gaming. I don't like the bezel joins and will wait for the three piece no-bezel screens, like the Alienware demo at E3 this year, before gaming on Eyefinity. Based on this, I think I'll go with the one card in the lower 16x slot and see if any game even challenges that. Can always rework the cooler later to add the second video card if it seems worth the experiment.

    System is (or will be, hopefully) used for work (software dev, CBT, DTP etc), video editing, sound editing and as much gaming as the above and multitudes of children will let me get away with.
  4. Yea I'm with you there Bezels really put a dampen on the multi monitor setup's. With a single screen gaming I would say stick with what you have its more then sufficient you aren't spanning across 3 monitors. And often times crossfire/sli will create more problems then it will solve them. You deal with extra power, extra heat some programs not behaving quite right with a SLI/CF configuration. You have an amazing card perhaps wait till you are unable to do the things you do at a acceptable time frame for you and then pull the trigger on a upgrade.
  5. Big,

    thanks - feeling more confident that this is the right choice, at least for a while. I can do without the stability headaches for a few fps more in only a few games, overall.

    This MSI Lightening 7970 really is a great card. I have three of them now, across my old system and the two for this one. Guess I now have a surplus/backup too! :)

    It runs very cool and quiet up to 70% fan speed and I have yet to find anything that truly taxes it at my 1920x1200 main monitor resolution. Highly recommended to anyone after a new card.

    As an aside, am I safe placing a PCIe sound card in a full PCIe x8 slot? It has the little connector but it looks like it should fit and my understanding of those slots is they can run any PCIe expansion cards. Everything fits, if so.
  6. You have the luxury of your board being very flexible with speed by lane. You can place a sound card in whatever spot you so choose. What card where you thinking about and what headset/setup were you going to pair with it. I've been eye balling this one.

    although if you wanted serious packing you could look at this one. More of a headset soundcard.

    And yea at 1920x1200 I would expect your card to just put its feet up and relax with that load.
  7. Big,

    I have the second sound card you link to on my shelf, ready to go in tonight. It will connect to a quad set of giant old floor speakers mounted in the roof of my a-frame house via a Yamaha amp, and to a set of Beyerdynamic T70 headphones from the amp. Originally set it up like this to hook up XBox360, PS3 and secondary PCs to the same audio source to make it easy to switch source on the same headphones. Then I had the crazy idea of mounting four giant speakers and hooking those up too, for music. My Beethoven obsession is well fed.

    This has been running of a less than fabulous Creative SC for a year so I'm hoping the ASUS sound card will be an upgrade. It gets good reviews, especially on a good headset which is my most-of-the-time.
  8. God! Creative has let me down over and over again. I have a Creative Fatality Titanium Pro and if you change any of the settings within the panel it will auto turn off the sound and I'll have to restart. And sometimes when I turn on my computer I get no sound at all and I have to change a setting then restart its such a damn hassle man! You'll have to tell me how the STX goes either here in a mail message. I have a astro a40 so I really need S/PDIF for optimal sound as well as dolby digital live and headphone.
  9. I haven't had that level of problem with Creative SCs but haven't been terribly impressed either. Shaky drivers and gimmicky 'features' plus some stability issues with older cards.

    On this new ASUS card, I will do - I should have it up and running by the weekend, if not sooner. I will equip the wife and kids with earplugs and then see how it copes.
  10. Or better yet send them off to a friend house for a sleep over and the wife to have a ladies night and you can crank up the speakers.

  11. If you still haven't bought that rig, don't bother with LGA2011 if you're not getting 3930K. Extra PCIe lanes 3820 provides over 3770K aren't worth the money or trouble for dual CF.
  12. Best answer selected by 9-Ball.
  13. Soda,

    too late :)

    On the upside, I'm intending to add the 3930 six-core CPU later in the year and everything else should remain compatible.
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