GPU upgrade options

#1 Posted by GetEveryone (4458 posts) -

Hey guys,

Currently running AMD Phenom X4 955, 4GB DDR3 and an HD4870. The set-up's lasted surprisingly well - it runs TW2 near maxed @1920 x 1080 and gives playable performance. With the next generation of games coming, though, and having purchased BF3, I'm thinking of upgrading incrementally (I've never seen such see-saw performance as with BF3. In smaller maps with fewer players it runs at high fairly well, but in others it only just copes on the lowest settings).

I've been thinking of going specifically GPU for the moment, with an aim to maximize performance to cost. I've had my eye on the HD5970 and 580GTX, and would rather keep the figure as far below £300 if possible, but I'd be willing to stretch to it (the more I save, the quicker I can upgrade mobo/CPU).

Thoughts on which cards provide the best performance for money?

#2 Posted by GetEveryone (4458 posts) -

I was going to post this on Tested, but it seemed more appropriate here.

#3 Posted by Rolyatkcinmai (2699 posts) -

You'd get more intelligent help on Tested, but GB works too.

The 580 is a great card, but it depends how much you want to spend. A single 570 is more than enough for most current games (I use two 570s in SLI myself).

I don't know a ton about AMD as their drivers tend to be so terrible I stay away.

#4 Edited by gosukiller (2325 posts) -

A GPU upgrade will affect your performance like no other component-upgrade can. So saving money for a new mobo/cpu seems not the way to go.

I ran an Intel setup, with a E8400 3ghz, 8gb ddr2 and an 8800gt. Everything was running fine, but new games kept getting harder and harder to run smooth.Then I got myself an 6950 2gb, for 220 euros. EVERYTHING runs at max on a resolution of 1920x1200 (except for the Witcher 2 for some reason).

So basically, I can recommend 4 actions to you:

  • Get a 570, if you are an Nvidia person. Its a good card for the money and I have never had any issues with Nvidia drivers.
  • Get a 6950 2gb if you are an ATI person. It will be cheaper and offer similair performance to the 570, if not better at higher resolutions. I had minor issues with the driver, giving me blue screens twice in three months. I think the newest driver doesn't give any trouble, but I feel it's for full disclosure to mention it to you.

If you have a CF or SLI motherboard and have a good power supply.

  • Get 2x 560ti in SLI. It will be inside your budget and far more powerfull than a single 570 or 6950/6970. I think it will even defeat a 580 card, or at least get close to it for less money
  • Get 2x 6950 2gb, you might get a bit over your budget, but you will have a monsterous power.

I don't know how powerfull your CPU is, but I'll assume it won't bottleneck.

One last note:

AMD will release their 7xxx series soon. If you don't have any haste with needing to upgrade, it can be wise to wait for that.

You can either get a 7xxx card then, or buy two 6xxx cards for cheap.

#5 Edited by Sooty (8082 posts) -

I would say get a NVIDIA card regardless because they seem to have less issues with games in general, as most developers go with the "way it's meant to be played" crap. ATi had quite a few hiccups this year with a few games, Rage was terrible (more ID's fault for being an awful developer) and Battlefield 3 ran (maybe still does) much better on NVIDIA hardware.
 
That said, up until the end of 2010 I was using a 4870 for around 18 months and never had any issues, but this year ATi did seem to get a fair bit of bad press.

#6 Posted by GetEveryone (4458 posts) -

@gosukiller: I think I may hold out till the end of the month for the 7970, though the prices I've seen quoted are higher than I'd like to be paying. It really comes down to longevity: I'd be willing to pay top dollar for a card that will consistently perform to a high-standard for the next 2-3 years, as the 4870 has done. Now with this new architecture, it seems like planting my feet firmly in what is effectively old tech (with the 580/70 and 6950/70), probably isn't the best move.

I ran XFire 4870s for a while, but given how power-hungry these cards tend to be, and the performance boost I actually saw, I'm not sure it's worth it (I have heard that scaling has improved with the newer cards, and I'm sure with the new architecture coming out SLi and XFire will be better). Definitely not worried about bottlenecking. While the Phenom Black isn't exactly state-of-the-art ala i7, it's at the very least a workhorse. When I made that initial upgrade about a year ago from the AMD X2 6000+, I saw some fairly substantial performance increases, so here's hoping that'll last me at least a short while longer.

In terms of ATI/Nvidia, though, I have absolutely no preference. It's a piece of hardware after all, and I'm only going to go with whichever suits my needs more, not which brand I like printed on the side of it. Saying that, ATI have earned at least a little brand-support considering how much I like the card I'm currently using.

Either way, I'll wait until the end of the month for the new cards/inevitable price drop. Beginning to feel like I'm swaying in favour of the 7970, though.

#7 Edited by gosukiller (2325 posts) -

@Sooty said:

I would say get a NVIDIA card regardless because they seem to have less issues with games in general, as most developers go with the "way it's meant to be played" crap. ATi had quite a few hiccups this year with a few games, Rage was terrible (more ID's fault for being an awful developer) and Battlefield 3 ran (maybe still does) much better on NVIDIA hardware. That said, up until the end of 2010 I was using a 4870 for around 18 months and never had any issues, but this year ATi did seem to get a fair bit of bad press.

"The Way it's meant to be played" is just a marketing catch-phrase.

At most, seeing this logo means that at some point Nvidia either gave them money, hardware, or some help with some coding.

#8 Edited by Sooty (8082 posts) -
@gosukiller said:

@Sooty said:

I would say get a NVIDIA card regardless because they seem to have less issues with games in general, as most developers go with the "way it's meant to be played" crap. ATi had quite a few hiccups this year with a few games, Rage was terrible (more ID's fault for being an awful developer) and Battlefield 3 ran (maybe still does) much better on NVIDIA hardware. That said, up until the end of 2010 I was using a 4870 for around 18 months and never had any issues, but this year ATi did seem to get a fair bit of bad press.

"The Way it's meant to be played" is just a marketing catch-phrase, which more people than just you, have fallen for.

At most, seeing this logo means that at some point Nvidia either gave them money, hardware, or some help with some coding.

That was what I was getting at. I know it's just a dumb marketing term but the fact is it's likely they've had more to do with that version of the game than the competition, which is why some games either flat out run better on their hardware or have extra features, such as Physx. Not that I think Physx is a selling point, far from it. I believe DiRT 2 & 3 were ATi branded games and hey, they ran better on ATi cards if I remember the benchmarks correct, I'm just saying you're better off picking the green team because they get way more of these dumb exclusivity/marketing/whatever you want to call it things with games than ATi do.
 
and right now I don't think ATi have a card that is amazing bang for buck (as in, better than the competition's same price bracket offerings), so it doesn't make much sense to go with them.
#9 Posted by Buckwatters (141 posts) -

I am running a 560GTX Ti and it runs everything on Ultra-high settings except BF3 which runs on High, while the 580 and 570 are definitely better cards, I think I got the 560 for almost half the price, right around $280. While it's not the best card, it does the job just fine, this could allow you to purchase better upgrades for your mobo/cpu.

#10 Edited by spazmaster666 (1993 posts) -

@Sooty said:

I would say get a NVIDIA card regardless because they seem to have less issues with games in general, as most developers go with the "way it's meant to be played" crap. ATi had quite a few hiccups this year with a few games, Rage was terrible (more ID's fault for being an awful developer) and Battlefield 3 ran (maybe still does) much better on NVIDIA hardware. That said, up until the end of 2010 I was using a 4870 for around 18 months and never had any issues, but this year ATi did seem to get a fair bit of bad press.

While I generally agree that nvidia cards tend to have fewer issues, I really wish the GTX 500 series cards had more VRAM. Though the HD 6970 is generally inferior to the GTX 580, it has 2GB of VRAM compared to the 1.5GB GTX 580. Hell, even the HD 5870 had a 2GB version. And even at 1920x1080 (let alone 2560x1440/1600), some games are approaching 1.2-1.3GB of VRAM with highest settings and AA. This was definitely an issue for me running SLI 570s. Nvidia did release 2.5GB and 3GB versions of the GTX 570 and 580 later on but I think both should have launched with at least 2GB each. Anyway, I certainly hope that the mid and high-end GTX 700 series cards will have at least 2GB of VRAM, otherwise, I'm definitely gonna have to switch to ATI (especially since I'm currently running on a 2560x1440 monitor).

As for the OP's question, I wouldn't get a high-end video card at this point. The HD 7000 series is set to be released in Q1 and the GTX 700 series should also come in Q1 (though probably closer to Q2), so it would be better to wait then get a high-end card now.

#11 Posted by Sayishere (1840 posts) -

Im not a computer person by any means, but I bought a 570 on my nearly 4 year old comp, its brought the thing back to life. Can finally play BF3 on ultra now, and looks damn nice.

#12 Posted by Subjugation (4741 posts) -

I can't recommend ATI/AMD to anyone after the headaches I've had with the drivers. The cards do just fine, but the drivers can be downright awful. I'm going green with my next card and never looking back.

#13 Posted by BUCK3TM4N (549 posts) -

i have always been an amd person but what 570 benchmarks iv seen they seem a good price for performance card is not 6970 if your going single card or 6950 if you go for Xfire

#14 Posted by mosdl (3259 posts) -

580 is overkill, 560ti/570 is probably the best buck/performance ratio for nvidia.

#15 Posted by SlasherMan (1725 posts) -

@Subjugation said:

I can't recommend ATI/AMD to anyone after the headaches I've had with the drivers. The cards do just fine, but the drivers can be downright awful. I'm going green with my next card and never looking back.

Until you realize the other side of the fence isn't as green as you may have thought.

Back when they were still on the 18x.xx drivers, I cannot express to you how much frustration I had to endure to get games working with my old 8800GT without having to jump from one driver to another in order to play different games. Fallout 3 used to have BSoDs with one driver, while Source games suffered terrible stuttering with another that Fallout 3 worked well with. I could go on, but my point is obvious.

That said, this year has been better for Nvidia, since ATi did have a few problems with some games. I don't know if I'd be so hasty to blame them completely for it though, people seem to forget the developer's part in this.

#16 Posted by Subjugation (4741 posts) -

@SlasherMan: Well that isn't what I wanted to hear. If it's a total crap shoot with either brand then count me as massively disappointed. I just want to be able to play my games and not have to troubleshoot odd performance drops, flickering textures, and so forth. That being said, yes, it has been an awful year for ATI/AMD and my perception was that there was generally fewer complaints coming from the NVIDIA side of the fence.

#17 Posted by SlasherMan (1725 posts) -

@Subjugation: Don't let my experiences discourage you, though. All I'm saying is don't expect either side to be entirely problem-free, so set your expectations accordingly. These types of things are unfortunate, but they do happen.

#18 Posted by Butano (1790 posts) -

Only suggestion I would make would be to get a card that has the lifetime warranty. I've been using my 9800GTX+ for about 3 years now, and it's starting to show its age, but I haven't had many problems with it. Playing multiplayer Source games for some reason take a long time to load maps, but that could be something else on my system entirely.

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