I have been reading through numerous posts regarding video card upgrades but I am still unsure on making a decision. My goal is to game at 1920x1080 with all settings max (including AA and AF if possible) on these games:
Bioshock, SupCom, Prey, Gears of War, Sins of a Solar Empire, Q4, UT2004, Oblivion w/ texture mods, HL games, CoH, BF2142 & BF2, DoW, D3, Star Wars BF, C&C3, SWEaW, and Farcry to name a few.
I will also be purchasing Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect, The Witcher, and CoD4 at some point. I also play older games such as Star Craft, Diablo II, and Baldurs Gate. I have been playing some of these games at 1920x1080 but with settings turned down or with crappy fps. I would also like to play SupCom using both of my monitors in dual view. I know if I SLI I will not be able to use the dual view feature. If I do not SLI, I would need a card powerful enough to run both monitors at their native resolutions.
The main points I am focusing on to make my decision are: SLI, heat, overclocking, bottlenecking, and future investment.
Keeping all of this in mind, I have been looking at the 8800gt, 8800gts(g92), 4850, and the 4870. After reading reviews and comparing charts, I am leaning closer to getting 2 8800gt's or 2 8800gts' for SLI. I am aware that the 8800gt and the 8800gts are very similar performance-wise (especially if I can overclock the gt's). The only reason I am looking at the gts' is because of their heatsinks. The gt's are single slotted as far as I can tell which can be good for space and if I choose to SLI. But the heat is blown into the case, and with SLI, it will get pretty toasty especially if the cards have a higher oc.
The gts's are dual slotted with most of them having the exhaust blowing out of the case. This would help keep the temp down overall and when in SLI. The gt's are cheaper than the gts's but not by much. Also, with the better cooling solution, I could theoretically oc higher on the gts rather than the gt.
I have also been looking at the 1gb version of the gt/gts cards. From what I have read, the extra ram is overkill for any game. But at 1920x1080 with AA and AF, I would think it would be used. If I did get 2 8800gt's with 1gb each for SLI, that would equal 2gb of v-ram (I know it is really only considered 1gb for SLI). But would it even work or be utilized under XP-Pro with my 2gb of system ram? I will be playing Oblivion with the bigger texture mods. At that resolution, would the extra v-ram be utilized?
My initial budget was right around 300. I could get 2 8000gt's for that price after rebates. I could also get 2 8800gts's for about $40 more. There is also the ATI road with the 4870 for 300 as well but 2 gt's beat it in most games. But choosing the 4870 would give me a one card solution thus not having to deal with potential SLI problems. I am just thinking that one 4850 or a 4870 or even one 8800gt/gts will not give me the performance to meet my goal.
Also, I have to keep my current setup in mind. I have read mixed thoughts regarding whether the dual core opty would be a bottleneck for the 4870 or 2 8800gt's. I do plan on overclocking the opty to at least 2.8 (if possible). That might require 2 sticks of new ram instead of the 4 I currently have. Another bottleneck might be the PCI-e lanes and the version. In SLI mine are 8x8 and they are not PCI-e 2.0. I have read that there is a performance drop compared to the 16x16 lanes. As to how much of a drop, I do not know.
If I did buy a 4800 card now, I would not be able to buy one later to CF because I can only SLI. But if I bought only one 8800gt/gts now, I could SLI it later. If I did only buy one gt/gts now, I do not think I would be happy at 1920x1080 thus leading me to think to buy 2 now for SLI. But thinking forward, if I bought 2 gt/gts for SLI now and wanted to upgrade later, I would have to get rid of both cards to get a new one. I would not have that problem if I only bought one 4870. But if the opty is indeed a bottleneck for these cards, if and when I upgrade to a new card (lets say within the next 2 years) that card would still be held back by the opty if I still have the same system (which I think I will for at least the next year).
Now with the 9800GTX+ and the 4870 X2 coming soon, I have to keep those in mind too. The GTX+ would be great to oc and to SLI but the price looks like it will be starting at $200. I would not be able to buy 2 to SLI right away which then, again, leads me to think that I will not be getting the experience gaming that I would like. The 4870 X2 would be great but the price also looks like it will be out of my range ($500?). The possible bottleneck issue arises again with both of these cards as well. Also I believe the HX620 could power the 8800gt/gts in SLI or the 4870 but the 4870 X2 might be close at load if the opty s oced.
These are all of the pros and cons and additional info I could think of. I really do not know if it is possible to reach my goal (1920x1080 settings maxed with possible AA and AF) with my current system to begin with. Please let me know what you think. Any suggestions will help. Also I am sorry about the long read but I had to include every aspect to try to give a clear and accurate picture of my situation. Thank you in advance.
E E Magenis