Upgrade itch time : HD5850 Crossfire to ?

By Arris
Aug 12, 2013
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  1. Hi guys,

    Recently invested in a Dell Ultrasharp 27" monitor, mostly with photo editing in mind, and found that one of the main games I play (StarCraft2) seems to suffer from microstutter since it doesn't fully support crossfire. With this in mind I've been eyeing up some of the latest single card solutions but from most charts and comparisons nothing looks like it's blowing my 5850s out of the water performance wise. Should I hold off for next generation of releases from Nvidia and AMD? I can always disable crossfire for Starcraft2 and just live with lower frame rates at 2560x1440 for a while.

    If I was to grab a card right now it would probably be a GTX760 or an 7950.

    System information doesn't seem to be an option from user picture anymore so here are the stats of the rest of the system:

    CPU: Intel i7 2600K @ 4.6Ghz Corsair H50 2xAkasa Viper
    Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Pro B3 Revision
    Memory: 16Gb Corsair Vengeance
    Graphics: 2 x MSI HD5850 Twin Frozr II (CrossfireX)
    Audio: Realtek® ALC892 8-Channel High Definition Audio
    Storage: Crucial C300 128GB SSD, Seagate Barracude 2TB 7200rpm
    Case: Corsair Graphite 600T Midi Tower

    Any advice?
  2. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,788   +639

    Might pay to see what AMD's big announcement is on the 25th September. Best case scenario is AMD bite the bullet and opt for a big die to put some pressure on the GTX 780/ Titan, although I'm picking that what they end up with might split the difference between the 7970GE and the GTX 780 performance wise.
    Either way, unless it is strictly a PPS presentation, AMD should be announcing some kind of timetable. If that launch is close at hand you could see a nice realignment pricewise if the products look compelling and present sales start to stall out, with the added bonus that AMD would again drop prices to clear inventory.

    If you're set on getting a card before then, I'd check the pricing on GTX 670's as well as 760's. You'll get a little more performance with the 670 especially if its an overclocked card (basically a GTX 680 once you hit that cards clock). If not, then the 7950 is, likewise, a solid option in the £180-200 range.
    misor and Arris like this.
  3. Arris

    Arris TechSpot Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 4,534   +92

    Thanks DBZ,

    Think I'll hang onto my 5850CF for a while longer. Don't think I have them OC'd at the moment so think I'll try and squeeze them to 5870 speeds. Getting a 760 or a 7650 seems like it would use less power and give me a single card solution, maybe better fps in a few titles, but no real big visible performance upgrade. Will wait until next month and see what AMD have to say for themselves.
  4. Arris

    Arris TechSpot Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 4,534   +92

    Also just found out about the 13.8 Beta drivers that are meant to address microstutter (although some info says this is just with GCN based cards). Going to have a play with those and a mild overclock on the cards and see if I can get a decent enough experience with gaming at 2560x1440.
  5. JC713

    JC713 TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 6,725   +874

    Go with a GTX760. It may offer less performance than the 7950, but SC2 is more optimized for nVidia cards.
  6. St1ckM4n

    St1ckM4n TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 3,386   +608

    There's no point to waste money on new cards, as only the very top end stuff will give you a decent performance boost to warrant an upgrade.

    Also, disable Xfire or take out the 2nd card when playing StarCraft. You can run it on one.
  7. Arris

    Arris TechSpot Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 4,534   +92

    Thanks for that suggestion. I did try it with one card but wasn't as smooth. The 13.8 Beta drivers with the Frame Rate Pacing make the scrolling around the screen much smoother with only very few microstutters. I'm happy for the moment.
  8. Arris

    Arris TechSpot Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 4,534   +92

    The upgrade urge is strong. Contemplating 2 x 760s/670s... eeek.
    Will hold off at least until the 25th to see what AMD is announcing.
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  10. Arris

    Arris TechSpot Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 4,534   +92

    Although SLI is more refined and smoother gaming experience than crossfire. AMD have only just started playing catchup with the Frame Rate pacing driver. The Nvidia cards already have some hardware implementation to solve the microstutter. Although still tempted by a pair of 7950s too :)
  11. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,788   +639

    Likewise. My GTX 670 was intended as a placeholder until GK 110 arrived. Titan made no sense for my intended usage ( voltage lock, price), and with unlocked voltage GTX 780's finally arriving I've been oh-so-tempted to pull the trigger on a couple of Classys- but their release is now too close to AMD's press presentation. AMD I suspect are using the opportunity to stall out high end Nvidia sales in just that regard. I will be most disappointed if the 25th reveals a PPS deck and a launch at some not-fully-defined parts in a nebulous Q4 or 2014 timeframe. If that is the case then EVGA and I will be continuing our relationship.
    Arris likes this.
     
  12. Arris

    Arris TechSpot Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 4,534   +92

    Wish I could warrant spending that sort of money on dual 780s. Having only just upgraded to a 2560x1440 screen I don't think I'd get away with it. Her indoors would have a fit :)
    Will hold off for the AMD announcement and then decide a course of action as I'd like a slightly better framerate than what my 5850s can now provide.
    dividebyzero likes this.
  13. Arris

    Arris TechSpot Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 4,534   +92

    Willpower fading. I've had 2 x 7950s in several online shops baskets a couple of times over the last week or so. Hope this announcement is good, or at least causes a drop in 7950/70 prices.
  14. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,788   +639

    I'm in the same frame of mind. Fourteen days to the AMD announcement, and at this stage I'm certain that is all it will be since there hasn't been a single leak, or AMD sanctioned press slide via their de facto PR machine (DonanimHaber). Normally you'd expect a benchmark or two coming out of the OEM's qualification/validation programs in China if we were looking at a launch within a calendar month or so.
  15. Arris

    Arris TechSpot Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 4,534   +92

    Going for dual 780s or just slotting another 670 in until next gen stuff comes out?
  16. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,788   +639

    I think the big Maxwell part (GTX 880 or whatever replaces GK 110) might be 6-9 months away (closer to the latter figure) as it looks like a 20nm/GDDR6 part unless Nvidia waste die space going back to a 512-bit bus. Uncore doesn't scale particularly well on process shrinks, so I'm guessing they'd like to increase bandwidth by upping memory frequency rather than adding a couple of extra memory controllers.
    There's no real reason to rush a big part out anyhow with fully functional 2880 core GK 110's now being stockpiled, and Titan's and GTX 780's demonstrating pretty decent headroom with a little more leeway in core voltage- so I think they'll stay relevant for some time yet.
    If AMD offer a definitive (non paper) launch schedule, GCN 2.0 white paper, and some specifications I'll see how they stack up. If the announcement is PR pap, I'll likely pull the trigger on a 780 Classified (probably only one to start with) since they seem well capable of 1300+ core, which is about equal with a 10-20% overclocked Titan.

    The Jetstream 670 is a nice capable card- basically a 680 in all but name, but it's close to entering its last year of warranty so it needs to go while it still holds some value- and I'd like to finally get some better image quality settings in some games - the 670/680 is pretty marginal for 2560x1440.
  17. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,788   +639

    Sorry for the bump in advance.
    Just a heads up for those interested. Matt Skynner (AMD's GPU guy) was the subject of a Forbes piece today. Most of the interview is PR pap, but there is something of note on the second page of the article:
    GK 110 being 30% larger put the die size of Hawaii at ~425-440mm² ( GK 110 being 551or 561mm² depending whose literature you're reading).
    Secondly, there are no outright claims of being the fastest GPU/card this time around (unlike pre-launch Tahiti), rather a return to performance-per-mm² of the previous Cayman/Cypress/RV770 series', which tends to suggest that Titan/Titan Ultra performance is off the table, and Hawaii will indeed be AMD's analogue to the GTX 780.

    Here also is the speculative Radeon Rx 2xx line-up. A mix of new parts (Hawaii, possibly Curacao), and the rehashed/rebranded (Bonaire, Oland, Tahiti)
  18. klepto12

    klepto12 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,364   +9

    Get a gtx 780 and be done with it overclocking to within titan speeds and will cost almost the same as 2 7950s . 1 big card always better than 2 lower cards.
  19. Arris

    Arris TechSpot Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 4,534   +92

    Thanks for the update DBZ. I've actually been eyeing up 780s over the last few weeks. Might be about £100 more expensive than 2 x 7850s but since microstutter and frame times are only just being addressed by AMDs drivers I think one card solution is best for the time being...

    Although I've seen reduced price 7970 Ghz, meaning could have 2 of those for around the price of a 780. Other than power usage it looks like a good setup. So close now that might as well wait the week or so to see the details of Hawaii.
  20. Arris

    Arris TechSpot Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 4,534   +92

    Latest information that has surfaced is making the Hawaii based cards look pretty good. Will all come down to AMD's pricing strategy but now feeling happy that I held off on purchasing anything.
  21. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,788   +639

    Yes. On both counts.
    Looks as though AMD bit the bullet and will be building their (ATI/AMD) largest GPU. Sounds a shade larger than the 420mm² R600. From the specifications it actually looks a little like they combined the architecture of two Pitcairn GPUs rather than adding to Tahiti's.

    Depending on what level of interest you have, you can watch the live feed at 8pm British Standard Time.

    You might want to take note of the levels of model segmentation. It is rumoured that the fully enabled Hawaii (Hawaii XT, 2816 cores) is the R9-290X, and the neutered part (Hawaii Pro, 2560 cores) will be named R9-290 - without the "X". The leaked benches are heavily pointing towards those of the fully enabled XT part.
  22. Arris

    Arris TechSpot Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 4,534   +92

    Thanks for that. Had noticed that there was a stream but will probably be busy tonight. Think I'll go for the 290X as long as it comes in at around the £500 mark, or round about 780 pricing. Will decide after seeing details tonight! Looks like you were right to hold off on the 780 Classifieds, although SLi is still somewhat of a smoother experience than CF but hopefully the next certified AMD driver will have frame pacing that works with eyefinity.
  23. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,788   +639

    I'm banking on AMD pricing the 290X (at least) 10-20% cheaper than the GTX 780 -around $US550-600. Nvidia might have to drop GTX 780 prices down to at least that level depending on how the 290X overclocks. Most OC'ed 780's aren't selling at a huge premium over reference cards, and with the user now able to reprogram the VRM controller, 1300-1400 MHz core is doable on a lot of GK110's ( 62% core overclock here for instance with this Titan), which will be a big factor in my decision -especially as I'll likely put the card(s) under water.

    If the 290X clocks well, and there isn't any reason why it shouldn't then a 25% price cut for the Titan isn't out of the question, though I'm guessing Nvidia might rebrand it (maybe GTX 785 if they don't "do an AMD" and release an upgraded BIOS/relaxed voltage for the 780) maybe with only 3GB of vRAM and reduced double precision to protect the pro market. A price cut of Titan allied with AIB overclocked specials (along the lines of an MSI Titan Lightning) looks all the more likely when you consider than the fully enabled (2880 core) GK 110 goes on sale in a couple of weeks. I'd assume that this as a GeForce Titan Ultra would naturally command the $999 slot and be pretty rare given the market price of the Quadro using the same silicon.

    Even after the presentation it looks as though it will be around 3 weeks before the official launch (I.e. availability), so I doubt that there will be much change in the landscape until then. Roll on the stock vs stock, overclock vs overclock, and price comparison. Game on.
  24. Arris

    Arris TechSpot Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 4,534   +92

    So even if the 290X comes in at a lower price point than the 780 you might still go with Nvidia if they release better overclocking 780s/Titans? I'm only going to overclock on air so will just be looking at VaporX/Twin Frozr/Windforce cards, and even if the prices drop on Nvidia and voltages are unlocked I think I'll still stick with the plan to go with AMD. Next task, seeing what I can get for the 5850s on Ebay. I believe they do quite well for bitcoin mining so should get something for them at least ;)
  25. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,788   +639

    Depends on how the cards shake out on performance. Overclocking is a reflex action for me so whatever 24/7 clock I can expect the cards to hold will be the deciding factor. ATM the GTX 780 and Titan are the known quantity, the AMD not so much, and for me there's still a couple of question marks on the 290X leaks- firstly, the low memory speed. Could be because the board benched was a pre-production engineering sample. It could also point to the rumour that the fully enabled Hawaii XT GPU is being prioritized for FirePro cards (ECC tends to favour stability over speed) and Radeons could be saddled with the Hawaii Pro (2560 core).
    Secondly, AMD are moving towards clamping down on voltage regulation just as Nvidia have done- no doubt to minimize RMA's. Bypassing the lockdown on Nvidia cards is relatively simple, but AMD cards have the lock built into the hardware rather than Nvidia's software approach which means little or no soft mod options. Some current 7950 and 7970 cards have virtually no overvolt capability at all ( the ultra cheap XFX cards are cheap for a reason).
    Arris likes this.


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