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Default Graphics Card Upgrade - Suggestions?

June 13th, 2013, 10:11
Well, it's finally that time again: time to get a new graphics card! My system is finally getting a bit old (3+ years now) and I've been looking for a new card to boost my setup a little bit without building an entirely new rig.

I'm definitely not looking to break the bank, so I have narrowed my choices to two models: Ati Radeon 7870 2GB, and Nvidia 660 gtx 2Gb. Both of these cards seem to review well for the mid-high range. The Radeon 7800 series comes with free games (Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider, Far cry 3 Blood Dragon), which is a nice bonus, but I can always get those games later if the Radeon isn't the "best" option.

Is there any advice, feedback, or help that someone could offer on these cards, or suggestions for others that I haven't looked closely enough at? Such as: which ones typically deal with fewer problems, reliability, personal experience, etc.? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

If it's any help, here are my specs:
Processor: AMD Phenom x4 965 (3.4 G)
Motherboard: Gigabyte Ga-870A-UD3
Ram: 4 GB DDR3 (will probably upgrade also)
Old Card: Radeon 5850
Last edited by Nerevarine; June 13th, 2013 at 10:33.
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June 13th, 2013, 11:30
well, I always buy nvidia cards and been happy, but the 7870 looks better on paper. I'm waiting to see if the 760ti launches at the $300AUD mark before considering if an upgrade is needed.

gtx660 has 960 shader units and 1800gflops

7870 has 1280 shader units and 2500gflops (and 8 more raster operators that'll help a lot if you like antialiasing)

You want to aim above 1100 shader units to beat this console generation. (only 768 if you just want to beat xbox one)

also the next tier up for another $100
660ti has ~1400
7950 has ~1800
and the highest available from a single gpu card today is ~2600 for $1000

Either card should be fine well into this new console generation at lower resolutions.
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June 13th, 2013, 13:41
Grab any Gainward Phantom. Any.
Once you buy it, you'll never want another.

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June 13th, 2013, 14:25
The 7870 is the stronger card, and more bang for your bucks. I've had some compatibility issues with ATI cards though, so I generally buy GeForce these days if they are comparible in terms of performance. In this case I'd probably get the 7870 though, as it really is stronger than the 660.

If you want a GF card, your best bet is the 670 GTX and not the 660 or 660Ti.
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June 13th, 2013, 21:44
Originally Posted by joxer View Post
Grab any Gainward Phantom. Any.
Once you buy it, you'll never want another.
Vey nice cards indeed. I was recently reading some reviews on the new Phantom GTX 770, and it's apparently one of the fastest and quietest GTX 770 cards you can buy. I really like their design.

Unfortunately, Gainward doesn't sell their graphics cards in the US or Canada, and the cost of importing one is prohibitive.
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June 14th, 2013, 02:54
Watch out! I suspect that board uses PCI Express 2 and most of the modern cards are PCI Express 3.
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June 14th, 2013, 03:58
Originally Posted by Zloth View Post
Watch out! I suspect that board uses PCI Express 2 and most of the modern cards are PCI Express 3.
Won't make a difference. The compatibility is the same, and the performance difference is negligible.


Originally Posted by Maylander View Post
If you want a GF card, your best bet is the 670 GTX and not the 660 or 660Ti
If you had made that statement about 3 weeks ago, I would agree. However, Nvidia just released the GTX 780 and GTX 770, and they're readily available in most regions afaik.

The GTX 770 is retailing for almost the same cost as the 670 over here ($400-$450), and it's faster than the 680. I actually purchased a 670 about 3 weeks ago and then RMA'd it when I found out about the 770. Luckily the place I purchased it from gave me a full refund because I hadn't opened it yet. I'm ordering a 770 tonight or tomorrow.
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June 14th, 2013, 03:58
I've been using a factory-overclocked EVGA 670 for the past 6 months or so. No real complaints. Although I did have to disable throttling in the Nvidia panel so it wouldn't cause erratic FPS.

Do you really need the upgrade? The 5850 is still a decent card. I upgraded from a 5870 for the foolish reason of Physx and I ended up regretting it (little performance upgrade).
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June 14th, 2013, 04:55
Thanks everybody for the feedback!

Zloth: Thanks for the warning! It seems that the motherboard should be compatible (like JDR said) anyway, which is a relief (unless I'm wrong - but hopefully it will work! ).

Maylander+Sir James: I think I am leaning towards the 7870. Thank you both for the feedback! I do worry about Ati's issues, but I haven't encountered too many obstacles with my current card from them - at least not enough to scare me away from using Ati in the future.

Drithius: True, it's still a decent card, but I feel like an upgrade might be in order. I guess I got spoiled by having a decent PC that could run anything I threw at it with very high settings, and now that this is quickly not becoming the case anymore (Deus Ex: HR struggled on my machine, can't run major graphics mods for Skyrim, etc.), I've been wanting to upgrade a little bit.

Unfortunatley, I've discovered a flaw in my setup that could prevent me from purchasing a 7870 card after all…It turns out my case only has room for a card that is maximum 10.5 inches long . The 660 gtx will fit in this case, but only a brand/provider that I am not familiar with (xfx) has a 7870 that will fit in this case. Also found a Diamond 7870 with the right dimensions, but every review seems to complain of louder than usual fans - something I'm not willing to tolerate. I'm looking for a solution, but I might not have the space for a 7870. Most providers go up to a whopping 13 inches!
Last edited by Nerevarine; June 14th, 2013 at 05:35.
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June 14th, 2013, 07:10
Looks like I may have jumped to conclusions a bit too quickly regarding the size issue of the 7870…I have found a brand called "PowerColor" that has reviewed pretty well and is exactly 10.5 inches long. There is a Sapphire as well that is apparently based on the 7950 architecture, and it is 10.83 long, which I imagine would still fit (unless I'm wrong? The difference between 10.5 and 10.83 seems rather minor on paper…)). So fortunately for me, there are options for the 7870 in spite of my apparently limited case space.

The Nvidia 670 is a bit out of my price range (at least in terms of what I'm willing to pay), so I am still leaning towards a 7870.
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June 14th, 2013, 11:51
Originally Posted by Nerevarine View Post
I have found a brand called "PowerColor" that has reviewed pretty well …
My personal experience with this brand (with a 1950 series, a while back) has been quite negative. The card was excellent but the support service from Powercolor proved disastrous. However I must add that it was the French branch of the company… and that may prove different in the U.S. or I may have been out of luck ?

About XFX, on the other hand, I've always read good reviews so, as far as I know about them, I would recommend their products. As a final word I can add that I'm a proud customer of eVGA products and despite being pricey, that's by far the best brand I've ever owned (I still use a GTX 460 OC and all my games run fine for me, even Skyrim with its HD DLC).
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June 14th, 2013, 12:42
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
Unfortunately, Gainward doesn't sell their graphics cards in the US or Canada, and the cost of importing one is prohibitive.

How's that even possible? I was serious saying that those cards are unbelievable, can't understand such business decision. Imagine you have a component without any real competition and you decide not to offer it on US market.

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June 14th, 2013, 22:29
Originally Posted by joxer View Post
Imagine you have a component without any real competition and you decide not to offer it on US market.
They're not so good that they wouldn't have competition over here. Gainward would also have to lower their prices to compete in the US.
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June 15th, 2013, 01:40
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
Won't make a difference. The compatibility is the same, and the performance difference is negligible.
Oh? That's great!! This old 480 really bakes me in the summer but I really don't want to get a new motherboard or CPU.
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June 15th, 2013, 08:24
Originally Posted by Gloo View Post
My personal experience with this brand (with a 1950 series, a while back) has been quite negative.
After reading your comment and researching this brand a bit, it seems that you aren't the only one unimpressed by Powercolor - some for performance, some for customer service. As usual, some people have had no issues whatsoever, but I'm not very confident in them myself.

Originally Posted by Gloo View Post
About XFX, on the other hand, I've always read good reviews so, as far as I know about them, I would recommend their products.
XFX does seem to be pretty solid, and I'm leaning more and more towards one of their 7870 models. Most reviews seem pleased with the performance and cooling systems, and they also provide a lifetime warranty - that seems to be a good sign of confidence from the manufacturer in their products. And it would be an easy fit in my case - always an important detail! (Almost learned that the hard way if I hadn't checked first)

Originally Posted by Gloo View Post
As a final word I can add that I'm a proud customer of eVGA products and despite being pricey, that's by far the best brand I've ever owned (I still use a GTX 460 OC and all my games run fine for me, even Skyrim with its HD DLC).
I've never used eVGA myself, but their reputation does seem to be quite good. If their 670 model was in the $200-250 price range, I would strongly consider picking one up.

Thank you for your feedback Gloo! I really appreciate the help and insight.
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June 18th, 2013, 00:46
I ordered my new card today. I went with a Gigabyte Windforce GTX 770.
http://www.gigabyte.com/products/pro….aspx?pid=4629

All the reviews I've seen for it are very positive. It comes with a respectable factory overclock and has a custom cooling solution.

It should be interesting to see how much of a performance increase I get from this. I usually skip one generation when I buy a new graphics card, but in this instance I held out and skipped both the 500 and 600 series.
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June 18th, 2013, 07:08
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
I ordered my new card today. I went with a Gigabyte Windforce GTX 770.
That looks like a great card, JDR. I would possibly consider going above my self-imposed price limit for that one after checking it out, but it also won't fit in my case (by about an inch), so I'm still strongly favoring XFX'x 7870. Let us know how it works once you get it.

I think this will be the last (and only, thankfully) graphics card update I will install for this setup. I figure that if it gets me through the next 3-4 years, I may want to consider an all-new rig at that point - especially considering that the price of getting a solid new build is decreasing. Looking at different parts for putting together a rig yourself or even buying a pre-configured setup, you can get a pretty mean gaming PC for $500-800 with reasonable firepower (especially compared to next-gen consoles - and that's before they even come out! Prices might get even lower after that). For now though, a new card is really all I need, along with maybe a bit of extra ram.

Anyone have thoughts on solid-state drives? Do they really provide much of a noticeable performance boost? I've read different views on the subject, and I have no experience with SSD's myself.
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June 18th, 2013, 08:08
Originally Posted by Nerevarine View Post
I would possibly consider going above my self-imposed price limit for that one after checking it out, but it also won't fit in my case (by about an inch), so I'm still strongly favoring XFX'x 7870. Let us know how it works once you get it.
Yep, the 700 series Geforce cards are pretty big. The reference design is 10.5 inches long, and that Gigabyte model is an additional .5 inch. (approx 28 cm total). I have a full size tower, and it's barely going to fit.

On the plus side, they seem to be slightly cooler and quieter than previous generations.

Originally Posted by Nerevarine View Post
I think this will be the last (and only, thankfully) graphics card update I will install for this setup. I figure that if it gets me through the next 3-4 years, I may want to consider an all-new rig at that point - especially considering that the price of getting a solid new build is decreasing. Looking at different parts for putting together a rig yourself or even buying a pre-configured setup, you can get a pretty mean gaming PC for $500-800 with reasonable firepower (especially compared to next-gen consoles - and that's before they even come out! Prices might get even lower after that). For now though, a new card is really all I need, along with maybe a bit of extra ram.
I have the exact same CPU as you, but I'm going to upgrade that as well this year- probably within the next few months. New mobo, CPU and RAM. Otherwise, I won't see the full potential of my new video card.

Imo, it would be quite a feat to make a Phenom x4 965 last another 3-4 years.


Originally Posted by Nerevarine View Post
Anyone have thoughts on solid-state drives? Do they really provide much of a noticeable performance boost? I've read different views on the subject, and I have no experience with SSD's myself.
Your system and applications will definitely boot up faster. I don't have much of a use for SSD drives myself though because of their relatively small size. I like to keep a *lot* of programs installed on my system at any given time, and I don't think SSD drives are worth the current price premium. A 128GB SSD drive cost more than a 1TB SATA drive.
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June 18th, 2013, 08:27
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
I ordered my new card today. I went with a Gigabyte Windforce GTX 770.
http://www.gigabyte.com/products/pro….aspx?pid=4629

All the reviews I've seen for it are very positive. It comes with a respectable factory overclock and has a custom cooling solution.
Another vote for the Windforce series. Had the GTX 670 for a year now (or whatever its been since it first came out). Relatively silent and a great performer (as a heavily modded Skyrim, Witcher 2 and MEtro last light aptlydemonstrate). Very satisfied.


Originally Posted by Nerevarine View Post
Anyone have thoughts on solid-state drives? Do they really provide much of a noticeable performance boost? I've read different views on the subject, and I have no experience with SSD's myself.
I had a WD Raptor (10k rpm) Raid 0 until a year or so back. Switching to a Samsung (a mixture of 830s and 840s) ssd even in Sata2 makes a day/night difference to me.

Even if you disregard the benchmarks, its obvious in loading times. i.e. Stalker Cop with the complete mod going down from 1:15 to ~40 secs load. Fallout 3 with a full complement of mods loads literally in seconds and the stuttering (due to very high res textures and heavy visibility tinkering) is gone. etc.

I am getting the itch to upgrade myself again. Now that Haswell is out I guess its time to
invest in ivy bridge

Still trying to rein myself in (silly upgrading when you current system can easily handle
what you throw at it)…
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June 18th, 2013, 08:48
Generally speaking, putting your OS and a suite of your most commonly used applications (Photoshop, Office, etc) on an SSD is the most noticeable improvement you can make for a typical PC. Typically not worthwhile for gaming however.
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