Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Back with the green team for the 2nd time: nVidia Geforce GTX670 2GB.

CrossfireAfter getting fed up with all the issues with Crossfire, I decided to ditch the 1GB HD6950 cards that I had, and go back to a single GPU setup. But first, here is a list of issues that I experienced with &the Crossfire setup.
 
Crossfire woes
 
Gaming:
  1. Microstuttering: I was getting a respectable 60fps or more most of the times in games, but it wasn't smooth. I only got to see the difference, when I disabled crossfire just to check. 40fps with a single HD6950 was smoother than 60fps.
  2. Driver issues: Multiple times I got flickering issues with BF3 and the only way to go back was to reinstall windows and not install 12.4 drivers. When I disabled Crossfire, it went away. I don't know about you, but for me, disabling crossfire does not seem like a solution.
  3. Negative scaling: When I tried Skyrim for the first time, there was negative crossfire scaling. The only way to fix it was to wait for ATI to release a proper driver and disable Crossfire in the meantime. There is a possibility that you will not be able to experience the latest games the way they are meant to be, until a patched driver is released. That's no good!
Heat, noise and power consumption:
 
Two cards mean higher power consumption. The Gigabyte cards that I bought came with a custom cooler; the famous Windforce3 cooler, and it dumps all the heat right back into the case. That is fine, if you did not have a second card, because the top card gets scorched as well as suffocated. While the max temps did not go above 80C the entire time, I felt, from the hot exhaust, that too much heat was piling up inside the case. The CPU also was running pretty hot when gaming: almost about 5C within stress testing temps. The PSU was also putting out some considerable heat. (the PSU in my case is in the front and you can feel the hot air with your feet) All could be due to the hot air inside the case. My electricity bill was also a bit high ever since I got this crossfire setup.
 
Choosing a replacement single GPU card
 
Everything above compelled me to sell off my two cards and buy a single GPU card. But what would I buy?HD7970 or GTX670? That was not an easy question.
 
Traditionally I have owned more ATI cards than nVidia cards. (In fact, I had owned 8 ATI cards including the HD6950’s that I am about to replace, and just one nVidia card!) I haven't had any unforgettable issue with the ATI drivers in a single card configuration. But a lot of people were saying that they had to ditch their HD7970 card due to driver issues. Probably it was because the architecture was new, and the drivers were premature, if we are talking about 3 months or so ago. But some said they were rock solid. However, majority was in the opinion that nVidia drivers were more stable. But remember, nVidia’s drivers are way too premature for the GTX600 series.
 
While the red team was having troubles with their drivers, grass wasn't any greener on the green side either. The new GTX600 series cards were having some weird microstuttering issues with many games when you enable V-Sync. Microstuttering is a phenomenon that would literally make a game unplayable. I've seen it beforehand with my crossfire setup and it can cause many headaches. So if I bought a GTX670, I would be back to square one. But, I don't use (haven’t used) V-Sync at all, so it is not that applicable to me. The reason why people use V-Sync is to stop the phenomenon called “image tearing” when the FPS exceeds the display’s refresh rate (usually 60Hz). It is more visible with FPS just above the refresh rate. Anyways, this microstuttering issue is definitely a driver issue because an older driver (cannot recall the version) magically doesn’t have it. People are expecting nVidia to fix it in June, but I don’t know where they knew about a June fix.
 
All in all, the drivers from both teams can get really ugly. (I don’t really know why, because why should it be dependent on a game, as long as you conform to the DirectX spec.) But generally, the support for SLI is better. nVidia releases patches faster and their multiGPU technology gives smoother gameplay experience at the same fps. But, again, it doesn't really matter to me because I have made up my mind not to buy a multiGPU configuration ever in my life.
 
So it came down to the feature set. nVidia has brought a range of new features with their new GTX600 series cards such as adaptive v-sync, GPU boost, frame rate limit, GPU transcoding with faster than Intel QuickSync (version1.0) and last but not least, lower power consumption. ATI has much less feature set, and the biggest thing they have are higher GPGPU performance (which I don’t care!) and lower idle power consumption. (useful, because your PC is at idle more often than not - but the difference isn’t night and day)
 
nvidia_logoWhen I asked about this question, "HD7970 or GTX670" on techpowerup forums, most people strongly voted for the HD7970 saying that they overclock higher. But when I checked the prices online, the reference HIS HD7970 was almost same price as a factory overclocked Palit GTX670 Jetstream which performs similar to a stock GTX680. Then they suggested that I should rather go with the non-reference GTX670 because the temps and noise was too high when you overclock a HD7970 with stock cooler. Besides, I did not want to try my luck with the silicone lottery. Reference HD7970 is definitely slower than an overclocked GTX670, so HD7970 has to be overclocked if you need to get the full value for your money. But since I have been very unfortunate with overclocking graphics cards (HD5770 850MHz core couldn’t reach 860MHz, HD5870 875MHz core couldn’t reach 900Mhz, HD6950 870MHz core couldn’t reach 900MHz etc.), I was afraid that I would end up with a dud HD7970. Even if I buy the Palit GTX670 Jetstream and cannot overclock a single bit, I would end up with the faster card for the same price.

The card

So in the end, I went ahead with the Palit GTX670 Jetstream. This was also one of the cheapest cards I could find. Even the reference cards were more expensive. (Sure, the reference card from Palit was a bit cheaper, but that price difference was way smaller than the gains. I was literally getting a GXT680!)
W8MkDtAZ67_PALIT-GTX-670-jetstream-1
I’ll post back telling my experience with the GXT670 in a few weeks. Until then, drool away. :D
 
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