Thursday, October 23, 2014

Assessing the chances of ending up with SLI

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One of the reasons why I downsized only to the MicroATX form factor is because I wanted to keep room for expansion. But too much option is no better as well, because I'm having a hard time picking a graphics card to upgrade from GTX 670 to.

Establishing whether or not I would go for SLI would make all the difference. If I go with SLI, I need to get the Palit GTX 970 with blower style cooler. Else I can settle for the quieter and better built MSI Gaming 4G which has an open air style cooler.

Why would I need SLI? Would the power of a single GTX 970 be inadequate at 1440p?

I currently game at 1440p with my GTX  670. I don't play a lot of games - it's true - and so far I haven't seen any major issues. Of course I cannot run all of the games at ultra quality settings - both because of the GPU not having enough horse-power as well as lack of frame buffer.

The issue is that I'm very sensitive to frame-rate. Since the Korean PLS panel that I own can ru at 96Hz refresh rate, I would ideally want to run all games at 96Hz or more. That's not attainable with a single GTX 970 in most of the titles at 1440p. Two cards might be able to do it, however even then some games would not be tamed so easily.

But you are not making sense!

Wait...what? Oh...you - whoever that is in my head - have a point.

Like I said in a previous post, I would not be going for SLI right from the beginning due to financial complexities. But if that is the case, I would have to do with just one card for a foreseeable future. That means, the argument about sensitivity to FPS is just an excuse to tip the balance towards getting SLI. If sensitivity to FPS was a significant issue, I would have to forget about the financials and go for SLI right from the beginning. Get it?

Besides, I could always drop the graphics details a bit to get more FPS. It's always diminishing returns. Towards the end, you have to sacrifice the performance heavily for a mild, sometimes unnoticeable, increase in visual fidelity. In fact, that is exactly what I am doing right now especially with multiplayer games like Crysis 3 where high FPS is extremely beneficial. In fact, in Crysis 3, I am not dropping the details just a bit; I am dropping them to the lowest, while maintaining the native resolution of the display. At least in Crysis 3, the quality difference between Low and Very High are not that pronounced, perhaps due to the game being so fast paced.

So, what is the real reason to get SLI?

Simply put, it is basically an alternative to getting the next high-end single GPU card from NVidia, when it is time to upgrade again. Let's call it GTX 1080 for now; the big Maxwell. When it comes out, should I upgrade to that, or get a second GTX 970? It is highly possible that two GTX 970s might deliver higher FPS, but the single card solution has inherent benefits. But I guess those benefits will tally with the raw performance delta, so let's think about this in terms of money for the moment.

I can buy the GTX 970 with a blower style cooler for $410. That's made by Palit. GTX 1080 might launch at $700 but would cost at least $850 here in Japan at launch. Naturally, there will be opportunities to get the GTX 970 for $350 or even lower with the availability of second hand cards from people who want to upgrade to the new one. Basically, I would be spending $760 in total if I settle for SLI. If I manage to sell the GTX 970 for $200, then I would end up spending $1060 ($850 + $210) to own a setup twice as powerful as a single GTX 970.

Yikes!!!

And the decision is?

OK, it seems there is no argument that the SLI setup is more appealing, hence that is the route I am going to take.

There is still a problem. For SLI, a card with a blower style cooler is ideal, because they suck cool air from the front, but they are not even half as decent as a card having a specially designed cooler - both cooling and quietness wise. However, with a proper fan setup, you should be able to make things better.

I still haven't decide on which card to get. The only thing I want to establish was whether I need SLI or not. And it is apparently SLI is the cheaper solution and I plan to take that route. Next up is deciding on which card to get.

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