Monday, September 22, 2014

The plan to upgrade the graphics card


Now that NVidia has released their latest graphics cards, the GTX 970 and GTX 980, it is time to analyse which GPU I should upgrade to, from my aging GTX 670.

It is almost definitely going to be the GTX 970 because it is priced extremely aggressively compared to competition (i.e. AMD Radeon R9 290) and does not need a nuclear reactor to power up. The GTX 980 is also power efficient, in fact even more than the GTX 970 for some unexplainable reason, but the price is absurd. It should have been priced below $500. $449 perhaps.

There is also another advantage of going with the GTX 970. With it, there is a possibility of adding a second card for SLI without a need for the change of the 650W PSU that I currently own. Even when the GTX 970 is overclocked, I doubt it would draw in excess of 200W, hence two cards will consume less than 400W. With my Core i7 4790K overclocked to 4.6GHz, which would max out at 130W on a really stressful work load (though not Prime 95), that would give sufficient breathing room for the other components.

Perhaps it is possible to power up two GTX 980s with 650W PSU, and there are apparently people who do with just a 600W PSU, but there is the issue of shedding down $1100 for graphics cards. Two GTX 970s would set you back at $700, which is still way out of many peoples' budgets, including me, hence the chances of going SLI is very slim.

There is one catch with the GTX 970 though. I have been unable to locate any of them with the reference NVidia cooler called NVTTM. The GTX 980s are available with it, which is said  to be more expensive to manufacturer than the 3rd party coolers like MSI's Twin Frozr and Asus' Direct CU II. This is probably the reason why the GTX 970 doesn't come with it: the margins grow smaller with that cooler and the GTX 970 is dirt cheap to be honest. However, MSI is about to release both the GTX 970 and 980 with blower style coolers similar to the ones that came with GXT 680, but there is no news on pricing and cooling potential. Since these cards are very power efficient, I doubt thermals will still be an issue.There is also Palit coming up with a blower style cooler, and since Palit is pretty much the cheapest brand here in Japan, I have a feeling that I would end up with one of those cards. Those are the only two brands so far I have discovered as offering blower style coolers.

The current pricing on these cards here in Japan is ridiculous – even on the GTX 970. As it stands today, $100 premium for the GTX 970 and a $150 premium for the GTX 980 over the US pricing is being asked from the early adopters. Certainly in a couple of months, the prices will stabilize and the cards would become much more affordable. Early adopters always pay heavily with their wallets and this has been the norm in Japan (not in the US though).

On the other hand, there are the cards from the old generation, the GTX 780 and 780Ti, which might receive price-cuts and second hand market population. While the performance offered by them is a hair below the new cards, power consumption is much higher. It would be impossible to go SLI with any of those cards without replacing the current PSU. However, as I mentioned earlier, the SLI will most probably be infeasible even with GTX 970s, thus this option is extremely attractive. If I can find a GTX 780 offered at JPY 30,000 ($300) or GTX 780Ti at JPY 42,000 ($420), I would jump on that opportunity.

Last night I checked the second hand market prices of the GTX 780 Ti and I found out that they can be bought for around $500. There was one reference card but it was slightly more expensive. The ones that could be purchased for around $500 were non-reference designs, which aren’t suitable to be housed in my case. Even if the GTX 780Ti is better than the GTX 970 in terms of raw performance, I am not so keen on getting old tech. Thus it has to be a really great deal to deviate me from the GTX 970.

Time will tell, but I hope it won’t be a long wait before I can get rid of my current graphics card and enjoy the technology of the year 2014.

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