Week in Tech: Buy Yourself The Gift Of Graphics

Custom-cooled 290X is where it's at re AMD cards

As the festive season approaches and thoughts inevitably turn to gifts and giving, to those we love and cherish and want to keep safe from all the horror and the hurt, I can’t help but recall Captain Blackadder’s priorities at such moments. So, that’ll be me. Or rather you. Look, what I’m trying to say is that it’s nearly Christmas, graphics cards look cheap, so I suggest if you’re struggling for frame rates, now’s a good time to give yourself a treat and knock that particular problem on the head. Meanwhile, Samsung has wheeled out its first affordable SSD with 3D memory. Sounds exciting. But is it?

Before we begin, a routine disclaimer. It’s never going to stop. By that I mean the relentless march of capitalism and technology. Whether its Black Friday as the latest and quite the most odious US import to UK shores or GPUs that process a few more pixels per clock, it’s never, ever going to end. Buy anything now and soon enough something shinier and faster will come along.

And yet, there are sweet spots, moments when the merciless refresh cycle of PC components conspires to make pricing more palatable and value more attainable. Now is one of those times.

The most obvious metric here is AMD’s Radeon R9 290X. At launch, it was positioned at a wallet-pillaging £450/$550. Aujourd’hui? A comparatively piffling £240/$330.

OK, still not chump change. But what’s really appealing is that the 290X remains AMD’s finest and fastest GPU, complete with a monster 512-bit memory bus and a healthy 4GB slab of graphics memory. All of which bodes well for half-decent longevity in this age of burgeoning pixel counts, super-wide monitors and 4K panels. You want all the bandwidth you can get and as big a frame buffer as possible.

Anyway, this is the price I would like to have seen the 290X launch at and what with current rumours suggesting AMD will ride the 290X out for about another six months and with Nvidia having just blown its Maxwell load, the current situation augurs for something of a hiatus, relative stasis in both product and pricing.

The inevitable caveat to all this? It’s twofold. First, try to avoid AMD’s craptastic reference cooler, which looks like this:

Try to get one with a custom cooler, which will look more like the board at the very top of this post. Second, I still occasionally get fed up with AMD’s patchy drivers. Yes, it’s clichéd to whinge about AMD drivers. But it was only last night I was battling with ye olde boot-to-black-death problems on my main rig after some OS-refresh-and-then-oh-bugger-it-fresh-install escapades. Eventually, I isolated the issue involving multiple GPUs and the order in which you should install hardware and software. But it was yet another hair-tearing, ball-aching evening of futility courtesy of AMD.

Whatever, the current GPU fun really only starts with 290X. Even the mighty Nvidia GeForce GTX 780Ti with its GK110 megachip has dropped to £300/$400. Not that I’d really recommend one. Ditto the over-priced GTX 980. But the 780Ti is at least miles off its £550/$700 launch price.

More intriguing is the GTX 970 and its shiny new Maxwell graphics architecture, now in the offing for £250/$330 or perhaps even a whisker less. It’s a tough call, which way I’d personally go regards Nvidia 970 or AMD 290X. You can make the argument both ways.

The AMD option gives you a bona fide high end GPU with a commensurate 512-bit memory bus and the sense that it might just stand up to really high resolutions in the latest games that little bit longer. On the other hand, Nvidia’s new Maxwell architecture does rather seem to be a rule breaker and do things that just shouldn’t be possible with 28nm chip tech. And for whatever it’s worth, most of the evidence suggests Nvidia cards are a bit more consistent across a given selection of games, even if that might be as much to do with game devs shilling themselves out as it is any technological advantage.

The GTX 970 looks like value, the rest of the current Nvidia line up, not so much…

A little further down the stack, things tend to look less compelling value. An AMD 280X is about £55 cheaper than a 290X, but that doesn’t seem like enough of a discount for the full generational step backwards to what is really a Radeon HD 7970 by another name. And I don’t really fancy the R9 285 and its 256-bit bus. So I’d probably ignore all things AMD until the R9 280 for sub £145/$175.

The rest of Nvidia’s clobber looks a bit pricey to me, with the old GTX 770 at around £240/$320. The 760 is a bit of an odd one with UK items seemingly at £155 and Newegg offering an MSI effort for just $170. But a 280 still feels like better value.

My overarching advice would be to try very, very hard to stretch to the £240/$330-ish price point and the 290X / 970 options. They are, for me, the obvious sweet spot picks right now and they will give you serious gaming joy for some time to come with any monitor short of a 4K panel.

Finally, a quick word on Samsung’s new 850 EVO solid-state drive. The big news is the use of 3D memory, which means chips with memory cells stacked atop one another. The core idea is cheaper SSDs, but there are a few fringe benefits in terms of performance and efficiency that spring from the way the vertical interconnects are engineered, amongst other things.

Samsung’s 850 PRO was actually first out of the blocks with 3D NAND, but the EVO is taking it mainstream.

Anyway, the problem or advantage, depending on how you look at it, with the new 850 EVO is its old school SATA 6Gbps interface. That means you can whack it into pretty much any old PC. But it also means it’s pegged back by a hard 600MB/s bandwidth limit and also by the AHCI control protocol I’ve mentioned previously (which essentially means the chatter between your motherboard and the drive is optimised for ye olde mechanical / magnetic drives, not flash-memory SSDs).

All of which means I hereby declare the 850 EVO a good option if you happen to be buying an SSD, but not really a dramatic upgrade if you’ve already got a half decent one. Oh, and in the highly unlikely event if you’re wondering about Samsung’s Rapid Mode, which appears to serve up the kind of performance we’ve all been waiting for from PCI Express SSDs but someone manages it over SATA, well, it’s complete crap as far as I can tell. Knocks out huge benchmark numbers. Does bugger all in the real world.

In other words, for really exciting progess in SSD land, we’re waiting for that perfect combo of 3D NAND, PCI Express connectivity and NVMe control. The result will then be very cheap, very big and very fast drives. Yippeee. Until next time.

69 Comments

  1. Hex says:

    I have a question, since obviously this is the best place in the world I can get some tech support. I have an AMD A10-6800K APU with Radeon HD Graphics 4.10GHz processor, and an nVidia 9600GT GPU.

    Do these things work together? Is there a way for me to determine if these things are jiving?

    • thedosbox says:

      I have an AMD A10-6800K APU with Radeon HD Graphics 4.10GHz processor, and an nVidia 9600GT GPU.

      Do these things work together? Is there a way for me to determine if these things are jiving?

      No, you either use the integrated graphics on the AMD A10 or the separate nvidia 9600GT. Not both.

      • Hex says:

        Dammit.

        • TrixX says:

          The 9600GT is more than a few decades out of date (I jest a little with the time frame). However it is 8 generations out of date now. The APU you have is ok, not mindblowing but ok, get a decent GPU in there (970 or R9 290X with AMD obviously being preferable in your case) and you’ll see some very good performance. Make sure to have a minimum of 8GB of RAM these days too, though a recommended of 16GB for upcoming games.

    • blur says:

      Mind you! If you were to swap out that video card for an AMD one, you could potentially use their “dual graphics” option, which is basically crossfire between the integrated graphics and the dedicated graphics. It wouldn’t be as much of an upgrade as a 970 or 290x (or previous cards, even), but is potentially an upgrade for not a lot of money.

  2. tripwired says:

    Ahh well timed article, I’m hoping Santa will bring me Elite: Dangerous and I’ve been seriously tempted today to upgrade my MSI 560Ti to a relatively affordable Radeon 280X at £177 along with a 27″ 2560×1440 monitor to go with it, so the argument to stretch to a 290X is an interesting one. The 290X seems to be nearer the £300 mark rather than £240 though, however I have seen a ‘sale’ offer on one website for £239.99.. ahh, the upgrade itch…!

  3. Romeric says:

    Funny timing on this article. I purchased a GTX 970 online a few hours ago! Can’t wait! As an upgrade from a GTX 650 (not the ti one), things are about to get about a mile better! On another note, I took the jump to buying an SSD last summer – a 256GB corsair. There can be no going back now!

  4. bleeters says:

    I actually bought a gtx 970 a few days ago, largely in the hopes that it might fare better at not running Dragon Age Inquisition like poop than my sputtering old 560 ti. It… sort of has but not really.

    Still, works great with everything else.

  5. montorsi says:

    The 970s are quite nice. Solid performance, respectable price and less power/heat to boot.

    They’re probably too cheap, frankly, making the 980 — which is in fact priced reasonably — less of an option for the value-minded shopper. Hell, you can buy two 970s for the price of a 980 and enjoy better performance.

    • Premium User Badge

      Edski says:

      I’m not sure the 980’s a bad buy. Two 970s (which would cost significantly more, at least here in Aus) will outperform it on paper, but there are the inevitable woes which come with running parallel cards (Crossli, or Slifire, or whatever silly name they give it). For 1080p the 970’s a no brainer (at least in terms of Nvidia cards), but for anything above that it’s a trickier issue. Having used dual card setups in the past, and having spent much of that time disabling one to prevent stuttering, I went for a 980 in preference to two 970s (for a three monitor setup). The 970’s definitely more bang for the buck, no question, but multi-GPU setups are a potential minefield, so there’s a good argument to be made for the 980 if you’re operating above 1080p while gaming (less raw power than the sli option, but more reliability).

      • Person of Interest says:

        I’d like to understand what the practical benefits are of a 10-20% video card performance improvement. That’s how much the GTX 980 betters the 970, whether they are compared at stock speed, factory OC, or max stable OC, for nearly any game or resolution. (I’m using TechPowerUp’s reviews for reference.)

        It seems useless to me except for the hypothetical situation where a game runs steadily between 50-60 FPS on the lesser card, and the upgraded card will eliminate the occasional screen tear (assuming adaptive v-sync). The same thing can likely be achieved by switching from 4x to 2x MSAA, or SMAA to FXAA, or HBAO to SSAO; at best, the upgraded card would let you keep some of those graphical improvements turned on. It certainly wouldn’t make up the difference when moving from 1080p to 1440p, which increases performance requirements by about 75%.

        From my perspective, as someone who finds screen tearing unpleasant, any improvement less than 50% between cards literally rounds down to zero because v-sync will likely nullify all the gains. What am I missing?

        • souroldlemon says:

          You’re absolutely right and not missing anything, although cutting through the hype and relentless upgrading is not easy.

        • Premium User Badge

          Edski says:

          Granted, it’s poor value in terms of pixels pumped per dollar, but 20% more performance ain’t nothing. That’s a fair bit of tweaking at the margins. I’m happily running new games (eg, Dragon Age) at 60fps over 3 monitors on highish options, but the card’s properly stretching itself to do that. A 20% performance drop, while it sounds marginal, would seriously impact the ability to do that. It’s never going to run stuff with all the options jacked up to full like a 970 will happily do at 1080p, but less compromises have to be made.

          I’m not recommending the 980 over the 970, I’m just saying that based on personal preferences and the particulars of a setup it can make sense. While roundups like those on Techpowerup are bloody useful, they don’t necessarily tell the whole story. You make many excellent points, but I’m not sure that they’re sufficient to reach the conclusion that ‘under no circumstances does it make sense for anyone to buy this particular card’.

  6. TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

    Still waiting for the “big Maxwell” to arrive, although i realize this looks a little silly in an article more or less about bang-for-buck.

    Weird times anyway, VRAM “requirements” are skyrocketing and GPUs have yet to follow. Sure, 4GB is alright for now, but surely there’s nothing that feels future proofed like the 8800 felt when it came out.

    • Buuurr says:

      I agree. Nothing came out for three years that made me upgrade from my 8800…seemed like the lull took forever.

    • Premium User Badge

      Edski says:

      Ah, the 8800s. Installing a shiny new 8800gtx into my PC felt much like firing up a dirty old V8. They were a proper watershed.

    • grable says:

      Haha, im STILL using my 8800gt on my main gaming rig ;)
      Sadly most of the “next-gen” games (read: console ports) are DX11 only… so it seems i have to pay up soon.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Yeah, you guys are probably stretching it’s lifespan a little too much, still that proves precisely that you could buy something that clearly had a bright future ahead, which is something you won’t be seeing with the new stuff.

        Maybe with the upcoming big chip, maybe, and it still won’t top the previous “glory” due to the cost caveat, which i’m guessing will be over 700 euro.

  7. Dogsbody says:

    Regarding the R9 290X:

    This is 100% accurate to my experience. My framerates are spectacular, and my system is a full 3-4x less stable than it was before.

  8. Skull says:

    I have an R9 280X. Is it worth spending that much to get the advantages the 290X will bring?

  9. zat0ichi says:

    Got the 970 (msi flavoured)
    As far as I can tell it is the be all and end all of 1080p 60htz monitor gaming. 4K is not ready yet. My guess is that it will be 5 years before a card as affordable as the 970 can drive 4K games with all bells and whistles set to 11. (then there’s monitors to buy as well)

    The Vram issue is a pain in the arse. Now we have xbone and ps4, with their unified memory, we will be subjected to lazy console ports. This laziness seems to be translating as jaw dropping Vram usage.
    I got a 760 2gb card in preparation for Witcher3, Squadron42, ELite and then Watch Dogs punched me in the face. (appallingly optimised for PC etc etc)

    I had agonised over spending the extra on the 4gb variant but thought 1080p would never need it.

    So I sold the 6month old 760 before the price drop. I do feel a little bad for the guy that bought it but the card was mint and its not shit.

    Roll on cheap huge SSDs. I’m constantly reminded that 128gb is not a lot of space, especially with Windows sat there with its ‘sxs’ folder.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      I got burned by 3GB as well, an increase in usage was predictable but a spike so huge was something i really didn’t expect. Mostly i didn’t know back then that the new consoles would go for such an unbalanced setup, with zero processing power but a truckload of VRAM to exploit as their only secret weapon.

      I’m pretty sure this time i’ll simply go for 8GB and call it a day.

  10. WMain00 says:

    Absolutely love my Gigabyte 970. Purrs away, ultra everything and looks the business. Sits snuggly within my micro atx case and temp is fine. Might be a somewhat gushing comment but it’s an awesome card.

    • pepperfez says:

      970…Purrs…snuggly…
      I’m afraid you have been duped and sold a cat rather than a graphics card. You should take him out of your PC before his hair clogs your heatsink and then you should give him a dish of milk.

      • rockman29 says:

        Absolutely not. This is the first time I’ve heard of a cat in a computer actually creating megahurtz. If this kitty is producing in this case, I say leave her in!

      • Nereus says:

        Most adult mammals are lactose intolerant (most people too), including cats. If you give your cat milk then taking him/her out of the PC would be wise before your rear fan begins to discharge the diarrhea*.

        *I recommend not giving your cats milk regardless of what your cat storage situation happens to be.

  11. iyokus says:

    The 290X runs loud, hot, and uses more electricity than a 970. If you could find one with an excellent cooler for £220 or so it would be an interesting alternative, but at the moment I feel like you’re not saving enough money to make it worth choosing over a 970.

    • Dale Winton says:

      I’d rather get a 290x as its better at higher resolutions and amd have better drivers. Cheaper too

      • Buuurr says:

        lol.. I think you’re the only one in the world with that opinion, Dale. If you knew who did the drivers you’d be horrified.

    • Sakkura says:

      The 290X does not run hot or loud if you get one with a decent cooler.

      Anyway, you should get an R9 290. £50+ cheaper than the 290X, nearly the same performance. Better value for money than either the 290X or the GTX 970, let alone the GTX 980.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        But then you can also have a 970 with the same decent cooler and it’d arguably go even better.

        The 290 is more bang for buck as you say, the 290X to me instead looks a little silly nowadays ( as a new purchase, off course ).

        Sure, maybe some people want the extra bandwidth now, but then it’d only be needed for 4k and a crossfire would be totally due, but then the future proofing factor of multi-GPU setups goes out of the window because of the 4GB models, which is bad for someone who bought not one card, but two.

    • Premium User Badge

      Serrit says:

      Hmm yeah taking Sapphire’s 290X and Galax’s GTX 970 as examples a Tom’s Hardware comparison shows the AMD card drawing about 80W more power on the “Gaming power consumption” stat.
      A quick bit of napkin maths, assuming 40 hours gaming a week, 20 pence per kilowatt hour, then over a year this adds about:
      0.08 kW * 40 * 52 = 166.4 kWh = £33.28
      to the electric bill.

      Now to decide if my AMD fanboyism is worth that…

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        If you really need to keep your AMD fanboyism, as you say, it’s probably just better to check what they release next, since as of now the situation is rather stale, more than it used to be in the past.

        It’s also true that Nvidia looks a little more likely to release a “better” card considering how monstrously efficient Maxwell is on 28nm, they just need to increase the shader count and the memory bus and they’re done, but hey, i can’t know for certain.

        • Asurmen says:

          Based on rumours atm, the 390X should be very nice indeed. It’ll have 20nm and HBM for over a year before Nvidia, both will help with the 290X power issue, and they’re supposed to be shipping it with a decent reference cooling setup as well. It’ll be interesting how Nvidia and AMD match up by about April-May.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Oh, the 20nm card is something i didn’t expect considering all the troubles and all the talk about skipping it in favour of another future shrink with FinFet, are you sure about that?

            This might be interesting.

          • Asurmen says:

            AMD have previously announced that they will be using 20nm in 2015, but not given additional timeframe or model numbers usage. We know they’ve got the 300 series on the cards (pun intended) and they’ll be out in the first half of the year. Anything else is speculation. Could be the initial 300 series, could be something else towards the end of the year. I think Nvidia was defintely looking at jumping straight to 16nm though.

  12. gulag says:

    Also opted for an MSI GTX 970 on an MSI Z97 G65 board. Finished building it last night. It is a thing of wonder and glory.

    • Buuurr says:

      I stay away from MSI. The capacitors had a nasty penchant for exploding and juicing my graphics and CPU to boot. Went Asus for three years and then back to MSI… would you guess the exact same thing happened again? I have never left Asus since. Good luck with your purchase.

      • gulag says:

        Sorry to hear about your bad run of luck. I’ve used both brands for years without any mishaps.

  13. Sakkura says:

    The R9 290X is poor value compared to the R9 290. Get the one without the X, save £50+ and get 90-95% the performance.

  14. thomir says:

    …with Nvidia having just blown its Maxwell load

    Perhaps we could not make ejaculation jokes in technical articles? How about “with Nvidia having recently released…”.

    Apart from that, great article!

  15. zarniwoop says:

    The Samsung 850s don’t actually appear to be any cheaper than the old drives sadly. I scurried onto Amazon to see if I could justify another ssd for my desktop (the samsung 840 I bought for my laptop was transformational).

    Unless by cheaper you mean make more profit for Samsung?

    • Sakkura says:

      The new 850 Evo is cheaper than the “old” 850 Pro, but still more expensive than the older 840 Evo and other popular options like the Crucial MX100 and Sandisk Ultra II. It’s faster though, but not as fast as the 850 Pro.

      The 850 Evo is currently priced awkwardly, but if it comes down close to the 840 Evo / MX100 / Ultra II, then it’ll be a good buy because of the added performance. It’s not unusual for SSDs to be launched at inflated price points and then gradually make their way down to the bargain bin.

  16. fish99 says:

    I’ll be picking up a 970 in the next few weeks. I have nVidia 3D Vision and I’d almost rather not play a game than play without stereo 3D, and these latest games are too much for my 660 in stereo. With 3D Vision I’m tied into nvidia GPUs.

  17. mukuste says:

    With regards to AMD driver woes: hasn’t anybody seen that the Catalyst Omega drivers are out? Seem to be quite good, too, and reportedly fix the mentioned bug.

  18. caff says:

    Hi Jeremy, I recently purchase a 970GTX, but I’m not sure if my CPU is holding back the card. I’m still using an i5-2500K purchased about 2.5 years ago, it’s running at about 3.3Ghz. I game mostly at 1080p currently, but thinking of getting the 4K Philips monitor in the new year. I may use the monitor at lower res often, as the monitor seems to scale 1080p and 1440p well. Do you think I need a CPU/mobo upgrade?

    • xrror says:

      If you have an i7-2500K, then you seriously need to overclock it more =) Go for at least 4.5Ghz, Sandy Bridge processors – while a bit slower “per clock” than later Ivy Bridge (10% maybe) and Haswell (20% maybe) tend to overclock quite a bit more in comparison. So while Ivy may start to get hard to clock over 4.7, and Haswell over 4.5, Sandy tended to do 4.7 “fairly easy” and then if you “worked at it” you could hit 5Ghz which is kinda nuts.

      My rambling aside, yea – you bought the “K” sku for a reason right? Go have some fun with it =)

      Oh I forgot to add, you probably should get a better heatsink first IF your using the stock heatsink. And worst case – I’m pretty sure the heatsink mounting pattern hasn’t changed from sandy bridge to even haswell, so worst case you can bring that heatsink to a new build. So don’t cheap out on the sink ;)

    • Hematite says:

      I’ve done approximately the same thing; i5-2500K with a shiny new GTX-970.

      I had previously overclocked my CPU, then reduced it to stock because my games were GPU-bound by my old 560Ti (which served me well). With the new 970 I initially ran it at stock speed, then saw a noticable improvement when I overclocked to 4GHz which my CPU handles perfectly well (4.3 was iffy and I see no reason to push my luck). I would definitely recommend some overclocking for you.

      I recently finished playing Assassin’s Creed 3 on max-ish settings at 4K resolution downsampled to fit my 1920×1200 monitor using nVidia’s Dynamic Super Resolution feature on the new cards. It looked absolutely fantastic, the result is much better for performance and quality than anti-aliasing.

      Obviously you won’t be able to do quite the same with newer games since they tend to pack more fanciness into each pixel, but I’ve been extremely pleased with the results.

  19. PopeRatzo says:

    If I don’t plan on going to 4k, should I still go with an R9 290x? If I can save some money, that would be great.

    I got worried after the minimum req for Assassin’s Creed Unity was a GeForce 970 GTX. Is that going to be the new minimum for AAA games?

    I don’t use 3D or anything but a 27″ monitor. Just want to be able to play the latest games. My Radeon HD 6850 is getting a little sluggish on games like Shadow of Mordor and Far Cry 4.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Yeah, you need some horsepower.

      Mostly because you don’t buy a 290x for 4k, you but at the very minimum 2 of them. For 1080p you might try with a 290 ( without the X ) though, that would be some good value if you use a properly cooled version, then you could start fiddling with overclocking, which is where lies a LOT of the hidden juice.

  20. BLACKOUT-MK2 says:

    As someone who’s a complete newbie when it comes to tech stuff, but is looking for an upgrade, what do you need to know to tell whether a GPU is compatible with your PC? There’s the size of the case, the power supply, anything else? I also have an i7 -3770K @3.50 GHz, is that good enough? I’m thinking of upgrading from my SLI 570s to a single 970, but I don’t want to blow a load of cash on something that won’t work.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      As you said, it’s only case and PSU at least in your particular scenario. The latter is more complicated but if it’s powering a 570 SLI, it’ll do a 970 with relax.

      You might leave one 570 in to as a dedicated Physx processor though, since you probably won’t be able to sell it for anything decent nowadays and the advantages are huge, especially on the various Batmans and Borderlands. In that case you don’t have to use the SLI bridge between the two cards, you should actually remove it.

      • BLACKOUT-MK2 says:

        Thanks for the reply. And just to make extra doubly sure, does it matter if the card I’m after is smaller than the maximum size card my PC can fit in, or will it click in so long as it’s small enough regardless of the size?

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          The mounting is always the same, they click in their PCI-E slot and the “backplate” is always spaced the same way to fit with the back of your case.

          The only issue with length is in the opposite direction, if you have some centimeters left between the end of your card and the start of your HDD bays or whatever is in front of it, you’re golden, the 570 and 970 should be pretty similar in length.

  21. Rae says:

    Do GPUs always look so … flashy? I’m more of a gray or monotone person myself. That said I think I’ll keep my old reliable one until the games stop working or my PC does whatever goes first.

    • airmikee says:

      It was around the end of the Nvidia 200 series and the beginning of the 400’s that GPU began to look flashier and fancier. Prior to that they were mostly just a barebones card, sometimes not even having a fan on the card. I’ve got an old 8800GT around here somewhere that doesn’t look much different from an old internal modem card.

  22. Perkelnik says:

    Thanks for the article. Im currently running GeForce 650Ti, which I want to replace. But Im just gonna wait and see how it handles GTA V and Witcher 3, in the meantime GTX970 will get cheaper (I hope) and maybe even new cards will appear (like rumoured GTX960).

  23. Guvornator says:

    So my work just announced there will be no Xmas bonus the same day this article comes out. I now have an unscratchable upgrade itch.

    DAMN YOU JEREMY, DAMN YOU TO HELL!!!

  24. bobbobob says:

    I’ve been a ~£130 GFX card purchaser for ever and it’s never seemed to do me wrong. It’s quite possible I’ve never played a newer game the way it was originally intended to look though. I’d love it if Jeremy could do another ‘this kit is good enough’ article – he did one a couple of years back and I went and bought most of the stuff he listed.

    I currently have an odd problem with my PC where when I power it on, sometimes it tries and fails indefinitely to start up (it kind of throbs in and out of life). I think it’s the CPU fan, because if I actually start the fan spinning with my finger everything seems fine and it powers up properly. Fan’s dying right?

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      That’s only true if you are 100% sure that you can replicate that condition everytime you “help” the fan manually, otherwise it might be pretty much anything.

      The stubborn boot issue caused by this or that is horrendously common afterall and sometimes there’s little to do other than hoping you’ll purchase only the “right” parts that play nice with each other, something that requires you consult a fortune teller.

      My fix is the best of all: i shut down the PC on average 5 times a year, if not less!

  25. gabrielonuris says:

    I bought a GTX 760 this week (I still didn’t even install it). I was playing with a GTX650, which I sold to buy another one, at the moment I’m playing Shadowrun Returns with an old GT9600 that I kept for the gap time between upgrades…

    I know some of you might think I bought an obsolete card, but I think the most important of all while making an upgrade is to think what you really want. In my case, I don’t play with big f_king 4K monitors, I’m beyond happy with my 23′ monitor, playing at 1920 x 1080 (sometimes at 1600 x 900), and if I get 35-45fps in my games, I’m done.

  26. Asurmen says:

    I went stupid and bought the 290X Sapphire 8Gb. It’s nice. Unfortunately the price keeps dropping week after week it seems, and now you get Civ BE with it :(

  27. mao_dze_dun says:

    I got me a brand new MSI 290x a couple of weeks ago and I love it. The cooler is so much better than the stock one – on max load it stays at 75 degrees Celsius, which is a whooping 20 degrees below the reference 95 degrees. Also for the class of the card it is ok on the noise side during load. Anyway get an 290x (with third party cooling) or a gtx 970 – both are amazing cards at a great price. Obviously the 970 is much more energy efficient and has a couple of nVidia goodies plus the better support in games. The 290x is a bit more powerful (and a lot more power hungry :D), will supposedly play better with Mantle games and of course is the better option for using multiple monitors. Either card is a definite win :).

    Btw if you’re going for the budget solution the only good option IMO is a 270x with a preferable 4GB or VRAM. It is an amazing card. My 2GB version could actually handle BF4 on Hight, 60 fps average. You can get it quite cheap if you live in the States but even in Europe the prices have dropped and it’s a great bang for the buck.

  28. picollo7 says:

    logged in to say: the 970 is amazeballs. far cry 4 ultra hbao+ enhanced godrays and i’m getting a solid 60 fps on 1920×1200 95 percent of the time, with brief dips to 50ish during super high foliage (on soft shadows it knocks off about 5-6 fps and i get nasty artifacting during cutscenes so i just use ultra). had cf 6870s, went to gtx 770, then to 970. every upgrade was worth it. i ebay the old cards so the upgrades only cost me about 100 bucks once a year. two games. totally worth it. and most of the time the card is chilling, only during super intense scenes do i hear the fan ramp up. the 970 is THE card to get, super solid performance and awesome driver support from nvidia, and no jet engine noise.

    running a 4790K i7 for my cpu, not overclocked. also, get process lasso. got it because of the core parking issue with bf4 and haven’t looked back. also, i never had an issue with CF or SLl, but i usually don’t get games day one. i wait a month or two and bugs are usually worked out by then. I know fc4 had shadow issues but both amd and nvidia are usually very quick to fix with drivers. i was always an amd fanboy for cpus and gpus due to price performance ratios and just recently switched over to intel and nvidia bc i did not like the power ineffeciency of amd. it is nice playing games without hearing fan noise. i still root for amd though because competition is good, but for a few bucks more i can be power efficient and quiet at a better performance, without having to get a water block. it was hard switching to nvidiatel but i don’t regret it (new mobo, expensive cpu, and new gpu). if amd ever gives me a reason i’ll be back.