GPU Upgrade recommendation


May 27, 2011
Hello all.

Just looking for the collective wisdom of the internet.

Thanks in advance for reading. No seriously THANK YOU. You're in for a lot of scrolling. Sorry :(

I've been thinking about upgrading my GPU for awhile now, but I've always held back for one reason or another.

Let me list what I have currently, to give you an idea of what we're working with here.
I will get to desired resolution, games I care about, noise, cost, etc below this list; but I feel like I should get this out of the way first :)

FX-8320 stock for the moment. I've OC'd it in the past, but my temps got a little high and , frankly, it seems to be doing ok as is

HSF: Xigmatek Aegir Chosen using frostytech from their (at the time) top ten list. I believe I chose one that was one of the quietest in the low-temp category. It's been a year or two and it's obv. changed spots since then, and certainly isn't in the top ten any longer) Added a second fan for push-pull.

***MSI Hawk 7870*** Part in question :) Was OC'd until upgrading my drivers the other day, necessitating a full uninstall with Driver Fusion, thereby wiping my settings. Have been a bit lazy the last week.

Gigabyte 990FXA-UD3 Got it on sale. Chosen for price and reviews, and the option to Crossfire WITH PROPER PCI-E SPACING FOR AIRFLOW. (Yes, I know it's not x16x16 but the penalty of x16x4 at the resolution I would play at is only something like 10% from what I've read, and from what I've experienced on the rare occasions I've stolen my wife's HIS 7850. No microstutter that I've encountered. Yes, I know the 7870 gets downgraded to a 7850 in this config. Still runs quite well.....but I always have to give it back when she wants to play...and she plays more than me I think :D The 7750 I steal from my HTPC and throw in her PC during these times just can't keep up for long)

2x4 GB Kingston HyperX KHX1600C9D3 at stock 9-9-9 Gets the job done

Intel 180 SSD for OS and game(s)-of-the-month (Good sale and the five year warranty overrode any needs for blistering speed as compared to the competition. Any SSD, as compared to a spinning disk is night and day. (Upgraded from a last minute decision/sale on a refurb 74GB (yes...I know) 10K Raptor for the OS that actually lasted for several years (and was still perfectly serviceable) which is now collecting dust in a drawer somewhere

WD Black 640GB Programs and mass storage (ish. 6x1TB in a RAID6 attached to an Areca ML-1280 in my server does me quite well thank you :D Chest-banging over now)

SeaSonic X-760 Gold. I'm unapologetically anal about buying almost exclusively SeaSonic PSU's as it's the one part in your rig that, if it decides to have a bad day, can take the rest of your computer with it. Chosen from johnnyguru reviews and because, while yes, it's overkill for my current setup, it can also support the additional power requirements of CrossFireX for when I've gotten to use it. Bulletproof and quiet.

Somewhat off-topic, but for what it's worth: I spent more on a CyberPower UPS then I did on my GPU. Power quality is garbage in my apt complex, power outages were frequent, and I have a lot of nice, expensive, fragile electronics that I would prefer not to be harmed in the making of this movie. The wife's PC I think may have taken some permanent damage over the years from the frequency of the outages. :( Buy em kiddies, even if it's just for the power conditioning.

***Second most important fact to bear in mind in this build*** -> Current (and likely future for a long long time) display device: Panasonic Viera TC-P60S60

This was chosen for several reasons:

-I game from my couch so even a super awesome 4k bells and whistles high-def OLED IPS TCP/IP whiz bang GKitchenSync monitor is going to be dinky hanging on the wall and no as far as dollars-per-square-inches, a monitor would NOT have been cheaper. I have two powered 30 foot USB extension cables running from the back of my PC, around the living room perimeter, under the couch, etc, for my mouse and keyboard. Wireless was NEVER an option :p Lag blows when you love UT2K4 as much as I do (topic for another day :p You could get by with onboard graphics to play that these days :p )

-I sit about ten feet away from the TV. It's wall mounted, directly above the wife's Sony Viera 42" LCD.

-Pretty much gone are the days of Plasma burn-in. (I have the pixel orbiter on and I use it as a desktop display all the time, for hours and hours and have noticed very very little burn in and the one time I spent several weeks binging on starcraft 2 casts, the menu overlay of the game had gotten ever so slightly burned in, noticable after turning it off. I ran the screen color pattern thing I have on a USB flash drive expressly for the purpose for a night or two and voila' it's gone.

-I scoured the guides and actually took the time to break the TV in properly. Two weeks straight of the rotating color pattern 24 hours a day (when I wasn't using it :p ) and 50% brightness, etc.

-Plasma was just about dead at the time so I got it super cheap

-I researched TVs for WEEKS on AVSforum, etc trying to find out about input lag and chose this model specifically because it was listed as having very low input lag, and that it had the same guts and screen as the next higher model (though the old memory is hazy and I could be wrong here) but without 3D which I didn't and don't care about at all. It's huge, it's fast, it's awesome.......

The 42" Sony wasn't cutting it any more. I'm blind as a bat, and squinting was growing tiresome :p


-Refresh rate is limited to 60Hz....... so no need for IPS or GSync or FreeSync or any of that stuff.

-The TV is here to stay and is going to be my output device for at least several years to come.

-Resolution is 1920x1080 and refresh is 60Hz sooooooo I would be looking at a GPU that could not necessarily max out at those settings, but be able to more or less maintain at or around 60FPS, preferably with V-Sync without issues. Not MAX OUT max out, because even a GTX 980 will struggle in various (even ancient) titles if you really and truly crank everything to MAX.

Sooooo now that that's all out of the way, let me talk at you awhile longer :)

I have been playing Fallout 4 pretty much non-stop since it came out and it looks reaaaaaaally nice. Defaults to Medium and 1280x720. (Conservative much?) I bump it up to 1080 high detail, TAA, med shadows, med shadow distance ( a big fps killer I'm given to understand) high decal, high lighting quality, med godrays (another killer according to this website's article on F4) DoF Bokeh, SSAO, al the checboxes, and turn the scalers on View Distance to: Obj Fade 3/4 Actor a bit below that, grass fairly low (default) and Item fade just under halfway. Distant obj detail High and obj detail med

Phew! I have been lazy and I should really do some FRAPS checking to see wha my fps is but it seems ok. Would be realllly nice to bump some more stuff up to high or ultra, but I completely understand and don't care all that much about the shadow distance or godrays quality, as I understand those are very impactful, and thus far haven't been too put off by turning them down.

I played the crap out of BioShock was just SO pretty....but I'll be darned if I didn't get crazy screen tearing in some parts. Drove me crazy. (Like just after the beginning when you are walking down the first spiral staircase in Columbia, with the key, sword and scroll stained glass windows and the water flowing down the steps. Also the bit at the bottom with all the water and candles and (don't care if I'm lame for saying so) glorious, beautiful choral music playing. (You don't have to be religious to appreciate utter beauty in whatever form it takes. Warmed my non-believing heart right to the core :D ) The rest of the game was pretty smooth, but that definitely made me angry. V-Sync was most assuredly on in game settings, and I do believe it was forced in Catalyst.

I also have the latest Starcraft expansion waiting for me when I tire of Fallout 4, but I'm not too worried about that playing completely fine turned up as high as I can crank it. The CPU will start to give with a billion units on screen before the GPU does, would be my guess.

I have Skyrim modded pretty thoroughly and the lack of VRAM is starting to be a bit noticable I think. I have the gigantic trees mod and down near Riften(? The SE place. I dunno, it's been awhile and Fallout 4 pretty much caused a data dump in my brain :p ) and, if i had to guess, the (admittedly far less than previous games) various things I'd like to fix and soup up in Fallout 4 are going to cause me to talk that dangerous modder's road before too long, so I would need more VRAM probably than the 2GB I have in the MSI Hawk 7870.

Congratulations on reading this far :)

Other Considerations:

I have no allegiance to AMD or NVidia. (Yes I understand I give up CFX compatibility if I switch to NVidia, but one beefy card always trumps two lesser cards in my book: less power, less heat, less noise, less configuration funtimes. Yes it's cool. Yes it's bragging rights. Yes it's sexy as hell. Still not super worth it. Moving on.)

I have a nebulous budget, but spending $350 on a GTX 970 for what I THINK (and please, correct me if I'm wrong) would be a relatively (relative to the dollar amount spent :p But no, I'm not at all discounting jumping from 40ish FPS to 60-70ish FPS in the games I play as MINOR. No sir.) small upgrade in performance I would see just doesn't sit well....yet. The wife has actually pushed me on this lately, saying that if it's WORTH it, to spend the money. (That's the rub. Is it WORTH it? Subjective? Yes, but you are to be my subjects, so subjective away please :)

I just got a new gig, making a bunch more money, which is NICE ($$ ch-CHING) but that job move was ALSO done in the hopes that I would be able to start a family soon :) and I'm under ZERO illusions as to what that, if and when it comes to pass, will do to my gaming-time-budget.

I've been looking around and the reviews and price points tossed around ever seem to match up with reality. It would be AWESOME to find killer performance around $250, but there seems to be a pretty sizable gap between the $220 mark and the $350 mark in GPUs (Is that just me?) I looked some stuff up and it seems like the GTX 960 is not going hard enough, the R9 380 is outclassed by the older 280X and the R9 380X isn't out yet, and, though they say it is shooting for that $250 sweet spot, it always seems like resellers jack the price up enough above that to dissuade me from buying AND I'd like to buy a card NOW


There's the other caveat, and it's a big one.

So I'm looking at the 280X on one hand at a very reasonable price of $200 for what could be a pretty nice bump in performance, or the GTX 970 on the other hand at $350 which I expect would be a much bigger bump in performance, but also a much bigger dent in the wallet or....nothing. Keeping what I has and waiting until something comes along that really makes me NEED to upgrade.

BUT, and here's the 64 dollar question:

WILL I NOTICE the difference?

Will I jump up and down and shout to the heavens the old junkie's refrain of FINALLY getting that high I've been looking for? Scratching that itch I've been dying to scratch since I started building my own rigs back in '03? (Didn't know squat and blew $450 of my Marine Corps paycheck on a Radeon Pro 128MB, turned some heads from the fellas in the know, sure, but FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS.....Ouch. Sure played the crap out of some Half Life 2 on that baby though :) Ah memories...bear with me a moment longer here: Pentium 4 2.4GHz with *C* stepping (So I read somewhere that like the "C" stepping was good for uh like...what's it called? Overclocking?) 2x36GB Raptors in RAID 0 each in it's own fan-cooled drive enclosure with LCD temp readout. 5.25 bay programmable LCD scrolling display. Sexxxxxy. Lian li PC-6070B case cuz it had stupid room for drives. Ahhhh those were the days, but holy moly was that expensive at the time. $300 just for the case. Lol that's the only thing still in use. Got the RAID server in it, because SHAZAM it still holds a lot of drives. (2 3-5.25 slot enclosures that hold 5 drives apiece, plus three internal slots...SHAZAM I say!!

I digress. My apologies. Back to the novella.

So there you have it folks. There's my dilemma.

If I drop the cash on a shiny new GTX 970 will NVidia drop something newer and shiner two seconds later on the 970 and break my heart? (Original parts for this build was the AMD 5830 (Yes I KNOW, it was stupid. SHUT UP!) which was still NOT cheap and then they released something else like a day later and everything dropped and I could have gotten a friggin 5850 or...dare I say it, a 5870, or maybe gotten a Phenom II X FOUR instead of a Callisto x2 555 WHICH NEVER unlocked to QUAD, only TRI, because the first core was STUPID and threw Prime 95 errors all day as soon as the fourth core was unlocked......grrrrrrrrr.)

Can't seem to stop digressing, for which you all have my eternal apologies, and again, my thanks if you've braved the slog of words to make it this far.

So there you have it.

Should I stay or should I go?

If I stay, well, I'm not UNhappy at the moment. I can play my current addiction at decent framerates at 1080P and decent quality settings.

...but y'know...ONLY decent :)

I've got a monkey on my back and it's FPS. It's hardware. It's that stupid Furmark donut rotating and rotating and steadily neener neener neenering me with it's piddly 36 avg rate (1080 2xMSAA v1.10.1, ancient, because I'm too lazy to go DL a newer one) and 3d Mark 11 giving me the middle finger and telling me I have a MEDIUM-quality rig and pooping out crappy numbers.

There are a few silver linings to upgrading, namely, that I will be giving my wife the venerable 7870, a perfect match for her Phenom II x FOUR (Like I said we should have gotten in the first place.)


either selling her 7850 for like mayyyyybe $50 on ebay, or I take her MSI 970A-G43 mobo and stick it in my rig, and give her my gigabyte board so she can crossfire her little heart out (if her PSU can handle it of course. My one little exception to the SeaSonic rule sits in her PC and shames me to this very day. Corsair Builder-Series 550W) I read somewhere that crossfire'd 7850's perform about on par wiht a single 280X soooo we might even be about even on performance for a change. Once we add mods to equation she'll be SOL on VRAM but who cares. She'll still be happy. As long as she gets headshots on Super Mutants, she's pretty happy :D She's getting an SSD immediately anyways. The little refurb'd 74GB Raptor that could is still chugging away as her OS drive. (See, we bought two identical builds in the beginning, and she's been inheriting my hand-me downs as I upgrade. Although, we did both get new GPUs at the same time, and new Mobos. I got the Phenom x 4 first, then she inherited it when I upgraded to the 8320. I got the SeaSonic and she got the Corsair (Sorry babe :p) once I found out our original 500W boxes were housefires waiting to happen. (DO YOUR HOMEWORK KIDS!) I got the SSD next, so now she's due.)

But you've already heard my life story so far so I'll shut up a bit now. So there you have it internet. (or did I already say that once? Yes, yes I did. Apparently I was wrong the first time. For reals though. I'm almost done.) My whole sob story and thought process and angst and hemming and hawing and weighing of things and I still can't really make a decision.

I thank you profusely for your time and energy thus far and I hope someone out there has had to make a choice like this recently or before and can offer some advice.

Joy and Peace unto you all.



May 27, 2011
[quotemsg=17227060,0,1483911]Let's make this short... :lol:

Get a Radeon HD 7970 for $130 and be done with it. That's an R9 280X rebrand (or as well as R9 380 or 380X).[/quotemsg]

I've gone the eBay route before, but really not super keen on doing so for this purchase.....but of course now I have to go do my homework....

Looking around wikipedia and digging through architectures and facts and figures and such though, you absolutely do have a point, the Pixel and Texture rates and FLOPS and whatnot have NOT changed that much across generations. There is still a HUGE gap in performance between the top of the line "Midrange" segment and the next model up. There is NOT that much of a difference between model families. Rebrands are a thing. DX 12 support is still many years away from being a must-have. (Further addendum. I do have Win 10 so that's at least an option. The 280X is not officially listed as supporting it, but all the GCN parts are supposed to be compatible, so that includes this one. They just haven't updated the marketing materials, nor will they. But again, it's not a must-have and doesn't really factor into the equation.

Framerate framereate framerate VRAM bus width memory bandwidth. GPU clock doesn't mean jack, Same as a CPU: IPS trumps clock.

Sigh....why does there have to be a $150 dollar difference?

Addendum to the original post, the 7970 is now being taken into consideration, and added as a third (fourth :p ) option.

Is he correct?

Is the 7970, which STILL falls in the same performance tier listed on the GPU Hierarchy Chart as the 280X and 380 (Ok, not really the 380, about as fast, but narrower memory bandwidth) that I am considering too ancient for the modern world? In this age of "rebrands" is it actually all that ancient?

Is the 280X much of an upgrade over the 7970?

Is the performance difference between the previously mentioned cards (7870, 7970, 280x) and the GTX 970 worth the extra $150 in price? (or, after a quick perusal of 7970's on eBay, the extra $225-$180 difference?)

So two additional questions on top of the original. No upgrade?


7970/280x? and the associated questions therein - 7970 vs 280x? Nice New 280x with a warranty vs the unknown history associated with a used eBay part? (How badly did they beat on it?) New in box eBay parts are obv more expensive than used. and I haven't seen any new ones yet)


GTX 970?

You sir have made way for some more questions, which is bad, because more questions,.and good, because more data, looked at from different angles solves the puzzle more perfectly. :)

I thank you for your input and will take your thoughts into consideration, as hopefully will everyone else who I do so hope will weigh in on this matter.
1) I don't use the stupid tier list. Radeon HD 7970 is R9 280X at 925 Mhz. That card was on top of the performance/price ratio list. And even now, it's barely worse than the R9 380 in performance, and both HD 7970 and R9 380 has barely lower performance/ratio than the current king, the GTX 970.

2) The HD 7970 is actually still quite alive now. Considering you're getting something that snaps at the R9 380's feet for $100-$150, it's incredible. Not to mention that the HD 7970 is recognized as the GCN generation, which means you'll be getting support for quite a while.

3) How the the HD 7970 stacks up against the GTX 970? It's 60 FPS for GTX 970, and for HD 7970 it would be about 40-45 FPS in a game.

4) Also, as a reference, HD 7870 is a R9 270X.


May 27, 2011
So on the off chance anyone had a burning desire to see how this played out:

I remember all the Amazon gift cards I got for Christmas this year, for my last birthday, and left over from last year's Christmas :p I decided on the GXT 970, since I would be spending about what I would for a 280X, and, as I am want to do, researched the "best" 970.

I found the Asus Turbo (Not Strix) model and was debating on that, The Egg had it for $350, 'Zon had it for a little over $400, the wife was saying just DO it already. During further research on comparisons between this model and the MSI, I kept coming across people asking "Why not consider the R9 390?" Sooooooo well you know what happened next. I looked it up and lo and behold, it was a gooooood bit cheaper than the 970, and, was basically on par with the 970 at 1080p, had a wider memory bus, twice the VRAM (if you ignore the whole 3.5GB VRAM debacle) etc etc etc. So it uses more power. Oh well. :)

R9 390 ordered and in the mail.

Thank you to everyone who read this, and thank you to the person who took the time to respond.