To save time and a wall of text I won't respond to everybody. Things like moving the game from my HDD to my SSD, re-installing Windows, etc. have been tried to no avail. I'm convinced there is some kind of conflict that exists with my hardware, I just don't know what it is. My guess, again, would be the mobo, and that's probably what I'm going to replace. If that doesn't fix it, then I have no idea what to try next. Possibly the CPU?
Originally Posted by Lifeshield
And so here you find the real reason many gamers prefer consoles. Because they just work when you want them to.
I would try checking your RAM and Hard Drive if you've tried several GPU's and had no luck with hardware or drivers.
However it would be best if you tell us what game your are experiencing this with as it may just be the games engine itself that is the issue rather than specific hardware or driver related issues.
I hadn't really thought about RAM being an issue. I've been under the impression that faulty memory exhibits more serious symptoms than occasional lag or graphics glitches. I'll try running a test later but I would be surprised if that's the problem.
With my 7970 I'd say a good portion of my games stuttered to some extent. Somebody brought up FC3 earlier, but strangely enough that game ran fairly decently on my rig. Occasional stutter here and there but definitely better than a lot of other people and it was more than playable even for somebody like me who lets those things get under their skin.
With my 690 most games run without stutter, but just about everything I've played has some seriously fugly pop in effects. Deus Ex is a good example. I walk up to somebody and the lighting on their body changes, as does the texture of their clothes. In the beginning of the game there's a woman standing around talking and if I approach her from about 10 feet away her bangs pop in. I can basically make them appear and disappear by going back and forth between this invisible line. Loose objects in the game pop in pretty randomly.
The games that I have issues with all exhibit similar symptoms. In Max Payne 3 I'll have objects in the world like plants and dead bodies will often times change textures as I get close in a very immersion breaking way. Like Deus Ex, lots of things from far away pop in in a manner I know is not normal. I played half of the game with my 7970 and the other half with my 690 and the latter has all kinds of graphical issues I never dealt with before.
Hitman Absolution plays fairly well with the exception of NPC faces changing from a foot away. It's very bizarre, especially with crowds. Your eye catches that something weird is happening but you have to stop and figure out what's going on.
Crysis 3 plays like garbage on both cards, although at one point with the 7970 I had it lag free on medium settings. Now it basically doesn't matter what I do, the game plays terrible. I don't care as much about the game itself as the prospect of not being able to play a demanding game on a rig designed to do just that.
Skyrim stuttered on my 7970 under any settings. With the 690 it plays flawlessly in first person but for some bizarre reason stutters in 3rd. People who have that issue have it the other way around, so that one is particularly confusing. However once I start adding texture mods I start to see some stutter on occasion even though I'm not even close to my VRAM limits.
Metro stuttered horribly on my 7970 on all settings and when I got my 690 it was more of the same until I finally came across a fix which involved tinkering with the settings in the nvidia control panel combined with the in game settings. Still doesn't run perfect though.
Mafia II runs okay, some lag here and there and some of the strange pop in I've noticed in other games but it's playable. Unfortunately I came across a game breaking bug that puts the game in slow motion every 10 seconds and I haven't played it since.
GTA IV and Batman AC both lag terribly on both cards, though being crappy console ports from all accounts I don't hold it against my rig as much. Would still be nice to be able to play them though.
Borderlands 2 runs fine after tinkering with some settings, but again could be smoother.
Bioshock Infinite plays well most of the time except when the game gets intense with a lot of action around me, and at that point it stutters pretty hard. Also stutters when riding the skyline from time to time. I played it at launch though so I can't say if my system was the culprit or not, a lot of people reported issues early on.
New Vegas lags really really bad all the time on both cards.
I have a bunch more games to test that I haven't got around to from the summer sale, so I'll try to go through them and see if they're playable or not. My guess would be more of the same.
Tomb Raider ran perfectly on my 7970, then with the 690 I had tons of graphical issues and some stutter.
The only games I can say ran close to flawlessly were Saints Row 3, Tomb Raider, and Max Payne 3 on my 7970. Just Cause II also runs great.
To answer the OPs question, i find most games its just a simple install, check settings, hit the 'GO" button and enjoy the game. Ive only had a few games that didn't work right out the box, and never had stutter that i noticed that wasn't due to the computer being too weak to run the game. People who say PC gaming is so much more work are (generally) people who also just run their computers into the ground, no maintenance whatsoever, so needing to do anything other than just install and play seems like a big deal to them.
In my case I'll just say that I had these problems immediately after building the computer and never put the computer in harms way by visiting sites that might give me malware or something. I've basically done nothing but play games on it and browse sites I know to be safe. I don't think you were talking about me, but I figured I'd throw that out there.