Originally Posted by shnur
but because they're all reference design cards, it really is pointless to pay more for another brand.
The 7970 is an awesome card, even at stock speeds, and I'm sure that you're going to love it! Everyone who has one that I know says that they're amazing performers in games. Who knows, maybe Stanford will optimize a folding client for it so that it can flex its muscles in an advanced client like the Fermi cards can.
However, the portion of your quote that I selected is partially false.
The cards may be all reference designs and they may even have VRAM, GPUs, and circuit boards that are made from the same materials and at the same manufacturing facility, but each brand name has different quality control standards. This is why some manufacturers offer lifetime warranties, some offer only 1 or 3 year warranties, and some offer only 30 or 60 day replacement policies. Without getting involved in any sort of a Brand X vs Brand Y debate, better quality control standards result in fewer RMAs per number of units sold and a higher degree of overclocking headroom in a given production distribution.
If I'm going to spend $500 to $550 on a graphics card, I'm willing to spend the extra 1% to 5% for a higher degree of quality control. I like having a lifetime warranty that is honored even if I overclock and also knowing that I'm unlikely to need to take advantage of that lifetime warranty. :)
Originally Posted by dtfgator
Nice! I'll probably be investing in another GPU soon. Not sure if I want to wait for the 7XX nVidia series, jump ship and get a 7970, or just buy another used 480 and SLi. Opinions?
With the prices on 480s the way they are and the scaling support that nvidia includes in their drivers for most games, I'd say that another used 480 is much more performance for your dollar. Crossfire doesn't seem to be as supported as SLI and AMD seems to have less consistent scaling with Crossfire across a large number of titles than nvidia does with SLI.
However, if you're worried about future game releases that will inevitably push our hardware to its limits (think BF3, only more graphically intensive) then having more VRAM is going to be important and the 7970 (or the new nvidia competition for it that's coming soon) may be worth investing in. SLI is great, but if you're on a GTX 480 (or even a reference based 580) you're limited to 1.5 GB of VRAM even if you go triple SLI. The same holds true with quad crossfire; the cards processors work in parallel and so do their memory, so you are still limited on VRAM as each card has to load the same data into memory to take advantage of the parallel processing.
For single card GPU performance, nothing beats the HD 7970 right now.
For multiple GPU scaling performance across the largest number of platforms, Tri SLI GTX 580s (with 3 GB of RAM instead of the reference 1.5 GB) is probably better performance (overall) than tri 7970s would be. (And let's be realistic, can most of us even afford 3x 7970s or 3x 580 3GBs.)
Edited by shad0wfax - 2/5/12 at 2:07pm