Originally Posted by mrsmiles
was thinking about switching to nvidia also, but would a 560ti be much of an upgrade over my 5770's in crossfire? was also wondering how you tell a reference card from a non-reference card....
When crossfire scaling is at its best, X-Fire HD5770s should offer performance close to that of the HD5870. The GTX560 Ti usually bests the HD5870 to my knowledge. When crossfire support is optimal, moving to the GTX560 Ti may not yield sizable performance gains. However, having the single card will eliminate any multi-GPU issues you could potentially encounter. Moving to the GTX560 will also present a cooler, quieter setup that should be faster than your x-fire HD5770s. Plus, you'll gain PhysX!
I've used the HD5870, x-fire HD5770s, and GTX560 Ti at different points in time, unfortunately I do not have them now to give you a more precise comparison.
Reference cards utilize the design as laid out by AMD/nVidia. A reference graphics card can be paired with a non-reference cooling solution (EG MSI Twin Frozr II). Similarly, a non-reference card can be paired with a reference cooling system. Companies utilize their own non-reference card/cooler designs for a number of reasons: to cut production cost, to add features, to improve overclocking ability, to reduce the length of the card, etc. Reference cards are generally more expensive to produce because of their component selection and robust cooling solutions (robust =/= effective though
). For example, companies often use cheaper voltage circuitry, fewer power phases, etc than what nVidia/AMD have designed to cut back on costs.
In response to the OP, I'd lend my favor toward a reference GTX560 Ti. If you can find one for $230 or less, I'd snatch it up. Solid performance at mainstream resolutions (1920x1200 and below) and highly overclockable. Plus they run cool and quiet
It should nip at the heels of the 6950. If pure performance is a concern, it wouldn't hurt to invest in a 6950 though since you've allocated a budget to accommodate such a purchase.