SLI or Single Card?
Is the value of one's graphics hardware higher if one purchases two lesser cards but have them work in tandem or one high-end card? I intend to run a single 24" monitor at its native resolution with your standard gamut of video games.
that depends on the specific games you play and if they do a good job supporting SLI/CFX. It very much depends on the cards you pick as well. Two gtx 550 in SLI are not greater than a 580 for example but two 560 ti are (in most cases), two 570 in SLI would be better than a single 580.. but there is a caveat: the size of the frame buffer of two lesser cards in SLI must be considered and weighed against one strong card with a larger frame buffer. At higher res one needs more vram and this can become an issue for users of multi card configs where the cards used have less ram. For example 560 ti cards come with 1GB of vram. A 580 comes with 1.5GB of ram (or more). If the user games at high res (25X16 or greater) 560 ti SLI will run out of available vram long before the 580 and therefore is not necessarily "better".
you are interested about the value or the horsepower? single powerful card works on any mobo while SLI requires dedicated , multiple pci e x 16 slots and possible hacks (crossfire mobo with nvidia cards for example). if mobo is not ready for sli you will need to get the single powerful card, if sli is possible then you can get some lower cards and put them in parallel : dual/tri or even quad SLI (2 x 9800gx2 comes to mind). Obviously, the PSU needs to be a capable one if you are thinking SLI, so there are trade offs on each side.
Always, always, always go for the single more powerful card. A good chance you'll suffer from microstuttering w/ two lower end cards. Plus you'll have to wait for Crossfire/SLI profiles for both cards to be useful.
I have run 7900GS SLI, 8800GT SLI, GTX 260 SLI, 4870 CFX, GTX 470 SLI, 6950 CFX and now GTX 570 SLI. I have played with top of the line cards as well: 7900GTO, 8800GTX, GTX 285, GTX 480, 6970 and GTX 580 and I must say that IMHO often two lesser and much cheaper cards are my preferred choice over one top of the line card. Often there is too much of a premium for the top top of the line cards IMO and two lesser cards make a lot of sense.
If your system can handle it aka no cpu bottleneck, sufficient psu, good case/cooling, then always go for 2 lesser cards. Same reasons as Phill listed, you will get so much more performance for less money than going for 1 higher end card. SLI/x-fire scalability have improved so much in recent generations that it is totally worth it now. Before, sli/xfire was questionable in terms of value because scalability was 50-70%, with 70% being an ideal situation. Now, for almost every game, you see a 90% scaling and often times even 100% with xfire/sli setups.
Look at this this way, an ati 6870 is around 180$ while a single 6970 is ~330$, for almost the same price, the 6870 x2 obliterates the 6970 to no end. On the Nvidia end, you will see the same thing, 560ti @ 240$ vs a single 580 at 460$, the sli 560ti would smash the 580.
If you'll take all the posts sbove combined, you'll get the all round view of the situation.
If you are concerned about FPS per buck, go for dual cards, especially when your res is 1920x1200 or less. I've took the opposite way, invested more money for relatively less performance with a single high end card for the benefit of consistency & stability, and maybe even the option of adding another one down the road somewhere...
Your choice :)
Lot of good advices for yays/nays...BUT, some people are going into extremes.
Pick a GPU or a multi-card setup in accordance with your NEED. The need includes: which games you play, which resolution you play at, how long you plan on keeping the card(s)...WHAT IS YOUR UPGRADE PLAN FOR MONITOR (s)....
My 560Ti in sLI setup (on OCed P67 platform) is awesome at 1680 X 1050 (maybe even overkill), 1080P would be fine...but if I stick to 1680 X 1050, I probably can squeeze another 6 months to a year out of the cards...BUT it's gonna stay in my rig for at least 1.5 years....I'll refrain from buying a 30" ultra high res monitor...
If I wanted that I would've got 2 X 570/6950 or 2 X 580/6970....
Some people are cheapskates....they expect more and more from cheap stuff...read review! It's the key...know the limitations, make an educated decision in reference with your income/spending plans for computer gear...
OP: You want to stick to a 24" (1080P) monitor...then, you could grab 2 X 560TI or 2 X 6950 1GB for about a year period...if you want to keep you cards longer, look for 2GB cards (560TI 2gb or 6950/6970 2GB)..
The GTX570 TFIII 1.28gb is a good option too...for SLI and could last more than one year...
The question is: what are your plans? Games? budget?
Sometimes certain cards are selling at very good prices, when that is the case 2 lesser cards are often the best bang for buck. That said I think for the most part you are better off getting a better single card that will do what you want on its own. This way you avoid any SLI/Xfire problems, and if you have your rig for a while you get the option of upgrading to SLI/Crossfire on the more powerful card down the road (if it becomes required....or wanted). The exception to this often being the flagship card in a lineup that you pay a premium for (and is often a dual GPU single card, which can get you back into some scaling issues).
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