Video Card Upgrade

A few months ago I decided to upgrade my single 8800GT system with a 2nd 8800GT card to enable SLI and improve my video performance in games.  The two cards accomplished this task, but with some unwanted side effects:

  • The two cards generate quite a bit of heat- even when idle.
  • The increased heat in my case causes the thermal situation in my Antec P180 to go up several degrees- in turn causing the CPU/Chipset/GPU fans to speed up and create quite a bit of noise in my bedroom
  • Vista does not support dual monitors while the video cards are in SLI (but XP does?)

The above caused me to separate my 'work' PC form my 'gaming' PC- which seemed to work for a few weeks; then the inconvenience of having to fire up another PC and the lack-luster performance of the Phenom 9500 (at least compared to an Intel E8400) made me re-think my plan...

I finally ended up replacing the two 8800GTs with a GTX260- but this was no easy task...

First off, the GTX260 is a big card:

nVidia GPUs

Size comparison between the GTX260 (top), an 8800GT (middle) and a 9500GT (bottom) video card.

The card will not physically fit in an Antec P150 case (without doing some metal cutting on the internal drive bays)- and it barely fits into an Antec P180 case (I had to remove the top-most 3.5" removable drive tray)- so what I thought would be an easy upgrade turned into an complete system case swap.

The next issue I ran into was power; my case uses an Antec NeoPower 500W power supply and it has the two 6 pin SLI cables required to power the GT260- but the card would not 'spin up' when I powered up the system.  The motherboard would boot and give some strange POST beeps (that most likely to indicate 'no video') but the monitor was blank and the cooling fan on the GTX260 were not moving.

The minimum requirements on the BFG web site indicated a 525W power supply; I also have 5 hard drives, 8GB of RAM, a DVD-RW and a USB PCI card added into the mix (an the 780i chipset seems to be pretty power-hungry in itself), so I contacted BFG support.  They said it was doubtful that it was a power supply issue and offered to generate an RMA for the GTX260.  I ignored their advice and purchased a ThermalTake Toughpower 650W power supply from Fry's- and it worked!

So now I have an Intel E8400 + EVGA 780i motherboard and all is running silent (save for the northbridge fan!).  For fun, I decided to try out a single 8800GT, 8800GT SLI and the GTX260 video cards in turn to see the performance of each. 

For testing I have the following specs:

1 x 8800GT
2 x 8800GT SLI
1 x GT260

As the above results show, two 8800GTs are a bit faster than one GTX260 (about 7.8% faster), but a single GTX260 is a good deal faster than a single 8800GT (about 51% faster). 

The trade-offs are I have much less noise and I can use two monitors in Vista!

Next step is liquid cooling- if it is as efficient and quiet as I am hoping I may be able to back to the two 8800GTs.... :o)

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:35 PM

    is it too late for me and omar to laugh?