More GTX 970 Musings

[Blaugust Day 2]

Having recently moved across town, I received the standard Post Office confirmation of address forwarding, complete with an envelope stuffed with coupons. One said coupon was for 10% off a single item at Best Buy. This prompted me to start looking at graphics cards again.

Spoiler alert: graphics cards are still stupidly expensive.

Or maybe not. Maybe they have always been around $300 for the upper bound of reasonableness. All that I know is that I’ve been staring at the GTX 970 series for months and the prices never seem to budge. It’s not even a matter of whether I could afford the card, it’s the principle of refusing to voluntarily pay MSRP for anything. That and the fact that I don’t need an upgraded graphics card to play any of the hundreds of games still sitting unused in my Steam library.

But… well, I’d kinda like to play GTA5 and Witcher 3, you know? My present rig is about four years old now, so in the scheme of things perhaps an upgrade is overdue. About the only modification I’ve done over the years is replacing the boot SSD after it died a few months ago.

Still, without a price drop, I don’t know if I’m going to do it. I’m not a #PCMasterRace powergamer that needs everything on Ultra; I just want to play relevant games at 60 FPS and 1080p. And honestly, it’s even harder to justify a card upgrade for just two games. I mean, the rest of my library will look better too, but… yeah. I dunno.

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Posted on August 2, 2015, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. My rig is getting older, but the game’s aren’t pushing it too bad. I do want to upgrade, but I am finding it harder and harder to justify.

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    • Although I know technology always marches on, I am finding it difficult to imagine games pushing things much further than the 900 series. Kinda like how the PS3 and Xbox 360 generation lasted, what, 7-10 years? I get the feeling that hyper-realistic graphics kinda turned a profitability corner in that even if the machines could run them, it’d be too expensive to create them for how much money the games would make.

      I mean, we’re now pushing boundaries in “hair physics.” Like what?

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  2. I don’t know what graphics card you’re using now, but assuming that it’s not super new, and assuming that you bought a reasonable mid-range one, not a multi-hundreds-of-dollars beast, could you not get a new reasonable mid-range card that would be an improvement?

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    • I currently have a 560ti. Which might have actually been pretty good four years ago, as it was a part of a ~$1200 system. Based on the comparison charts I’ve seen, anything above 760 would be an upgrade, but anything that’s not a 960 or 970 pretty much costs the same as those two anyway. The 960 would be an improvement – the difference between a 3500 score and 6000 – but it pretty much costs ~$200. An extra hundred bucks gets you the 970 which has a 8600 score. So, basically, twice as good at half the price.

      Plus, I pretty much know for sure that a 970 will play Witcher 3 and GTA 5 well.

      It’s true though that, strictly speaking, I don’t need anything new, really. My card is perfectly serviceable for the majority of the games I play. Which kinda makes the decision easier, e.g. don’t buy anything. But… I kinda want the new shiny thing…

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  3. “I’m not a #PCMasterRace powergamer that needs everything on Ultra”

    Such a peasant statement. Go back to your Xbone with that ‘just need 1080p’ part you bum.

    On a serious note, upgrading a graphics card never hurts, but if your CPU can’t keep up, or your RAM creates a bottleneck, you aren’t getting the full value from your money. Also if you AREN’T pushing games into Ultra territory at high resolutions, you aren’t taking advantage of a top-end card anyway.

    BTW, GTAV on ultra is borderline playable on a bleeding edge system (I consider a game ever dropping below 60 FPS is unacceptable, unless the drop only happens in one or two specific areas; in GTAV that drop happens a little too often for my liking), and I’ve heard Witcher 3 isn’t playable maxed period, so don’t worry, you have a LONG way to go for all of that.

    The biggest benefit IMO is not for newer games that are just resource hogs due to unoptimized code; its being able to run a million mods on something like Skyrim, Fallout, or Warband and not have the system give you fits. It’s also nice to be able to grab something like ARK, and know that you will be fine on the upper settings.

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    • I just know that I had to do a lot of fiddling with Dragon Age: Inquisition (and bumping everything down to Medium), and I’m not even going to bother with GTA 5 and Witcher 3 without an upgrade. The latest Nvidia promotion being Metal Gear Solid 5 is also making me look longingly at an upgrade. Hmm.

      As far as bottlenecks, my system processor is i5-2500K Processor (4x 3.30GHz/6MB L3 Cache), and RAM-wise I have 8 GB [4 GB X2] DDR3-1600. I overclocked the processor just last year to 4.2 Ghz. From what I can tell, the processor and a 970 should be fine; RAM is cheap, but I haven’t read anything in particular about needing more than 8GB.

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      • You should be good with the CPU and RAM (though another 8gb of RAM might be something to look into at a later date), so yea, sounds like the video card would be a noticeable improvement.

        Having to fiddle with games is something I hate, because in part I know I’m not getting the ‘full’ experience if all of the graphic options aren’t on, or like I said before, when you are in the middle of a game and suddenly you notice it starts to run poorly.

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      • My least favorite part is how it’s all arcane wizardry in figuring out which settings give you the best bang for your FPS buck. If everything was magically labeled with how many frames it cost to enable, I could make an informed decision about whether, say, max textures are worth Tessellation or whatever. There’s something to be said for the ability to just max out everything and enjoy the game as directed.

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  4. Couple of thoughts:

    Video cards that can reasonably run contemporary games have been in the $100 to $300 range since before 3dfx went out of business, and that will probably not change any time soon since manufacturers don’t generally keep producing previous-series cards after releasing a new series in the same price bracket. It’s possible to catch them on sale for holidays or Black Friday, and sometimes a lot of used cards show up on eBay when a new series of graphics cards is released.

    Developers take a few years to figure out how to squeeze the most out of console hardware, so we haven’t yet seen what the current crop of consoles can do. A game can’t be optimized to nearly the same level for PCs at any reasonable cost due to the variety of hardware and software configurations. DX12 is not going to change that, at least any time soon. So odds are that games will become more demanding even if game developers stop adding higher-quality assets for PC users.

    Game developers thakfully are pushing for believability over photo-realism, but that doesn’t mean game hardware requirements will remain static. Graphics demand is driven heavily by scene complexity, and scenes can be made as complex as hardware will allow. For example, DA:I uses less-realistic textures than Skyrim, but it puts dozens of NPCs on screen concurrently to make Redcliffe and Crossroads feel like bustling marketplaces full of refugees, while Skyrim has only a handful of NPCs usually visible concurrently even in a place like Solitude, which is why despite allegedly being a provincial capital, Solitude often feels like it’s been depopulated by the plague rather than crammed to overflowing by refugees. ‘Wet’ shaders, cloth simulation, and other effects also eat system resources, and there’s no real limit to how far those can be pushed.

    For what it’s worth, a GTX 750Ti with 2GB DDR5 can run DA:Inquisition at near-ultra settings at 1920×1080 resolution at 45 capped stable fps outside of very high-load scenes, where it still stays above 30fps. I turned off Tesselation and MSAA because the marginal increase in quality didn’t justify routinely pushing the fan above 50% to keep the card below 60C in a badly-ventilated PC that originally came from BestBuy. The most noticeable impact on graphics quality comes from setting meshes and shaders to at least “high”.

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