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Multiple monitors:  crossfire vs non-crossfire

Posted on 2010-09-01
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I am finishing up my parts list for a pc I am building.  I want Nvidia and not ATI graphics.  And I am interested in multiple monitors, so I need non-SLI, non-crossfire, right?
My question is what would be a good alternative Nvidia card that supports multiple monitors?
And should I go with Gigabyte mobo?  If so, which one?
Finally, I need a case that allows a slide out mobo tray for easy installation.  Any recommendations?

 CPU
Intel Core i7 875K (2.93GHz)
$310
Priced at just over $300, this Intel Core i7 processor has four cores (eight threads) to deliver plenty of power. And since it's unlocked, it gives overclockers lots of options.

CPU Cooler
Cooler Master DP6-9EDSA-0L
$11
We opted for a fairly inexpensive CPU cooler. It's fairly quiet and does a good job of keeping the processor cool, but if you plan to overclock the CPU, you'll want something a little more substantial.

Motherboard
Asus P7P55 LX
$111
This motherboard has a fanless de­­sign, and its two graphics slots let you run dual ATI graphics cards. The P7P55 LX supports up to 16GB of RAM and any Core i5 or i7 processor that uses the LGA 1156 socket type.

RAM
OCZ Platinum DDR 1333MHz (two 2GB modules)
$105
4GB is enough for any modern home PC, and we'll have two slots open, so we can double our system's memory later by adding another pair of 2GB memory sticks.

Case
Zalman Z7 Plus Black ATX Tower
$67
The Z7 Plus is a great midsize tower PC case for the price. It looks nice, has thick sides to dampen noise, and includes several large (120mm) fans to keep things cool.

Power Supply
Antec EA650 650W
$80
Antec's EarthWatts power supplies are energy-efficient and reasonably priced. We don't need 650 watts for the components we've chosen, but it's smart to build in a little breathing room for future upgrades or overclocking.

Graphics
XFX Radeon HD 5850
$285
This is one of the best sub-$300 graphics cards out there. It's quiet, it supports DirectX 11, and it can run every modern game, even at high detail levels.

Hard Drive
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 750GB
$60
This drive resembles the excellent workhorse we used in our $500 PC, only with 50 percent more storage capacity. We wanted to get the 1TB model, but we're pushing the $1200 limit as it is.

Optical Drive
Asus DRW-24B1ST
$23
This model is quite capable. It burns single and double-layer DVDs as well as CDs, so with the exception of Blu-ray support, it does everything you could want of an optical drive.

Operating System
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (OEM)
$100
To make full use of our 4GB of RAM, we want the 64-bit edition of Windows 7. Even if our configuration were more modest, we'd still want 64-bit: It's the future.

Keyboard
Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000
$15
This very serviceable keyboard has an unbeatable price. (It's the same one we chose for the $500 PC.) We couldn't find anything better that didn't cost at least $20 or $30 more.

Mouse
Logitech MX 518
$36
Our more expensive PC requires a better mouse than the $500 system's Microsoft Comfort Optical Mouse 1000. Logitech's MX 518 is large and comfortable, tracks smoothly, and is sensitive enough for gamers.

Total = $1203
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Question by:LEECHIPTURNER
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by:dehcbad25
ID: 33579767
I am so confused by your post.
I am guessing the list of parts you got it from a web site, because some parts collide with what you asked at the top
First, let me clear a misunderstanding. You can have dual monitor with a SLI or crossfile configuration. I have SLI at home with 2 Nvidia 8800 GT, and I have 2 monitors connected. Same would be with crossfire. The only limitation, is that the displays need to be connected to the primary video card, so if the primary video card in SLI or crossfire has 2 headers and accept only 2 displays, that all you will get. To get 4 monitor with 2 dual display cards, you will need to disable SLI or Crossfire (which can be done in the fly).
The 5850 supports up to 3 displays (as long as one is connected thru the DisplaPort).
Also, Nvidia cards support PhysiXs, while AMD support Eyefinity (multimonitor gaming).
The motherboard that you listed however is not good for SLI or crossfire. In my case I prefer to have a motherboard that supports it in the case I would like to upgrade, but if you don't see yourself using SLI or crossfire then save the 100 from the motherboard and invest into a better card (5850 is a solid card already though)
I woudl get RAM that run at least at 1600 also, instead of 1333.
The PSU is a nice choice.Antec makes solid PSU, and 650 is reasonable. Video cards can use a lot of power. My system uses 480 Watts steady.
You haven't specified what you will use the Computer for also. Will it be for games, general office use?
Both my computers (work and home for game) have 8 GB of RAM. At work I am currently using 4 GB, but I have used up to 6 GB before (several browser tabs opened).
Finally, as for your request for a slide out motherboard............Seriously? I am not bashng, but think abut how important (or not important is)
To effectively use the slide out (or open back) motherboard install tray, not cable needs to be connected. A slide out tray also generally required all expansion cards be removed.
Finally and most important, you will only use this feature scarcely.
More important than sliding out the motherboard is space layout inside, cable management, fan placement, and noise proof. These will always be used, and will be important when the computer is in use, while the removing the motherboard tray is only usefull for overhaul installations. I have built PCs with cases that have the advantage of removing the motherboard tray, but it is useful only the first 10 to 15 minutes of the build, afterwards, you need it in place to connect all cables, and tidy them up. Once the cables are tied, you won't be able to use the tray anymore, making it a last priority.
Gigabyte, Asus, MSI, EVGA, Intel (for business, not for home) are all good motherboards. You will need to set a requirement. The motherboard listed for example does not have USB 3. I would suggest to look for USB 3, since the motherboard is not something that you upgrade often.
This would be an example if you are not going to use multi video card
GIGABYTE GA-P55A-UD3 LGA 1156 Intel P55 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard. It also has a PCIe x16 (@x4) if you wanted to add a 8800 GT, or GT 250 for Physicx to complement your 5850.
Finally, let me say that while the 5850 can run all games at high detail (most of them anyhow), if you plan to game on multiple monitor a crossfire setup is beneficial, since it will push the video card to its limits. There are plenty of articles about it in Toms Hardware, it is a large topic, so it is difficult to sumarize here. Multi monitor gaming is nice if you play racing games.
Nvidia however supports 3D gaming. So you can only chose one or the other.
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by:LEECHIPTURNER
ID: 33580269
Great post; thanks.  Will be used for business, graphics, and games.
What case would you recommend?
And do you this would be a good mobo for an I7-950?
http://www.amazon.com/LGA1156-4DDR3-2200-CrossFireX-Motherboard-GA-P55A-UD3/dp/B002XDQC4K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1283367941&sr=8-1
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by:dehcbad25
ID: 33581179
the case listed is OK. Zalman has been around for a while. Personally I tend to incline towards Antec. The 1200 is considered a geek case (it is a bit pricey). I have a 300 at work and it is nice and has a good range of space inside for a mid tower case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=11-129-042&SortField=0&SummaryType=0&PageSize=10&SelectedRating=-1&VideoOnlyMark=False&IsFeedbackTab=true#scrollFullInfo
the 900, also is very popular.
The one I use at home is a PowerOne series. I think is this one
http://store.antec.com/Product/enclosure-performance_one_series/p-183/0-761345-81830-8.aspx
It is nice, and it does damper the sound. I have the fans at full speed (remember that I have SLI and it generates a lot of heat) and the computer is quiet in comparison to when the case is open. I also like that it has filters for the front vents, which I am constantly washing. However, I do wish it was a full size.
You can fit a lot of stuff in a mini tower, but for dual cards I recommend a full size tower.
If you do games, then consider a setup that allows you to do SLI or crossfire in the future. I built my game PC almost 3 years ago, leaving the SLI option open, and a year later (in Nov 2008) I decided to go SLI..the only thing I had to do, was get another video card of the same type (and it was a lot cheaper than when I originally set the system up). And I still can run all new games. Not the higher setting, but it is pretty impressive if you consider that I run 8800 GT. Currently I am playing Dead Space at the highest settings.
As for the motherboard, you cannot use it with a Core i7 950. The 950 is a 1366 socket CPU, you need a X58 motherboard. Those are actually quite expensive. Unless you already have the CPU, I would suggest to get a Intel Core i7 875K or a Core i5 750...
which brings me to the point..Any reason why you want to use such a high end CPU?
If you are not going to use SLI or CrossFire you don't need so much CPU. A Core i3 530 would be enough and $200 less. The video card has more weight if you are in the Core i realm.
When you say graphics, what do you mean? how often? Like AutoCad 2010? Photoshop CS5? everyday?
The Adobe CS5 suit integrates nicely with CUDA GPU (that is Nvidia from G92 GPU and up), and it could make a difference to switch to a Nvidia video card if you use Adobe CS daily (Photoshop or Flash).
I tested the Adobe Flash plugin for CUDA, and watching videos from Hulu from example resulted in 5% CPU usage, while with regular flash it was 20%. This is interesting if you consider what would happen when encoding the videos.
As for the gaming, do you want to Play multi monitor? Or Do you want to play in 3D?
Do you want the PC to support Physx
http://www.nvidia.com/object/physx_new.html
An Example of Physx is in Batman AS. The cape is rendered using PhysX if you have an Nvidia Cuda card, and it looks very good. Dead Space use it as well for the bodies. Some games however calculate it wrong and you end up with particles in the air (paper and leaves for example floating an inch above the ground), but generally it makes the game more fluid. Cryostasis has a nice implementation when using the Nvidia patch
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Author Comment

by:LEECHIPTURNER
ID: 33581639
Thanks.  Based on what you've said, I've changed the parts list to the following:

MOBO
Gigabyte LGA1366 SATA3 ATI CrossFireX ATX Motherboard GA-X58A-UD3R

CPU
Intel Core i7-950 Bloomfield 3.06GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor BX80601950

RAM
4 GB DDR3 1600 ram

PSU
CORSAIR CMPSU-650TX 650W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139005

HARD DRIVE
Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136533

DVD drive for $24:  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827106335

CASE
COOLER MASTER HAF X RC-942-KKN1

CPU Cooler
Cooler Master DP6-9EDSA-0L
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dehcbad25 earned 500 total points
ID: 33581789
You need to replace the RAM.
X58 motherboard work with set of 3, not 2. Also, the timmings might be a little different, so making dual channels work in triple channel is possible, but you will have to tweak it from the BIOS a lot (and might never be completely stable). For the sake of being reliable a kit for X58 should be used.
The motherboard also looks quite nice. You can do CrossFire with 2 HD 5850 and have the PhysX support using a GT 250 on the last PCIx16 slot. That would generate a lot of heat though, and you probably would have to upgrade the PSU.
Also, if the CPU is retail, why not use the included cooler? Also, that CPU cooler that you listed will not cool it. It is rated up to 75 Watts TDP, and the 950 is a 130 Watts TDP beast. My AMD Phenom II X6 computer uses 105Watts total (integrated Video)
So, don't use that cooler because it will fry your CPU.
Again, is there a specific reason why you want to use the 950? The 875K uses 93 Watts.
Have you checked this article?
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-gaming-cpu-core-i5-760-core-i7-970,2698-6.html
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by:LEECHIPTURNER
ID: 33582441
want the 1366 socket for future upgrades.
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by:dehcbad25
ID: 33588143
Ok. 1366 socket is not a bad socket. It is actually very high end, and of course fast. However, have in mind that most likely there won't be much release in that platform. Thus that is why the price of the motherboard decreased so much this year. The motherboard that GA-X58A-UD3R replaces was probably easily 100$ more before. The X58 platform allows 3 way SLI. The other socket don't have the bandwidth for it without expensive chipset add on.
With Intel there hasn't been a platform that will let you upgrade in the future. Their sockets last about 2 years before they are replaced, and X58 was not successful as a business because of the higher price on build (3 way DDR3 2200, higher price CPU, premium CPU, SLI or CrossFire).
I personally would not recommend X58 to anyone that is looking for good value and performance paired. It is not that is a bad solution, it is just too expensive driving the value point lower.
X58 does have its place on high end workstation and gaming machine with SLI or Crossfire.
With an X58 I would do
Core i7 950, 12 GB DDR3 2200 (6x2 GB), Windows 7 Ultimate, 2x ATI RADEON HD 5850. Maybe up the PSU to 850 Watts (80+certified) and put all in a full tower case with good airflow.
Have in mind that this computer not only will cost more to put together, but will cost more in electricity to run. My home PC I calculated cost almost $60 a month on electricity to run.
A cost effective solution would be a socket 1156, since the CPU use less power. However usually are recommended for single graphic card solution. To the final setup would be like
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128412&Tpk=GA-P55A-UD3
8 GB DDR3 2200 (4x2GB)
ATI RADEON HD 585
Windows 7 Home Premium
PSU 500 Watts (650 Watts is fine, but will waste more electricity) 80+ certified.
Intel Core i7-875K if you plan to overclock, otherwise save the hard earned money and get
Intel Core i5-750 Lynnfield
Toms Hardware also has an articles that show that a Intel Core i3-530 Clarkdale is enough for high quality gaming with single GPU like the 5850. However the 750 is a quad core, so there is more horsepower for applications outside video games (Video games take advantage up to 3 cores, proving that 2 cores is good enough for games as well, advantage from 2 to 3 is not huge)
even the 750 solution would be close to half the price than the X58, and you would still be able to run all video games in the highest settings (except Crysis, nothing can run that game)
For business deslktops even I used Core i3 530 with the integrated GPU, a home PC for multimedia I would use a Core i5 661. They can also be replaced by AMD 590 GX motherboard with a Phenom II X3 or X4 CPU. The PCs with integrated GPU will use less than 100 Watts, making them very economical for having on.
Those are my recommendation for builds. Of course they will change as new things come out, but I haven't seen anything new coming out for the 1366 socket in desktop, and Xeon CPU are expensive and not worth it for gaming. 1156 seems to be the socket that Intel is focusing. Green Power.
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