Windows – Is it better to add a second video card in Crossfire or replace an aging video card

crossfiremedia-center-extenderwindows 7windows-media-center

I am using Windows Media Center and have come across the ridiculousness that is DRM (ala can't play DVD/Blu Ray from computer through Xbox 360 extender onto the tv).

I am looking to do something about this by upgrading my video card so that the computer will be directly hooked up to the TV over HDMI.

My PCI slot setup is:

  • PCI Express 2.0 x16 – 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16)

  • PCI Express x16 – 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x4 (PCIEX4_X1)*

  • When the PCIEX1_2 slot is populated with an expansion card, the PCIEX4_X1 slot will operate at up to x1 mode.

I need to have both monitors connected while HDTV is connected as well.

I am considering two options:

  1. Add a second video card running in Crossfire that would be used for the HDTV
  2. Replace my existing video card with a new single card with three outputs (2 DVI & 1 HDMI)

Would it be better (no bugginess) to add a second video card to to my system in Crossfire or would it be better to scrap the card and replace it with a whole new card?

My computer setup is:

  • Win7 Home Premium x64
  • Gigabyte GA-P55-USB3 LGA 1156 (with Crossfire support)
  • Core i7-860
  • 4 GB DDR3
  • XFX HD-465X-ZDF2 Radeon HD 4650 1GB 128-bit DDR2 PCI Express 2.0 x16 (Dual DVI output)
  • Dual DVI (non-HDCP) monitor setup

Best Answer

First of all it depends on your budget. :) You could use Crossfire only if you want to upgrade your performance (by 1.5x to 2x). However, if you want to support 3 or more displays properly, you need at least the Radeon 5xxx series.

There are several Radeon 5xxx or 6xxx which not only give you significantly better performance, but also as many as 6 display outputs without having to go Crossfire.

That said, the upgraded single approach would be my recommendation because:

  • You need a 5xxx series or better to support multiple displays
  • Newer single cards have 3-6 or more connectors
  • Single card gives significantly better performance AND features
  • Single card is lower overall power consumption
  • Single card will produce less noise

Update Additional note on performance:

Having had some additional experience with Crossfire and SLI since this post, I should also point out that both will (a) increase your CPU usage, and (b) do not always work properly - or even at all - in many games / apps.

The CPU usage is an issue particularly with Crossfire I found, where it increases nearly 30% or more even on a Quad core machine.

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