Is it worth upgrading my video card?

It’s been a number of years since my last PC component upgrade. Up until recently I have been quite happy with the performance I was getting out of it. However, the latest batch of games (AC4, BF4 I’m looking at you) have my rig showing it’s age, so my thinking is that it’s time to upgrade again. I’m hoping that I can get away with just a video card replacement and leave the rest alone.

My current specs are:
Intel I5-2500k (unlocked, but not overclocked - I’m hesitant to do that for some reason)
8GB Ram
AMD HD6850 1GB <-- this is what I’m thinking of replacing

I’m looking at an R9-270X or something similar, as this new Mantle thing is quite fascinating to me. So what do you guys think? Would I notice a huge performance increase? Am I crazy to not update the CPU as well? I could still overclock that 2500k - I’d have to invest in a better cooler though.

6850 was pretty pokey even when it was released. Either the R9 270x or 760Ti makes a lot of sense if you have a 1080p monitor.

No reason to update the CPU. You could probably overclock it quite a lot without increasing voltage or replacing your cooler, but most games don’t bottleneck on CPU anyway. Interestingly, early reports on mantle are that it primarily helps only when games are bottlenecked by CPU.

Thanks stusser. I do have a 1080p monitor, so should I expect big fill-rate improvements over my 6850?

Regarding the 760Ti and the R9 270x, is there any reason to buy one over the other? Are they pretty even performance-wise? Are Radeon drivers as good as Nvidia’s? Do we care about PhysX anymore?

Yes, the 760Ti or 270x will be a HUGE improvement over your 6850. They’re several generations ahead.

The 760Ti is a bit ahead of the 270x (and priced accordingly), but both are great for 1080p. By great I mean they’re faster than current-gen console generation, so they’ll last a long time if you stick with 1080p. Nvidia supports shadowplay realtime video encoding, which will be nice for steam streaming type applications. AMD supports mantle, which is an unknown quantity but looks like will primarily benefit games that bottleneck on CPU. AMD also supports that TrueAudio initiative, which is another unknown quantity but will again likely benefit CPU bottlenecked scenarios. PhysX is a non-issue.

Just to echo Stusser, I upgrade from a 6850 to a Nvidia 580GTX about a year ago. Holy cow – night and day. And the 580GTX is, I think, slower than either of the cards that stusser recommended. I haven’t played BF4, but AC4 is smooth as silk.

GTX 580 is actually comparable to the 270x and slightly below the 760Ti. That was a very high-end card when released.

So I’m guessing the 6870 I’ve sunk a lot of time and money into (was bought in an emergency to replace a dead-fan 4870, then had its own fan die just outside of warranty, necessitating the purchase of a 3rd party cooler. . . whose VRM heatsinks didn’t stick, so then I had to go buy new thermal adhesive and new miniature heatsinks, all involving multiple full uninstalls/reinstalls of the card through a dusty maze of wiring and PCI adapters. . . ) is about to start sucking on AAAs?

Worth noting that I’m gonna be gaming at 1680x1050 for the foreseeable future.

In a year or two, when they start to really strain the current-gen consoles, yeah. Your card won’t be sufficient for this entire console generation.

The main reason to go Nvidia is that AMD prices are inflated due to demand from crypto-currency miners. It’s mostly the 280 and 290 series (280 is like going for $400 everywhere, and it launched at 300 retail!) but it’s having an effect on even the 270s.

Not a ton. The 270x starts around $230 and is bundled with Battlefield4. The 760 starts at $250 and is bundled with Assassin’s Creed 4. The 760 is a step up in performance so the $20 is justified, but honestly I would decide based upon the bundled game.

Actually newegg has a 770 for $290 after rebate, that is an outstanding deal. The 770 will absolutely last this entire console generation at 1080p without breaking a sweat. It’s better suited for 1440p.

Thanks for all the input folks! I think I’m going to take the plunge on the R9-270 in the near future.

I’d advise waiting about a month for more shipping volume for the ATI cards which should push prices down a bit.
Also, don’t get a stock-cooled solution. Sapphire and HIS have some nice non-stock cooled ones, I believe.

(Oh and Mantle is supposed to be pretty much ideal for that CPU, as it basically offloads operations onto the GPU, but wait for third party benchmarks Soon™ - like…Toms just said they got the mantle drivers last night, so Monday…)

The 2500K is still a hell of an awesome CPU, and is quite overclockable safely. I’ve had my 2500K overclocked to 4.2ghz with an aftermarket air cooler for two years now. Totally stable, runs surprisingly cool, and even current cpu’s that would be more expensive don’t offer noticeably better gaming performance. :)

Upgrade that video card stat, it’s the bottleneck on your system!