When I was inexperienced (and pretty much in my teens), I bought computers. I grew more experienced and I remember occasionally finding more RAM that I could fit into my PC, I think I remember a time when I had 12mb (yes mb!). Some time after that, I began to build my own. I pretty much went with AMD CPUs as they were cheaper and seemingly superior. In fact, I wrote... Read All Today it grieves me dearly that I must report that my newest, most favorite GPU, has died. I am now realizing I've only had it for about 3 years, but it feels like I've had it much longer. Before I get into things about it, I'd like to get back to a bit of an introduction to my beastly Alienware Aurora R4.
When I was inexperienced (and pretty much in my teens), I bought computers. I grew more experienced and I remember occasionally finding more RAM that I could fit into my PC, I think I remember a time when I had 12mb (yes mb!). Some time after that, I began to build my own. I pretty much went with AMD CPUs as they were cheaper and seemingly superior. In fact, I wrote a paper in college on AMD Vs. Intel and why I thought AMD was superior. However, things changed. About 5 years ago I was looking into buying or building a new PC. I ended up deciding that the parts I wanted were too expensive and that it might be cheaper to buy a PC. I bought an Alienware Aurora R4 for a lot of money, which kind of seems to negate the logic I came to. Haha. However, this post is not about the PC itself (I plan to write one up for it soon), this is about the GPU.
Before I got the Aurora, I was running a PC I built myself with an AMD CPU and a GeForce 8800 (which has less than a gig of RAM). I'm pretty sure I thought I had a good computer back then, but looking back I think it's pretty terrible! The Aurora completely spoiled me, but again I'm kind of saving that for later. So, back to the GPU. I wasn't all too familiar w/ GPUs and I wasn't really doing any heavy gaming, just Minecraft, Terraria, and Starcraft 2, pretty much. I probably didn't need a super PC or GPU, but one (of each) really caught my attention.
For some reason the beastly GTX 690 became what I wanted. Yeah it was a $1,000 GPU, but I had some extra money. Maybe it's that price tag that gave much so much confidence in it. So, when I ordered the Aurora, I selected the 690 as my GPU. When I got the PC, I felt pretty great. However, it didn't take too long before I realized the downside of the 690. Looking back, I now feel foolish for selecting that GPU, but hind sight is always 20/20, isn't it? What I didn't fully realize is that while the GPU has 4GB (I scoff at that now) of VRAM, it's really two 2GB GPUs built into one. When it came time to play Ark: Survival Evolved in Early Access, I quickly learned that my newly beloved beast of a GPU couldn't do what I wanted it to do, so I had to run it in lower settings (DX10 or DX9 mode I think). This made the game much less attractive, but I was able to play. Having 2 GPUs in one sounds good, at least until you realize that not all games can actually utilize such a configuration. Ark was one of those games, which could only access half of my video card. I was disappointed. So, I decided it was time for an upgrade.
I was playing Ark on an official server, wishing I could play it the way it was meant to be played, and how it was supposed to look. So, I asked my fellow players what kind of GPU they would recommend. They all pretty much agreed that a GTX 980Ti would be what I want and after just a little bit of research, I agreed with them. Luckily, I had some extra money so the near $600 price tag didn't bother me too much. My memory tells me I paid $400-$600, but if you look (at the link provided above) on Amazon, it's still selling for almost $700!
It's interesting to me that a card I bought 3 years ago is still selling for the same price! Perhaps a used one could be found for cheaper, but I have a strong preference for new products (they come w/ warranty, you know what you're getting, no real surprises, they're easily exchangeable, etc.). Wow, what a beast though! If this GPU is still worth that much after all these few years, it has to be good, right? Well, yeah pretty much actually!
Before I bought the 980Ti, I really wanted a Titan, but I didn't have that $1,000 to spend on a new GPU, so I had to go for something cheaper. I seem to recall seeing that it is comparable to a Titan and can preform very well. I can actually now attest to its performance, although keep in mind I don't do 4K high-rest gaming. My simple Dell monitor is locked at 59-60hz, so I pretty much don't expect more than 60fps, but I do expect 60fps. It did that beautifully, actually. I don't recall a game that gave me any problems with this GPU.
I remember when I got it. One of the first games I played w/ it was Subnautica. I didn't really get too into the game at the time, though I did about 3 years later. My main concern was how would this GPU handle Ark and it really impressed me. I don't think I was able to run it at the highest "EPIC" settings, but those settings were designed for a Titan (or better). Still, Ark performed and looked beautiful to me now finally, I was definitely impressed and satisfied. One thing to note is that I ordered a special edition of the GPU from EVGA (hence all the stuff within the full name).
I believe it was overclocked out of the box and came with additional thermal protection (ACX 2.0+). Maybe I'm weird, but I think I do like overclocked stuff, I'm just not confident in my own ability to overclock something. I'm used to the earlier days when it seemed like a dangerous thing to do. Now it seems as though it's quite easy and actually safe to do. I pretty much left it up to software to decide how fast it actually ran. I remember it reaching about 1200mhz, but it usually ran at about 1190mhz. This didn't really mean that much to me. It performed very well, it did pretty much what I wanted to, so I wasn't really concerned with how fast it was. It also came with 6Gb VRAM, which was an improvement over the 690.
Now is where the problem comes in, pretty much thermals. I don't know exactly when I started to pay attention to how hot it was. I was using EVGA's Precision X16 to run the fans at 100%. I was also using the Alienware Command Center to run the HDD and PCIE fans at 100%, whenever I was gaming. But, the point is that I started paying attention. Earlier this year or late last year I realized that it was reaching 91c while running Ark. I did some reading and confirmation bias hit me. I found a post that said that this GPU runs hotter and can run fine at 91c and that (or 92c) was it's threshold. I read that it would throttle itself if it reached that point, so it wouldn't work too hard. So, I stopped worrying about it so much, until things happened again. My PC shut off on its own and I believed that my GPU was overheating, which was kind of correct. I never re-applied thermal paste to a CPU or GPU and had to do a bit of research on that. I finally ordered some Arctic MX-4, because it was very popular on Amazon and NewEgg. Unfortunately, something else seems to have happened and my GPU is now dead.
How do I know the 980Ti is dead? At the same time of paying attention to my GPU thermals, I realized that my CPU was overheating, too. The CPU was using a liquid cooling system, so I never really worried about it (even though it's the first of it's kind I've used or seen). At one point, I had taken the liquid cooling system apart and got it to work again. Things seemed find and to be working better, but then suddenly my PC crashed again (shut itself down). I tried to get it back on, but noticed "artifacts" on the screen, which were pretty much green lines and such oddities. After that, my PC would beep 6 times and not POST. After much researching, I learned that those 6 beeps meant that there was something wrong with the GPU. So, I brought the old 690 out and tried it. Unfortunately, it ran into some of the same trouble (artifacts). It didn't take me a while until I realized that GPUs were actually wet on their contacts with the PCIE slot and that the socket was wet or oily. I took the 980Ti apart to see what was wrong and it didn't look like it was coming fron the GPU, honestly I couldn't really tell where it came from. However, I did later notice at least one drop of water from the CPU liquid cooler, which I now think could have actually leaked onto the 980. The socket got wet, so the 690 had trouble, too. I did end up managing to dry the socket and trying again. The 980Ti was dead and the 690 was still displaying artifacts (white lines). I pull the 8880 out of an old PC and put it in and everything on the screen was fine. I also accidentally broke a fan blade on the 690.
So here I am without a working "decent" gaming GPU. However, I luckily have some extra money. While I cannot right now afford a new Alienware or beastly PC, I can actually afford to replace some parts, like the GPU. I did some research and I finally decided to buy a GTX 1660 Ti (etc. see links below). While this has the same amount of VRAM as the 980Ti, it's faster. This GPU also costs about 50% less, but is definitely newer and seemingly superior. It also seems to have much better thermal technology. It doesn't include the new RTX (ray tracing) technology, but does include the new Turing core technology. At first glance, this model does look strange. It takes up more slots than the other GPUs, but I believe I have room for it. If not, it seems pretty easy to return/refund/RMA something with Amazon and EVGA.
I'm really looking forward to the new GPU, while watching multiple videos about it. It definitely seems like a good gaming card and especially a valuable one. Perhaps in the future I will update this post or create another giving an intro to the new GPU. But for now, I have to wait for it to arrive from Amazon. I originally ordered the non-Ti edition, which arrived today, but yesterday I realized my mistake so I have a return/refund going on for it while I ordered the Ti edition.
I feel like I've learned quite a bit about GPUs lately. Learning is good. I don't fully understand all the technology involved and can't talk about it like some of the pros I see on YouTube, but I have some good basic understanding. Right now I just want my PC back to life, even if it means getting the same or relatively equal parts for the ones I have to replace.
What GPU do you have? How often do you upgrade? Do you have your eye on a certain GPU? How much are you willing to spend on a new GPU? Let me know in the comments section and we can talk about it!
Want to see what I'm talking about? Check these links:
EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB CLASSIFIED GAMING ACX 2.0+, Whisper Silent Cooling w/ Free Installed Backplate Graphics Card 06G-P4-4998-KR
EVGA Product Page: https://www.evga.com/articles/00934/EVGA-GeForce-GTX-980-Ti/
EVGA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti XC Gaming, 6GB GDDR6, HDB Fan Graphics Card
EVGA Product Page: https://www.evga.com/products/product.aspx?pn=06G-P4-1263-KR