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I am going to be building a computer for a college student. He is going into general engineering while he figures out exactly what he wants to do. The budget for this computer is about $1500 USD (just for the tower). This computer will be running Windows 10. He will be using this computer for school work and for gaming.

He is hasn't decided if he wants to do any type of rendering yet, so to be safe, lets assume he will be. The graphics card doesn't have to be a power renderer, just something to get the job done.

Requirements:

  • Must be the latest generation of GPU chips. I would like this to last as long as possible for him.
  • Can play most modern games on at least medium settings.
  • Can help him with at least some of his course work. (I do not know what programs he will use. I also do not know how intensive his work will be.)
  • Support for two 1080p monitors
  • PCI Express 3.0 x16
  • At least 2GB GDDR5
  • Price < $800 USD

It would be nice to have it support two 4K monitors in case he wants to upgrade, but it is not a requirement.

  • If this is better suited for two different cards, I will split the question up. Please let me know if I need to add more info, as I do not know too much about 3D rendering. – Cfinley Sep 21 '15 at 21:46
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For under $800 you can get some pretty insane video cards. Ever since the Nvidia GTX 900 series came out, manufacturers have been cramming as much as they can into every product (and that's a good thing).

EVGA GTX 980 Ti FTW (~$680)

  • Maxwell GPU architecture
  • Supports 4 monitors (max digital resolution: 4096x2160)
  • 6GB 384-bit GDDR5
  • PCIe 3.0 16x
  • Clocks & cores: 1190MHz core, 1291MHz boost, 2816 CUDA Cores
  • DVI-I, 3x DisplayPort, HDMI

This one will last for quite a long time considering its VRAM, clock speeds, and resolution support. It can play most PC games on very high or ultra settings.

I strongly recommend EVGA's Nvidia cards. These things are monsters and they're all backed by tons and tons of positive ratings. Great build quality, great support, great everything.


Workstation cards are made for rendering, but the problem there is that features are very restricted. For instance, the FirePro W7100 is a decent price and has more VRAM but it only outputs DisplayPort, has a smaller memory interface, and bandwidth is drastically lower. These are a few features that matter with non-workstations, and since you aren't sure if this will be used for rendering, the risk isn't worth it.

  • The other issue with workstation cards is that (at least the last time I checked) they were horrible for gaming. Think "a tenth to a hundredth the speed"-horrible for gaming. – Mark Sep 22 '15 at 8:09
  • @Mark I knew that workstation cards are bad for gaming. I thought that gaming cards are bad for rendering. I guess what I should have asked Adam was if it was worth it to buy a less powerful gaming card and a mid to low level workstation card to fit both needs. – Cfinley Sep 22 '15 at 14:27
  • You'll get a ton out of this GTX 980 for both gaming and rendering. I do a lot of 3D stuff myself with my 770 and even that performs great. – Adam Sep 22 '15 at 16:44
  • I'm currently running a 4K monitor for gaming, and a second 1080p for normal use off of my 980TI. Its a zotac but close enough. – Journeyman Geek Oct 11 '15 at 0:05
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The GTX 980 Ti as the other answer mentioned would well meet your needs. It's super powerful, probably the most powerful video card on the market for < $1000 and is competing with the GTX Titan X.

Link

And I know it is a common misconception that gaming cards (such as the GTX series) are bad for rendering, but that is simply not true. The workstation cards are only really a benefit if you are doing ONLY rendering and if you are rendering with high poly counts. (> 250,000 or so)

As an alternative, you could consider the R9 Fury X, which is water cooled, has a higher computer power, but has a lower gaming performance than the GTX 980 Ti.

Don't worry, a GTX 980 Ti will dominate modern games on Ultra, above 60fps, maybe with AA as well.

Just as a fact, driving two 1080p displays in an exceedingly simple task. To put just HOW simple into perspective, I'm running dual 1080p displays with a 2year old Asus Vivobook purchased for $400 running Intel HD 4000.


Another cheaper alternative might be the R9 390

  • 4K support
  • PCIe 3.0 x16
  • 6 displays max
  • 8GB GDDR5 512 bit
  • 2560 stream processing units
  • 40 compute units
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I am not sure how a $800 graphics card would go in a $1500 computer. One can technically buy it, but without a good motherboard, powersupply, CPU, RAM, HDD, and most importantly a case, it's just going to be a super expensive paperweight.

For $1500, assuming you spend two-thirds of the budget for the rest of the build, a GTX 980 would be a good bet. You can find one from EVGA for $510: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814487079

The rest of the build could include a i5 4690K/6600K, a Z97/Z170 based motherboard, a 650W power supply, 16GB RAM and a 250GB/1TB SSD/HDD combo. Plus a CPU cooler, a good case and a couple of case fans.

If you're looking for a lot of tasks beyond simple gaming, a i7 4790k/6700k would also be a good idea.

  • Builds for gaming (especially cheaper ones) typically have GPUs that take up a large proportion of the budget, though I agree that going beyond a 980 is somewhat overkill, given OP wants 1080p. +1 – timuzhti Nov 16 '15 at 12:32
  • a 1500 dollar build is in no way cheap. It's not that expensive, especially compared to a $2000-3000 high end gaming build, but it'll get you some pretty high end parts. The rest of the 500-1500 typically goes in stuff such as a custom watercooling loop, or additional graphics cards, or super high-end X99 based 8-core processors. – cst1992 Nov 17 '15 at 6:15

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