The Best Graphics Cards: Nvidia Vs AMD Current-Gen Comparison

AMD kick-started 2012 with the release of the Radeon HD 7970, the first member of the Radeon HD 7000 GPU series. This launch marked the introduction of the first-ever graphics card to be made on a 28nm design process, representing the company's most complex GPU to date, with 4313 million transistors in a 352mm2 die.

Following this release, through the year AMD shipped seven additional 28nm HD 7000 cards targeting price ranges from $US100 through to $400, which is where the HD 7970 sits today (nearly 30 per cent below its debut price). Most of AMD's lineup has undergone similar price cuts to address stiff competition from Nvidia's own 28nm GPU offerings.

Nvidia arrived slightly later to the party, roughly two months after the HD 7970 debut, the GeForce GTX 680 at $US500 was cheaper and faster than the HD 7970, forcing AMD to make swift price cuts even though the GTX 680 remained in very limited supply for many months.

This price war of sorts continued as Nvidia dribbled out new GTX 600 parts over the next five months. Discontent with reactively slashing prices, AMD made an effort to improve margins by releasing overclocked versions of its two top models: the HD 7970GHz Edition and the HD 7950 Boost.

By mid-September things had settled down and models had been consolidated. We finally had a better idea of where things were going to stand in terms of price and performance, and neither company seemed to have another major release in the works. And then, AMD threw us a curve ball.

The new Catalyst 12.11 beta drivers delivered major performance gains in many popular games such as Battlefield 3, Borderlands 2, civilisation V, Skyrim, Sleeping Dogs and StarCraft II. While most titles ran around 10 per cent faster depending on their settings, Battlefield 3 was 20 to 30 per cent faster.

Around the same time, Nvidia released a new beta driver of its own (GeForce 310.33) which claimed modest gains for the GTX 680 and GTX 660 in several titles, and this driver has since been replaced by the GeForce 310.61 update, which made further performance enhancements. This is what we'll be testing today.

With updated pricing and performance across the board, we figured it would be worth revisiting both company's offerings to see where you should spend your hard-earned cash this holiday season and into early next year.

Benchmarks: Battlefield 3, Borderlands 2

Testing Battlefield 3 at 1680x1050 revealed that the GeForce GTX 650 Ti was capable of 43fps, making it 19 per cent faster than the Radeon HD 7770 and 59 per cent faster than the 7750, while it was also 10 per cent faster than the 6870.

Turning the resolution up to 1920x1200 we find that the GeForce GTX 660 Ti was able to average 60fps, making it 7 per cent faster than the Radeon HD 7870 and just 2 per cent slower than the 7950. Meanwhile the GeForce GTX 660 was able to average 51fps, making it 9 per cent slower than the Radeon HD 7870 and 13 per cent faster than the 7850.

The GeForce GTX 680 averaged a comfortable 74fps, allowing it to match the Radeon HD 7970 while it was 11 per cent slower than the 7970 GHz Edition. The GeForce GTX 670 was just as impressive averaging 67fps, allowing it to beat the Radeon HD 7950 by a 10 per cent margin, though it was 3 per cent slower than the 7950 Boost edition.

At 2560x1600 the GeForce GTX 680 was now 2 per cent slower than the Radeon HD 7970 and 12 per cent slower than the 7970 GHz Edition. Surprisingly the GeForce GTX 670 was able to improve its performance when compared to the Radeon competition at 2560x1600, matching the Radeon HD 7950 Boost while beating the standard 7950 by an 11 per cent margin.

Our Borderlands 2 benchmark hits a serious CPU bottleneck at 1680x1050 with mid to high-end graphics cards. That said it did not impact the GeForce GTX 650 Ti which averaged just 53fps, and yet despite this it was still 22 per cent faster than the Radeon HD 6870, 59 per cent faster than the 7770 and 97 per cent faster than the 7750.

Again even at 1920x1200 the CPU bottleneck is still present when using mid to high-end graphics cards. There was virtually no difference in performance between the GeForce GTX 680 and the Radeon HD 7970 graphics cards and this was also the case with the GeForce GTX 670 and Radeon HD 7950 graphics cards.

Although the GeForce GTX 660 Ti appeared to be limited by the CPU bottleneck it was still 11 per cent faster than the 7870. The GeForce GTX 660 also seemed to be bottlenecked by the CPU, limiting it to 72fps, though despite this it was still 9 per cent faster than the Radeon HD 7870 and 24 per cent faster than the 7850.

Now at 2560x1600 the CPU bottleneck is no longer an issue as the GPU's are now the weakest link. The GeForce GTX 680 still managed an impressive 69fps, making it 19 per cent faster than the Radeon HD 7970 and 6 per cent faster than the 7970 GHz Edition. The GeForce GTX 670 also did well beating the Radeon HD 7950 by a 23 per cent margin.

Benchmarks: Max Payne 3, The Elder Scrolls V

When testing with Max Payne 3 the GeForce GTX 650 Ti averaged 44fps at 1680x1050, making it 2 per cent slower than the Radeon HD 6870 but 10 per cent faster than the 7770 and 38 per cent faster than the 7750.

Now at 1920x1200 the GeForce GTX 680 can be found averaging 75fps making it 12 per cent faster than the Radeon HD 7970 and 1 per cent faster than the 7970 GHz Edition. The GeForce GTX 670 was 15 per cent faster than the Radeon HD 7950 and 6 per cent faster than the 7950 Boost.

Meanwhile the GeForce GTX 660 Ti was 3 per cent faster than the Radeon HD 7870 and 2 per cent faster than the Radeon HD 7950. The GeForce GTX 660 was 8 per cent slower than the Radeon HD 7850 and 20 per cent slower than the 7870.

Now at 2560x1600 the GeForce GTX 680 loses its lead falling behind the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition by an 8 per cent margin, though it was 2 per cent faster than the standard 7970. The GeForce GTX 670 was able to match the Radeon HD 7950 Boost with 46fps making it 4 per cent faster than the standard 7950.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim saw the GeForce GTX 650 Ti average 50fps at 1680x1050, making it 9 per cent slower than the Radeon HD 6870 while it was 29 per cent faster than the 7770 and 104 per cent faster than the 7750.

The GeForce GTX 680 averaged 91fps at 1920x1200 which was the same frame rate produced by the Radeon HD 7950 Boost. This meant that the GeForce GTX 680 was 4 per cent slower than the Radeon HD 7970 and 13 per cent slower than the 7970 GHz Edition. The GeForce GTX 670 was 6 per cent faster than the Radeon HD 7950 but 5 per cent slower than the 7950 Boost.

The GeForce GTX 660 Ti averaged 69fps making it 15 per cent slower than the Radeon HD7950 and 3 per cent slower than the 7870. The GeForce GTX 660 managed 65fps making it 8 per cent faster than the Radeon HD 7850 but also 8 per cent slower than the Radeon HD 7870.

Now at 2560x1600 the GeForce GTX 680 averaged 64fps making it 9 per cent slower than the Radeon HD 7970 and 18 per cent slower than the 7970 GHz Edition. The GeForce GTX 670 averaged 61fps and that meant that it was 3 per cent faster than the Radeon HD 7950 but 8 per cent slower than the 7950 Boost.

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TechSpot is a computer technology publication serving PC enthusiasts, gamers and IT pros since 1998.


Comments

    why is it that the card I've got (HD 6990) is never on these lists?

    I mean I know its a decent card (or at least it was when I got it), but just out of curiosity, I'd like to see how it compares to the later models.

      They're only comparing current-gen cards, ie. the 7000 series only (although there's a case for keeping the 6990 in such comparisons until AMD puts out a 7990).

        but in the graphics up there, they're including the HD6970, HD6950 & the HD6870... so I'm just wondering why not the HD6990?

          My thoughts exactly, I'd love to know how my card compares..

      Its a Dual GPU notice how the 590, 690 and 7990 aren't on the list either. Its like comparing two apples to one apple.

    Eagerly awaiting the next gen of videocards and CPUs. The 2600k and sli 580's are still damn nice but in the next 4-5 months will no longer a powerhouse.

      problem is though games arent demanding huge power. I run SLI 560ti's and nothing seems to make them struggle. BF3 no problem, skyrim no problem....Cyrsis no problem (lol) getting like 80-90 FPS maxed settings. Your 580's wouldnt break a sweat.

    ...where's the 690?

      I was wondering the same thing..

      I asked the exact same question on the American Kotaku and got the answer back because the GTX 690 is a dual GPU graphics card, i guess its because its to keep the comparisons fair and only include single GPU cards.

        Of course in the interests of fairness a quality article would mention that there is a GTX 690, and though it is expensive as hell and dual GPU it's one hell of a card if money truly is no object to you.

        But then the article should also be titled "The Best Graphics Cards: Nvidia Vs AMD Single GPU Comparison" since the 690 is certainly 'current gen.'

        Actually might want to get rid of "Best" there too, since best doesn't inherently distinguish between dual and single GPU unless my definition is very lacking.

        Y'know in hindsight we should probably just determine not at all balanced and fair representation of what it claims to in fact be, but is nonetheless useful enough for the layman to see some performance differences between some current gen cards.

    .....So why is my GTX 690 not on the list?

      Because then AMD would not be coming first in most of these graphs.

        coz if you had the GTX690, you'd have to include the HD7990 & then AMD would be coming first again :p

          Wow, so the 7990 is out already!! NO? May as well take "current gen" of the title too.

    Where is the GTX 690 ?!

    so my GTX 560ti seems to do a decent job. should last me a little while longer. will probably have to run far cry 3 on medium settings but im sure itll still look sweet.

      Likewise, my dual GTX275's running in SLi are doing a bang up job of keeping everything at max.. Farcry 3 probably will have something to say about that, but lts not a Farcry game if it doesn't have something to say to your graphics card..

    Right now in Australia one can buy a 7950 for around $320-330, while the 670 (the closest competing Nvidia card) goes for around $90-100 more. 7970s go for as little as $410 but 680s are at least $110 more. One can almost buy three 7970s for the cost of a single 690. Yet Nvidia is the one gaining market share?

    Why is my gtx 295 never featured...

    Okay, new numbering sequence:

    NVidia Graphics Card 1, 2010. NVidia Graphics Card 2, 2011. NVidia Graphics Card 3 2012.

    "Dude, how old is your graphics card?"
    "Oh, it's a NVidia Graphics Card 1, 2010. The Graphics Card 3 2012 has just been released, so I might upgrade, as it's clearly the most current card and therefore will run the newest games. What sort of card do you have?"
    "Umm, the Radeon HD 2: Electric Boogaloo 50021 GT Radeon on Radeon Radeon 3"
    "Uh huh, and how old is that one, and what's the newest one out?"
    "Umm.. it's about 2 years old I think, and I think the newest one is the Radeon SHD 1000 GTXHDG 1GB Tarquin Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F'tang-F'tang-Olé-Biscuitbarrel"

      ^ Cannot comprehend an extra digit.

      Almost as tragic as a certain country trying to fit a 16bit missile command code into an 8bit slot and causing it to explode.

        I don't think the Radeon SHD 1000 GTXHDG 1GB Tarquin Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F'tang-F'tang-Olé-Biscuitbarrel is just an extra digit.

        But in all seriousness, I do get confused by graphics cards, as I don't keep up to date with what's out there. There is the GeForce 605, released on April 3, 2012 (according to Wikipedia) and the GeForce 6100, released on October 20, 2005.

        Would make sense if it's a lower = better scheme (e.g. the Canon EOS 1D is top of the line, but the 60D is not), but then you get the GeForce 8800 GS, released in January 2008, the GeForce 8800 GTS (G80), released in February 2007 and then the GeForce 8300 mGPU, released in 2008 (yes, it's a laptop GPU, but it's using the 8300, like it's desktop counterpart that was released in July 2007).

        I'm certainly confused!

    Good to see that my 7870 still performs well but mine is overclocked

    ... so I do realy need to rebuild my system... no way should crossfired 6950's be running Borderlands 2 jerky.... (though the 1080 x 5760 resoloution probably doesn't help... I'll blame myself for when I was running hybrid with a Nvidia in the mix as a physx card... I eventually gave up on the idea but my system hasn't run so well ever since)

    I *heart* my HD 7990GTX 3gb black edition. Replaced SLI HD 5770's I'd been running for too long and a 680GTX that was SERIOUSLY unstable and causing system crashes whilst playing BF3. Wasn't heat, wasn't system load, sure as hell wasn't graphics load, GPUz just showed the thing crashed, pure and simple. I'm still rather amazed that ATI have finally overtaken nVidia as best video card manufacturers in recent times and are still managing to keep their products at a better price point overall. $500~ for their best available video card as opposed to nVidia's $700+ when they are consistently out-benched and out-performed in real world tests as well, interesting times.

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