The Best Gaming Graphics Cards

A powerful graphics card is likely the most expensive component in your PC if you're a gamer, but with all current and past-gen GPUs available in the range of $US100 to $US500, it can be tough to pick the right solution for your needs.

In an effort to narrow things down, we're about to compare today's most relevant gaming cards that sell for $US200 or more, testing them in a slew of games to see how it breaks down as we look for the best graphics cards for gaming at resolutions of 1920x1200 and 2560x1600.

Most GPU releases go through our testbench, however when we review these graphics cards, the GPUs are fairly new or barely making it to market, drivers are not entirely optimised, and most importantly, true market pricing has not settled down to its long-term value.

Relative performance leads more often than not remain the same through the life of the GPUs, but our take on best value is completely changed the second Nvidia or AMD decide to adjust their prices. To give you a clear example, the Radeon HD 7970 debuted to market last January with a sticker price of $US550. A couple of months later the GeForce GTX 680 arrived offering better performance for less money. AMD quickly reacted slashing the HD 7970's price to $US450. Similarly, the slightly slower HD 7950 was dropped from its original price of $US450 to just $US350.

The table above includes all the cards we'll be benchmarking, starting with the most recently released. Note that although we have the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition on hand, we didn't include it in this review because we don't see why anyone would buy the factory overclocked solution at a $US50 premium.

Testing Methodology

We picked 10 games for our test, six of which are DX11 titles and include recent releases such as Max Payne 3 and Alan Wake. Games will be run at 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 as we believe these are the resolutions gamers are targeting with today's $US200+ graphics cards, using monitors between 24 and 30 inches. All games will be tested with fraps which lets us record 60 seconds of gameplay.

Test System Specs

  • Gainward GeForce GTX 680 Phantom (2048MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 670 Phantom (2048MB)
  • Gainward GeForce GTX 680 (2048MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 590 (3072MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 580 (1536MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 570 (1280MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 560 Ti (1024MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7970 (3072MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7950 (3072MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7870 (2048MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7850 (2048MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6990 (4096MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6970 (2048MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6950 (2048MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6870 (1024MB)
  • Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition (3.30GHz)
  • x4 4GB G.Skill DDR3-1600 (CAS 8-8-8-20)
  • Gigabyte G1.Assassin2 (Intel X79)
  • OCZ ZX Series 1250w
  • Crucial m4 512GB (SATA 6Gb/s)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 64-bit
  • Nvidia Forceware 301.42
  • AMD Catalyst 12.7

1920x1200 Performance

Performance: Radeon HD 7950 Value: Radeon HD 7870

For an average of at least 60fps or better when playing Metro 2033 at 1920x1200, the Radeon HD 7950 is your best choice with 68fps. That said, the HD 7870 offers a better value and delivers totally playable performance at 56fps. The GTX 670 also performed well, but because it costs more and performs slightly worse than the HD 7950, it's not the best option here.

Performance: GeForce GTX 670 Value: Radeon HD 7950 or 7870

The GTX 670 managed to outpace the HD 7950 and HD 7970 by 11fps and 2fps, making it an easy pick for the best overall pick. However, HD 7950 remains a viable value-minded solution with 56fps, as does the HD 7870, which was only 9fps below the 60fps threshold.

Performance: Radeon HD 7850 Value: Radeon HD 6870

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 -- as you likely know -- isn't particularly demanding, making the GTX 670 and HD 7000 series overkill. At 1920x1200, the HD 6870 is more than capable of delivering a smooth experience at 71fps, as is the GTX 560 Ti at 73fps.

Performance: GeForce GTX 680 Value: GeForce GTX 670

Crysis 2 is extremely demanding with the high-resolution texture pack and the DX11 patch, so you'll want to hit it with all the force your wallet can muster, making the GTX 680 and 670 the best performance and value-oriented picks.

Performance: GeForce GTX 670 Value: GeForce GTX 670

Dragon Age II requires the GTX 680 if you intend to approach or exceed 60fps, though the cheaper GTX 670 is only a tad slower at 55fps and seems like the logical pick for both performance and value.

Performance: Radeon HD 7950 Value: Radeon HD 7850

Despite looking great, Deus Ex: Human Revolution isn't all that demanding on current-gen cards -- in fact, even the older HD 6870 and GX 560 Ti perform well. The best value at 1920x1200 is the HD 7850, while the best performance-oriented card is the HD 7950 at 87fps.

Performance: GeForce GTX 670 Value: Radeon HD 7950

Max Payne 3 plays exceptionally well on the new GTX 600 series cards and we believe that the GTX 670 is the best choice if you're looking for high performance, while the HD 7950 is the best value at 61fps, or only 6fps behind the pricier HD 7970.

Performance: GeForce GTX 670 Value: Radeon HD 7950

Although it doesn't look (or perform) like it, The Witcher 2 uses DX9, which we found hard to believe when first testing this game. The game is pretty demanding at 1920x1200, though the GTX 670 managed to deliver 72fps, securing our performance-oriented pick, while the HD 7950 was only 5fps slower at 67fps, making it our value pick.

Performance: GeForce GTX 670 Value: Radeon HD 7870

While it is also a DX9 title, Skyrim isn't as demanding as The Witcher 2, so the GTX 670 can be considered somewhat overkill at 86fps, but it's still our top pick for a performance solution, while the HD 7870 is our value choice as it was on par with the more expensive HD 7950 at 63fps.

Performance: GeForce GTX 670 Value: Radeon HD 7950

The GTX 670 is a clear winner when testing Alan Wake at 1920x1200, averaging 61fps, slightly faster than the HD 7970 and just a fraction slower than the GTX 680. The best value option here is the HD 7950, which was just 10 per cent slower than the GTX 670 while costing around 15 per cent less.

Continue Reading

2560x1600 Performance 2560x1600 Performance, Part 2 Winners and Losers

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Republished with permission.


Comments

    Queue that waaaaaah waste of money posts in 3... 2... 1...

    I've be contemplating ditching my 570 for a 670. Good way to blow some of my incoming tax return

      no point. i would consider getting another 570 before i would get a 670. SLI the "can't"

      SLI isnt the problem it used to be. Games actually support it and if they don't they don't require it since they are like indie games.

    I sometimes feel my SLI GTX580's were a waste of money...

      I rarely ever feel that with mine, but then I've got a 2560x1600 + 2 PLP setup.

      I have never been a big fan of SLI, When games first come out there is always the chance they wont support it properly and it just depresses me.

      I have always been a fan of getting a high end single GPU card.

      As much of a PC guy I am, I tend to agree. Unless your game is running as slow as a hog, just 1 card will do. My 7970 is powering 3x monitors at a res of 6000x1200 and I havent had an issue with anything yet. 1 decent high end card is powerfull enough - unless 2 smaller cheaper cards crossfired or SLi give you the same power/more performance.

    Any recommendations on laptop graphics cards? i hear the ati 7990m is good bang for bucks over the new nvidia 680m

    i love my 2 x 4gb GTX670's :D... running on my 3 x U2711's...

    Picking up a GTX680 once my tax return arrives. The only issue I have to deal with is price, and that's not a concern for me (for once).

    Thanks for this post, I have an 8800GT and am in the process of considering an upgrade.

    670 hands down. Best price/performance ratio by far. I'm gonna be picking a second 680 up when I get my tax return.

    Totally Useless article, you should be fired for your incompetence, I bet you didnt even check for 5 seconds what AU pricing is like. Shit yank reposts are insulting.

    All the prices listed are the american values. Since we get stiffed hard, add at the very least 50-100 bucks to those prices. The cheapest GTX 670 in aus is at around $450 for the shitty reference card by Zotac that gets hot enough to cook breakfast on. The Asus DCII GTX 670 is at around $550 minimum.

      I can't speak for anything other than the HD7950, but I built a new rig in Jan that had 2 factory overclocked sapphire HD7950's in crossfire, and they were $400 a piece, so the pricing he has listed for that at least is pretty well identical.

    I've got a 560 Ti and I reckon it's a lot better than the results posted above.

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