NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 Review Feat. EVGA: Bringing GK104 Down To $400by Ryan Smith on May 10, 2012 9:00 AM EST
Looking at this data I’m reminded a great deal of the Radeon HD 6900 series launch. AMD launched the 6900 series after the GTX 500 series, but launch order aside the end result was very similar. NVIDIA’s second tier GTX 570 and AMD’s first tier Radeon HD 6970 were tied on average but were anything but equals. This is almost exactly what we’re seeing with the GTX 670 and the Radeon HD 7970.
Depending on the game and resolution we’re looking at the GTX 670 reaches anywhere between 80% and 120% of the 7970’s performance. AMD sails by the GTX 670 in Crysis and to a lesser extent Metro, only for the GTX 670 to shoot ahead in BF3 and Portal 2 (w/SSAA). Officially NVIDIA’s positioning on the GTX 670 is that it’s to go against the 7950 and not the 7970, and that’s a wise move on NVIDIA’s behalf; but the GTX 670 is surely nipping at the 7970’s heels.
With that said, there are a couple of differences from the 6900 series launch which are equally important. The first is that unlike last time the GTX 670 and Radeon HD 7970 are not equally priced. At MSRP the GTX 670 is $80 cheaper, while at cheapest retail it’s closer to $60. The second difference is that this time the competing cards are not nearly as close in power consumption or noise, and thanks to GK104 NVIDIA has a notable advantage there.
Much like the GTX 570 and the Radeon HD 6970, if you’re in the market for cards at these performance levels you need to take a look at both cards and see what kind of performance each card gets on the games you want to play. From our results the GTX 670 is doing better at contemporary games and is cheaper to boot, but the Radeon HD 7970 can hold its own here at multi-monitor resolutions and games like Crysis or Metro. Or for that matter it can still run circles around the GTX 670 in GK104's real weakness: compute tasks
On the other hand if you’re buying a gaming card on price then this isn’t a contest. For the Radeon HD 7950 this is the GTX 680 all over again. NVIDIA can’t quite beat the 7950 in every game (e.g. Crysis), but when it loses it’s close, and when it wins it’s 15%, 25%, even 50% faster. At the same time gaming power consumption is also lower as is noise. As it stands the worst case scenario for the GTX 670 is that it performs like a 7950 while the best case scenario is that it performs like a 7970. And it does this priced like a 7950, which means that something is going to have to give the moment NVIDIA’s product supply is no longer in question.
Outside of the obligatory AMD matchup, interestingly enough NVIDIA has put themselves in harm’s way here in the process. At 2560x1600 the GTX 680 only beats the GTX 670 by 7% on average. NVIDIA has always charged a premium for their top card but the performance gap has also been greater. In games that aren’t shader bound the GTX 670 does very well for itself thanks to the fact that it has equal memory bandwidth and only a slight ROP performance deficit, which means the GTX 680 is only particularly strong in Metro, Portal 2, and DiRT 3. The 7% performance lead certainly doesn’t justify the 25% price difference, and if you will give up that performance NVIDIA will shave $100 off of the price of a card, but if you do want that top performance NVIDIA intends to make you pay for it. Of course this is also why the GTX 670 is only priced $100 cheaper rather than $150. Potential buyers looking for a $350 GK104 card are going to be left out in the cold for now, particularly buyers looking for a meaningful GTX 570 upgrade.
Finally, the nature of NVIDIA’s power target technology has put partners like EVGA in an odd place. Even with a moderate 6%+ factory overclock the GTX 670 Superclocked just isn’t all that much faster than the reference GTX 670, averaging only a 3% gain at 2560. Since the GTX 670 virtually always operates above its base clock the culprit is NVIDIA’s power target, which keeps the GTX 670SC from boosting much higher than our reference GTX 670. Once you increase the power target the GTX 670SC can easily make an interesting niche for itself, but while this isn’t true overclocking it isn’t stock performance either. In any case it’s clear that for factory overclocked cards to really push the limit they’re going to need to go fully custom, which is what a number of partners are going to do in the coming months.