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Dueling Drivers, A PR Do-Over, & The Test

Coinciding with the launch of the 7970GE, both AMD and NVIDIA have released new drivers this week. For AMD the 7970GE will be launching with the Catalyst 12.7 beta, while NVIDIA has released the 304.48 betas for the entire lineup. For both AMD and NVIDIA these are major performance drivers, with both groups seeing significant performance in a handful of games.

We’ll take a look at the full performance spectrum starting with our regular benchmarks on the next page, but first we wanted to quickly break out the performance impact of the driver changes for both the 7970 and the GTX 680 at 2560x1600.

The biggest gains for AMD and NVIDIA are seen in DiRT 3 and Shogun 2 respectively. For reasons we’re not fully sure of, AMD has managed to significantly improve their performance on DiRT 3 and turn the tables on what was previously a game favoring NVIDIA. At the same time however NVIDIA has finally fixed the Kepler performance bug that was introduced in the March update for Shogun 2, restoring performance to where it was before the update and pushing NVIDIA ahead of AMD once more.

Meanwhile AMD sees lesser gains in Batman, BF3, and Skyrim, while NVIDIA also gains on Batman but that’s about it. Altogether AMD’s latest driver update has pushed their average performance ahead slightly more than NVIDIA’s, which for the 7970 versus the GTX 680 means that the GTX 680 now leads by about 9% instead of 10%. It’s not nearly enough to change any recommendations, but the fact that AMD and NVIDIA have swapped leads in certain games is a reminder of how important drivers can be and how volatile performance leads are.

A PR Do-Over

Because the 7970GE is functionally identical to the 7970 save its higher clocks and PT Boost, we’re opting to use our limited time to focus solely on performance. With that said it was interesting to see that AMD is very much treating the 7970GE launch as a do-over for the 7900 series. In their press presentation they spent a fair bit of time focusing on various aspects of the 7900 series and GCN we’re already familiar with, such as compute performance, their Leo technology demo, and of course GCN.

None of this has any direct relevance to the performance of the 7970GE, but we thought it was worth mentioning since it gives a bit more insight into how AMD is approaching things. This is all we’re going to say on the matter, but we have reproduced a few of the press slides below for any of you that are interested.

The Test

CPU: Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.3GHz
Motherboard: EVGA X79 SLI
Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.​2.​3.​1022
Power Supply: Antec True Power Quattro 1200
Hard Disk: Samsung 470 (256GB)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3-1867 4 x 4GB (8-10-9-26)
Case: Thermaltake Spedo Advance
Monitor: Samsung 305T
Asus PA246Q
Video Cards: AMD Radeon HD 5870
AMD Radeon HD 6970
AMD Radeon HD 7870
AMD Radeon HD 7950
AMD Radeon HD 7970
AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 304.42 Beta
AMD Catalyst 12.7 Beta
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

Introducing PowerTune Technology With Boost Crysis: Warhead
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  • Ammaross - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    So, since the 7970 GE is essentially a tweaked OCed 7970, why not include a factory-overclocked nVidia 680 for fairness? There's a whole lot of headroom on those 680s as well that these benches leave untouched and unrepresented. Reply
  • elitistlinuxuser - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    Can it run pong and at what frame rates Reply
  • Rumpelstiltstein - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    Why is Nvidia red and AMD Green? Reply
  • Galcobar - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    Standard graph colouring on Anandtech is that the current product is highlighted in green, specific comparison products in red. The graphs on page 3 for driver updates aren't a standard graph for video card reviews.

    Also, typo noted on page 18 (OC Gaming Performance), the paragraph under the Portal 2 1920 chart: "With Portal 2 being one of the 7970GE’s biggest defEcits" -- deficits
    Reply
  • mikezachlowe2004 - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    Computer performance is a big factor in deciding in purchase as well and I am disappointed to not see any mention of this in the conclusion. AMD blows nVidia out the water when it comes to compute performance and this should not be taken lightly seeing as games right now are implementing more and more compute capabilities in games and many other things. Compute performance has been growing and growing and today at a rate higher than ever and it is very disappointing to see no mention of this in Anand's conclusion.

    I use autoCAD for work all the time but I also enjoy playing games as well and with a workload like this, AMDs GPU provide a huge advantage over nVidia simply because nVidias GK104 compute performance is no where near that of AMDs. AMD is the obvious choice for someone like me.

    As far as the noise and temps go, I personally feel if your spending $500 on a GPU and obviously thousands on your system there is no reason not tospend a couple hundred on water cooling. Water cooling completely eliminates any concern for temps and noise which should make AMDs card the clear choice. Same goes for power consumption. If you're spending thousands on a system there is no reason you should be worried about a couple extra dollars a month on your bill. This is just how I see it. Now don't get me wrong, nVidia has a great card for gaming, but gaming only. AMD offers the best of both worlds. Both gaming and compute and to me, this makes the 7000 series the clear winner to me.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    It might help if you had a clue concerning what you're talking about.

    " CAD Autodesk with plug-ins are exclusive on Cuda cores Nvidia cards. Going crossfire 7970 will not change that from 5850. Better off go for GTX580."

    " The RADEON HD 7000 series will work with Autodesk Autocad and Revitt applications. However, we recommend using the Firepro card as it has full support for the applications you are using as it has the certified drivers. For the list of compatible certified video cards, please visit http://support.amd.com/us/gpudownload/fire/certifi... "

    nVidia works out of the box, amd does NOT - you must spend thousands on Firepro.

    Welcome to reality, the real one that amd fanboys never travel in.
    Reply
  • spdrcrtob - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - link

    It might help if you knew what you are talking about...

    CAD as infer is AutoCAD by Autodesk and it doesn't have any CUDA dedicated plugin's. You are thinking of 3DS Max's method of Rendering called iRay. That's even fairly new from 2011 release.

    There's isn't anything else that uses CUDA processors on a dedicated scale unless its a 3rd Party program or plugin. But not in AutoCAD, AutoCAD barely needs anything. So get it straight.

    R-E-V-I-T ( with one T) requires more as there's rendering engine built in not to mention its mostly worked in as a 3D application, unlike AutoCAD which is mostly used in 2D.

    Going Crossover won't help because most mid-range and high end single GPU's (AMD & NVIDIA) will be fine for ANY surface modeling and/ or 3D Rendering. If you use the application right you can increase performance numbers instead of increasing card count.

    All Autodesk products work with any GPU really, there are supported or "certified" drivers and cards, usually only "CAD" cards like Fire Pro or Quadro's.

    Nvidia's and AMD's work right out of the Box, just depends on the Add In Board partner and build quality NVIDIA fan boy. If you're going to state facts , then get your facts straight where it matters. Not your self thought cute remarks.

    Do more research or don't state something you know nothing about. I have supported CAD and Engineering Environments and the applications they use for 8yrs now, before that 5 yrs more of IT support experience.
    Reply
  • aranilah - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    please put up a graph of the 680 overclocked to its maximum potential versus this to its maximum oc, that would be a different story i believe , not sure though. Please do it because on you 680 review there is no OC testing :/ Reply
  • MrSpadge - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    - AMDs boost assumes the stock heatsink - how is this affected by custom / 3rd party heat sinks? Will the chip think it's melting, whereas in reality it's crusing along just fine?

    - A simple fix would be to read out the actual temperature diode(s) already present within the chip. Sure, not deterministic.. but AMD could let users switch to this mode for better accuracy.

    - AMD could implement a calibration routine into the control panel to adjust the digital temperature estimation to the atcual heat sink present -> this might avoid the problem altogether.

    - Overvolting just to reach 1.05 GHz? I don't think this is necessary. Actually, I think AMD is generously overvolting most CPUs and some GPUs in the recent years. Some calibration for the actual chip capability would be nice as well - i.e. test if MY GPU really needs more voltage to reach the boost clock.

    - 4 digit product numbers and only fully using 2 of them, plus the 3rd one to a limited extend (only 2 states to distinguish - 5 and 7). This is ridiculous! The numbers are there to indicate performance!!!

    - Bring out cheaper 1.5 GB versions for us number crunchers.

    - Bring an HD7960 with approx. the same amount of shaders as the HD7950, but ~1 GHz clock speeds. Most chips should easily do this.. and AMD could sell the same chip for more, since it would be faster.
    Reply
  • Hrel - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    How can you write a review like this, specifically to test one card against another, then only overclock one of them in the "OC gaming performance" section. Push the GTX680 as far as you can too otherwise those results are completely meaningless; for comparison. Reply

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