Final Words

Bringing things to a close, before writing up this article I spent some time going through our archives to take a look at past GPU reviews. While AMD has routinely retaken the performance crown for a time by beating NVIDIA in releasing next-generation GPUs first – such was the case with the Radeon HD 5870 and Radeon HD 7970 – the typical pattern is for AMD’s flagship single-GPU card to trail NVIDIA’s flagship once NVIDIA has caught up. In a generational matchup AMD has not been able to beat or tie NVIDIA for the highest performing single-GPU card a very long time. And as it turns out the last time that happened was six years ago, with the Radeon X1950 XTX in 2006.

Six years is a long time to wait, but patience, perseverance, and more than a few snub moves against NVIDIA have paid off for AMD. For the first time in 6 years we can say that AMD is truly competitive for the single-GPU performance crown. The Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition isn’t quite fast enough to outright win, but it is unquestionably fast enough to tie the GeForce GTX 680 as the fastest single-GPU video card in the world today. With that said there’s a lot of data to go through, so let’s dive in.

As far as pure gaming performance goes the 7970GE and the GTX 680 are tied in our benchmarks at the top single monitor resolution of 2560x1600. The 7970GE scores some impressive wins in Crysis and DiRT 3, while NVIDIA manages to hold on to their substantial leads in Battlefield 3 and Portal 2. Elsewhere we see the 7970GE win at some games while the GTX 680 wins at others, and only very rarely do the two cards actually tie. Ultimately this is very much a repeat of what we saw with the GTX 670 versus the 7970, and the 6970 versus the GTX 570, which is to say that the 7970GE and GTX 680 are tied on average but are anything but equal.

Our advice then for prospective buyers is to first look at benchmarks for the games they intend to play. If you’re going to be focused on only a couple of games for the near future then there’s a very good chance one card or the other is going to be the best fit. Otherwise for gamers facing a wide selection of games or looking at future games where their performance is unknown, then the 7970GE and GTX 680 are in fact tied, and from a performance perspective you couldn’t go wrong with either one.

As an addendum to that however, while the 7970GE and GTX 680 are tied at 2560x1600 and other single-monitor resolutions the same cannot be said for multi-monitor configurations. The 7970GE and GTX 680 still trade blows on a game-by-game basis with Eyefinity/NVIDIA Surround, but there’s a clear 6% advantage on average for the 7970GE. Furthermore the 7970GE has 3GB of VRAM versus 2GB for the GTX 680, which makes the 7970GE all the better suited for multi-monitor gaming in the future. AMD may be tied for single-monitor gaming, but they have a clear winner on their hands for multi-monitor gaming.

With that said, AMD has made a great sacrifice to get to this point, and it’s one that’s going to directly impact most users. AMD has had to push the 7970GE harder than ever to catch up to the GTX 680, and as a result the 7970GE’s power consumption and noise levels are significantly higher than the GTX 680’s. It’s unfortunate for AMD that NVIDIA managed to tie AMD’s best gaming performance with a 104-series part, allowing them to reap the benefits of lower power consumption and less noise in the process. Simply put, the 7970GE is unquestionably hotter and uncomfortably louder than the GTX 680 for what amounts to the same performance. If power and noise are not a concern then this is not a problem, but for many buyers they're going to be unhappy with the 7970GE. It’s just too loud.

Of course this isn’t the first time we’ve had a hot and loud card on our hands – historically it happens to NVIDIA a lot, but when NVIDIA gets hot and loud they bring the performance necessary to match it. Such was the case with the GTX 480, a notably loud card that also had a 15% performance advantage on AMD’s flagship. AMD has no such performance advantage here, and that makes the 7970GE’s power consumption and noise much harder to justify even with a “performance at any cost” philosophy.

The end result is that while AMD has tied NVIDIA for the single-GPU performance crown with the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, the GeForce GTX 680 is still the more desirable gaming card. There are a million exceptions to this statement of course (and it goes both ways), but as we said before, these cards may be tied but they're anything but equal.

Noise issues aside, we’re finally seeing something that we haven’t seen for a very long time: bona fide, cut throat, brutal competition in the high-end video card segment for the fastest single-GPU video card. To call it refreshing is an understatement; it’s nothing short of fantastic. For the first time in six years AMD is truly performance competitive with NVIDIA at the high-end and we couldn't be happier.

Welcome back to the fight AMD; we’ve missed your presence.

OC: Gaming Performance
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  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    They can justify it, the are the amd fanboy. Ever DOLLAR counts when it comes to card pricing, five or ten bucks makes amd the WINNER !!!!!!!! and greatest card value ever for enthusiasts !!!!!!!!!!!

    But then, moments later, the nearly unavailable and much more expensive montior is all theirs, at their bosom (moments before they harped amd wins in high rez triple screen no matter the data) - now suddenly they have a 1920x1200 IPS or whatever...

    Here's why...

    1920x1080: " GeForce GTX680 is on average 17.61% more efficient than the Radeon 7970.
    Here, the performance difference in favor of the GTX680 are even greater "

    1920x1200: " GeForce GTX680 is on average 10.14% more efficient than the Radeon 7970.
    At slightly higher resolution appears to have slightly worse performance of the new card (compared to 1920x1080). "

    That's an over 7% performance difference overall... nVidia still kicks amd's lousy second placer, but it's not SO embarrassing at 17%+....

    See, now they all love 1920x1200 and will DEMAND as hyper-harpies that anand keep the monitor rez as is...

    In the end it will just be anand "listening" to it's fan base.... R O F L

    Dude, they COULD just run their 1920x1200 in 1920x1080 for the benches - it's not hard at all - but you know... amd doesn't look better than crappy as heck then..
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    link (since the descending swarm won't see it above)

    http://translate.google.pl/translate?hl=pl&sl=...
    Reply
  • silverblue - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    I couldn't care less which it is as long as the image is good. I do think you're downplaying the framerate advantage of 1080p over 1200p though as we're talking an extra 11% screen area going from one to the other.

    1200p used to be far more common and Apple are one of the manufacturers keeping it alive (along with 4:3 ratios).
    Reply
  • Ananke - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    Real good dudes use 1920*1200 Reply
  • silverblue - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    Nah. With a card like these, I'd rather use 2560xwhatever. :P Reply
  • Zok - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    Maybe I missed it in the article, but does the lack of hardware changes mean that existing 7970s can be "upgraded" by being flashed with a 7970GE BIOS (so long as they can hit the clock speeds)? Reply
  • haukionkannel - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    No it can not be upgraded... So what else has been changed?

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-7970...
    Reply
  • Zok - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    Well that's disappointing. Wonder if there are hardware changes or a workaround is possible. Reply
  • haukionkannel - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    You said that you may use some extra setting for Scyrim... How about using some popular extra large texturemap upgrade? It would be more punishing to use those larger texturemaps, and In Scyrim, like Oblivion before, those texturemaps are guitep popular among users of more poverfull graphic cards! Reply
  • milkod2001 - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    7950/70 games+computing /trade off :noise+power less efficient
    670/80 games/trade off:weak in computing

    the only card I find as a good choice would be 670 but it needs to get to 300-350 price level
    Reply

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