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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  • behrouz - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    nevermind i got it Reply
  • Lepton87 - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    I don't agree that 7970GHz isn't any faster than GTX680.

    http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/AMD/HD_7970_GHz...

    Just look at the performance summaries. At 2560x1600 it's clearly the faster card.
    Reply
  • Homeles - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    Keep in mind, every 680 boosts differently. Every site is going to have different opinions because of this. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    That's why a collated average is so helpful.

    "
    Summary of results at a resolution of 2560x1600:

    GeForce GTX680 is on average 32.36% more efficient than GeForce GTX580,

    GeForce GTX680 is on average 6.39% more efficient than the Radeon 7970. "

    http://translate.google.pl/translate?hl=pl&sl=...

    The GTX 680 wins. It's clear beyond any amd fanboys illusions, wishes, and fantasies, most often stated every time, till the day they croak it.

    It's "their opinion" though, so "it's not wrong"... (if that tracks as true for you check your forehead for 3 stamped letters.)
    Reply
  • thebluephoenix - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    Efficiency? You know that 5870 was far more efficient than GTX480. 6970 also compared well to GTX 580.

    Before calling people fanboys be sure that you aren't one.

    For me it's simple, 7970 has good compute performance, and GTX 680 has PhysX.

    7970 GE = 7970 OC Edition, still a very good card.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    It's the wording used by the collator, a foreigner no doubt, "efficiency" you fool, since you didn't check the link.

    It MEANS FRAME RATE.

    Leave it to the retarded, once again, to jump, screech, and FAIL.
    Reply
  • thebluephoenix - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    Efficiency usually means energy efficiency. Perf/Watt, (or rMAX/rPeak, on Top500 site).

    Except for google translated polish pages, obviously.

    Frame rate is speed, so the card is faster, not more efficient.

    Go now, be (nV)idiot somewhere else.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, June 30, 2012 - link

    It is ALSO more efficient. How clueless are you still ? Why do clueless Cluseau's respond ?

    Look, if you ever decide to click the link and take a gander for an hour or two ( my estimation about how long it would take for you to get a round opinion of the massive database of the most popular reviewers concerning these tow cards, don't get back to me.

    A gigantic thank you would be nice but I'm not expecting it.

    Maybe silverblue needs a friend too, then you can spew name calling together, and giggle, that is likely the extent of the mental capacities, so have at it.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Friday, June 29, 2012 - link

    Yet amusingly, you failed to point out the error of the author's ways before somebody here pulled you up on it... I doubt that efficiency is a word that can be mis-translated; the author just used the wrong term. The very fact that you quoted two lines with the same incorrect term proves that you were happy enough to treat it - as is so often in your case - as factual. If anything, the 680 is probably something in the region of 10-15% more efficient per frame than the 7970 based off the collated results on that article, notwithstanding the fact that drivers have been significantly revised for both architectures since then.

    You also stated that the article was '"their opinion" though, so "it's not wrong"' but you slate everybody else's conflicting opinions as wrong. Am I the only person seeing an issue with this approach?

    I'm really confused as to why you even bother to visit here except to be a class-A troll, and I'm going to take some of my own advice and flat out ignore you from now on unless you actually say something of any use. Ordinarily, I wouldn't tell others what to do but on this occasion, I implore them to follow suit. We should put you in a room with Beenthere just for the hell of it.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, June 30, 2012 - link

    You're goners in the head dude.
    The article, which you still obviously never looked at (as it will crush your amd fan heart), collates reviews from around the web, including this sites.

    It's not an opinion, it's FACTS, as best we can get them, in one BIG mathematically deduced pile, and the word is meant to be FRAME RATES, which of course is all you amd fan boys claim you care about, unless of course you were spewing about eyefinity without 3 monitors and no $100 adapter that took a year and a half to come down to $35 not available...

    Just face the facts for once, like a man.
    Reply

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