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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  • 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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