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On the other side of the fence
Nvidia still doesn't have any DirectX 11 products out, so if you want to get technical, the Radeon HD 5670 lacks direct competition for the time being. Out in the real world, though, Nvidia currently has two products buzzing close to the same $99 price point.

From a hardware standpoint, the GeForce GT 240 looks like the most direct competitor: it has a newish 40-nm graphics processor, GDDR5 memory, and DirectX 10.1 support. The GeForce GT 240's GT215 graphics chip also packs 96 stream processors, two ROP units that can output eight pixels per clock, the ability to filter 32 texels per clock, and a 128-bit memory interface that can handle up to 1GB of memory. Default iterations of the card run with a 550MHz core speed, 1340MHz shader clock, and 3400MT/s GDDR5 memory.

For this round of tests, we've stacked up the Radeon HD 5670 against Zotac's GeForce GT 240 512MB AMP! Edition, which comes out of the box with a non-negligible factory "overclock"—its GPU, shaders, and memory run at 600MHz, 1460MHz, and 4,000MT/s, respectively. This card currently sells for $98.99 before shipping at Newegg, so it's taking the new Radeon head-on.

That's not the whole story, though. Shortly after we finished running our benchmarks, Nvidia told us it had cut the price of its GeForce 9800 GT to $99 and pulled the vanilla GeForce GT 240 to $89. That means, the firm argued, that the GeForce 9800 GT is the most direct competitor to the 5670. We're skeptical of that claim. As you can see in the pictures above and will see on the next page, the GeForce GT 240 and the Radeon HD 5670 have quite a bit in common, including 40-nm GPUs of similar sizes, 128-bit memory interfaces connected to GDDR5 memory, and no need for an external power input. The GeForce 9800 GT is a much older graphics card based on a much larger, 55-nm graphics chip; it has a wider memory interface coupled with slower GDDR3 RAM, a larger cooler and PCB, and generally requires an auxiliary power input. Also, the 9800 GT supports only DX10, while the GeForce GT 240 supports DX10.1 and the 5670 supports DX11. These three cards might briefly overlap in price here at the end of the 9800 GT's run, but they are not truly comparable offerings, neither in capability nor in cost to produce.

Even if we did buy Nvidia's argument, we didn't have time to go back and add the 9800 GT to our comparison, since we only had two days to test and put this article together.

We have included the 9800 GT in our specs table, should you wish to see how it compares on paper. Let us direct your attention to the GT 240 and 5670, though, for the main event.

  Peak
pixel
fill rate
(Gpixels/s)
Peak bilinear
texel
filtering
rate
(Gtexels/s)
Peak bilinear
FP16 texel
filtering
rate
(Gtexels/s)
Peak
memory
bandwidth
(GB/s)
Peak shader
arithmetic (GFLOPS)
Single-issue Dual-issue
GeForce 9500 GT 4.4 8.8 4.4 25.6 90 134
GeForce 9600 GT 10.4 20.8 10.4 57.6 208 312
GeForce 9800 GT 9.6 33.6 16.8 57.6 336 504
GeForce GT 240 4.4 17.6 8.8 54.4 257 386
Zotac GeForce GT 240 4.8 19.2 9.6 64.0 280 420
Radeon HD 4670 6.0 24.0 12.0 32.0 480 -
Radeon HD 4770 12.0 24.0 12.0 51.2 960 -
Radeon HD 5670 6.2 15.5 7.8 64.0 620 -
Radeon HD 5750 11.2 25.2 12.6 73.6 1008 -
Radeon HD 5770 13.6 34.0 17.0 76.8 1360 -

The Radeon HD 5670 and the GeForce GT 240 match up pretty closely to one another on paper. The new Radeon leads in peak theoretical shader power and memory bandiwdth, but the GT 240 has the edge in texture filtering capacity. Those of you who have been following the GPU architectures from these two firms in recent generations won't be surprised to see such a split. Of course, how these things work out in practice doesn't always match with the expectations set by such numbers.