Let's round things out with a couple of our famous scatter plots. We're laying average performance (based on the results from the games we tested) along the Y axis and prices along the X axis. The sweet spot will be the card closest to the top left of the plot, while the worst will be closer to the bottom right. We fetched prices for the new Radeons from AMD, and other prices were gleaned from Newegg.
By the way, we've excluded Bulletstorm from our averages. The game skews things heavily in favor of the AMD cards, and considering the latency spike issue we encountered, we didn't think that was fair. The numbers below account for average performance across our other test cases: Arkham City, Battlefield 3, Crysis 2, and Skyrim.
We can also compile a value scatter plot out of our 99th percentile frame time data. For consistency's sake, we've converted the frame times to frame rates, so desirable offerings are still at the top left.
What can we say? The Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and Radeon HD 7850 are plainly more desirable than the old Radeon HD 6970 and 6950. They're not only faster for the money, as the plots above show. They also have substantially lower power consumption and, if our experience with the 7870 is any indication, obscene amounts of overclocking headroom.
I'd say the two new Radeons are also better options than the comparable GeForces. It's true the GeForce GTX 560 Ti we tested isn't one of the highest-clocked models, but the Radeon HD 7850 is so much faster, I doubt a clock speed increase for the GeForce would bridge the gap. The Nvidia parts also had more trouble maintaining consistently low frame times in the games we tested, a fact that's reflected in our 99th percentile FPS per dollar plot.
And, again, the Radeons are way more power-efficient.
Those are all remarkable achievements, but they're diminished by AMD's somewhat conservative pricing. The key thing to note is that Pitcairn is considerably smaller than the GPUs inside the Radeon HD 6900 and GeForce GTX 560 series. In fact, it's even smaller than Barts, a chip that powers Radeon HD 6800-series cards priced as low as $140. It seems like a given that the Radeon HD 7850 will find its way south of the $200 mark eventually, and that is a truly exciting prospect. Heck, we may even be treated to a price war once Nvidia's 28-nm Kepler GPUs come out. If that happens, AMD clearly has plenty of ammunition.
As excellent as these new Radeons are, I'm a little bit disappointed by AMD's choice of cooler for the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition. (We can't really comment on the 7850, since our sample wasn't representative of retail offerings.) Considering the Pitcairn GPU's modest power requirements, I'd have liked AMD to tune its reference cooler for lower noise levels. That said, since few retail cards use reference coolers these days, that point may be moot.
157 comments — Last by Cyril at 10:27 AM on 03/29/12
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