So, we've combed through a huge amount of info. What does it tell us? We can get a sense of things with one of our famous price-performance scatter plots.
Our overall performance numbers come from five of the six games we tested. (We've omitted DiRT Showdown because the vast gulf in brand-based performance there skews the results pretty wildly, even though we're using a geometric mean. Clearly, that game is an outlier of sorts.) Our primary metric is the 99th percentile frame time, which we've converted into FPS for this plot, to make it easy to read. As usual, the better positions on this plot will be closer to the top left corner, where low prices meet high performance.
The two GTX 660 Ti cards we ran through our entire test suite are situated very nicely on our scatter plot, with performance to match the two Radeon HD 7950 cards but at lower prices. (Had we been able to run the MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition card through our suite, it likely would have placed right between the other two cards, also in a decent spot.) The Radeons are more competitively positioned in the scatter plot based on FPS averages, but we've seen why those numbers tend to be a less reliable gauge of gameplay quality. Since the GTX 660 Ti cards also drew substantially less power under load and had noise levels comparable to the best Radeons, we can probably count this one as a win for the GeForce camp.
To be specific, we're bestowing Editor's Choice distinction upon two of the GeForce GTX 660 Ti cards, the Zotac GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition and the MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition. The PNY card with Nvidia's reference cooler doesn't make the cut. We'd happily pay $10 more for MSI's superior twin-fan offering. The Zotac AMP! card's solid cooler, squat profile, and 6.6 GT/s memory clock justify the $30 premium for it, as well, in our view. The Zotac card may be the most powerful video card by cubic volume anywhere, yet it's a perfectly acceptable option to drop into a big tower case.
With that said, we can't escape the creeping feeling that the performance differences here aren't terribly meaningful. Most of these cards land within $50 of one another in price and within a few frames per second in overall performance. Even the Radeon HD 7870, which was the slowest of the current cards we tested, didn't struggle much in our tests—and we were trying to stress these cards using the latest DirectX 11 games. Yes, we could have tested at somewhat more intensive graphical settings, but you would be hard-pressed to notice the visual differences versus the settings we chose. Half the time, we tested at the very high resolution of 2560x1440, too. At 1920x1080, the 7870 would barely have struggled at all.
This current state of GPU potency and parity is very good news indeed for the PC gamer. If you have a 1080p display, take your pick of any of these new cards and enjoy. They are all a worthy upgrade over older cards like the GeForce GTX 470. If you prefer to go the Radeon route, there are some advantages there, including the lower noise and power draw in power-save due to ZeroCore mode and the apparent superiority of the GCN architecture in GPU computing tasks.
If you are looking at a Radeon HD 7950, you may want to watch for an offering with the boost BIOS. We can see now why AMD chose to inject that product with a little more oomph. Without it, the 7950 wouldn't keep pace with the lower-priced competition. Then again, MSI's R7950 OC Edition already offers the same basic performance through a mildly tweaked static clock speed.
You can follow my madcap scatter-plotting exploits on Twitter.
144 comments — Last by Darkmage at 9:00 AM on 08/23/12
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