So once again, it comes down to this. We bust out a scatter plot of price and performance, summing up all of that work in one or two images. Our overall performance numbers come from the geometric mean of the scores across five of the six games we tested. (We chose to exclude DiRT Showdown, since the results skewed the average pretty badly and since AMD worked very closely with the developers on the lighting path tested.) We've translated our 99th percentile frame times into their FPS equivalents for the sake of readability. As ever, the best values will trend toward the upper left portion of the plot, and the worst to the bottom right. Have a look:
If you flip between the two plots, you'll see several clear outcomes. One is the close price-performance parity overall between Nvidia and AMD at present. AMD's price cuts after the GTX 660 Ti launch last month saw to that. Another crystal-clear result is the marked improvement with this latest generation of GPUs. The leap from the GTX 460 to the GTX 660 is formidable, and the jump from the Radeon HD 6870 to the 7870 ain't bad, either. We tested at 1920x1080 resolution and above, with very high (if not always peak) image quality settings in some of the most intensive recent games, and this year's crop of GPUs aced the test. You saw it in how infrequently any of them wasted time beyond our 50-ms threshold in the prior pages, and you can see it the 99th percentile plot above. We've ruled out the toughest 1% of frames, and for everything else, these cards are pumping out a steady stream of frames at rates above 40 FPS. That's pretty phenomenal—and, yes, it calls into question why anyone should spend 300 bucks or more on a higher-end video card. Seems to me like the GTX 660 should suffice for a great many folks.
The other unmistakable outcome is that the GeForce cards tend to be a little bit stronger in the latency-focused 99th percentile frame time results. The FPS scatter plot paints a picture of almost perfect parity, with a nearly straight line slicing through the various Radeons and GeForces of the current generation as we step up the price-performance ladder. That's probably no surprise, since pricing on these things tends to be carefully calibrated by the GPU and video card makers. However, they're using the wrong benchmarks. If you're focused on smooth gameplay and not just nice frame rate averages, Nvidia's Kepler-based GPUs currently have the upper hand.
Given all of that, I probably can't avoid doling out at least one Editor's Choice award, and I figure the Asus GTX 660 TOP is the best pick. Obviously, it's very well situated on our value scatter plots. Asus slapped an excellent cooler onto this card, and combined with the GK106 chip's modest power draw, it's almost magically quiet. Frankly, I'm a sucker for that. The Zotac GTX 660 is very good and plenty quiet, too, but if I have to pick one card, I'd pony up the extra for the Asus. You know, if I were committed to doing a review.
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89 comments — Last by kamikaziechameleon at 8:30 AM on 11/17/12
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