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Conclusions
We'll once again wrap things up with a couple of value scatter plots. In both plots, the performance numbers are geometric means of data points from all the games we tested. The first plot shows 99th-percentile frame times converted into FPS for easier reading; the second plot shows simple FPS averages. Prices were fetched from Newegg, the GPU vendors, and the card makers, depending on what was appropriate.

The best deals should reside near the top left of each plot, where performance is high and pricing is low. Conversely, the least desirable offerings should be near the bottom right.


That pile-up at the top of the 99th-percentile plot is caused by the Radeon HD 7850 1GB, the Radeon HD 7850 2GB, and the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost SC overlapping.

And that tells you much of what you need to know.

In a strange reversal of roles, it's Nvidia who has suffered from unruly frame latencies this time. Both versions of the GTX 650 Ti Boost fared poorly in Crysis 3 and Sleeping Dogs. They scored easy victories in the other games, but their 99th-percentile frame latencies weren't substantially higher than those of the Radeons. Averaging the scores with a geometric mean gives us a virtual tie between the like-priced AMD and Nvidia cards. (The average FPS rankings tell a different story, but we think the 99th percentile metric paints a more accurate picture of in-game performance.)

Now, to be fair, it seems highly probable that Nvidia's issues in Crysis 3 are due to a temporary driver bug rather than a deep-seated problem. The standard 650 Ti is unaffected, even though it's based on the same GPU. A fix may not be forthcoming for Sleeping Dogs, which has been out for seven months and exhibited problems on all the GeForce cards. AMD has gotten cozy with the studios behind many of the latest triple-A PC releases, and the recent troubles with Crystal Dynamics suggest this may have been done at Nvidia's expense. GeForce owners may encounter lackluster optimizations in some games.

But let's not get bogged down in speculation. Right now, the Radeon HD 7850 2GB offers equivalent performance per dollar to the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost according to our 99th-percentile metric. It consumes less power, as well, which makes it easier to cool quietly. Last, but not least, it comes with a much more tantalizing game bundle: Tomb Raider and BioShock Infinite. Given those factors alone, the Radeon looks like the better choice—even if you have to pay a $10 premium over the vanilla GTX 650 Ti Boost.

The 650 Ti Boost has definitely made the 7790 less appealing, though. For $20 more, the Nvidia card opens the door to higher resolutions and detail settings. And there's a good chance the 1GB, $149 version of the 650 Ti Boost due next month will also be quicker than its Radeon competition. Our scatter plots show a negligible difference between the 1GB and 2GB versions of the Radeon HD 7850 at the 1080p resolution and detail settings we used. If there's a similarly small gap between the 1GB and 2GB flavors of the 650 Ti Boost, then Nvidia could very well knock the 7790 out cold.

In any event, it's nice to see all this activity in the $150-200 price range. That's the sweet spot for folks who game on 1080p monitors, and the more choices there are, the better.

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