Power Consumption and Conclusions
Holiday Gaming Performance Guide - How to waste your time - Graphics Cards 44

The power consumption numbers between both the NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards are pretty even with the only edge really going to NVIDIA’s GPUs and their ability to nearly run on 0 watts at idle. 


As it turns out, both of the GPUs we used in our preliminary testing proved to be great performers when it comes to these five holiday games.  This is of course great news for anyone that already owns either a GeForce GTX 260 or an AMD Radeon HD 4870 card but the real question we wanted to answer here is which offering is the best for upgrading gamers or first-time buyers?

In my opinion, three of the five games tested here will play nearly the same on both cards and don’t deserve to really sway buyers one way or the other.  Dead Space, Fallout 3 and Left 4 Dead were all running at very high frame rates even at resolutions up to 2560×1600 and in most cases I feel that you’d be hard pressed to find a worthwhile performance or gaming experience difference between GTX 260+ or 4870 1GB.  Left 4 Dead is based on the aging Valve Source engine that was used for the original Half Life 2 game (though it has been modified through the years) so it will play comfortably on nearly any modern GPU and both Dead Space and Fallout 3 were developed with consoles in mind.

Holiday Gaming Performance Guide - How to waste your time - Graphics Cards 45
That is not the look of a friendly zombie

The other two titles are much more GPU-intensive and if you want to get the top image quality from both Call of Duty: World at War and Far Cry 2 you are going to want a healthy piece of graphics card.  With CoD: WaW, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260+ (216 shader version) was able to best the AMD Radeon HD 4870 1GB card by 26% at 1600×1200 and by 48% at 2560×1600 in terms of average frame rate.  The minimum FPS, also a very important metric, saw strong leads on NVIDIA’s platform.  For Far Cry 2, which was the most intense gaming title tested today, the NVIDIA GTX 260+ was also the performance leader: 27% faster at 2560×1600 though tied at 1600×1200. 

Pricing and Availability

As of this writing, the BFG GeForce GTX 260 MaxCore 896MB card used in our testing is selling for $280 or so; I found some Radeon HD 4870 1GB cards going for $270 as well.  That puts both of our competitors in basically the exact same price envelope making the choice an interesting one.  While both cards will make excellent starts to a gaming PC, the GeForce GTX 260+ has a noticeable performance advantage in at least two of the five games.  NVIDIA also has been increasing the non-gaming value of their cards with PhysX technology, driver updates that add multi-monitor multi-GPU support and more.  And heck, with games like Mirror’s Edge actually utilizing PhysX it might yet become a useful technology!

Final Thoughts and Happy Gaming!

Regardless of which graphics card you side with, this holiday is proving to be a great time to be a PC gamer.  Yes all of these games are also available on consoles but anyone familiar with gaming on a PC will tell you that titles like Left 4 Dead and Far Cry 2 DESERVE to be played with a mouse and keyboard at resolutions like 1920×1080 and above.  Of the two sample cards we used in our preliminary testing the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260+ is the obvious performance leader and with a price tag currently sitting at $280 and below, it’s a heck of buy for the performance you are getting. 

As for our internal use of this type of testing data, I can say that Far Cry 2 will definitely be added to our testing suite and we will likely replace Call of Duty 4 with Call of Duty: World at War if only to stay completely current.  The other games were just not stressful enough to warrant a share of the decision making process for GPUs going forward. 

Enjoy your December and I hope you saved up your vacation days!

Be sure to use our pricing engine to find the best prices on NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards and anything else you might need:

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