Summary and Conclusions
Because of the complexity and sheer amount of data we have gathered using our Frame Rating performance methodology, we are breaking it up into several articles that each feature different GPU comparisons. Here is the schedule:
- 3/27: Frame Rating Dissected: Full Details on Capture-based Graphics Performance Testing
- 3/27: Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition vs GeForce GTX 680 (Single and Dual GPU)
- 3/30: AMD Radeon HD 7990 vs GeForce GTX 690 vs GeForce GTX Titan
- 4/2: Radeon HD 7950 vs GeForce GTX 660 Ti (Single and Dual GPU)
- 4/5: Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition vs GeForce GTX 660 (Single and Dual GPU)
- 4/16: Frame Rating: Visual Effects of Vsync on Gaming Animation
In this article we have looked at two completely unique sets of data. The first compared the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and the GeForce GTX 660 cards in both single and dual-GPU configurations and resulted in similar kinds of data that we found in our HD 7950 vs GTX 660 Ti and HD 7970 vs GTX 680 articles. The second set of data compared only single GPU configurations but on the lower end of the market with the Radeon HD 7850 and HD 7790 as well as the GeForce GTX 650 Ti and GTX 650 Ti BOOST.
We'll dive into each set of results separately.
HD 7870 GHz Edition and GTX 660 Performance
Results from this testing should look very similar to those of you that read our Frame Rating story that compared the HD 7950 and the GTX 660 Ti cards. We have found that as we continue down the product stack to lower performing graphics cards, the problems of AMD CrossFire technology are creeping up more often.
At single monitor resolutions, tested here as 1920×1080 and 2560×1440, the Radeon HD 7870 CrossFire configuration showed the same problems we saw in our initial article once again in titles like Battlefield 3, Crysis 3 and Sleeping Dogs. But as we saw in our previous piece problems are creeping up in DiRT 3 and Far Cry 3, game that previously didn't exhibit problems. The issues of runt frames continues to haunt the AMD CrossFire technology.
The AMD Radeon HD 7870 is a great single GPU graphics option
It would appear that as the GPU becomes the bottleneck to bigger degree, which occurs in our testing as we keep the settings the same from the GTX Titan down to the GTX 660 Ti today, CrossFire results in more runt frames, more often and in more games.
From a single GPU perspective though, the Radeon HD 7870 is indeed faster than the GeForce GTX 660 in nearly all of our tests, whether that be single monitor or multi-monitor configurations. Buyers that are really only concerned with single card options then you might not care about the CrossFire or Eyefinity problems we have witnessed over the past two weeks.
HD 7850, HD 7790, GTX 650 Ti BOOST, GTX 650 Ti Performance
With only single GPU results to consider here, the results fall in line with what I wrote in the initial GTX 650 Ti BOOST review in late March. With the release of both it and the Radeon HD 7790 in March, the complicated budget graphics market got a bit more complicated.
The Radeon HD 7790 falls behind the GTX 650 Ti BOOST often
In general, the most competitive cards are the GTX 650 Ti BOOST and the Radeon HD 7850 and they swap "wins" in our benchmarks pretty regularly. If I had to give the nod to a single card it would be the GTX 650 Ti BOOST with slight wins in BF3, Crysis 3, Far Cry 3 and Skyrim. The HD 7850 is faster in DiRT 3 and Sleeping Dogs. But because the GTX 650 Ti BOOST is about $15-20 less expensive than the HD 7850, I think it is the better choice, all else being equal.
The secondary comparison is for the HD 7790 and the original GTX 650 Ti; there is very little to debate here though as the GTX 650 Ti is noticeably slower in basically all the games we tested. It has a smaller frame buffer, lower performance and is only $10 less, not an investment I would make today.
Don't get the wrong impression, this is in no way the end of our Frame Rating stories and I am only finalizing our first complete set of data today. The steps to get here have been difficult but now you have essentially all of the data and numbers that I have been building over the last year, with a lot of troubleshooting and analysis along the way.
I think the takeaway from the current state of Frame Rating is that while AMD's single GPU graphics cards offer fantastic performance per dollar, there is a fundamental problem with the CrossFire and CrossFire + Eyefinity technology that needs to be addressed by AMD. Even though there is still much research to be done on the subject of the full effect of the results and the discrepancies we are seeing in our CrossFire results, the fact is that something is fundamentally different between CrossFire and SLI, and in my hands on time with graphics cards over many years and over the last 18 months with this capture capability, NVIDIA is doing multi-GPU better.
The GTX 660 is the better multi-GPU option today
AMD has promised to fix this, and we are going to hold them to it. We differ on how dramatic an impact runt frames and dropped frames have on the user experience, but they are not denying that there is an issue many gamers are seeing. That's the good news. The bad news is that it may take until well into the summer to see something from AMD that will start to address the concerns we have. But better late than never and we'll continue to push forward.
Our next step is to look at the many user-submitted solutions for this AMD issue including the full effects of enabling Vsync, applications like RadeonPro and how we can measure changes in input latency because of frame meter.
It's going to be a busy summer…