Graphics Cards for All Budgets (Part 3) - Radeon HD 7950, GeForce GTX 580, GeForce GTX670

11/14/2012 9:33:29 AM

The Radeon HD 7950 is yet another AMD card that makes NVidia’ s range look both overpriced and power-hungry, offering similar performance while demanding a lot less from both your power supply and your wallet. It doesn’t just beat the performance of the GTX 580; it does so while costing almost $48 less, depending on where you look.


Radeon HD 7950

However, the Radeon HD 7950 is something of a double-edged sword, because it’s so good that it actually starts to make it look a little pointless to spend the extra on, for example, an HD 7970 or HD 6990. It costs substantially less than both of those cards, but performs almost as well, especially if you’re into overclocking, because this is one of those cards that’ll just give and give if massaged in the right way. Speeds of over 1GHz are not unreasonable even on the reference design.

The proprietary ZeroCore Power system (which effectively disables the GPU when it isn’t needed) means it’ll even save you money on your electricity bills. Although it’s hard to recommend outright due to the high cost, there is one situation where it wins outright: if you think the GeForce GTX 660 is too cheap for you, this is the card to go for.

$320 - $400: GeForce GTX 580

In terms of pounds to performance, the GTX 580 was one of the best NVidia cards around prior to the release of the GTX 660. Admittedly, it’s a level up in price terms, but you can just about find them for $400 at the moment, and that’s only going to become easier to do in the next few months.

Description: GeForce GTX580

GeForce GTX 580

It’s arguably a little more powerful than the average gamer might need, but in a way, that’s what makes it so attractive. Even over 18 months after it was initially released, it’s still a formidable card, and you won’t find a 6-series this powerful for anything approaching a comparable price. The only downside is that in a world where the Radeon HD 7950 exists, there’s no good reason to buy it unless you have a personal dislike of AMD.

Even so, at the time of its release, the GTX 580 was the fastest single-GPU card around, and while it can be outperformed by a pair of SLI cards, it remains one of the best you can get if you only want to use one slot. Although you can successfully argue that anyone spending this much on a card wants something right up to date, getting this amount of raw power for under $400 makes it ultimately hard to complain too much.

$400 - $481: GeForce GTX670

Although its shine has been slightly dulled by the release of the similarly priced and powered GeForce GTX 660 Ti, the GeForce GTX 670 still proves that when it comes to high-end cards, NVidia has the edge over its rivals.

Description: GeForce GTX670

GeForce GTX670

Although aimed at the high-end of the market, it’s still fairly sanely priced at under $481. Certainly the near-grand cost of the likes of the GeForce GTX 690 makes it look downright reasonable. It has the same dynamic overclock power that the rest of NVidia’s high-end 600-series cards have, meaning you can get some strong gigahertz-level performance if and when you need it. The dual-outputs (two DVI ports, as well as DisplayPort and HDMI) mean it’s well suited for multi-monitor setups, and the NVidia ‘Surround Mode’ allows you to use any combination of them.

As to why this is worth buying over its Radeon counterparts, we can only point at performance benchmarks. The Radeon HD 7950 is a fair amount cheaper but almost 25% slower, putting it in a different league. The Radeon HD 7970 is only slightly better, but it costs more than the performance lift can justify. If you want to spend around $440 on a card, there’s no question that this is the best you’ll find.

$481 and Above?

Here’s the thing. If you’re spending more than $481 on a graphics card, you’re entering the sort of territory where two cards running in SLI/CrossFireX mode will be cheaper and just as powerful. There are graphics cards worth buying at this price level, certainly (the GeForce GTX 680, the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition), but at this point you’re paying as much to avoid the bother of overclocking your card than any actual features.

Particularly if you already own a half-decent card, it makes more sense as an upgrade strategy to buy a second and run in SLI/CrossFireX, rather than install an entirely new card. Admittedly it’s not the case every time, but if you’re planning to spend this amount on graphics; all we can do is urge you to make sure you do your homework in order to avoid the rapid onset of buyer’s remorse!


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