Flagship GPU Rematch: AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition vs. NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680


AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition vs. NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680

The Flagship GPU Rematch of 2012

If you're thinking about building a new gaming system for 2013, you might be looking at one of these two enthusiast-class, flagship graphics cards: AMD's Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition and NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 680. Both have recently released updated drivers, which look likely to be the final set of driver updates for the year, Catalyst 12.11 Beta8 and ForceWare 310.70 respectively. As such, we feel the time is right to take a look at which is of these two flagship cards is the better buy right now. 
 

Opening Arguments

First, a little retrospective on the year. While AMD started strong, getting a headstart early in the year by being first to market back in February with its 28nm process GCN (Graphics Core Next) architecture card, the Radeon HD 7970, its lead was not to last as NVIDIA released its 28nm Kepler architecture GeForce GTX 680 a mere one month later.

Comparing hardware specifications, AMD's HD 7970 clearly had the advantage in terms of pure processing power, utilizing a transistor count some 760 million higher, and possessing 512 more stream processing units. It also utilized 3GB GDDR5 VRAM compared to the GTX 680's 2GB, although NVIDIA's memory did boast a higher clock speed.

The GPU Boost Advantage

However, NVIDIA's real trump card came in the form of an innovative new technology called GPU Boost. GPU Boost is a technology that combines both hardware and software to dynamically adjust the GPU's clock speed according to the operating environment of the graphics card. This proved to be a significant advantage when it came to benchmarks. 

After the initial dust had settled, NVIDIA's GTX 680 was the clear winner, with its GPU Boost technology helping it run away with an overall average 10-15% performance lead against the HD 7970. 

AMD Strikes Back With Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

AMD was not to be outdone however. In June this year, it attempted to close that gap by releasing the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, a factory overclocked version of the original HD7970, with an increase in core clock speed from 925MHz to 1050MHz, and with memory bumped up from 5000MHz DDR to 6000MHz DDR. This version of the HD 7970 proved to be much more competitive, rivaling and even surpassing the GTX 680 in some benchmarks. However, it also suffered from high temperatures and fairly high power consumption.

For this rematch, we'll be using the more up to date HD 7970 GHz Edition as AMD's contender. Here's a look at how each card compares, specs wise:

AMD vs. NVIDIA Flagship GPUs Compared
  AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition 3GB DDR5 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (Reference Card)
Core Code
  • Tahiti XT
  • GK104
GPU Transistor Count
  • 4300 million
  • 3.54 billion
Manufacturing Process
  • 28nm
  • 28nm
Core Clock
  • 1050MHz
  • 1006MHz
Stream Processors
  • 2048 Stream processing units
  • 1536 CUDA cores
Stream Processor Clock
  • 1050MHz
  • 1006MHz
Texture Mapping Units (TMUs)
  • 128
  • 128
Raster Operator units (ROP)
  • 32
  • 32
Memory Clock (DDR)
  • 6000MHz DDR (GDDR5)
  • 6008MHz
Memory Bus width
  • 384-bit
  • 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth
  • 288GB/s
  • 192.3GB/s
PCI Express Interface
  • PCIe ver 3.0 x16
  • PCIe ver 3.0 x16
Power Connectors
  • 1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin
  • 2 x 6-pin
Multi GPU Technology
  • CrossFireX
  • SLI
DVI Outputs
  • 1 x Dual-Link
  • 2
HDMI Outputs
  • 1
  • 1
DisplayPort Outputs
  • 2 (version 1.2 HBR2)
  • 1
HDCP Output Support
  • Yes
  • Yes