The $250 price point is where the hardcore and the serious gamer part ways. It’s not that hardcore gamers aren’t serious—it’s that they sometimes lose perspective, willing to throw vast, silly sums of money at shiny high-end GPUs. Serious gamers know that a good $250 graphics card will buy you high frame rates on standard, 1080p displays without requiring a second mortgage.
XFX’s “Ghost” fan shrouds are easy on the eyes, but they don’t vary much from card to card
Every GPU generation has its flagship videocards: the ones with the top-of-the-line GPU with all cores enabled, loaded for bear. In this generation, those cards are Nvidia’s GTX 680 (with a full GK104 GPU inside) and AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 (with a full Tahiti GPU). These cards are monstrously fast, but they’re also expensive and tricky to manufacture. Not all parts come off the line fully functional. So a few months after each flagship GPU launch, the vendors come out with a slightly stripped-down version that uses binned top-end GPUs with a few parts disabled, or lower clock speeds. AMD’s Radeon HD 7950, for example, uses the same GPU as the 7970, but with 28 GCN units instead of 32, and with an 800MHz reference clock instead of 925MHz. The cheaper, lower-powered video cards appeal both to gamers with shallower pockets and also to vendors, who clock those stripped-down, less expensive GPUs right back up to within spitting distance of their full-powered peers. Thus we arrive at the Asus GeForce GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP, a factory-overclocked GTX 670 with a custom cooling solution.
The DirectCU II cooler’s three direct-contact heat pipes keep the GPU cool.
The GTX 660 is the first 28nm Kepler board based on a new GPU dubbed GK106, and the final 6-series card to support high-performance features like GPU Boost and SLI. Compared to the GTX 660 Ti, the GTX 660 offers the same 2GB of DDR5 memory, the same 192-bit memory interface, and the same number of ROP units, but loses two SMX units compared to the GTX 660 Ti, giving it just 960 CUDA cores compared to 1,344 in the previous cards (and the 1,536 in the GTX 680). At $230 it’s our new favorite GPU in the price-to-performance category.
Nearly every player invested in the GPU market experienced a "good, if not great quarter" in Q2 as overall graphics shipments rose 2.5 percent sequentially and 5.5 percent year-over-year, according to data released today by Jon Peddie Research. Intel enjoyed the biggest gains in both desktop (13.6 percent) and notebook (3.8 percent), which isn't surprising now that CPUs with integrated graphics are the norm and not the exception.
Graphics professionals need big-league processing power, and AMD aims to scratch that itch with its FirePro line of GPUs. Earlier this week, the company announced the launch of the FirePro W600, the first of the line to incorporate AMD's 28nm and GCN technology. Hopefully you didn't run out and buy one immediately, because today AMD showed off that card's big brother, the FirePro W9000, and it's a memory-filled beast. And hey, did we just see the first Radeon 7990, too?
Windows 8 Release Preview up and running? Check. Nvidia GeForce graphics card? Check. Appropriate GPU drivers for Windows 8? You can check that one off as well, assuming you're running Windows 8 with a GeForce graphics card. If so, Nvidia's new GeForce R302 preview driver is just for you. Bear in mind that it's to be used only with the Win 8 Release Preview build, so if you're rocking an earlier version, these aren't the drivers for you.
The driver team at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) are no longer under pressure to churn out Catalyst driver suites month after month, and will instead drop new updates on gamers "when it makes sense," the Sunnyvale chip designer announced in a blog post today. AMD says its goal is to make sure Catalyst releases provide a "substantial benefit" to gamers, and that means moving away from a rapid release schedule.
MSI tells us they've beefed up some of their top-shelf GT70 gaming laptops with Nvidia's discrete GeForce GTX 675 graphics, touting it as the fastest single-unit laptop GPU on the planet. AMD might have something to say about that with its Radeon HD 7970M chip, but either way, you're looking at a GPU that's head and shoulders above what your Ultrabook-toting friends are wielding.
AMD’S MARKETING pitch for the new Radeon 7800‑series GPUs suggests that “serious gaming starts here.” Built on AMD’s Graphics Core Next, the 7800 series, previously code-named “Pitcairn,” offers impressive performance for less than the price of AMD’s 7900 series. Let’s take a quick look at key features, as compared to the Radeon HD 6870 and 6950 GPUs, AMD’s previous players in the midrange.
The 7870 has 1,280 stream processors—more than the 6870, but fewer than the 1,408 in the Radeon HD 6950. The 7870’s 1,000MHz stock clock speed is 11 percent higher than the 900MHz of the 6870, and twice the 6950’s 500MHz clock. In the Black Edition HD 7870, XFX boosts the core clock an additional 5 percent to 1,050MHz. The 7870 ships with the same 2GB of 256-bit GDDR5 as the 6950—double the 1GB of the 6870.
The Black Edition ships with XFX’s semi-custom dual-fan cooling solution. As with past cards in this class, the HD 7870 requires two 6-pin power connectors. One disappointment: XFX is continuing its policy of leaving out monitor adapter connectors, so if you don’t have a DVI, HDMI, or DisplayPort connector on your monitor, then you’ll need to shell out a little extra for one. It’s mostly not a problem for single-display users, but people with multiple monitors may need to acquire adapters.
ASUS HAS GOTTEN a lot of mileage out of its beefy DirectCU II GPU-cooling technology. It has brought some serious overclocking chops to the GeForce GTX 580 in the form of Asus’s Matrix-branded edition, for example. The DirectCU II versions of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti and the Radeon HD 6870 also sport serious overclocks, and those cards perform well in their respective classes. What’s even better is that the company doesn’t charge much of a price premium for its best cooling tech on cards below the Matrix GTX 580.
We’re scratching our heads, however, over Asus’s decision to offer this GTX 570 card in a three-slot configuration similar to its Matrix GTX 580, but running at Nvidia’s reference clock speeds. The beefy cooler delivers plenty of DIY overclocking potential, but you must assume all the risk. Since we review cards based on out-of-the-box performance, we had to benchmark this one with its 742MHz core clock and 3,800MHz (effective) memory clock.
One good thing the new cooler does provide is fewer decibels. This card isn’t whisper-quiet under load, but it generates much less noise than many of the cards in its class—particularly the Radeon HD 6970, which can get fairly loud under heavy loads.