AMD vs Nvidia: 2nd gen DirectX 11 Battle of the GPUs

By on June 16, 2011
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CrossFire vs SLI; Eyefinity vs 3D Surround.

It’s never safe to say that a tech company has released all of its potential products for a specific generation. This is certainly the case when it comes to graphics cards where the turnover is incredibly high (usually 8 to 10 months). So if you’re looking for a graphics card today from the latest generation, know that it’ll become outdated by the “next generation” before the end of this year.

However, our desire to play games at their highest settings with more frames than the human eye can handle has never stopped us before from splurging insane amount of money on graphics cards before. My aim with this feature article is to show you all the options available in the market right now. And depending on your setup, how much money should you spend.

If you’re a PC gamer, then you know how expensive this hobby can get. Whereas consoles offer an extremely cheap entry point into modern gaming, they also suffer from outdated graphics (DX9) according to today’s standards. The PC on the other hand offers DX11 graphics in ultra-high resolution glory and smooth framerates.  And let’s not forget that PCs also allow us to play certain genres that are near impossible to play on consoles, RTS and MMORPGs being prime examples. And while racing games and hack & slash ‘action’ games feel cumbersome on a keyboard, PC gamers always have the ability to plug in a game controller.

For sure, PCs are a superior gaming platform, but it comes at a really high cost as well. And until the next generation of consoles come out in the coming years (PS4/Xbox 3), console games will never look as good as their PC counterparts.

One last thing I would like to stress on are the frame rates, because this is what we judge a 3D card’s prowess by. Most of the content you see on TV and movies are running at 24 frames per second. Most monitors and TVs are running at 60Hz, which means they cannot run more than 60fps. This is the point where the human eye goes from visualizing normal playback of games to ultra-smooth.

Basically if you see a game running at 30fps (the golden standard for smooth playback) everything feels alright, games at 60fps feel very fluid. So for console games, a good idea would be Halo Reach that runs at 30fps versus Call of Duty: Black Ops which runs at 60fps.

For PC players, 30fps is good enough, but 60fps is great. Anything beyond that the human eye cannot always perceive , but it’s just extra headroom which is great for when there’s extra action on screen and the fps don’t fall below 60 or 30.

What I have used in all of my testing, therefore, are average framerates since they take into account the highs and lows during a session and providing you with a result which is as close to the real world experience that you will get. So essentially a game with an average of 24fps is barely playable, 30fps is good enough and 60fps is just right.

Before going any further, I would like to thank AMD, Nvidia, ASUS, ECS, HIS, MSI and of course Zotac for providing us with these cards. Also, their trust that I won’t burn these during the tests!

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From auditing to editing, I now test and analyze the latest gadgets and games instead of the latest financial statements. Both jobs are equally intense and rewarding. When I'm not burning up hardware in the name of science, you'll find me nuking in DOTA 2 or engineering in TF2.

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  • Aequitas

    Would you suggest getting a 6950 or a GTX560 Ti? Its for a Single Monitor Setup.

  • Aequitas

    Would you suggest getting a 6950 or a GTX560 Ti? Its for a Single Monitor Setup.

    • Taimoor Hafeez

      Both have nearly identical performance. 560Ti 1GB costs $250 whereas HD 6950 1GB costs around $230, with 2GB version costing $280. If you’re planning to use the card for video editing as well, then get the 2GB HD 6950.

      Personally I’d go for the GTX 560 Ti because it can overclock very nicely, and at its performance level an extra 1GB (when comparing to 2GB HD 6950) won’t make a tangible difference in games.

    • Alex

      Definitely the 6950. as they offer better performance and generally run cooler as well.

  • Simarills

    6990 WILL work with ONE passive DVI to mini DP in the mix, most come with one active and one passive…mine did and it works fine.

  • Blaa

    60 fps is almost acceptable for me.  I do ‘notice’ when fps drops below around 80
    as I am sure there are many others that can as well and yes my monitor will
    support that.

  • Luay

    Loved the chart! Thanks for summing up what will be (hopefully) the last of the 40 nm chips generation.

  • Pingback: News for June 20th 2011–Happy Monday! | Review the Tech

  • Footman

    Interesting review. I actually just sold a pair of 2gb 6950′s, which I tried to run crossfire/triple monitor but ran in to too many issues as well as substantial noise. I actually ended up with a pair of reference EVGA 560Ti’s in SLI, triple monitor was easy, support was better for widescreen gaming, the solution is silent in my opinion, I have HAF-X and I am unable to hear the 560Ti’s over case fans at full load, which was not the case with the 6950′s. But for me the biggest win win in going back to the green team was the ability to have transparent supersampling work. If you retest, you will find that the AMD equivalent does not work and therefore imo Nvidia provides a superior image.

    • Adam Garner

       Great read fellas. I actually just sold a pair of Gainward 1GB GTX560Ti,
      which I
      tried to run in SLI but after unforgivable heat & noise issues which
      would have required an aftermarket cooler to solve and numerous
      graphics instabilities i decided to go try the red team. I purchased 2x
      1GB Sapphire HD6950 and i havent had any issues since. The coolers are
      running quiet and frosty and i have had not a single graphics glitch. I
      am very impressed with these AMD / ATI cards.

    • anubis44

      You’re either an nVidia employee or on crack. You’ve just sold two good cards and bought two crappy ones for multi-monitor gaming.

      The 6950 custom cards like the Sapphire Flex edition, Dirt 3 edition, MSI Twin Frozr II & III, Asus DirectCU, etc. are all at least as quiet as any GTX560Ti on the market, and with 2Gb, you can actually turn on 4X AA or more without running out of video memory, unlike with any 1Gb video card from either camp.

      And for the cretin who wrote the review, saying multi-monitor gaming was hard with AMD cards, actually, doing multimonitor is much harder with nVidia, because you HAVE to have two cards AND an SLI-capable motherboard. With AMD, you can buy just one 6950 card and be up and running with a $25 miniDP to DVI adapter, and the Sapphire Flex editions will do eyefinity right out of the box. Finally, virtually any motherboard with at least two PCI-E slots will probably support crossfire, but nVidia, in their greed, has only licensed their SLI technology for a small subset of boards out there. So who’s really making it harder to do multi-monitor gaming?

      • Footman

        Damn, you are rude… Obviously you have an opinion as do we all, keep it civil.

        I obviously have experience with a pair of 2gb 6950′s as well as my current pair of 560Ti. So I am well positioned to comment on my particular situation. When I game I want to game with Transparent supersampling, AMD’s adaptive AA does not work, therfore in my opinion I get a better image using the 560′s….

        Obviously there are people reporting the opposite to me, what can I say, to each their own. just keep a cicil tongue in your head if you have an opinion.

        • Joe

          MLAA (morphological Antialiasing) is actually the better option… and AMD does that in spades plus gets a 30% improvement in MLAA via the Catalyst 11.8 Preview driver.  Plus you traded in 4GB VRAM for 2GB VRAM for multi monitor gaming.  There went your headroom for future titles at high res with AA enabled.

          Also everything anubis said is true.

    • Joe

      Really, because i have two Sapphire 6950 2GB’s (OC’d to 840/1325) in a Lancool PC-K62, and the only time i hear them is at POST.  Running Unigine @ max with 4xAA, max Tess, fan on card one maxes out at 38% and i hear nothing.  You must have super hearing.

  • Gelf54

    Its disappointing that that SLI 3D performance on page 12 is barely improved over a single card. Driver issue?

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