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Frame Rating: GTX 660 vs HD 7870, plus HD 7790, HD 7850, GTX 650 Ti BOOST

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

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:

 

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 1920x1080 and 2560x1440, 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.

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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.

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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.

 

Final Thoughts

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. 

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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...

April 7, 2013 | 09:00 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I just saw a video from valve discussing a tool called Telemetry from RAD games, it seems like it could be useful for analysis of game performance.

April 8, 2013 | 07:41 AM - Posted by Pendulously (not verified)

SUGGESTION FOR FRAME VARIANCE GRAPH:

You have already noted elsewhere that Percentile (1-99) is insufficient, for tracking large SPIKES in Frame Times, spikes which may occur only once every few seconds (i.e., once every few hundred frames, thus well beyond the 99th percentile threshold).

So you need a different dependent variable (x-axis), with 'milliseconds' remaining the independent variable (y-axis).

In a 10 minute gampeplay section (36000 Frames at 60 FPS), 36 Frames is equivalent to the 99.9th percentile (36000 divided by 1000).

If you put '36' on the x-axis (or perhaps multiples of 10), you could easily show people the effects of LARGE SPIKES IN FRAME TIMES. In many cases/circumstances, more illuminating than Frame Variance Graphs which show nothing beyond the 99th percentile.

April 8, 2013 | 08:52 AM - Posted by Stennan (not verified)

Are there any redeeming features to AMDs Crossfire solution?

April 8, 2013 | 11:06 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yes, they drop every other frame in crossfire and count it anyway and sell it to their fans as a superior frame rate than SLI.

AMS CF Frame numbers sold 80!(actual screen rate 40+stutter ! )

Wow it sure beats 76 from SLI !

Yes, a very "redeeming" quality.

April 10, 2013 | 06:12 AM - Posted by Stennan (not verified)

Thank you for not answering my question :)

I just wanted to know if there might be an upside with regards to perhaps input lag. Kind of hard to measure though.

April 11, 2013 | 01:17 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Ok, here's a few thoughts. With the AMD runts and drops, and the fans now trying to claim "less input lag", my question is of course, "What are you aiming at?" !

With every other frame dropped or runted, you're getting ~50% of the game screen opponent positions from the frames displayed (first person shooter as an example of course since most games are that ) - so your opponents position on screen is "jumping" from one frame over to two frames ahead, changing position in a lurch - with that type of inaccuracy of on screen opponents, how is "less lag" going to help when one cannot see half the positions of the opposition, and aiming at those in between spots just is not directly occurring? you have no visual data for those positions, half the positions of your opponent !

You can see how that may present some real issues for the gamer, as far as firing accuracy.
Yes, one could develop a sort of compensation with practice, just like a similar amount of consistent input lag is gotten used to as the mind and muscles acclimate and compensate accordingly.

So, it appears to me missing frames and runts are anything but helpful, and the lag thenno lag, or the lag not running in sync with what appears on screen could be a real problem.

With equalized frame time outputs to screen, the "smoothness" factor certainly helps aiming at opponents and learning to time things correctly.

April 10, 2013 | 06:13 AM - Posted by Stennan (not verified)

Thank you for not answering my question :)

I just wanted to know if there might be an upside with regards to perhaps input lag. Kind of hard to measure though.

April 9, 2013 | 03:45 AM - Posted by fadeout (not verified)

Are we seeing that crossfire is inherently borked? Or are we seeing that the current drivers are not leveraging the potential of the hardware?

I'm thinking that drivers can be updated.

A note on the fanboy thingy, surely we need both companies to succeed to push one another to create ever faster and more powerful cards. No?

April 9, 2013 | 07:44 AM - Posted by bystander (not verified)

The problem has persisted at least two series of cards, but based on AMD's response, it likely has always existed. AMD had said they never considered frame metering. Instead, they had been focusing on delivering frames as fast as possible.

That to me would say the drivers were not borked per say, they just weren't trying to do anything about it. They weren't even aware of it.

Nvidia has their metering done with special hardware, but AMD believes they can do the same with software, which they probably can, though it may not be as ideal.

April 9, 2013 | 07:23 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Not sure why the 660 is being compared to a 7870. MSRP is over $100 difference. 7850 makes more sense to me but there must be a good reason the 7870 was chosen.

April 9, 2013 | 07:57 PM - Posted by bystander (not verified)

The GTX 660 is the cheaper of the two cards. You must have the GTX 660ti in mind.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130826
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814127699

April 13, 2013 | 12:32 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The reason is a big fat smooch on the behind of amd and their fanboys.
Keep the raging natives a bit less restless.
You see, only 2 pages of comments, they didn't come in screaming bias while their radeon I don't believe any of this and "if it's true" it doesn't matter heads exploded.

They have all been made absolute idiots, as the years of their stupidity is apparent.

The years of them screeching no one can see over 30 fps anyway is exposed. It doesn't matter what they knew or did not know, they made every excuse and lie and fanboy promo they could over the course of years and now it is absolutely clear they were seeing only half the frames gobbled with screen wretching runts, but still claimed it was beauty incarnate.

They are fools, and we all know it.

April 11, 2013 | 12:15 PM - Posted by Arek (not verified)

It would be nice to see how a pair of gtx 580's fares, as I have these in my setup. Pretty please! *_*

April 13, 2013 | 04:21 PM - Posted by Johnny Rook (not verified)

I can't stress enough how amazing this is.

I have one or two questions though:

1. Is the ATI/AMD Dual-GPU cards like the HD7990 have the same "problems" has dual cards in SLi?

I have an HD5970 and I do recognize there are problems as far as stutter is concerned but, I notice, I have a clear visual "feeling" that something is not right in a very few games. Mostly those "heavy" titles like "Metro2033" and the new "Crysis 3".

2. Is the problem something related to the hardware itself, is it drivers or is it a mix of both?

April 13, 2013 | 04:31 PM - Posted by Johnny Rook (not verified)

Sorry, I meant "problems has dual cards in Crossfire?"

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