In the early days I bought both Nvidia and ATi cards. But for the last 8 years or so I have only bought Nvidia because I felt that ATI was just that bad at writing drivers.
Last summer I broke this trend to see what ATI has been doing with itself, and I'm certainly not happy. I like to tweak individual settings like clamping, individual optimizations, how many frames to render forward and so on. But With ATI I get like 5 slider bars under the ADVANCED settings. So I figured I'd just download a utility that would unlock all the settings I was missing and be done with it. No dice. Anything I was actually able to find caused the drivers to crash, or didn't support my card. It's entirely possible I just wasn't using the correct tweaks, but I looked for weeks.
Now I'm about to build a new machine. And while the Nvidia cards are more expensive, I still feel that I will be able to squeeze more performance out of them by optimizing setting that I would have to leave stock on the ATI card, and the price point will end up being even anyway.
What would you advise? Am i just not using the right driver tweaks for ATI? Or are the hardcore tweakers just stuck with Nvidia?
Personally I do not think the "tweaks" are needed at least on ATI. I had been an Nvidia fanboy for years from the Riva 128 all the way up to the 7800(AGP). But when I went to upgrade to a new card I found that Nvidia no longer had anything to offer for the AGP platform.
Long story short I went with the Sapphire 3850(AGP) and have not looked back now on the 7970 and I can tell you that the performance of this card is fantastic. A friend of mine went with the GTX680 and has stutter problems in some games that the ATI card just does not have. Our two rigs are the same minus the graphics cards.
As far as I can tell the ATI drivers do a very good job on there own handling render ahead frames and such that there is no need for tweaking.