Radeon HD 7990 Vs. GeForce GTX 690: The Crowd Picks A Winner

Tom's Hardware enlists the help of /r/Bakersfield, plus some of its Facebook community, to test AMD's Radeon HD 7990 with the latest Catalyst 13.8 beta driver against GeForce GTX 690. The all-day event turned up some interesting observations.

Let’s say that you’re buying a new car tomorrow. It’s your first car, and you don’t know what to get. You have one friend who swears by Fords, but only because the company didn’t take any bailout money, you suspect. That sort of fanaticism doesn’t help you—you’re going to actually be driving this thing. You want a recommendation based on performance, mileage, reliability, and not some random factoid that ignites misplaced loyalty.

What’s better, then: one recommendation or several corroborating opinions from folks with no skin in the game?

Yeah, that’s an easy one. But when you hop on a forum and ask, “Which graphics card should I buy, AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 or Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 770?” get ready for an epic war of words, often waged by folks who don’t own either one.

This is why sites like Tom’s Hardware exist. We’re the guys who put in the hours to figure out whether A is faster than B. Almost exclusively, the recommendations we make are based on data generated in the lab. That information is conveyed to you in the form of benchmark results. But when it comes to multi-GPU graphics card configurations…well, we all know how complicated the story can get.

Here I am, talking to the attendees about what we have planned.Here I am, talking to the attendees about what we have planned.

Does Radeon HD 7990 Redeem Itself?

Yesterday, Don Woligroski published his look at AMD’s Catalyst 13.8 beta driver, which adds frame pacing support. The purpose of frame pacing, as many of you already know, is to measure the rate at which frames are being rendered and deliver them in a more consistent cadence, rather than allowing each of the card’s two GPUs to simply output them as quickly as possible.

Don’s piece took our conventional data-driven approach. He used video capture and the FCAT tool set to analyze the output of AMD’s Radeon HD 7990 before and after Catalyst 13.8, compared to Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 690. He measured average frame rate, charted frame rate over time, and frame time latency.

What we hoped to see from AMD’s work was fewer dropped and runt frames. In fact, we were looking for frames to show up on-screen for about as long as the ones before and after them. Using the image below as an example, the red bars are more desirable than the black, despite the fact that both average 24 FPS. For more on this concept of consistent frame delivery, check out this page.

According to the numbers Don generated, Catalyst 13.8 beta does notably reduce the variance between individual frames, indicating that the Radeon HD 7990 performs more consistently with frame pacing enabled. However, Don’s videos also sometimes contradicted the outcome of FCAT, appearing choppy when the analysis tool suggested otherwise.

Tom's Hardware's PC Gaming Challenge: Radeon HD 7990 Vs. GeForce GTX 690

You'll have to excuse the video and audio quality; it's both loud and dark inside the brewery, and I didn't take my wireless mics with me.

Crowdsourcing Benchmark Data

Rather than drawing a definitive conclusion from the FCAT data or videos, we planned an event that’d run concurrent with Don’s testing. This event would bring in volunteers who’d play on two identically-configured platforms for a few minutes per game in popular titles. After switching from A to B, they’d jot down their preference and explain why the system they picked was the favorite. We’d collate the data and look for patterns in the subjective testing compared to Don’s benchmark numbers.

After such an inconclusive report yesterday, could we even hope to definitively answer whether AMD’s Catalyst 13.8 beta driver improves gaming on the Radeon HD 7990? Does it fare any differently against Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 690? That’s exactly what we hoped to figure out.

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    Top Comments
  • geok1ng
    With due respect for TH efforts on the subject, but keeping Metro LL results is a BIAS. How about some piecharts WITHOUT METRO LL?
    21
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    I think the most important part of this article is this little gem:
    "My wife is in the background with our then-two-week-old baby girl"
    Congratulations Chris!!! :-)
    16
  • Other Comments
  • iam2thecrowe
    can you please show cpu useage before and after the driver update, and also show results on a lower end system, like an fx6300 with dual 7850's? That would be interesting.
    9
  • bin1127
    A great article with some very interesting results.

    Chris really knows use funny and imaginative metaphors to start of his articles. Keep up the good work!
    7
  • iam2thecrowe
    can you please show cpu useage before and after the driver update, and also show results on a lower end system, like an fx6300 with dual 7850's? That would be interesting.
    -9
  • merikafyeah
    If I had $700 to spend on graphics, I'd buy the fastest single-gpu card there is:
    The Galaxy GeForce GTX 780 HOF Edition

    http://www.hardocp.com/article/2013/08/14/galaxy_geforce_gtx_780_hof_edition_review/
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DZIFN4M/

    Out of the box it beats the Titan in pretty much everything and when overclocked I'd bet performance would be indistinguishable from a GTX 690. And did I mention single GPU? Frame-pacing = non-issue. And those temps/noise ratios are in a league of their own.
    -20
  • iam2thecrowe
    Anonymous said:
    If I had $700 to spend on graphics, I'd buy the fastest single-gpu card there is:
    The Galaxy GeForce GTX 780 HOF Edition

    http://www.hardocp.com/article/2013/08/14/galaxy_geforce_gtx_780_hof_edition_review/
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DZIFN4M/

    Out of the box it beats the Titan in pretty much everything and when overclocked I'd bet performance would be indistinguishable from a GTX 690. And did I mention single GPU? Frame-pacing = non-issue. And those temps/noise ratios are in a league of their own.


    you are pretty much right on there. people often overlook galaxy cards (i know i do), for obvious reasons (quality/after sales support) . but this card is insane, with extremely good OC capabilities. If i had a choice between this and a 690, i would certainly take this card. Althogh i would take 2 x of the cheapest 770's available before any of the mentioned cards.
    2
  • spentshells
    How was the beer?
    9
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    I think the most important part of this article is this little gem:
    "My wife is in the background with our then-two-week-old baby girl"
    Congratulations Chris!!! :-)
    16
  • geok1ng
    With due respect for TH efforts on the subject, but keeping Metro LL results is a BIAS. How about some piecharts WITHOUT METRO LL?
    21
  • Bill Reinhardt
    You know how wine is matched for optimal flavor compatability with certain foods?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wine_and_food_matching

    You should have done that with beer and video games.
    5
  • Iron_Sean
    Why did you only test Triple monitors with no frame pacing versus single high res monitor with frame pacing?

    You're confounding variables and making your results hard to compare directly: Is the difference 6 MP vs 4 MP, frame pacing, or their crossfire/surround technology? This is an interesting idea, but I'd really like to see it narrowed to a single variable to better compare the technologies.
    -3
  • opmopadop
    "But when you hop on a forum and ask, “Which graphics card should I buy, AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 or Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 770?” get ready for an epic war of words, often waged by folks who don’t own either one."

    More likely folks who have only owned the same brand for the last 10 years.
    8
  • geok1ng
    To reinforce how absurd it is to include metro ll numbers: Nvidia to Bundle Metro: Last Light with GTX 660 and Above
    2
  • ddpruitt
    Sorry Chris but 6 people does not a
    Quote:
    room full of people

    make. This and the results on Bioshock make me think that a bias has been inadvertently been added to your data. Don't know what kind of effect the beer would have though, hopefully beneficial. Unfortunately this type a survey can't be taken too seriously with such a small group. Hopefully Tom's can survey a large group on a number of platforms in the future making the survey useful, even if it means dropping a couple of games.
    6
  • Treynolds416
    Very interesting article, but you guys really need to get a larger sample size. You could make it a week-long event, stagger in participants, and even include many more varieties of systems like dual 7850's, 760's, etc so that more people can play and not waste as much time. This article was pretty much a test run, now you should do the real thing
    7
  • NinjaNerd56
    I just built a new Windows 8 game / test box last weekend.

    Budget dictated a single GPU and I went with nVidia.

    Performs well but I had a massive failure with beta 326 drivers (originally had 320.49 but ran into stuttering issues with Thrustmaster HOTAS stick and Xbox controller - known Win 8 issue) that forced a reload of the OS...no amount of scraping worked.

    Now on 314.22 and all is well. Still glad I went NV...the box runs well with no issues/artifacts in 10 games tested so far.
    -1
  • Computered
    The premise of the testing methodology was good but the execution was flawed. You began the test by using the first example that was NOT a true test and you admitted it. By using the multi-monitor test first you gave the test participants a much higher likely hood of detecting which system used which card. The testing to be accurate should have done the single monitor first to begin opinions on closer to a level playing field.
    5
  • cheesyboy
    Who was the muppet that picked AMD in the Metro: LL multi-monitor test :p
    3
  • flexxar
    When the benchmark numbers support nvidia, the numbers are what matters. When the benchmark numbers support amd, all of a sudden benchmark numbers aren't important anymore. This is the best example of "fuzzy science" that I've ever seen.
    -3
  • 06yfz450ridr
    still buying another 7970 haha
    6
  • Au_equus
    fuzzy science? there are some things that current analytical methods cannot explain, but the reason may become more apparent in the future as new methods come out. Example? Microstuttering. About 2yrs ago, FRAPS was telling us we were getting consistent 60-70 fps but our eyes were telling us something different. then the guy at techpowerup had the notion of evaluating seconds per frame and found the problem. don felt some games were choppy, even with the frame pacing and the FPS/FCAT benchmarks were telling us everything was alright. The purpose of this test, although subjective, was to confirm what don has found and he has achieved that purpose. IMO, a double blind study with at least 10-15 participants would be more definitive, but testing again with a larger group is only going to confirm what don has already found. time and effort would be better suited to find what is going on rather than carrying out subsequent tests or bashing a legit qualitative study.
    5