ATI leads Nvidia in GPU price/performance across the board

UPDATE 24 August 2006 10:15 am ET

Markham (Ontario) - In the first test results compiled using Tom's Hardware Guide tests of relative graphics card performance, and average sale prices sampled yesterday by PriceGrabber, ATI-brand graphics cards led Nvidia across the board, with a few noteworthy exceptions. In our new projected price/performance curve for GPUs, ATI takes the lead in both the value and premium segments.

Using the same premise as our tests for dual-core CPU price performance in past weeks, we projected exponential price/performance best-fit curves for all GPUs whose cards Tom's Hardware Guide has tested over the past two years, for both Nvidia and ATI brands. TG Daily then averaged the prices for multiple models of graphics cards using these same GPUs, from manufacturers including Asus, BFG, XFX, PNY, and MSI. Click the miniature below for the complete chart.

CORRECTION: The chart above now contains a correction from yesterday concerning the Nvidia 7800 GT, which we received many letters about yesterday evening and this morning. Benchmark data we used for our initial projection did not correlate properly, especially with real-world observation. So we re-assessed the figure using a different set of Tom's Hardware Guide data. As a number of you had noted, it simply didn't make sense that the GeForce 7800 GT would outperform the GeForce 7800 GTX Extreme. We'll chalk that initial figure as an anomaly. Also, one of our readers did some research on his own, and wrote us to say he believed the PriceGrabber data for the 7800 GT's price was inaccurate, believing PriceGrabber erroneously included a dual-card package in its price estimates, therefore inflating the price. As a backup, we did what we've done in the past with CPU performance charts when PriceGrabber data was unavailable: We sampled vendors manually from Froogle, this time making sure they listed only single-card 256 MB configurations. Indeed, we noted a price difference of about $75 in the average. Hopefully, the 7800 GT now rests in a more comfortable position on the chart. But as you'll note, any change to our final conclusions about price/performance curves is almost undetectable.

For the new performance index, we chose a 128 MB Nvidia GeForce 5900 to serve as the "1.0" factor. So for example, a GeForce 7950 GX2 with an index score of 17.97 performs almost 18 times better than the 5900, which launched in mid-2003. Although the 7950 GX2 has the best overall performance score, ATI's Radeon X1900 XTX sells for $370.75, which is 26.5% less than what we project a hypothetical Nvidia card would sell for ($504.58) if Nvidia were to make one whose performance score was also 15.23. The 7950 GX2 sells for $575.14 on average.

Despite that, Nvidia's 256 MB GeForce 7900 GT may be the price/performance leader among all graphics cards currently available, with an index score of 15.10 and an average price of $287.69.

For more on Wednesday's price/performance test results, click here...