Which Card Is The Better Buy?
Time for a little performance index. We’re going to use 2560x1600 without anti-aliasing enabled here, since the Radeon HD 5870s specifically have issues in Crysis and Metro 2033 at that resolution. The following chart includes the scores for each card in our six tested games.
Now, the average frame rate across the six games at 2560x1600 without AA:
Next up, the cost for a pair of GeForce GTX 480s and Radeon HD 5870s. These were collected from Newegg on April 29th, 2010. Each GeForce GTX 480 was priced at $509, while each Radeon HD 5870 was priced at $399. So, we know the GeForce GTX 480s are expensive, but they’re also faster.
And our final piece of data: dollars per average frame per second. Because SLI is so much more effective than CrossFire, two GeForce GTX 480s in SLI end up costing less per FPS than a pair of Radeon HD 5870s in CrossFire, on average.
Now, this doesn’t tell the whole tale, of course. First, it only applies to dual-card configurations. It’s the impressive scaling of SLI that turns the tide. If you’re looking at one GeForce GTX 480 against a Radeon HD 5870, AMD delivers better value ($8.60/average FPS versus the GeForce GTX 480’s $10.18/average FPS).
Remember also that this represents a snapshot in time: the lowest prices on two cards, tested across six games, and indexed using one resolution. More performance data means more clarity, and there’s almost no limit to the depth you can go. Nevertheless, it’s fairly amazing that these multi-card configurations fall as close to each other as they do. That's why I've included these charts. The "value" comparison isn't the blowout I was expecting, dealing with $500+ cards.
When it comes to high-performance gaming, choosing between a pair of GeForce GTX 480s or Radeon HD 5870s might not be as easy as you previously thought, if you’re taking dollars over average performance into account.