So this was what Loyd Case was alluding to testing on this week's podcast. AMD has announced the Radeon 7970 GHz Edition video card. The 28nm single-GPU card comes almost exactly six months after the debut of the Radeon 7970, which was AMD's first card from the Southern Islands family of GPUs (dubbed Graphics Core Next). That card was clocked at 925MHz. Since then, AMD has released GHz Edition cards of its 7770 and 7870 video cards, while Nvidia retook the GPU speed crown with its impressive GTX 680. The first 7970 benchmarked competitively to the GTX 670, but was decisively bested by the GTX 680. A dual-GPU 7990 has still yet to be announced, though its specs were first seen back in April.
As far as pure gaming performance goes the 7970GE and the GTX 680 are tied in our benchmarks at the top single monitor resolution of 2560x1600. The 7970GE scores some impressive wins in Crysis and DiRT 3, while NVIDIA manages to hold on to their substantial leads in Battlefield 3 and Portal 2. Elsewhere we see the 7970GE win at some games while the GTX 680 wins at others, and only vary rarely do the two cards actually tie. Ultimately this is very much a repeat of what we saw with the GTX 670 versus the 7970, and the 6970 versus the GTX 570, which is to say that the 7970GE and GTX 680 are tied on average but are anything but equal.
Running games at a high native resolution like 2560x1600 or with multiple monitors are really the only situations you'd need either a 7970 GHz Edition or GTX 680; our recommendation has always been to buy the video card that best suits the resolution/monitor that you're playing games at. Starcraft is just as playable at 60fps as it is at 120fps--the beefier cards just draw a lot more power at load and are decidedly louder. Loyd saw the 7970 GHz Edition consume 384 watts when running benchmarks. Those extra watt-hours add up in the long run.
AMD says the 7970 GHz Edition will be available at online retailers next week, with a suggested price of $500.