When it comes to buying a GPU there are lots of people that will tell you AMD or NVIDIA is better for “x” reasons, and some of those arguments may be right. However, for the most part there is only a slight difference when it comes to non-reference cards, or cards built outside of AMD or NVIDIA but still on those architectures. That’s why when comparing AMD and NVIDIA’s latest flagship cards we’ll stick with the reference versions.
Solid card: the Radeon R9 290X
First up let’s talk about my personal favorite GPU maker: AMD. AMD’s latest and greatest card, the R9 290X, is a direct response to NVIDIA’s Dominant GTX 780. With this card AMD gave us the best of both worlds: an inexpensive graphics card and one that is on-par, if not better than, the GTX 780. As Anandtech.com pointed out in their review of the 290x, when “placed against NVIDIA’s lineup the primary competition for 290X will be the $650 GeForce GTX 780, a card that the 290X can consistently beat.” This is probably due to the higher boost clock of the 290x and the use of more VRAM.
When this card fist hit the market it was priced very competitively at $550 dollars, forcing NVIDIA to react by dropping the GTX 780 to $500. At the time of writing, the current price for a reference R9 290X on Newegg.com is $700 dollars. There are many reasons for this price jump, be it the rising popularity of Bitcoin mining or just a supply issue and flash memory prices shooting up, but the fact is that this card should no longer be considered competitive in any sense of the word. With the R9 290 non-X version costing as low as $580 on Newegg.com and it being only slightly less powerful, there is no real good reason you should pick up the X version unless money just isn’t a thing to you.
Even with the R9 290X jumping in price, AMD is still the place to go when you want the best bang for your buck in GPUs. The R9 290 and 290X are the only new cards AMD has turned out so far with the new branding system, so all the cards below them in the 200 series are just re-branded cards from the HD 7000 series. Therefore, those cards will be much cheaper, especially if you find them still named HD 7xxx.
Rising star: the GeForce GTX 780 Ti
Now it’s the green team’s turn, and boy did NVIDIA come back swinging! With the release of the 290X from AMD, all eyes were on NVIDIA to see how they could possibly combat such a promising card. Lots of people, including myself, were betting on them just lowering the price of the GTX 780 to be more competitive.
Then it happened: not only did they lower the price, but they also gave us a new card that fully unlocked the potential of the GK110 GPUs and put any notion of AMD being on top to rest. This new card is known as the GeForce GTX 780 Ti and it is a monster of a card. Not only is it the fastest single GPU card you can buy, but it is also the same price as the R9 290X.
This card screams performance, and that is shown off by what it is capable of in HD and higher-than-HD gaming. For gamers who are playing at 1080p or 2.5k, the 780 Ti really shows off its strength. This was shown by Anandtech and Eurogamer, playing Bioshock Infinite at 111 fps and 73 fps, respectively, on ultra settings. At the same pace the R9 290X plays Bioshock Infinite at 95fps at 1080p and 62fps at 2.5k. The 780 Ti can also play games pretty well at 4k, averaging around 36 fps on ultra settings.
Not only is the pricing the same for the two cards, with the GTX 780 Ti being significantly ahead of its competition, but according to an AnandTech review, NVIDIA’s flagship also manages to use less power and produces less heat. With the R9 290X using 375 watts under load in Crisis 3 and running at 94 C, it is just outpaced by the 780 Ti using 372 watts under load and running at 83 C. So the GeForce GTX 780 Ti runs cooler, makes less noise, uses less power, costs the same, and comes with all of NVIDIA’s fancy features like the GeForce experience, game streaming to SHIELD, and shadow play for you twitch streamers.
With all of this said and the GPU wars over for now, I’m still a big AMD fan and really love what they are trying to do with Mantle and cheaper GPUs. However, I have recently upgraded my PC and have decided to switch to the green team for the simple fact that the GTX 780 Ti is the fastest single GPU card you can buy, and I love using the SHIELD to play my PC games while laying in bed. My computer uses less power and produces less heat, the GeForce experience optimizes all of my games for me, and I can even share my crazy moments with my friends through shadow play if I want.
Here is a useful link to a benchmarking website that not only shows you how the various cards perform under their benchmark but also the price-to-performance ratios for each GPU. Here are some additional links to AnandTech’s reviews of the R9 290x and the GTX 780 Ti.