AMD started in 2012 with the release of the Radeon HD 7970, the first member of the Radeon HD 7000 GPU series. With this introduction, the first graphics card manufactured using a 28nm design process was introduced and is the company's most complex GPU to date, with 4,313 million transistors in a 352 mm2 chip.
Following this release, AMD shipped seven additional 28nm HD 7000 cards during the year, priced at $ 100 to $ 400. That's where the HD 7970 is today (almost 30% below its debut price). Most of the AMD lineup has seen similar price cuts to meet stiff competition from Nvidia's 28nm GPU offerings.
Nvidia came to the party a little later, about two months after the HD 7970 debut. The GeForce GTX 680 was cheaper and faster than the HD 7970 at $ 500, forcing AMD to cut prices quickly, even though the GTX 680 was only offered in very limited quantities for many months.
That price war continued when Nvidia dribbled out new GTX 600 parts over the next five months. AMD was dissatisfied with the reactively falling prices and made efforts to improve margins by releasing overclocked versions of its two top models: the HD 7970 GHz Edition and the HD 7950 Boost.
By mid-September things had calmed down and the models had been consolidated. We finally had a better idea of where things would be in terms of price and performance, and neither company seemed to have another major release in the works. And then AMD threw us a curve ball.
The new beta drivers for Catalyst 12.11 provided significant performance gains in many popular games such as Battlefield 3, Borderlands 2, Civilization V, Skyrim, Sleeping Dogs, and StarCraft II. While most titles ran 10% faster depending on the setting, Battlefield 3 was 20 to 30% faster.
Around the same time, Nvidia released its own new beta driver (GeForce 310.33), which made modest gains in several titles for the GTX 680 and GTX 660. This driver has since been replaced by the GeForce 310.61 update, which further boosted performance improvements. We're going to test that today.
With pricing and performance updated across the board, we've decided to re-examine both companies' offerings to see where to spend your hard-earned cash this holiday season and early next year.