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Are We Still Taking These Launches Seriously?

GeForce GTX 670 2 GB Review: Is It Already Time To Forget GTX 680?

After busting “Roger” in the movie Training Day, Denzel exclaims, “The (expletive)’s chess, it ain’t checkers.” Increasingly, product launches (from both graphics vendors) are looking like moves in attrition warfare.

This particular round kicked off when AMD teased the Radeon HD 7900-series ahead of the holiday 2011 buying season, culminating in a preview just before Christmas that has us wait almost three weeks before the first cards started appearing for sale. A handful of very soft launches later, we had Radeon HD 7800- and 7700-series cards to talk about as well.

Nvidia returned fire with its GeForce GTX 680, offering better performance and a lower price than AMD’s flagship. Its supply was so low, however, that online searches continue turning up zero availability, even today. But the move forced AMD to drop the price on its Radeon HD 7970 by £50. Then came the GeForce GTX 690, nearly doubling the 680’s performance at £850 (practically closer to £880); and still no real availability.

Sizing Up GeForce GTX 670

And that takes us to the GeForce GTX 670, which we’re told is launching in greater numbers than GeForce GTX 680, but to higher demand, possibly resulting in a similar outcome.

On paper, the GK104-based card costs £330. And because it’s roughly as fast as a Radeon HD 7970, you’d think that AMD would need to shave yet another £50, at least, from that board’s price. Seems a little unjust though, doesn’t it? Accept that you can’t amply support demand for something, introduce it anyway, and claim a Pyrrhic victory as the competition is forced to cut the prices of more readily-available alternatives again and again.

Sound crazy that we’d decry lower prices on high-end hardware? Sure. But there’s a method to my madness. On one hand, I’d love to hand the GeForce GTX 670 an award for matching the speed of a card that, only a month ago, was priced £100 higher. On the other, persistent availability problems plaguing past products based on the same architecture mean that you, the Tom’s Hardware reader, could float around in a perpetual holding pattern until Nvidia sorts out its supply issues.

Maybe this time will be different and we’ll see GeForce GTX 670s in sufficient quantity to satisfy the folks previously priced out of the ultra-high-end market. If that’s the case, then hell yes. GeForce GTX 670 is a phenomenal little board that blows right past the GeForce GTX 580—a card that was introduced at £400 a year and a half ago. It offers the display connectivity to contend with Eyefinity, one of AMD’s prior differentiators, and its efficiency is currently unmatched. We have every reason to recommend buying a GeForce GTX 670—even as an alternative to the GeForce GTX 680, which is marginally faster, but 25% more expensive.

Cards like EVGA’s GeForce GTX 670 2 GB Superclocked up the ante with higher base clocks, more aggressive average GPU Boost frequencies, and elevated memory data rates—in this case at a £10 premium. That’s still £40 under the cheapest Radeon HD 7970 and just under £100 less than the most affordable GeForce GTX 680.

If Nvidia is able to deliver this time around and GeForce GTX 670s are accessible, then it has a real winner on its hands and AMD will need to adjust its entire line-up to reflect a Radeon HD 7970 priced at £330 or less. Here’s hoping we’ve seen the last of the launch-oriented chess moves, architected to keep enthusiasts from buying competing cards. We just want to play our games, after all.

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