The perpetual war for supremacy between AMD and Nvidia constantly leaves enthusiasts dodging shrapnel: When you want the best video card you can afford, why buy one now instead of waiting for the better one the competing chipset designer will undoubtedly release in a few months? This leaves reviewers in a tough spot, too, as we're constantly proclaiming that nearly every new card is the fastest ever. But because you can only live in the world you live in, we're obliged to go there. So, here goes once again: The just-released AMD Radeon HD 7970 ($549 list) is the latest fastest and most feature-rich single-GPU card ever, surpassing our previous Editors' Choice winner, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 580.
Though we have little doubt that Nvidia will yank back that title with its next generation of cards, the 7970 is an impressive achievement for the moment. (It's rumored to become widely available by early January of 2012.) The inaugural member of the Southern Islands family, it utilizes a fresh architecture AMD refers to as "Graphics Core Next." Based on a new 28nm process technology and utilizing more than 4.3 billion transistors, Graphics Core Next uses a revised instruction set architecture, gives each compute unit the ability to simultaneously execute instructions from multiple kernels, and delivers an increased number of instructions per clock cycle per square millimeter of GPU space. The result, so AMD claims, is "designed for high utilization, high throughput, and multitasking."
Ivy Bridge is on its way. For the uninformed, that's the codename of the latest iteration of Intel processors, a die-shrink of the company's current Sandy Bridge lineup that blends higher performance – including new integrated graphics support for DirectX 11 – with lower power use. And did we say higher performance? Intel's previously hinted that Ivy Bridge's graphical prowess could be up to 60 percent higher than the chips' sandy predecessors.
AnandTech got its hands on a leaked roadmap of all the Ivy Bridge chips that are expected to hit in 2012 – April, say the current predictions – and the listed, mainstream processors number eight in total. Six quad-core, i5-branded chips can be found in the lineup, ranging from the 3.0-GHz i5-3330 on the lowest end all the way up to the 3.4-GHz i5-3570K on the highest. All of the i5 chips, save for the i5-3330, can Turbo Boost their clock speeds up by 0.4 GHz when necessary, whereas the i5-3330 can only jump from 3.0 GHz to 3.2 GHz.
The only unlocked processor in the Ivy Bridge i5 lineup is the aforementioned i5-3570K, meaning that aspiring overclockers will have to settle for fiddling around with the processor's Base Clock instead of hacking away at the chip's multiplier. And none of the i5-series chips support Intel's hyperthreading, a split of the chip's four physical cores into eight virtual cores within the operating system.