NVIDIA has been under a pretty tight strain called ATI for half a year now. But somewhere down the line they probably stated: look, this is what we have and let's try and optimize that a little. They surely did. We took six Top 10 games released over the past few weeks and had a peek at performance throughout the scope of all popular resolutions with stringent yet commonly used high image quality settings.
The results speak for themselves, out of the 6 titles that we have shown you today, NVIDIA was able to pull ahead on the vast majority with it's GTX 260 core 216 (with regular clock frequencies). It's very typical for NVIDIA as usually, after half a year when you compare the numbers among driver releases, they roughly tweak out another 10% maybe 15% performance.
If you will allow me to be blunt for a second here: when we tally it up, that's 4 out of 6 wins for NVIDIA with the GeForce GTX 260 core 216. So this round the win goes to team green.
Realistically, things are not as black and white as that, let's put things in perspective. These wins are based on fairly small differences with exceptions here and there. Fact is, the new Catalyst 8.11 drivers pushed forward overall performance in titles such as Far Cry 2 and Brothers in Arms as well. They just don't call it Big Bang. So, fact is that both cards offer a tremendous amount of performance and value for money.
In the end your choice should be based more on bundle, and your personal preference towards ATI or NVIDIA. Both have an excellent product ready and waiting for you in the shops. The Christmas season is getting close and if you are willing to pay a little more than the average amount of money on a graphics card... these two products would be my personal choice as they'll offer you fantastic value for money and an excellent gaming experience. There's not a game you could not enjoy with either one of these cards. NVIDIA does have a few tricks up their sleeves though in the form of PhysX, and with the new driver update supporting multi-monitor SLI gaming.
Also look around carefully and keep in mind that some board partners will get you that extra value. See, if you were planning to purchase BIA Hell's Highway and Far Cry 2 for Christmas... then you should be on the lookout for something with a bundle, as we presented today from Point of View, they include these two full games for free with the graphics card, and that's 100 bucks saved that you'd normally need to spend in the stores.
At the moment of writing the GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 versions are dropping in price, you can purchase them for roughly 269 EUR / 299 USD. The Radeon HD 4870 1024 MB will cost you roughly 289 EUR / 309 USD. Pretty close but at the moment the GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 is actually slightly cheaper.
The graphics card market is never dull folks, no Sir.
* Update 19-Nov - Small typo in the system hardware specs, we used the 180.47 NVIDIA GeForce driver.