My feelings are a little bit mixed with what's going on here today with the HD 7950 and its new "Boost" function. The problem is clearly caused by AMD, though, who continue to offer the original HD 7970. If the original HD 7970 was pulled from the market and replaced with the new GHz Edition model that we saw launch recently, we'd have a different story to tell you here today.
The problem is AMD can't just turn around and offer a "GHz Edition" of the HD 7950 because it would line up with the HD 7970 or even come out slightly ahead. At the same time the video card would have to be cheaper and AMD of course couldn't offer it cheaper than the HD 7970 when its performance would be greater. The model would essentially make the HD 7970 redundant. So, instead, AMD have implemented these new algorithms to create the "Boost" function which at times sees performance that is ahead of the HD 7970 and at times fall behind it a little. You can't say this new video card performs like a HD 7970, because it doesn't all of the time.
The issue now is that AMD have four models in the HD 7900 series that range between $319.99 and $459.99, and this is simply too many models for this price bracket. This is taking into consideration the new price drop Sapphire has told us about, and that this new video card will hit at $329.99. This is compared to the original HD 7950 at Newegg that is currently listed $319.99 in its absolute cheapest form, this is great news. Of course the price drop will bring those reference based video cards down as well over time.
MSI's GTX 660 Ti Power Edition which is the GTX 660 Ti we chose to use today as it also carries an out of the box OC comes in at $299.99 after rebate. So the question is what is the better buy? Is it worth spending the extra $30 on the Sapphire Boost video card we looked at today? It's actually really difficult to say as the price gap isn't huge and the performance of both video cards is quite similar. At times you see one take a clear win, though, while at other times you see the other card come out ahead. The Sapphire option is a little quieter and it also runs slightly cooler.
If you're gaming at a higher resolution I'd suggest the Sapphire video card because we see AMD perform better in those higher resolution situations. I think the other important factor is that we've got 3GB of GDDR5 here verse only 2GB. It's not going to be hard to convince someone to choose the new HD 7950 w/ Boost over the GTX 660 Ti.
The ultimate issue is that you're not left with the same impact that was present when we looked at the GTX 660 Ti due to the fact that AMD have squeezed a new model in what is quite a small gap; that being between the original versions of both the HD 7950 and HD 7970. With all the price drops from AMD recently, though, and the new models that we've seen, the whole AMD situation has become a bit confusing for consumers.
Sapphire has done a wonderful job of making a great video card with what AMD has given them. AMD has also given them a pretty good base to work with and the more aggressive pricing structure is great. This whole "Boost" thing just seems like a bit of marketing talk and to be completely honest, that's putting it nicely. What AMD should've done is discontinued the HD 7950 and HD 7970 and replaced them with GHz Edition variants that come in at a slightly stronger price point than the original models. We're not stupid nor naive to the way business works, though, and we know that it's not an option as AMD partners and stores would of course still have surplus stock of what are still very current models.
AMD clearly got a shock with the GTX 600 series and I don't think it came from the performance side of things. I think that the numbers we see from the GTX 600 series are what AMD expected they would be. Where the shock came from was the price point that NVIDIA chose to attack at. This in turn has caused them to panic a bit and we don't seem to have any clear direction from AMD at the moment, as they just throw price drops and new models at the situation. We're trying to make the best sense of it all we can for you.