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Nvidia and AMD bring out their big new guns for the holidays

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The next generation of GPUs aren't that much more powerful, but their efficiency is unprecedented

The last few months of the year are an exciting time whatever sort of electronics you're into. For those of us still clinging on to the glories of PC gaming but feeling the need for more graphics power, both Nvidia and AMD have new graphics cards coming out — looking to address different parts of the market with faster and more efficient silicon. First out of the gate is AMD's Radeon R9 285, a $249 card with a new internal architecture that is nevertheless "functionally speaking ... just an R9 280 with more features," according to AnandTech. Still, the very presence of the new mid-range card is driving down prices of the older model and creating some fine bargains for gamers on a budget. Plus, the new efficiencies found in the Tonga architecture bode well for higher-end GPUs in the near future.

Nvidia is a little further forward on that same path. Having introduced its latest Maxwell graphics architecture with the GeForce GTX 750 Ti in the spring, the company today brings it to the top tier with the launch of the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970. It's become customary for Nvidia to accompany a major GPU release with an assemblage of new features and it's not disappointing this time around, either: the new cards are adding multi-frame antialiasing that's supposed to be much more efficient, along with Dynamic Super Resolution that will render content at 4K and downscale it for a prettier 1080p image. There are also improvements for virtual reality gaming, including the assignment of one or more GPUs to render the visuals for a specific eye. Ultimately, though, it's all about the performance with these cards and The Tech Report's Scott Wasson summarises it succinctly: "If you want the best, the GTX 980 is the card to get." Nvidia seems to have produced an outstanding new chip, which might be even better in the GTX 970, whose performance is described as astonishing for the $339 price.