Charted: 5 Years of GeForce Graphics

We often place most of our focus on GPUs at launch and then they are eventually phased once they are replaced with a newer model, usually a year or so later. Rarely do we include more than two generations in our GPU reviews and certainly never more than three.

This article came about because we were interested in comparing five years worth of Nvidia flagship GPUs in modern games using the latest drivers.

The graph below shows the total number of frames per second that each GPU delivered in the nine games we tested during this article (excluding The Crew because of its 60fps cap). Charting the results from all three resolutions offers a clear idea of the performance difference between each generation as they exist today.

Please note that the discussion and percentages below are based on the individual game results and not the totals shown in the graph above.

When we first tested the GTX 580 in 2010 we found it to be 25% faster than the GTX 480 in our 13-game average – little has changed here. Jumping from the GTX 480 to the GTX 580 is a minor affair with the latter being 16% faster at 1080p and 20% faster at 2560x1600.

Nvidia stepped things up with the GTX 680 but when we reviewed it for the first time we tested it against competing AMD parts instead of the GTX 580. Doing the math now, we can see that in the 14 games we tested back then, the GTX 680 was ~31% faster than the GTX 580 at 2560x1600. Today, the GTX 680 leads the GTX 580 by a healthy 41% at 1080p and a hardy 56% at 2560x1600. In other words, the GTX 680 has aged more gracefully than the GTX 580, though that was to be expected, especially with its larger memory buffer.

The percentages are not as extreme, but the gap between the GTX 680 and the GTX 780 is similar to the one between the GTX 580 and GTX 680. The GTX 780 is 27% faster at 1080p and 31% faster at 2560x1600. When we first reviewed the GTX 780 it was only 24% faster than the GTX 680 at 2560x1600.

Unsurprisingly, the GTX 780 Ti is just 13% faster than the GTX 780 at both 1080p and 2560x1600, while the GTX 980 offers a similar leap over the GTX 780 Ti with 15% more performance at 1080p and 12% at 2560x1600, making the true generational jump from 780 to the 980 series.