NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 2GB Review
When the GTX 680 and its accompanying Kepler architecture first launched, nearly everyone remarked at how NVIDIA was able to differentiate their newest initiative from previous designs. Instead of pushing the thermal and power consumption envelope, Kepler excelled from a performance per watt standpoint. NVIDIA also shocked the market by undercutting their competition’s pricing structure while delivering a higher performing product. With the GTX 670 we’re about to see all of this happen again but this time at a more palatable cost.
Right about now, many of you are probably wondering about just how affordable the GTX 670 really is since you’ve been waiting to see the Kepler architecture hit lower price points. At $399 it certainly isn’t an inexpensive graphics card but it is still much more affordable than its $499 big brother. This also puts the GTX 670 into the same price point as the GTX 580, a card that’s now been officially discontinued.
As you may have expected, the GeForce GTX 670 is the spiritual successor to NVIDIA’s GTX 570, a wildly popular card that found a home in many gamers’ systems. Much like last time around, this card is designed around a higher end core that’s been cut down for an additional emphasis on affordability. However, a lower cost doesn’t necessarily mean cut rate features since the GTX 670 includes technologies like Adaptive V-Sync, GPU Boost, the ability to drive up to four monitors and TXAA, all of which were introduced with the GTX 680.
In order to create the GTX 670, NVIDIA took the GK104 core found within the GTX 680 and eliminated a single SMX module. Not only will this create a relatively high performance product but it also allows NVIDIA to use cores that didn’t make it past the GTX 680’s stringent binning process. While the core functionality of the new SMX / Kepler architecture remains the same, that single disabled SMX contains 192 CUDA cores, 16 texture units and an all-important Polymorph 2.0 geometry processing engine. As such, the GTX 670 has 1344 processing cores alongside 112 TMUs resulting in an approximate 13% reduction in raw graphics processing power when compared against the GTX 680.
Unlike many of NVIDIA’s previous GTX 570 and GTX 470 cards, the GK104’s memory, cache and ROP hierarchy has gone untouched in its transition into the GTX 670. It still features a 256-bit memory interface spread over a quartet of 64-bit controllers, 32 ROPs and 512KB of quick access L2 cache. This should allow for a reduction in potential memory and secondary processing bottlenecks.
The core used in NVIDIA’s GTX 670 still has 3.54 billion transistors like its bigger brother but since some of those are cut off and inactive, it won’t consume nearly as much power as a fully enabled GK104. We should also mention that the last SMX is laser cut so unlocking won’t be possible, nor would you want to without a significant change to the reference GTX 670’s cooling solution. But we’ll get into that later.
While the GTX 670’s core processing stages have gone under the knife, we can see that NVIDIA’s cutting transposed itself into the clock speed realm as well. Both the Base and Boost clocks have been significantly curtailed, likely to further differentiate the GTX 670’s performance from that higher end products. We did see our sample hitting the 1050MHz mark which means there's TDP overhead to spare but it couldn't hit the 1110MHz seen on the GTX 680. However, once again the memory hasn't been touched in the least and it still retains the ultra high frequency of 6Gbps.
Fewer cores, lower clock speeds and, one would assume, reduced core voltages naturally translate into less power consumption and heat production. With a TDP of just 170W, the GTX 670 only requires a good quality 500W PSU and should need less power than a HD 7950. This bodes well for gamers looking for a quick and easy upgrade without having to purchase additional components.
Speaking of AMD’s HD 7950, the latest round price drops have it sitting at….you guessed it: $399. From a specification standpoint alone it should be evident that the GTX 670 will likely compete against the HD 7970 rather than Tahiti Pro so AMD may be staring down the barrel of another price drop right as their last one takes effect. Ironically, it seems like the tables have been turned since not long ago, the situation was reversed with NVIDIA’s frantically scrambling to cut costs while AMD led in the performance per dollar category. Now the folks at NVIDIA have an efficient second generation DX11 architecture which can easily beat the competition without the need for overly high prices.
Overclocking will also be a big part of the GTX 670's life, particularly when it comes to board partner versions. At launch, we'll see higher clock speeds on cards that go for as little as $10 more than than stock examples. Others like EVGA's Superclocked edition demand a $20 premium but will incorporate higher clock speeds and even changes to the reference heatsink designs. In short, we'll likely see a broad array of GTX 670 cards, some of which may compete directly with a GTX 680. We'll have a review of some custom designs in the coming days so stay tuned.
NVIDIA may want to put the final nail in Tahiti’s coffin but they won’t get too far if their latest graphics card hits the same availability bottlenecks as the GTX 680. However, for the time being at least, it looks like the GTX 670 will have a hard launch with plenty of board partner cards in the channel. Whether or not this will be enough to satisfy demand is anyone’s guess.
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