NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB Review
The sub-$200 graphics card market may be popular with many budget conscious gamers but until today, NVIDIA’s Kepler architecture has been conspicuous by its absence from this segment. With a price tag of $229, the GTX 660 2GB did come close but the new GTX 650 Ti aims to rectify this situation with a card that’s supposed to offer a perfect upgrade path for anyone still hanging on to a 9600 GT or 9800 GT.
Naturally, being a lower-end card means the GTX 650 Ti’s goals are value focused rather than concentrated on high framerates in the upper resolutions. To drive this point home a price of $149 puts it in reach of nearly everyone that’s looking to upgrade their graphics card. NVIDIA will also be offering (for a limited time of course) a free copy of Assassin’s Creed 3 with this card, adding a $50 value on top of an already low initial cost. But don’t expect the GTX 650 Ti to put much pressure upon AMD’s product stack since they don’t currently have any cards within close proximity. After a number of judicious price cuts, the HD 7770 GHz Edition is currently going for just $130 (or less in some cases) while the more powerful HD 7850 1GB can currently be found for about $180 before rebates. If anything, it is the latter which will likely cause the GTX 650 Ti and NVIDIA some headaches.
Like the GTX 660 2GB, NVIDIA’s GTX 650 Ti uses the GK 106 core rather than the GTX 650’s entry level GK 107. The only real difference between the GTX 660 and GTX 650 Ti is the amount of cutting which has gone into the architecture this time around. Instead of using five SMX clusters, three ROP partitions and a trio of 64-bit memory controllers, there is a quartet of SMXs, two ROPs partitions and two memory controllers. This gives a GTX 650 Ti access to four SMX units that have been paired up with two GPCs (or three depending upon which SMX has been cut), 768 cores, 64 texture units, 16 ROPs and a 128-bit wide GDDR5 memory bus. Compared to higher end cards, these are middling specifications but for the GTX 650 Ti’s intended niche, they may just be enough.
The GTX 650 Ti drops right into NVIDIA’s lineup between the GTX 660 and the decidedly lower end GTX 650. It is considered a direct replacement for the GTX 550 Ti which –when it was introduced some 19 months ago- also carried a price of $149 and continued to be NVIDIA’s go-to solution in the budget gaming market until today. As you may have already guessed, the GTX 550 Ti was getting long in the tooth and it needed replacement as soon as possible.
While it may be based off of a well heeled GK106 core, on paper at least, this new GTX 650 Ti does seem to come up short in a number of areas. The paltry 84GB/s of memory bandwidth is even less than what was available on the GXT 550 Ti but due to architectural differences between Kepler and Fermi, don’t expect this to make an overly large impact upon performance. However, unlike other members of the Kepler family NVIDIA’s newest card lacks GeForce Boost so it won’t increase clock speeds in situations where TDP overhead allows for higher performance. SLI has also been tossed out and unlike GPU Boost; dual card operation will be missed in a big way from a $150 GPU.
With all of the changes and a mere 1GB of GDDR5 operating at 5.4Gbps, NVIDIA has been able to cut power consumption and increase performance per watt in a big way. The GTX 550 Ti’s TDP may have only been about 116W but the GTX 650 Ti’s 110W is tied at the hip to better in-game framerates.
NVIDIA may have moved to replace a lagging card within their lineup but the GTX 650 Ti’s release does bring a pressing need into the spotlight: they still lack a bonafide challenger somewhere between the $229 and $149 price points. As it stands, the newest member of the GeForce fills a gap rather than going toe to toe against the competition. This means AMD’s HD 7850 2GB and 1GB SKUs will continue to dominate their segment regardless of the GTX 560 Ti’s enduring presence.
NVIDIA is relying upon their board partners to take up some of the slack within the lineup by releasing overclocked products that act as a bridge between product segments. In this case, EVGA is introducing a GTX 650 Ti SSC (or Super Superclocked) version which boasts a significantly higher core clock but as with so many other custom SKUs, it lacks any memory speed increases. At only $10 more than NVIDIA’s reference version, we see the most potential buyers gravitating towards this option. EVGA will also be introducing 2GB versions of their GTX 650 Ti lineup but due to the limited amount of core graphics horsepower, we double the additional GDDR5 allotment will accomplish much.
The $149 market may not be as cluttered as higher price ranges but NVIDIA still has their work cut out for them. Not only does the HD 7850 come dangerously close from a pricing perspective but after the lackluster GTX 550 Ti’s launch, NVIDIA is due for some retribution in the lower end market.
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