NVIDIA GTX 760 2GB Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: June 24, 2013
Product Name: GTX 760
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After NVIDIA’s recent announcements targeting the enthusiast market with the GTX TITAN, GTX 780 and GTX 770, it was only a matter of time until their refresh initiative hit lower prices. The GTX 760 factors into this equation perfectly by providing a graphics card that can play at high resolutions and detail settings while targeting one of the market’s most popular segments.

While the main goal of the GTX 760 is to supplant the well-received GTX 660 Ti in NVIDIA’s lineup, there is also some heady competition sitting within its $250 price point. AMD’s HD 7950 Boost which can be found for as little as $279 is the most obvious threat since it features an excellent price / performance ratio and includes an over-the-top Never Settle game bundle. Those free games (Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon, Tomb Raider, BioShock Infinite and Crysis 3) present a value added proposition that NVIDIA has yet to match even though AMD’s card is a least $30 more than the GTX 760. They’re also included with the $269 non-Boost HD 7950 but that card is becoming less of a factor in today’s environment since higher clocked versions are available for about the same cost.

AMD’s cards may very well provide some interesting benchmark scores but the GTX 760’s real competition may actually come from within NVIDIA’s own ranks. With its discontinuation, the GTX 670’s price hasn’t fallen by all that much (or at least not as much as some had hoped) yet retailers have begun discounting them nonetheless. You can currently find some custom cooled versions for just $310 after various rebates so it should be interesting to see how the GTX 760 can tackle this situation.

Like the GTX 770, the GTX 760 uses NVIDIA’s GK104 core, although in a largely cut-down form which actually features less SMX modules than a GTX 660 Ti. At first this may seem like an odd choice since a refresh should technically offer more cores than its predecessor provided the same architecture is used. That didn’t happen since NVIDIA needed to keep some daylight between the GTX 760 and GTX 770’s performance brackets while also ensuring they could clear out existing stocks of GTX 600-series parts.

With this delicate balancing act in place, NVIDIA’s newest card may not seem all that well positioned to replace the GTX 660 Ti, let alone compete against AMD’s price / performance sweetheart, the HD 7950 Boost. However, the GTX 760’s performance has been enhanced through the use of some minor tweaks, giving it a leg up over its predecessors.

With less CUDA cores and texture units than a GTX 660 Ti, NVIDIA had to find other areas where the GK104’s performance could be improved. Two fewer enabled SMX modules led to the possibility of higher clock speeds which have been granted through the use of GPU Boost 2.0. By finding a balance between voltage, temperatures and power consumption, NVIDIA was to achieve Base and Boost clocks with substantial increases over the GTX 660 Ti. While some may think an average Boost clock increase of only 53Hz isn’t all that much, the GTX 760 should hit those levels on a more consistent basis, providing more performance than the paper specifications would have you believe.

While the number of physical cores hasn’t increased, there has been some secondary enhancements going on behind the scenes as well. Gone is the 192-bit memory interface from previous cards and in its place is a 256-bit bus which uses a quartet of 64-bit controllers, increasing bandwidth without having to use the expensive 7 Gbps GDDR5 modules found on the GTX 770. Alongside these four controllers is a fully-enabled set of ROPs, ensuring NVIDIA’s new card won’t be limited in this regard. With that being said, the GTX 760 may very well react negatively in scenarios which but the onus on texture performance.

Due to NVIDIA’s careful architectural massaging, the GTX 760 is also relatively efficient. It only produces about 20W more heat and requires approximately 25W more input power than a GTX 660 Ti but performance should be nearly on par with a GTX 670.

One interesting aspect of this launch is the approach NVIDIA is taking with the rest of their lineup. It looks like the GTX 760 will be the last 700-series part released for the foreseeable future with the GTX 660 and lower-end cards remaining in place. Unfortunately, this will likely lead to a rather substantial performance gap in between some segments but NVIDIA feels their current entry and mid-level products are well placed to deal with AMD’s competing solutions.

NVIDIA may have sent us reference cards to review but much like with the GTX 770, the GTX 760 is a “virtual” card. This means it won’t have a reference version per se and board partners are being given freedom to design their own cards. The GTX 760 does however boast a layout very similar to that of a GTX 660 Ti, with a short PCB and a pair of 6-pin power connectors.

At first glance the latest addition to NVIDIA’s lineup looks like yet another slam-dunk for anyone looking at an inexpensive sub-$299 gaming GPU. Even with this competition, AMD seems reluctant to substantially lower their prices, choosing to focus on enhancing their game offerings instead. Whether or not that will carry on into the GTX 760’s segment remains to be seen but NVIDIA does seem to have a strong hand in play here.

Unfortunately, as you read this review, you’ll notice a lack of GTX 660 Ti results. This is due to technical problems which prevented us from using our usual GTX 660 Ti sample.

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