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Old 09-13-10, 12:16 PM   #1
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Review by NV News Technical Writer
John Grabski
Monday, September 13, 2010


DirectX 11 PC gaming truly is starting to go mainstream. A Steam hardware survey showed that as of August 2010, 10.17% of Steam gamers utilized DirectX 11 GPUs. This may not seem like a large percentage, but it does move DX11-class hardware up to second place over DirectX 9 shader model 2.0B and 3.0 (9.88%).

What does this mean to you? Itís highly likely that games that use DirectX 11 graphical features will be released at quickly-increasing frequency over the short-term. Games presently in the supply channel using DirectX 11 effects include:
  • Metro 2033
  • Stalker: Call of Pripyat
  • DIRT 2
  • Battlefield Bad Company 2
  • Aliens vs. Predator
  • The Lord of the Rings Online
  • BattleForge

... While some upcoming games will be taking advantage of this new tech, including Crysis 2, Battlefield 3/1943, Lost Planet 2, Medal of Honor, Civilization 5, Grid 2, HAWX 2, Dirt 3, Dungeons and Dragons Online and more...

Although a large amount of gamers use cutting-edge systems with fairly high-end CPUs as well as GPUs that cost $200 or more, the majority of PC gamers are in a lower system cost bracket. They may have slower CPUs, graphics cards a couple generations old, and lower resolution monitors. It may seem that this demographic could be easily left behind as technology advances.

NVIDIA takes these budget gamers seriously. They understand their slightly lower system specs, and in the current DirectX 11 generation of video cards, NVIDIA has finally released a product that is laser-targeted on the $130 price point, the Geforce GTS 450.

As the name suggests, the GTS 450 is based on the Fermi architecture, but has a reduced feature set which brings unit cost down. With 192 Stream Processors/CUDA cores and a 128-bit memory interface, itís apparent that this new GPU is not designed for use in a high-end gaming rig. On first glance it does look like an awesome choice for PhysX though, and it appears that it may just have enough raw power for some serious modern gaming.

For the GTS 450, NVIDIA has focused on gamers who use lower resolutions, up to and including a resolution of 1680x1050. By targeting these lower resolutions and trying to build a product around that specific reduced requirement, NVIDIA was able to keep their eyes on the prize (price/performance ratio) during development to do their best to give budget gamers an attractive choice at the price point, and one that can fit into their cases while playing nicely with their likely lower-spec power supplies. Furthermore, NVIDIA is targeting HTPC users, as this lower-power Fermi variant has a low TDP while including interesting home-theatre features such as audio-over HDMI (with new Blu-Ray 3D support, as well as Dolby TrueHD and DTS master audio over HDMI support using the new NVIDIA 260 series drivers).

Speaking of price point, here is NVIDIAís current pricing structure for their current 4-series lineup:
  • GeForce GTX 480: $499
  • GeForce GTX 470: $299
  • GeForce GTX 465: $229
  • GeForce GTX 460 1GB: $219
  • GeForce GTX 460 768MB: $169
  • GeForce GTS 450: $129

The $129 GTX 450 will be fitting price-wise in-between the AMD Radeon HD 5750 and HD 5770. As those two cards are no slouches when it comes to performance in new games, itís going to be interesting to see if NVIDIA can keep up with the competition. Below is an updated chart of the specification of updated Fermi family

The technology behind the Fermi architecture has been explained frontwards, backwards, in 3D and with lasers in space to the tune of Tony Bennett songs, so Iím not going to go into too great of detail on the specifics of the GF106 architecture. Suffice to say, on paper itís lower in memory bandwidth with a much smaller die than its older siblings, with a much lower TDP (106W around half of GTX 470). It is interesting to see that the texel fillrate approaches that of the much more expensive GTX 465. Surely when overclocked it can surpass the 465 in that respect. NVIDIA is claiming that it has over 2x the geometry performance (GT/s) of both GTX 250 and 9600GT cards, and that it plays the newest DirectX titles at a faster framerate than the HD 5750, and in some cases the HD 5770.

The NVIDIA Geforce GTS 450 is also an SLI ready graphics card. NVIDIA reports that SLI scaling for this new GPU averages between 90 and 95%, even at a lower resolution like 1680x1050. The GTS 450 also includes support for 3D Vision and NVIDIA Surround gaming. On paper at least, it would seem that two GTS 450s in SLI could provide for quite a robust surround gaming or 3D Vision experience.

This review will focus on two NVIDIA cards - a reference GTS 450 sent to NV News by NVIDIA, and an EVGA GTS 450 FTW edition. The primary focus is gaming performance and the differences/improvements encountered with using elevated clock/memory speeds on the GF106 architecture. We will also touch on synthetic benchmarks, GPU PhysX, and some of the features of NVIDIA's new 260-series graphics driver.

Next: A first look at the GTS 450
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