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NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450 Affordable DX11 GPU
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Date: Sep 13, 2010
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications
NVIDIA may have had to navigate a tumultuous path on their way to releasing the company’s first DirectX 11 desktop GPU, the GF100-based GeForce GTX 480, though they seem to be firing on all cylinders at this point. In the last 5 or so months since the GeForce GTX 480 arrived, NVIDIA has released—or will imminently release—a slew of other new DX11-class GPUs, targeted at markets ranging from low-power thin-and-light notebooks to mid-range desktop gaming systems. And the GTX 480 remains the company’s flagship desktop product. NVIDIA has also optimized their software and drivers to wring significantly more performance from their newest GPUs. Things seem to be looking up.

The most recent NVIDIA GPU released for the desktop market, the GeForce GTX 460, proved to be an excellent performer for the money. In the conclusion of our GTX 460 coverage, we stated, “The GeForce GTX 460 is simply one of the most appealing DirectX 11-class graphics cards out there. They're affordably priced, perform very well, they're a reasonable size and quiet”. Since the GeForce GTX 460 hit the scene a couple of months ago, prices on the cards have dropped somewhat, making them even more attractive. Even with the success of the GTX 460 though, NVIDIA still doesn’t have a sub-$180 DX11 graphics card for the desktop market, and it’s at the more affordable price points that the vast majority of graphics cards are sold.

NVIDIA plans to change that today with the release of the new GeForce GTS 450. As the GTS moniker denotes, the GeForce GTS 450 is targeted at the mainstream market. And with a $129 (give or take) price tag it is certainly more affordable than any other DX11-class GPU. Whether or not it’s worth the asking price remains to be seen, however. So let’s dig in and find out what the new GeForce GTS 450 is made of and if it deserves a place in your next system.


Asus and EVGA Overclocked GeForce GTS 450 Cards

NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450
Specifications & Features



  
The NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450 GPU, Front and Back


Before we show you the actual cards, let’s take a look at the GPU powering the GeForce GTS 450. The chip at the heart of these new cards is codenamed the GF106. It is a new GPU, although it is based on NVIDIA’s Fermi architecture, like the other members of the GeForce GTX/GTS/GT 400 series. The chip is comprised of 1.17 billion transistors and it is manufactured using TSMC’s 40nm process.

Within the chip, as it is configured on the GeForce GTS 450, there is a single Graphics Processing Cluster, with 4 Streaming Multiprocessor segments consisting of 48 CUDA cores.  There are 192 CUDA cores in total. There are also 32 texture units and 16 ROPs. GeForce GTS 450 cards also feature a 128-bit memory interface. We should point out, however, that the GF106, as it is implemented on the GeForce GTS 450, isn’t fully functional.

The GF106 diagram above depicts the full GF106 chip architecture that includes one GPC, four SMs, three ROP partitions, and three 64-bit memory interfaces. The GTS 450 GPU is a version of the GF106 chip, but with only two ROP partitions and two memory interface partitions enabled.

NVIDIA goes on to explain, “Our goal with the retail version of GTS 450 is to design the best price/performance product at an aggressive MSRP while offering the highly valued 1GB memory size. The 128-bit memory configuration provides the best price/performance for these design goals.”

Now let's look at the hardware side of things.

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EVGA and Asus GTS 450 Cards

NVIDIA’s reference specifications call for a 783MHz GPU clock, with 1566MHz CUDA cores, and 902MHz GDDR5 memory (3608MHz effective data rate). With those frequencies, stock GeFore GTS 450 cards offer 57.7GB/s of memory bandwidth with a 25.1GigaTexel/s textured fillrate. As is typically the case with mainstream NVIDIA GPU’s, however, board partners will be releasing cards clocked somewhat higher than the reference specifications recommend.

We got our hands on two cards for the purpose of this launch article, the EVGA GeForce GTS 450 FTW Edition and the Asus EN450GTS TOP.

  

  
EVGA GeForce GTS 450 FTW

The EVGA GeForce GTS 450 FTW Edition looks just like NVIDIA’s reference design, save the custom decals in its fan shroud and fan. EVGA’s offering is clocked much higher though. The card you see pictured here features a 920MHz core GPU clock, with 1840MHz CUDA cores, and 1025MHz (4100MHz effective) memory, which offers up 65.6GB/s of peak bandwidth.

Thy physical layout and EVGA’s card is identical to NVIDIA’s reference cards, however. It features a single, center-mounted fan on its dual-slot cooler and its output configuration consists of dual, dual-link DVI outputs and a single mini-HDMI output. The card requires only a single PCI Express 6-pin supplemental power connector.

 

  

  
Asus ENGTS450TOP

Asus’ ENGTS450 TOP sports a somewhat higher GPU clock—925MHz / 1850MHz to be exact—but its memory is clocked just a bit lower at 1000MHz (4000MHz effective). Asus does, however, equip their card with a custom cooler with heavy-duty copper heatpipes that make direct contact with the GPU. Asus calls the feature DirectCU. The cooler did a great job of keeping the ENGTS450 TOP running cool and it was also nice and quiet. Although, the reference cards were quiet too. In fact, after hours of benchmarks, the fans never spun up to the point where they were audible over other system components and the cards were still cool enough to touch and handle.

Asus has also tweaked the output configuration on the EN450GTS TOP. As you can see, the card has a single HDMI connector alongside VGA and DVI outputs.

  

 

Each of the retail cards we tested came with similar bundles. The cards included basic user’s manuals, driver discs, and 6-pin PCI Express power adapters. EVGA also throws in a DVI-to-VGA adapter, but that’s not needed with the Asus card because it has a VGA output.

Both companies also include their own proprietary tweaking and overclocking utilities with their cards.

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Test System and Unigine Heaven v2.1

 

How We Configured Our Test Systems: We tested the graphics cards in this article on a Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5 motherboard powered by a Core i7 965 quad-core processor and 6GB of OCZ DDR3-1333 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the system BIOS and set all values to their "optimized" or "high performance" default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 was installed. When the installation was complete we fully updated the OS and installed the latest hotfixes, along with the necessary drivers and applications.

HotHardware's Test Systems
Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Core i7 965 (3.2GHz)

Gigabyte EX58-UD5 (X58 Express)

Radeon HD 5550
Radeon HD 5570
Radeon HD 5770
GeForce GTX 460
GeForce GTS 450
EVGA GeForce GTS 450 FTW
Asus EN450GTS TOP

6GB OCZ DDR3-1333
Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectX June 2010 Redist
ATI Catalyst v10.7 / 10.8a
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers 260.520

Benchmarks Used:

Unigine Heaven v2.1
3DMark Vantage v1.0.1
H.A.W.X.
FarCry 2
Just Cause 2
Alien vs. Predator
Left 4 Dead 2*
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars v1.5*

* - Custom benchmark

Unigine Heaven v2.1 Benchmark
Synthetic DirectX 11 Gaming


Unigine Heaven

The Unigine Heaven Benchmark v2.0 is built around the Unigine game engine. Unigine is a cross-platform real-time 3D engine, with support for DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL. The Heaven benchmark--when run in DX11 mode--also makes comprehensive use of tessellation technology and advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion), and it also features volumetric cumulonimbus clouds generated by a physically accurate algorithm and a dynamic sky with light scattering. Due to the fact that we tested Heaven in DX11 mode, no NVIDIA GT200 series cards are represented in the graph below.

We have tested a reference GeForce GTS 450 alongside both of the overclocked retail editions. As you can see, even the reference clocked GeForce GTS 450 manages to outpace the Radeon HD 5770 here; the overclocked editions from EVGA and Asus simply extend the lead.

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Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


3DMark Vantage

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which y isn't available on previous versions of Windows.  3DMark Vantage isn't simply a port of 3DMark06 to DirectX 10 though.  With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the latest PC hardware.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's Extreme preset option, which uses a resolution of 1920x1200 with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.

The ATI Radeon HD 5770 outpaces the reference GeForce GTS 450 in 3DMark Vantage, but the overclocked Asus and EVGA cards manage to overtake the Radeon by a few percentage points. Keep in mind, however, that overclocked Radeon HD 5770 cards are available as well, which will negate the performance delta seen here.

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Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
OpenGL Gaming Performance


Enemy Territory:
Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is Based on a radically enhanced version of id's Doom 3 engine and viewed by many as Battlefield 2 meets the Strogg, and then some.  In fact, we'd venture to say that id took EA's team-based warfare genre up a notch or two.  ET: Quake Wars also marks the introduction of John Carmack's "Megatexture" technology that employs large environment and terrain textures that cover vast areas of maps without the need to repeat and tile many smaller textures.  The beauty of megatexture technology is that each unit only takes up a maximum of 8MB of frame buffer memory.  Add to that HDR-like bloom lighting and leading edge shadowing effects and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars looks great, plays well and works high end graphics cards vigorously.  The game was tested with all of its in-game options set to their maximum values with soft particles enabled in addition to 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering

The ATI Radeon HD 5770 has a distinct advantage in our custom Enemy Territory: Quake Wars benchmark. Here, the Radeon HD 5770 is significantly faster than the GeForce GTS 450 and even manages to outpace the overclocked Asus and EVGA cards by about 10% at the higher resolution.

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FarCry 2 Performance

FarCry 2
DirectX Gaming Performance


FarCry 2

Like the original, FarCry 2 is one of the more visually impressive games to be released on the PC to date. Courtesy of the Dunia game engine developed by Ubisoft, FarCry 2's game-play is enhanced by advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, high resolution textures, complex shaders, realistic dynamic lighting, and motion-captured animations.  We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a fully patched version of FarCry 2, using one of the built-in demo runs recorded in the "Ranch" map.  The test results shown here were run at various resolutions with 4X AA enabled.


The new GeForce GTS 450 crushed the Radeon HD 5770 in the FarCry 2 benchmark, even when running at reference specifications. The overclocked EVGA and Asus cards offered much more performance than the reference model, which obviously extended NVIDIA's lead here.
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Left 4 Dead 2 Performance

Left 4 Dead 2
DirectX Gaming Performance


Left 4 Dead 2

Like its predecessor, Left 4 Dead 2 is a co-operative, survival horror, first-person shooter that pits four players against numerous hordes of Zombies. Like Half Life 2, the game uses the Source engine, however, the visual in L4D 2 are far superior to anything seen in the Half Life universe to date. The game has much more realistic water and lighting effects, more expansive maps with richer detail, more complex models, and the list goes on and on. We tested the game at various resolutions with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled and all in game graphical options set to their maximum values.


The Radeon HD 5770 is 10% to 18% faster than the reference GeForce GTS 450 in our custom Left 4 Dead 2 benchmark. The overclocked EVGA and Asus cards, however, manage to overtake the Radeon HD 5770 at the lower resolution, the Radeon comes right back and takes the higher res. Once again though, remember that overclocked Raden HD 5770 cards are available from a few of AMD's board partners as well.
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Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
DirectX Gaming Performance


Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. is an aerial warfare video game that takes place during the time of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter.  Players have the opportunity to take the throttle of over 50 famous aircrafts in both solo and 4-player co-op missions, and take them over real world locations and cities in photo-realistic environments created with the best commercial satellite data provided by GeoEye.  We used the built-in performance test at two resolutions with all quality settings set to their highest values, using the DX10.1 code path for both the Radeons and GeForce 400 series cards.


The Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. benchmark once again shows the Radeon HD 5770 outpacing the reference GeForce GTS 450, but the overclocked EVGA and Asus cards are able to overtake the Radeon by a few percentage points.
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Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2
DX10.1 Gaming Performance


Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2 was released in March 2010, from developers Avalanche Studios and Eidos Interactive. The game makes use of the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the similarly named original. It is set on the fictional island of Panau in southeast Asia, and you play the role of Rico Rodriquez. We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article using one of the built-in demo runs called The Concrete Jungle.  The test results shown here were run at various resolutions and settings. This game also supports a few CUDA-enabled features, but they were left disabled to keep the playing field level. 


Our results with Just Cause 2 look much like H.A.W.X. from the previous page. Here, the Radeon HD 5770 is a bit faster than the reference GeForce GTS 450, but the overclocked EVGA and Asus cards are able to overtake the 5770 at 1680x1050. At the higher resolution though, the Radeon once again pulls ahead.
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Alien vs. Predator

Alien vs. Predator
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Alien vs. Predator

The Alien vs. Predator benchmark makes use of the advanced Tessellation, screen space ambient occlusion and high-quality shadow features, available with DirectX 11. In addition to enabling all of the aforementioned DirectX 11 related features offered by this benchmark, we also switched on 4X anti-aliasing along with 16X anisotropic filtering to more heavily tax the graphics cards being tested.


The DX11 Alien vs. Predator benchmark really puts a beating on these mainstream graphics cards when high image quality settings are used. Here, the Radeon HD 5770 outperforms the reference GeForce GTS 450 but is evenly matched with the overclocked cards from Asus and EVGA.
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Total System Power Consumption

Before bringing this article to a close, we'd like to cover a few final data points--namely power consumption and noise. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the graphics cards alone.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet


The total system power consumption of our test rig shows that the new GeForce GTS 450 sips power while idling at the Windows desktop and under load the reference card consumes about the same power as the Radeon HD 5770. The overclocked Asus and EVGA GeForce GTS 450 cards consume a bit more power while idling than the reference card, but while under load they consume about 24-30 more watts. Nevertheless, the GeForce GTS 450's power consumption isn't bad at all. The cards remained quiet throughout testing and were only warm to the touch after hours of benchmarking. We could handle them without a problem immediately after testing.  Temps won't be an issue for anyone, provided you've got decent airflow within your system.
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Our Summary and Conclusion

 

Performance Summary: NVIDIA’s new GeForce GTS 450 is decent performer overall. In our testing, the reference GeForce GTS 450 typically performed about on-par with or somewhat lower than the stock Radeon HD 5770, but the factory overclocked GeForce GTS 450’s from Asus and EVGA were faster than the Radeon HD 5770 more often than not.

We like the new GeForce GTS 450. For approximately $129, which about $10 - $30 cheaper than the average Radeon HD 5770, the GTS 450 offers good performance that should work well for owners of 22” (or smaller) monitors. In terms of its features and performance, the GeForce GTS 450 looks to be a strong contender in the mainstream graphics card market and is a strong competitor to the Radeon HD 5770 in the segment. In fact, we’d have no problem recommending either card if you’ve got $130 or so to spend on a graphics card.


Reference NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450

The problem for NVIDIA is the Radeon H D 5770 has been available for almost a year. As of this moment, we like the GeForce GTS 450, but a year is an eternity in the graphics card space, so you have to wonder what AMD has up its virtual sleeve in the coming weeks and months leading up to the important holiday buying season.

Regardless, the new GeForce GTS 450 is a solid offering and users in need of a graphics card in its price range should give it some serious consideration. With the similarly, albeit somewhat higher, priced Radeon HD 5770, users can take advantage of Eyefinity, but the GeForce offers support for PhysX and CUDA. If you’ve got a single monitor, it may even come down to brand preference. The bottom line is, there is now some competition in the mainstream DX11 GPU arena, which is always a good thing for consumers.

 

  • Good Performance
  • PysX and CUDA Support
  • Cool and Quiet
  • Affordable Price Point

 

  • Performs about on par with the year old 5770



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