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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 Reviews, EVGA and Gigabyte
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Date: May 10, 2012
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

We really dig it when the two big discrete GPU makers are firing on all cylinders. Our workload may increase exponentially as NVIDIA and AMD volley grenades back and forth, but the excitement that’s generated as a result, is a rush for hardware guys like us. And if the overall engagement and comments posted by you all reading this are any indicator, action in the GPU space is exciting for you folks too.

After witnessing AMD release top-to-bottom, DirectX 11-class products, months before NVIDIA for the past few generations, it seems NVIDIA is done messing around. Hot on the heels of the impressive, dual-GPU powered GeForce GTX 690, which launched just a few short days ago, NVIDIA is already back with a much more affordable Kepler variant featuring a slightly pared down GK104 GPU. What’s perhaps most interesting to all of you though, is that this new card will offer near-GeForce GTX 680 performance, at prices starting under the $400 mark.

The new GeForce GTX 670 we’ll be showing you here today sports the very same chip that powers the high-end GeForce GTX 680 and 690, but with a few shader cores disabled. The cards will sport a more compact design and a few other tweaks as well. We’ve got NVIDIA’s full reference specifications below, followed by full details on the new card and a set of benchmark numbers with both single-card and SLI configurations on the pages ahead. Get yourself acquainted with the specs and then strap in as we show you what NVIDIA’s new baby can do...


NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 Reference Card, Front View 
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670
Specifications & Features
Processing Units
Graphics Processing Clusters 4
SMXs 7
CUDA Cores 1344
Texture Units 112
ROP Units 32
Clock Speeds
Base Clock 915 MHz
Boost Clock 980 MHz
Memory Clock (Data Rate) 6008 MHz
L2 Cache Size 512KB
Memory
Total Video Memory 2048MB
Memory Interface 256-bit
Total Memory Bandwidth 192.2 GB/s
Texture Filtering Rate (Bilinear) 102.5 GigaTexels/sec
Physical & Thermal
Fabrication Process 28 nm
Transistor Count 3.54 Billion
Connectors 2 x Dual-Link DVI, 1 x mini-DP, 1 x HDMI
Form Factor Dual Slot
Power Connectors 2 x 6-pin
Recommended Power Supply 500 watts
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 170 watts
Thermal Threshold 98° C



NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 Reference Card, Back

Before we give you the low-down on the GeForce GTX 670, we want to direct your attention to a few other HotHardware articles related today's launch...

We've already covered the details of the GK104 GPU powering the GeForce GTX 670 in our GeForce GTX 680 launch article, including things like GPU Boost, NVENC (NVIDIA Encoding Engine), and TXAA, so we won't go over them again here. If you'd like a deeper look into the technologies employed in the GK104, we'd definitely suggest taking a gander at that piece. The details of NVIDIA's brand new dual-GPU flagship are covered in our GeForce GTX 690 article, and our 3D Vision 2 and 3D Vision Surround articles cover those two NVIDIA technologies, which are obviously supported in a card like the GeForce GTX 670.
 

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The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670

The new GeForce GTX 670’s features and specifications are very similar to the more expensive GeForce GTX 680 that launched a few weeks back. The two cards feature the very same GPU and similar amounts of memory (4GB versions of both cards are also coming), but a single SMX (streaming multiprocessor) has been disabled in the GeForce GTX 670, which results in fewer total CUDA cores and active texture units.

If you recall, the GeForce GTX 680 has four Graphics Processing Clusters, with eight SMXes, 1536 CUDA cores, 128 texture units, and 32 ROPs. But because a single SMX is disabled in the GeForce GTX 670, it has “only” 1344 CUDA cores and 112 texture units.

In terms of its GPU clock speeds, the GeForce GTX 670 is also slightly scaled back from the GeForce GTX 680. Whereas the GeForce GTX 680 reference specifications call for a 1006MHz base clock and ~1058MHz boost clock, the GeForce GTX 670’s reference specs call for a 915 MHz base clock and ~980 MHz boost clock. The decrease in texture units and frequencies versus the GTX 680 result in a slightly lower 102.5 GigaTexels/sec texture fillrate (bilinear) for the GeForce GTX 670.

 

 

As we’ve mentioned, the GeForce GTX 670 also has a shorter board design. NVIDIA moved the power delivery circuitry to the “west” end of the PCB and rotated the GPU to minimize necessary real-estate, which allowed them to shave a few inches off the reference PCB. Although cards are 9.5” long due to the cooler design, the actual PCB is less than 7” in length. Although, we should point out that some board partners have opted to use the same PCB as the GTX 680 with their GTX 670 cards. The TDP is reduced on the GeForce GTX 670 too; it’s down to 170 watts vs. 195 watts for the GTX 680, but a pair of 6-pin supplemental power feeds are still necessary.

Other than the disabled SMX, lower GPU clocks, and shorter PCB, however, the GeForce GTX 670 is essentially the same as a GeForce GTX 680. The GeForce GTX 670 has the same 256-bit memory interface and its memory runs at the same 6008MHz effective data rate (192.2 GB/s). Outputs on the GeForce GTX 670 also consist of a pair of DVI ports, a mini-DP, and an HDMI output.

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EVGA and Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670s

In addition to the NVIDIA reference board, we were able to obtain a couple of retail-ready GeForce GTX 670 cards for the purposes of this article. Below we have the EVGA GeForce GTX 670 Super Clocked edition and the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 OC Version.

The EVGA GeForce GTX 670 Super Clocked edition looks much like the NVIDIA reference design, but the card has a revamped fan shroud, case bracket, and higher clocks. The cooling fan on the EVGA card extends past the PCB like the reference card, but instead of notched fan shroud with raised inlet, EVGA’s offering is flat with a textured finish and cutouts for the decals. The case bracket also has larger holes to better exhaust air from a system.

 

 

In terms of its clock speeds, the EVGA GeForce GTX 670 Super Clocked edition comes in with a base GPU clock of 967MHz and a boost clock of ~1046MHz. The memory clock on the card has able been goosed up to an effective 6210MHz. The increases to the GPU and memory clocks results in 198.72GB/s of memory bandwidth and a peak fillrate of 108.3GT/s.

Included with the EVGA GeForce GTX 670 Super Clocked edition we found an EVGA case badge, a couple of power adapters, a quick installation guide, a driver / utility CD, an EVGA Gaming poster and a couple of “Enthusiast Built” stickers. We should also mention that EVGA offers a 3-year warranty on the card.

Next up we have the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 OC Version with Windforce cooling. In addition to its custom cooler and overclocked GPU, the Gigabyte card is different from the others in that it uses the same long PCB as the GeForce GTX 680.

 

 

The real attraction with Gigabyte offering is the Windforce cooler. Underneath three large fans sits an array of aluminum heatsink fins, linked to a copper base via copper heat-pipes. The fan blow air directly onto the heatsinks, where some is diverted into the case and same exhausted outside. Although we found the Windforce cooler to be a tad more audible than the reference cooler under load, the Windforce cooler does an excellent job of keeping temperatures in check. It also helped us to overclock this card to almost 1.3GHz.

The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 OC Version ships with memory clocked at the same 6008MHz (effective data rate) of the reference card, but with a base GPU clock of 980MHz. The boost clock wasn’t specified, but we consistently saw boost clocks in the 1120MHz range during testing. Outputs on the card are the same as the reference version, but Gigabyte’s offering requires 6-pin and 8-pin power feeds.

Included with the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 OC Version were a quick installation guide, driver / utility CD, and a couple of power adapter. Nothing flashy, but the essentials are there.
 

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Test System and Unigine Heaven v2.5

How We Configured Our Test Systems: We tested the graphics cards in this article on an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard powered by a Core i7-3960X six-core processor and 16GB of G.SKILL DDR3-1600 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the system UEFI and set all values to their "optimized" or "high performance" default settings 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 DirectX redist, along with the necessary drivers, games, and benchmark tools.

HotHardware's Test System
Intel Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-3960X
(3.3GHz, Six-Core)
Asus P9X79 Deluxe
(Intel X79 Express)

Radeon HD 7950
Radeon HD 7970
Radeon HD 6970
GeForce GTX 580/OC
GeForce GTX 580 3GB
GeForce GTX 590
GeForce GTX 680
GeForce GTX 670

16GB OCZ DDR3-1600
Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectX April 2011 Redist
ATI Catalyst v12.2b/v12.4
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers v300.99/v301.33

Benchmarks Used:

Unigine Heaven v2.5
3DMark 11
Batman: Arkham City
Just Cause 2
Alien vs. Predator
Metro 2033
Lost Planet 2
Dirt 3

Unigine Heaven v2.5 Benchmark
Pseudo-DirectX 11 Gaming


Unigine Heaven

Unigine's Heaven Benchmark v2.5 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) It also features volumetric cumulonimbus clouds generated by a physically accurate algorithm and a dynamic sky with light scattering.

The new reference GeForce GTX 670 finishes just behind the GeForce GTX 680 in the Unigine Heaven benchmark. The factory overclocked versions of the card from EVGA and Gigabyte close the gap somewhat, but still just barely miss the mark set by the 680.

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3DMark 11 Performance

Futuremark 3DMark11
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


Futuremark 3DMark11

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark11, is specifically bound to Windows Vista and WIndows 7-based systems due to its DirectX 11 requirement, which isn't available on previous versions of Windows. 3DMark11 isn't simply a port of 3DMark Vantage to DirectX 11, though. With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated four new graphics tests, a physics tests, and a new combined test. We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark11's Extreme preset option, which uses a resolution of 1920x1080 with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.

3DMark11 tells essentially the same story as Unigine Heaven from the previous page. The GeForce GTX 670 reference card and the overclocked variants trail the GeForce GTX 680 slightly. The GTX 670s, however, are able to best AMD's Radeon HD 7900 series cards here.

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Just Cause 2 Performance

Just Cause 2
DX10.1 Gaming Performance


Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2 was released in March '10, 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 Desert Sunrise. 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.

The GeForce GTX 670 cards performed very well in the Just Cause 2 benchmark. Once again the GeForce GTX 670s trail the GeForce GTX 680 by small margins, that almost evaporate with the overclocked versions of the card from EVGA and Gigabyte.

Running a pair of GeForce GTX 670 cards in an SLI configuration boost performance significantly in this game, and results in framerates about on par with or just slightly below the newly released, dual-GPU poweref GeForce GTX 690.
 

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Lost Planet 2 Performance

Lost Planet 2
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Lost Planet 2

A follow-up to Capcom’s Lost Planet : Extreme Condition, Lost Planet 2 is a third person shooter that takes place again on E.D.N. III ten years after the story line of the first title. We ran the game’s DX11 mode which makes heavy use of DX11 Tessellation and Displacement mapping and soft shadows. There are also areas of the game that make use of DX11 DirectCompute for things like wave simulation in areas with water. This is one game engine that looks significantly different in DX11 mode when you compare certain environmental elements and character rendering in its DX9 mode versus DX11. We used the Test B option built into the benchmark tool and with all graphics options set to their High Quality values.

We saw more of the same in the Lost Planet 2 benchmark. The GeForce GTX 670 cards trail the GeForce GTX 680 (as expected), but pull ahead of the Radeon HD 7900 series cards at both resolutions.

SLI performance with a pair of GeForce GTX 670 cards was also very good, outpacing the Radeon HD 7970 CrossFire configuration as well as the GeForce GTX 690.
 

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Metro 2033 Performance

Metro 2033
DirecX11 Gaming Performance


Metro 2033

Metro 2033 is your basic post-apocalyptic first person shooter game with a few rather unconventional twists. Unlike most FPS titles, there is no health meter to measure your level of ailment, but rather you’re left to deal with life, or lack there-of more akin to the real world with blood spatter on your visor and your heart rate and respiration level as indicators. The game is loosely based on a novel by Russian Author Dmitry Glukhovsky. Metro 2003 boasts some of the best 3D visuals on the PC platform currently including a DX11 rendering mode that makes use of advanced depth of field effects and character model tessellation for increased realism. This title also supports NVIDIA PhysX technology for impressive in-game physics effects. We tested the game resolutions of 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 with adaptive anti-aliasing and in-game image quality options set to their High Quality mode, with DOF effects disabled.

At this point, we're sure that we're starting to sound like a broken record, but the numbers are what they are. The GeForce GTX 670 cards fall in right behind the GeForce GTX 680 in the Metro 2033 benchmark and ties (reference card) or pulls ahead of (overclocked cards) the Radeon HD 7970.

The GeForce GTX 670 SLI configuration comes in just behind the GeForce GTX 680 SLI again here. Superior scaling at the higher resolution, however, allows the Radeon HD 7970 CrossFire setup to put up the best score in this game, once the resolution is increased to 2560x1600.
 

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Batman: Arkham City Performance

Batman: Arkham City
DirectX Gaming Performance


Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City is a sequel to 2009’s Game of the Year winning Batman: Arkham Asylum. This recently released sequel, however, lives up to and even surpasses the original. The story takes place 18 months after the original game. Quincy Sharp, the onetime administrator of Arkham Asylum, has become mayor and convinced Gotham to create "Arkham City" by walling off the worst, most crime-ridden areas of the city and turning the area into a giant open-air prison. The game has DirectX 9 and 11 rendering paths, with support for tessellation, multi-view soft shadows, and ambient occlusion. We tested in DX11 mode with all in-game graphical options set to their maximum values, at various resolutions.

The GeForce GTX 670 cards finish right on par with the GeForce GTX 680 in the Batman Arkham City benchmark. The higher memory frequencies of the overclocked GeForce GTX 670 cards allow it to match the GeForce GTX 680 in this game.

A pair of GeForce GTX 670 cards running in SLI mode comes in just behind the GeForce GTX 690--trailing by only 1 FPS at both resolutions.
 

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Dirt 3 Performance

Dirt 3
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Dirt 3

Dirt 3 is the latest in a string of great racing games from Codemasters. Like is predecessor, 2009's Dirt 2, this game sports impressive visuals with DX11 support. “Ultra” settings for shadow effects, tessellation, and post processing elements, like depth of field, then become available to the gamer, and in turn, crank up the workload on the graphics subsystem. The game engine also makes use of multi-core processors for higher performance on top-end systems. We tested the game configured with its Ultra graphics options with 4X anti-aliasing at resolutions with of 1920x1200 and 2560x1600.

We unfortunately ran into an issue with our EVGA card that prevented us from completing both tests with Dirt 3, but we expect the card would have finished in-line with its previous results. In this game, the GeForce GTX 670s were once again just a hair slower than the GeForce GTX 680, but they finished ahead of the AMD Radeon 7900 series cards.

GeForce GTX 670 SLI scaling was also good, as the cards finished just behind the higher-end GeForce GTX 690 and GeForce GTX 680 SLI configurations.
 

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Alien vs. Predator Performance

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 Alien vs. Predator benchmark is significantly impacted by available memory bandwidth, and as such, the overclocked GeForce GTX 670 cards are able to overtake the reference GeForce GTX 680 here. The Radeon HD 7970, however, puts up the best scores out of the single-GPU powered cards.

The GeForce GTX 670 SLI configurations drops in right between the GeForce GTX 690 and GeForce GTX 680 SLI setup. the Radeon HD 7900 series cards offer better scaling in this game though, and are able to overtake the GeForces (save for the quad-SLI GTX 590 setup).

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Overclocking the GeForce GTX 670

NVIDIA claims that their Kepler-based GPUs have significant overclocking headroom thanks to somewhat conservative stock frequencies, so we fired up of EVGA’s excellent Precision performance tuning utility, which already supports the GeForce GTX 670, to see just how much additional performance we could wring from the card. We also installed a slick GeForce GTX 670 skin that matches the color scheme of the reference card.

In one NVIDIA's technical documents related to this launch, they note that most GeForce GTX 670 cards should be able to overclock to the 1.1GHz range with stock voltages and cooling. We were, however, able to push things much farther than that..


EVGA's Precision Performance Tuning Utility With GTX 690 Skin

By cranking up the power target by 11% and increasing the GPU Clock Offset by 135MHz, our Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 would consistently boost to about 1.293GHz with perfect stability and zero visual artifacts. We were also able to crank the memory clock up by another 139MHz for an additional performance boost. (We were, unfortunately unable to overclock the EVGA GeForce GTX 670 due to an issue with one of our sample's memory chips that arose towards the end of our testing.) The excellent cooler on the Gigabyte card also had no trouble dissipating any additional heat generated by overclocking, as evidenced by the chilly 38'C the card cooled down to seconds after finishing some tests.

Overclocking the GeForce GTX 670
Putting The Pedal to the Metal

While we had the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 overclocked, we re-ran a couple of tests and saw some significant performance gains. In fact, in both tests, the overclocked GeForce GTX 670 was able to overtake the reference GeForce GTX 680.
 

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Power Consumption, Noise, Temps

Before bringing this article to a close, we'd like to cover a few final data points--namely power consumption, temperatures and noise. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored acoustics and tracked how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you 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 drawn by the graphics cards alone.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet

The GeForce GTX 670 cards we tested proved to be quite power friendly, relatively speaking. The reference GeForce GTX 670 card had the lowest idle and load power of the bunch, followed closely behind by the overclocked variants, which only consumed marginally more power. As we've said in previous articles, NVIDIA's current Kepler-based GPUs are much more efficient than previous-gen products; the GeForce GTX 670 contiues to prove that point.

Due to its relatively low power consumption characteristics, the GeForce GTX 670 cards we tested also ran cool and quiet. We found all three cards we tested to idle in the mid-30'C range (typically around 34'C to 36'C). The reference card with stock cooler would peak in the low 70'C range, but the Gigabyte card would peak at only 63'C - to 64'C under load and its fans would run at only 36%.

The noise output from all of the GeForce GTX 670 cards was also relatively low. While idling the cards were not audible over our PSU fan and CPU cooler. Under load, however, the fans did spin up to the point of being audible, but the cards were never obnoxious or annoying. We'd consider the GeForce GTX 670 a quite card for gamers, but it is not silent under load.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The new GeForce GTX 670 offered excellent performance throughout our entire battery of tests. Generally speaking, the GeForce GTX 670 is faster than the similarly priced AMD Radeon HD 7950 and it either competes favorably or outpaces the Radeon HD 7970 as well. Versus the higher-end GeForce GTX 680, the GTX 670 also competes well, finishing just a hair behind NVIDIA’s current flagship single-GPU powered card in every test. The factory overclocked GeForce GTX 670 cards were even able to overtake the reference GeForce GTX 680 on a few occasions due to their higher GPU and memory frequencies.


The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 Reference Card

GeForce GTX 670 cards should be available immediately, with prices starting at $399 for 2GB models. The EVGA GeForce GTX 670 2GB Superclocked edition we looked at will be priced at around $419, but EVGA has a lower-priced stock model coming at $399 too, along with a couple of 4GB versions that come in around $469 (stock) and $489 (superclocked). The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 OC Version with Windforce cooler should be priced in the same range.

Availability for NVIDIA’s high-end Kepler based parts has been less than stellar since their release, but we suspect that those users that have been able to get their hands on cards have been pleased with their performance. All things considered, we think those that spring for a GeForce GTX 670 will be quite happy as well. For around 400 bucks, the GeForce GTX 670 offers better performance than the similarly priced Radeon HD 7950 and the GTX 670 also competes very well with the $480 Radeon HD 7970. AMD has also lowered prices recently and has begun offering a trio of free games with their GPUs, but those that focus mostly on the price vs. performance equation have to give NVIDIA a clear edge at this point. You simply get more performance for your money with the GeForce GTX 670. In addition, we also found the GeForce GTX 670 to be highly overclockable, relatively quiet, and its power consumption characteristics are best-in-class.

Ultimately, we feel that the new GeForce GTX 670 is another strong offering from NVIDIA. The card offers all of the features of the higher-end GeForce GTX 680 and 90+% of the performance, but at a lower price. Hopefully NVIDIA’s availability issues are rectified soon, because we suspect many of you are going to want to score on of these puppies.

Update: It looks like GeForce GTX 670s are in-stock and avaialble at a number of on-line retailers at the moment. See for yourself: Newegg, TigerDirect, TigerDirect.ca, CompUSA, CircuitCityNCIX

  • Excellent Performance
  • Relatively Low Power
  • Highly Overclockable
  • Cool and Quiet
  • Competitive Price

 

  • Potentially Limited Availability



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