NVIDIA GTX 750 Ti & MSI GTX 750 Gaming Reviewccokeman - February 18, 2014
Category: Video Cards
Price: GTX 750 Ti $149 , GTX 750 $119
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NVIDIA GTX 750 Ti & MSI GTX 750 Gaming Introduction:
This launch brings us a new architecture from NVIDIA code named Maxwell. Why start at the low end of the spectrum instead of dropping a bomb with a high end card that is going to deliver even more in terms of performance than what two of the highest performing cards on the market (the GTX 780 Ti and GTX Titan) are delivering right now? Because the mainstream market is populated with PCs running integrated graphics that can see huge gaming performance improvements with a discrete video card that requires nothing more of the end user than to purchase the card and install it.
Wait, don't you need a new power supply when putting in a discrete video card? Not with this implementation of Maxwell or GM107. The goal was to target this burgeoning market of PCs with a power efficient card that can run all of the current games at 1080p, but do it in a low power envelope on a reduced form factor video card. That means that yes, Johnny, you can keep that 300 watt power supply that came in your PC and not have to increase your spending to get a 10x boost in gaming performance. It's a win-win for that consumer base, really. NVIDIA learned a lot when it was working on its Tegra program and integrated some of the power management learnings into Maxwell.
The big push is power efficiency along with improved performance. Getting the consumer to buy is the big thing, but with price points of $149 for the GTX 750 Ti and $119 for the GTX 750, the price to performance ratio is there. We can talk about the performance all day and see where it takes us, but first let's dig into the cards from NVIDIA and MSI to see what they offer and see how they perform by comparison. It could prove interesting.
NVIDIA GTX 750 Ti & MSI GTX 750 Gaming Closer Look:
This first version of Maxwell for the consumer is the full implementation of GM107 used on the GTX 750 Ti. Baseline specifications include 1.87 billion transistors, one Graphics Processing Cluster, five SM modules, 640 CUDA cores, 40 Texture units, 16 ROPs, and 2GB of GDDR5 memory rated to run at 1350MHz through a 128-bit bus. It's what happens deeper down in the architecture where the changes impact performance and power efficiency. The new Streaming Multiprocessor model is called SMM, and it features an SM that instead of using 192 CUDA cores per SM (like seen in Kepler) breaks that up into four processing blocks. These four more efficient processing blocks in an SM deliver about 90% of the performance of the Kepler SM, while being significantly smaller allows more SM per core. That's more almost as fast, more efficient processors delivering higher performance. This implementation uses a larger L2 cache to minimize write outs to the GDDR5, preserving some bandwidth margin to remove that potential bottleneck for the operation. Ultimately this drives up power efficiency by 4x over four years with a 2x boost in raw gaming performance. All in all, a 55 to 60 watt envelope.
The first card I will look at today is the reference model GTX 750 Ti from NVIDIA. Looking at it for the first time I was a little skeptical of the performance this mini me-sized video card, with the even smaller heat sink looking suspect as well. At 5.7 inches in length, the reference GTX 750 Ti should fit in pretty much any chassis out on the market today to deliver 1080p performance on a budget. The height of the cooling solution makes this a two slot card that uses a one slot I/O bracket. Things that stand out as missing right away are the lack of an SLI Bridge connection and the PCIe power connection. If you caught that here's your cookie. This card requires neither due to the fact it has a 60 watt TDP and the target market for the card is such that buying a pair of GTX 750 Tis would increase the spending and power needs to a point that a more capable card and power supply would be the best option.
Display connectivity on the reference GTX 750 Ti consists of a pair of Dual Link DVI Ports and a single Mini HDMI port. In the future a DisplayPort 1.2 port will be standard on the GTX 750 Ti for use with G-Sync enabled monitors. The back end of the card has a spot on the PCB for a 6-pin PCIe power connection. You can see the four Hynix memory ICs surrounding the GPU socket, but not much else to talk about. The heat sink is held on with just four spring loaded screws; remove them and we get access to the GM107 core.
The cooling solution employed on the reference GTX 750 Ti is small to fit the needs of the core. It is a solid chuck of aluminum that looks much like what you would see coming out of the box of any current retail Intel processor. Surprisingly it does the job of cooling the core quite well. The small fan again is a surprise as it really is not the high speed pinwheel it looks like.
Both the GTX 750 Ti and GTX 750 are based on NVIDIA's GM107 Maxwell core. The GTX 750 Ti uses the full implementation of the GM107 core with 1.87 Billion transistors, one Graphics Processing Cluster, five Streaming Multiprocessors, 640 CUDA cores, 40 Texture units, and 16 ROPs. You can differentiate the cores visually by looking at the markings. The full GTX 750 Ti core has the marking GM107-400-A2, while the core used on the GTX 750 is marked GM107-300-A2. Base clock speeds on the GTX 750 Ti are a 1020MHz base clock with a GPU 2.0 boost clock of 1085MHz. Memory bandwidth comes through the 2GB of GDDR5 Hynix memory running through a 128-bit bus. The shared 2MB of L2 cache helps prevent memory bottlenecks at 1080p resolutions. SK Hynix H5GC2H24BFR-T2C modules are rated to run a 1250MHz using 1.35v and 1500MHz using 1.5v.
When you buy an NVIDIA card you get a whole ecosystem of support and opportunities to enjoy your gaming. Not only do you get the benefits of NVIDIA's GameWorks system that employs 300 game engineers to innovate and bring to the world gaming enhancements seen in the latest games, you get access to technologies like GameStream technology that allows you to stream games from your NVIDIA card to an NVIDIA SHIELD gaming device that can then be connected to your television in console mode for big screen gaming. You can also use ShadowPlay to save the last 20 minutes of your gaming sequences to either play back for your friends locally or upload directly to Twitch.tv or YouTube. When using ShadowPlay you take advantage of the built-in hardware encoder that uses dedicated hardware to keep from impacting the CUDA cores during gaming. There really is a minimal performance hit that you only see in benchmarks.
Having looked at a lot of NVIDIA's small form factor line up over the years, I am excited to see what this core implementation can deliver in terms of gaming performance. If it truly does deliver 1080p at medium to high settings in current games, that kind of performance curve gets it close to the level of performance delivered by the first Fermi-based card, the GTX 480. The GTX 750 Ti will take the place of the GTX 650 Ti in NVIDIA's product stack to drive performance in this form factor with a more efficient part.