NVIDIA Geforce GTX 650 Ti Review

ccokeman - 2012-10-02 17:48:13 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: October 9, 2012
Price: $149.99

Introduction:

Over the past six months NVIDIA has steadily launched cards in the Kepler product stack seemingly every month. A pretty ambitious goal to say the least. Having looked at all of the cards in the GTX product stack from the recently introduced GTX 660 Ti and GTX 660 all the way on up to the top of the line GTX 690, it has proven to be an interesting year for NVIDIA. With each launch a new segment of the market has been able to take advantage of all that the Kepler architecture has to offer including 3DVision, PhysX, Adaptive VSync, and TXAA - a new anti-aliasing algorithm designed to reduce temporal aliasing.

Released just three and a half weeks ago, the GK106-based GTX 660 and GK107-based GTX 650 brought Keplar to the $250 and $120 price points. With the GTX 650 Ti the GTX product stack is fully fleshed out with a card that targets the $150 price point putting a Kepler-based product in every price/performance target. With each successive launch the performance and price of entry have dropped to fit into a specific price/performance envelope. Whereas the GTX 690, GTX 680, and GTX 670 are targeted at the upper end of the gaming spectrum, the vast majority of players are at the mid to lower end where video cards such as the GTX 660 Ti, GTX 660, and GTX 650Ti will shine.

The GTX 650 Ti is a step up in performance over the standard GTX 650 with double the CUDA core and texture unit counts helping to drive performance higher by up to 40%. As game developers continue to program for a DX11 environment, older hardware is just not up to the task of enjoying this new content to the fullest. This coming season is going to see a new wave of DX11-based games with improvements to visual quality and effects that older hardware in the $150 range will not be able to deliver smooth game play. Will the GTX 650 Ti be able to deliver on the promise of smooth game play at 1080p resolutions with the eye candy on? Let's see whats under the hood and take it for a spin.

Closer Look:

The GTX 650 Ti is a scaled down version of NVIDIA's 28nm GK106 Kepler core introduced with the GTX 660 that uses the same SMX architecture introduced with the GTX 680 back in April of this year. This implementation on the GTX 650 Ti features a pair of Graphics Processing Clusters (GPC) with shared access to the 256KB of L2 cache, four SMX units, each with 192 CUDA cores (768 total), 64 texture units, and 16 ROPs. The base clock speeds for the reference version come in at 925MHz and does not support a boost clock. The memory subsystem of the GTX 650 Ti includes 1GB of GDDR5 memory running on a 2 x 64-bit (128-bit) memory controller. Memory clock speeds are a bit slower than on the GTX 660 at 5400MHz effective (1350MHz actual). Without the ability to use a boost clock like the rest of the GTX Kepler family it will be interesting to see just what kind of overclocking headroom is available to increase the performance envelope on this mini-me version of GTX family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GTX 650 Ti that I am looking at today is a pure reference design card. You can be sure that there will be an offering from each of the AIB partners that uses this design. However each of them already have custom designs in the pipeline that offer improvements to the cooling and board component selection to improve long term reliability and stability. Below you can see a good selection of designs that will be offered from the board partners. All of the top players are represented and should deliver an excellent choice around the $149 range.

 

 

 

 

The GTX 650 Ti promises impressive gains over previous generation products such as the 9600GT that no longer have the ability to play at 1080p resolutions with even medium settings. Tack on the inability to play the latest DX11-based games and it really is time to move into the now. Let's see what the GTX 650 Ti has to offer the gamer.

Closer Look:

When you look at this card it looks, for all intents and purposes, like the GTX 650. It's under the skin where the differences lie with the change to a GK106-based core instead of GK107. The PCB measures 5.75 inches or just .75" shorter than the PCB used on the reference GTX 670. This small size will open up chassis selection options, especially for small form factor builds. A small 80mm fan sits atop the aluminum heat sink to handle the thermal load. You can see that the fan shroud has the GeForce GTX designation on it letting you know that this card is part of the gaming series of cards. This card is built to comply with the PCIe 3.0 specification, is backwards compatible, and is designed to be used in a 16x PCIe slot. Just for comparisons sake I pulled out an old 9600GT for a then and now comparison that shows how the foot print for performance has changed over the past four years with the GTX 650 Ti packing up to five times the video firepower of the popular at the time 9600GT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connectivity options for the GTX 650 Ti include a pair of Dual Link DVI ports and an HDMI 1.4a compatible Mini HDMI port. While this configuration does not support, it the GPU supports up to four monitors with some of the AIB partners making use of the feature. Mounting is via a single slot bracket although the card physically will occupy a pair of slots. There is no venting through the rear of the chassis with the single slot mount. The thermal dump will be into the chassis but with as little heat as the GTX 650 Ti unloads this should not be a concern. Modern chassis have enough airflow to manage this thermal dump. At the rear of the GTX 650 Ti is the 6-pin PCIe power connection used to provide the power needs for the GTX 650 Ti. A TDP of 110 watts leaves plenty of power overhead. NVIDIA recommends a power supply of at least 400 watts for use with this card.

 

 

Removing the heat sink gives a look at the PCB and how the components are laid out. Everything is passively air cooled on the PCB with the exception of the core that uses a small aluminum heat sink. Four GDDR5 modules surround the socket area and make up the 1GB of frame buffer. The cooling solution employed on this reference GTX 650 Ti is more than capable of handling the thermal load generated by the GK106 core. A Cooler Master 80mm x 15mm Axial fan part number FY08015M12LAA is used to provide the airflow through the heat sink. This PWM fan design runs at up to 3100RPM delivering up to 26.25 CFM.

 

 

 

The GTX 650 Ti is equipped with NVIDIA's 28nm 2.54 Billion transistor Kepler GK106 core. This implementation has been reduced to a pair of Graphics Processing Clusters with four SMX all equipped with 192 CUDA cores to make up the 786 core count. Texture unit count is 64 with 16 ROPs. On board is a total of 1GB of GDDR5 memory running through a 2 x 64 bit bus. Hynix supplies the memory modules used on this GTX 650 Ti part number H5GQ2H24AFR-R0C and are rated for operation at 1500MHz yet are conservatively clocked to 1350MHz (5400MHz effective) on the GTX 650 Ti. Base clock speed on the GTX 650 Ti is a conservative 925MHz, and without the support of GPU Boost that core speed will be the starting point for any overclocking.

 

 

Gaming at 1080p is what this card was designed for so let's see just how well it does with the OCC test suite.

Specifications:

Processing Units
Graphics Processing Clusters
2 or 3
SMXs
4
CUDA Cores
768
Texture Units
64
ROP Units
16
Clock Speeds
Base Clock
925 MHz
Boost Clock
N/A
Memory Clock (Data rate)
5400 MHz
L2 Cache Size
256KB
Memory
Total Video Memory
1024MB GDDR5
Memory Interface
128-bit Total
Memory Bandwidth
86.4 GB/s
Texture Filtering Rate (Bilinear)
59.2 GigaTexels/sec
Physical & Thermal
Fabrication Process
28 nm
Transistor Count 
 2.54 Billion
Connectors
 2 x Dual-Link DVI 1 x mini-HDMI
Form Factor
Dual Slot
Power Connectors
1 x 6-pin
Recommended Power Supply
400 Watts
Thermal Design Power (TDP)
110 Watts
Thermal Threshold
98° C

Features:

 

 

All information courtesy of NVIDIA

Testing:

Testing of the NVIDIA GTX 650Ti  will consist of running it and comparison cards through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of a range of capabilities to show where each card falls on the performance ladder. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles, which should be able to provide an idea of how the cards perform relative to each other. The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustment will be made to the respective control panels during the testing, with the exception of the 3DMark 11 testing, where PhysX will be disabled in the NVIDIA Control Panel, if applicable. I will first test the cards at stock speeds, and then overclocked to see the effects of an increase in clock speed. The cards will be placed in order from highest to lowest performance in each graph to show where they fall by comparison. The latest press release driver will be used in testing of the GTX 650Ti, while the balnce of the NVIDIA cards are using 306.23; AMD will be using Catalyst 12.8 drivers.

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocking the latest Kepler card in the product stack, the GTX 650Ti, is a little like walking back to last year without the use of NVIDIA's GPU Boost feature. Not having to worry about how the clock speed will swing based on the power window makes this card a breeze to overclock. Set the speed you want and see if it fails, wash, rinse, and repeat. By using any of the popular overclocking utilities that support NVIDIA's Kepler architecture such as MSI Afterburner, EVGA Precision or ASUS GPU Tweak you can boost up the clock speeds, voltage, and fan speeds.

To overclock the GTX 650Ti I used MSI Afterburner and adjusted the voltage and fan speed sliders to the maximum level and started tweaking the clock speed. After looking at just about every card in the stack I had a good Idea as to where the final clock speed might fall so I started just south of 1200MHz and upped the core clock until the card would fail during my testing. I could hit as high as 1240MHz in some tests but not all of them so the clock speed was dropped 12MHz to 1228MHz where each and every test would pass. The memory was clocked in much the same way although with a much lower starting point, as the maximum clock speed I could pull from the memory was just under 1500MHz.

When you look at the 1228MHz clock on the core that is a 32+% jump in clock speed over the base clock speed of 925MHz. Pretty sick overclocking from the lower end of the product stack. The overclock on the 1GB of GDDR5 memory as a percentage is not nearly as exciting but still delivers a solid 10+% improvement over the baseline 1350MHz. Overclocking is certainly worth the effort on this card. By boosting the fan speed to stabilize the overclock the card temperatures did not deviate much from the stock testing. Stock versus overclocked I saw a one degree swing in the temperatures delivered by the GTX 650Ti. Overclocking potential and cooling are excellent. I cannot wait to see what the non-reference designs from the board partners are capable of if this solid little reference card can swing the big numbers.

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

Testing for the maximum clock speed consists of looping Unigine 3.0 for 30 minutes each to see where the clock speeds fail when pushed. If the clock speed adjustment fails, then the clock speeds are adjusted and the test is rerun until each card passes the testing.

 

 

  1. Metro 2033
  2. Batman: Arkham City
  3. Battlefield 3
  4. Sid Meier's Civilization V
  5. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 3.0
  6. DiRT 3
  7. Mafia II
  8. 3DMark 11
  1. Temperature
  2. Power Consumption

Testing:

Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro 2033 is based on the novel of the same name, written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. You play as Artyom in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where you'll spend most of your time traversing the metro system, with occasional trips to the surface. Despite the dark atmosphere and bleak future for mankind, the visuals are anything but bleak. Powered by the 4A Engine, with support for DirectX 11, NVIDIA PhysX, and NVIDIA 3D Vision, the tunnels are extremely varied – in your travels, you'll come across human outposts, bandit settlements, and even half-eaten corpses. Ensuring you feel all the tension, there is no map and no health meter. Get lost without enough gas mask filters and adrenaline shots and you may soon wind up as one of those half-eaten corpses, chewed up by some horrifying manner of irradiated beast that hides in the shadows just waiting for some hapless soul to wander by.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting with Metro 2033 the GTX 650Ti offers an improvement in performance over the GTX 650 but is still not to the level of the GTX 660. With a slight reduction in the visual quality settings the GTX 650Ti will be above the 30FPS threshold.

Testing:

Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum released in 2009. This action adventure game based on DC Comics' Batman super hero was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal 3 engine.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Batman: Arkham City, the GTX 650Ti delivers solid results with high settings at 1920x1080. Reducing the global settings to high and enabling PhysX will give you the full spectrum NVIDIA experience at playable frame rates. Overclocking the GTX 650Ti gives a solid 9FPS increase in performance.

Testing:

Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. Battlefield 3 uses the Frostbyte 2 game engine and is the direct successor to Battlefield 2. Released in North America on October 25, 2011, the game supports DirectX 10 and 11.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running Ultra settings the GTX 650Ti is capable of delivering over 30 FPS with a jump to 40 when overclocked, showing a nice boost over the GTX 650.

Testing:

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 3.0 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine. This was the first DX 11 benchmark to allow testing of DX 11 features. What sets the Heaven Benchmark apart is the addition of hardware tessellation, available in three modes – Moderate, Normal and Extreme. Although tessellation requires a video card with DirectX 11 support and Windows Vista/7, the Heaven Benchmark also supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.0. Visually, it features beautiful floating islands that contain a tiny village and extremely detailed architecture.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an example of where aggressive settings overwhelm the capabilities of the GTX 650Ti. Again tweaking the visual quality settings can quickly bring the FPS up.

Testing:

Civilization V is a turn-based strategy game. The premise is to play as one of 18 civilizations and lead the civilization from the "dawn of man" up to the space age. This latest iteration of the Civilization series uses a new game engine and massive changes to the way the AI is used throughout the game. Civilization V is developed by Firaxis Games and is published by 2K games and was released for Windows in September of 2010. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps through a series of five turns, 150 turns into the game.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delivering 56 to almost 70 FPS in this game at maximum settings, the GTX 650Ti plays through the game smoothly.

Testing:

DiRT 3 is the third iteration of this series. Published and developed by Codemasters, this game uses the EGO 2.0 game engine and was released in the US on PC in May of 2011.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trend here continues with the GTX 650Ti out performing the GTX 650 to deliver solid playable performance at maximum settings.

Testing:

Mafia II is a third-person shooter that puts you into the shoes of a poor, Sicilian immigrant, Vito Scarletta. Vito has just returned home from serving overseas in the liberation of fascist Italy, to avoiding his jail sentence, to finding his family in debt. The debt must be repaid by the end of the week, and his childhood friend, Joe Barbaro, conveniently happens to have questionable connections that he assures will help Vito clear the debt by that time. As such, Vito is sucked into a world of quick cash. Released in North America for PC in August of 2010, the game was developed by 2K Czech, published by 2K, and uses the Illusion 1.3 game engine.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a TWIMTBP game, the GTX 650Ti is going to deliver good playable performance.

Testing:

3DMark 11 is the next installment in Futuremark’s 3DMark series, with Vantage as its predecessor. The name implies that this benchmark is for Microsoft DirectX 11 and with an unintended coincidence, the name matches the year proceeding its release (which was the naming scheme to some prior versions of 3DMark nonetheless). 3DMark 11 is designed solely for DirectX 11, so Windows Vista or 7 are required along with a DirectX 11 graphics card in order to run this test. The Basic Edition has unlimited free tests on performance mode, whereas Vantage is only allowed for a single test run. The advanced edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all of the features of the benchmark, while the professional edition runs $995.00 and is mainly suited for corporate use. The new benchmark contains six tests, four of which are aimed only at graphical testing; one to test for physics handling and one to combine graphics and physics testing together. The open source Bullet Physics library is used for physics simulation and although not as mainstream as Havok or PhysX, it still seems to be a popular choice.

With the new benchmark, comes two new demos that can be watched, both based on the tests. Unlike the tests, however, these contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" and involves a few vessels exploring what looks to be a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and presents a location similar to South American tribal ruins with statues and the occasional vehicle around. The demos are simple in that they have no story – they are really just a demonstration of what the testing will be like. The vehicles have the logos of the sponsors MSI and Antec on their sides – the sponsorships helping to make the basic edition free. The four graphics tests are slight variants of the demos. I will use the three benchmark test preset levels to test the performance of each card. The presets are used as they are comparable to what can be run with the free version, so that results can be compared across more than just a custom set of test parameters.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At stock speeds the GTX 650Ti performs to its hardware limitations in this test. The 30+% overclock on the core allows it to out perform one of last year's value leaders, the GTX 560Ti, when overclocked.

Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Unigine's Heaven Benchmark Version 3.0, with EVGA's Precision overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using a resolution of 1920x1080 using 8xAA and a five-run sequence to run the test, ensuring that the maximum thermal threshold is reached. The fan speed will be left in the control of the driver package and video card's BIOS for the stock load test, with the fan moved to 100% to see the best possible cooling scenario for the overclocked load test. The idle test will involve a 20-minute cool-down, with the fan speeds left on automatic in the stock speed testing and bumped up to 100% when running overclocked.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you look at the cooling performance of the reference design GTX 650Ti it is closer to the low end of the results than the upper end. Then when you look at the fact that it is out cooled by only non-reference cooling solutions, the numbers look all that much better. At stock speed the fan is inaudible either buttoned up in the case or with the side panel off.

Testing:

Power consumption of the system will be measured at both idle and loaded states, taking into account the peak wattage of the entire system with each video card installed. I will use Unigine's Heaven Benchmark version 3.0 to put a load onto the GPU using the settings below. A 15-minute load test will be used to simulate maximum load with the highest measured wattage value recorded as the result. The idle results will measured as the lowest wattage value recorded with no activity on the system.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a card at the lower end of the performance stack the expectation is that the power consumption will be low as well. For the most part they are, not so much at idle but under load they offer a significant drop in current use, due to the efficiency of the Kepler design using 76 watts more under load than when idle at stock speeds and 101W when overclocked. Both well below the 110 watt TDP.

Conclusion:

When you get down to it the GTX 650 Ti is not going to break any FPS records for upper end performance. Testing at settings that will tax the card showed that it can for the most part deliver playable frame rates greater than 30FPS with the eye candy turned on in every game except Metro 2033. Even in this game turning the visual quality down a notch or two will bring the FPS back up and over 30FPS. This really is the case in every game tested. Designed to run DX11 games at medium to high global settings was the target and with the GTX 650 Ti the mark has been reached. Tweaking the settings downward a bit without compromising on resolution can deliver excellent gameplay all the way around. What it will do is allow the user looking for a GPU in the $150 range to enjoy the best of what the Kepler architecture can deliver.

I ran some unofficial testing with Borderlands 2 using the highest possible settings in game, PhysX included, and the GTX 650 Ti delivered 32FPS at stock speeds and a nice 8FPS boost to 40FPS when overclocked. Not stellar but quite playable. With the GTX 650 Ti you get the vast majority of the NVIDIA ecosystem, from 3D Vision, to PhysX, TXAA, Adaptive Vsync, and support for up to four monitors. SLI is not supported at this price point as a more powerful single GPU would be the better option.

Overclocking on the GTX 650 Ti proved to be a fun experience as the card just kept scaling upwards and delivered a 30% boost in core clock speed to 1228MHz or 303MHz over the baseline 925MHz. If the core can clock like this it should leave room for the AIB partners to really deliver some highly clocked non-reference designs to go along with some of the excellent cooling solutions seen on the first page. Without the benefit of GPU Boost the clock speeds were easily set without having to worry where the clock speeds would eventually fall to as the power limits were reached. Memory overclocking was not as great at 1493MHz or just under the rated speed for the Hynix modules used on this board. Even so the modules delivered a 10+% or 143MHz boost in speed to 1493MHz. By tweaking the clock speeds I saw gaming performance improvements across the whole of the testing suite that dropped in the 20 to 28%+ range. Pretty solid increases and overclocking stones for a little mini-me sized video card if I do say so myself.

The cooling performance delivered by the reference cooling solution is excellent showing that the need for a better than reference solution is not really a necessity to get the most from this card. Even with the big overclock and the fan turned up the temperatures never reached the 60 °C mark. This more or less is the expectation with the lower power consumption numbers delivered by the GTX 650 Ti. When overclocked it crept up to a maximum of 214 watts to dissipate. Surprisingly not enough to overwhelm the small reference cooler. The reference cooler, while small, delivered excellent cooling and noise characteristics. The fan is rated to almost 33dBa but did not seem to reach that point due to how the PWM fan profile is setup. For the most part it is inaudible buttoned up in the case. NVIDIA has done an excellent job managing this critical component.

All in all the GTX 650 Ti is a blast. At the $149 price point if offers up a level of performance that will allow the user on a budget to move up from hardware as new as last year's Fermi-based GTX 550 Ti and see a performance boost of around 1.5x. When compared to even older cards such as the 9600GT the performance bump can reach as high as five times. Even with the recent price drops from AMD, the GTX 650 Ti is going to provide great value. It fills out the low end of the Kepler product stack impressively and is priced competitively.

 

Pros:

Cons: