Nvidia, Asus, Inno3D GTS 450 Reviewccokeman - September 12, 2010
Category: Video Cards
» Discuss this article (11)
Sooner or later you will need to replace your video card, it's a fact of life in this here electronic age. But not everyone is going to buy the big, expensive top-of-the-line card for their system. Why, you ask? Well, the vast majority of people actually don't have king size monitors and are running resolutions that would be considered small by what I am used to. People that run 22 inch and smaller monitors are going to be running resolutions that fall in the 1680x1050 range and below. Don't get me wrong, the first 22 inch monitor I purchased looked huge next to the 19 inch LCD I had before then so that really is a major leap forward in screen real estate. Just looking through the polls here at OCC you get the feeling that even 24 inch monitors have not come of age. So that puts the bulk of the buying crowd in a position to buy the graphics card they need without going overboard and still have plenty of cash for the rest of the system, while still getting excellent gaming performance in the games they play.
ATI has had its DirectX 11 product stack filled out for a while now and have really hit the price and performance points pretty well. Since NVIDIA was a bit late to the game with its Fermi architecture the company has begun to really fight for those price and performance points to take back marketshare from the red team. The Fermi architecture is a modular design and as such, you can reduce the amount of computing components to reach a specific price, power and performance point. The GF 104 based GTX 460 is a great example of this scalable architecture at work. It delivered excellent performance and met thermal and power requirements, all for a price that fit the performance. Next up we have the GF 106 based GTS 450. This model is the replacement for the aging GTS 250 and based on the GTS designation this is not part of the enthusiast line up but the performance lineup aimed squarely at the gaming public. NVIDIA has targeted its products to three distinct sets of customers, the GTX 480, or "Tank," is the card for the person that wants the best at any cost. The GTX 460, or "Hunter," is for the mid range segment that needs the horsepower but not at the level needed by the higher class. Then we get to the "Sniper," or GTS 450 that is aimed at the performance gamer on a budget. It does not have the firepower but still gets the job done. Along that line, the scalable Fermi architecture has been scaled down to a similar level as the GF 104 based GTX 460. The GTS 450 is equipped with a single GPU cluster with four streaming multi processors that house 192 CUDA cores, four polymorph engines, 32 texture units, 16 ROP units and 256KB of shared L2 cache. Memory comes in the form of 1GB of GDDR5 running through a 128-bit bus. Below is a block diagram of how the GF 106 core is laid out. At this level of performance you have to wonder what the pricing is going to be for a card of this stature. The price point for this introduction is $129, right smack in the middle of the HD 5750 pricing structure. Along with this introduction you wil see a reduction in price across the whole NVIDIA lineup, with the GTX 480 dropping to $499, the 470 to $299, the 465 to $229 and the 460 dropping to between $219 and $169 depending on the size of the frame buffer. Follow along as we take a look at both the reference card and an offering from both ASUS and Inno3D.
The first cards we will look at are the reference design GTS 450. As you will see on the following pages there are some differences in the cooling solutions used and the design of the board and connectivity. The reference design comes in at a short (relatively) 8.25 inches long and is designed to be used in a PCI-E 16x slot. The entire PCB is covered in a shroud to direct airflow over the board components. The backside of the PCB has four of the eight Samsung GDDR5 memory modules that make up the 1GB of on board frame buffer memory.
Connectivity on this reference board comes in the form of two Dual Link DVI and a single mini-HDMI ports. The GTS 450, much like the GTS 460, includes bitstreaming support for Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio over HDMI. That means if you use this card in an HTPC and use your 3D Vision kit you can see what the fuss is all about over Blu-Ray in full 1080p stereoscopic 3D. The back end of the card has just a single 6-pin PCI-E power connection. This single power connection and 106 watt TDP means you can get by with a 400 watt power supply per the PSU recommendation. The single bridge connection means you can only use the GTS 450 in an SLI setup with two cards. But with the scaling that SLI is now seeing that may be all you really need.
Once you pull the shroud off the card by removing the four screws that hold the heatsink to the PCB you can take a look at the board underneath to get the lay of the land. This side of the PCB has only four of the eight GDDR5 memory modules with the other four on the back side of the PCB. The back end of the card contains the voltage regulation circuits. There is not a heatsink over the power circuit on this card, but then again, this is the reference design and the board partners usually have a little something up their sleeves.
The heatsink used on the reference design is an extruded aluminum design that looks much like that used by Intel but without the copper slug in the middle. The 75mm fan from AVC carries part number DASA0815R2U. I was unable to find any specifics on it but the noise generated by this fan was minimal.
Now we get to the heart of the GTS 450. The GF 106 core is a further scale down of NVIDIA's Fermi architecture. This version drops down to a single GPU cluster with four streaming multi processors that house 192 CUDA cores, four polymorph engines, 32 texture units, 16 ROP units and 256KB of shared L2 cache. Clock speeds on this GPU are set to 783MHz on the fixed function units and you double that for the CUDA (Shader) core clock of 1566MHz. This card uses Samsung GDDR5 memory that carries part number K4G10325FE-HC05. This memory is familiar to anyone who has taken apart their card or read any recent video card reviews. This GDDR5 is rated to run at 1000MHz (QDR 4000MHz) and in this card runs at 902MHz through a 128-bit bus for a total memory bandwidth of 57.7GB/s. Since NVIDIA states this card is built for overclocking that means there should be some head room left for the enthusiast on a budget.
Pretty much all of the manufacturers you know about will have cards at launch. Here is a quick shot of some that will be available; by no means is this the definitive list but is a quick look at what's available. Stay tuned for a look at the Palit version in another review.
Now that the reference card is out of the way we can take a look at offerings from ASUS and Inno3D that are both factory overclocked and are built with more robust cooling solutions.