It's always fun for us to see the release of a new GPU - whether it be a brand new architecture or revised SKU - and we've been blessed by an embarassment of riches this past few days, first with the AMD HD7790 and now with NVIDIA's GTX 650 Ti BOOST. Rich’s review of the new card will have gone live by the time you read this article, and so if you haven’t perused it then you can find it here, including more technical information than is included in this primer. But without further ado, here’s a brief introduction to the new GPU.
NVIDIA has identified that the 650Ti has been insufficient – by which they mean sub-30fps – for 1080p gaming with good quality presets, especially on the range of titles released in the last six to twelve months. In an effort to improve the gaming experience at this price point they have returned to a technology seen on their mid-to-high tier performance cards, without designing a whole new GPU.
The silicon appears to be a GK106, the same as the GTX660 as well as the original GTX 650Ti. Compared to the GTX 650Ti there have been a number of feature tweaks and improvements, the headline of which is implementation of GPU Boost technology. First debuted in the GTX680 last year, this tech. intelligently overclocks the core whilst the card as a whole sits under predefined TDP limits. The base clock is up to 980MHz from 928Mhz, with a Boost clock up to 1033MHz; potentially this represents a significant real-terms frame-rate gain over the original, but isn’t the only augmentation which has been made.
Inherited from the GTX660 is a 192bit-wide memory bus clocked at 6GHz, compared to the 128bit/5.4GHz interface of the original. Also important will be the 2GB GDDR5 memory as a standard configuration option, up from 1GB. As we have been seeing in performance figures from GPUs in both camps the memory bandwidth is having a more significant impact on performance than might have been thought originally, and as a consequence the benefits of this modified architecture at 1080p for high image quality settings is significant.
One factor which hasn’t been changed is the number of CUDA cores – GTX 650Ti BOOST will still be composed of 768 shaders, which will serve to hold back pace somewhat. There will be a cost in the form of TDP – 140W vs the 110W of the original, but the card as a whole will still be powered by a 6-pin PCI-E supply. Generally speaking, if you have been running a GTX 650Ti you’ll be unlikely to need a PSU upgrade in order to operate the new version with BOOST.
It’s almost a disappointment that the underlying specs of the two editions of the 650Ti aren’t the same as it would for the first time give us a strong indication of the value of the GPU Boost technology over implementation without it. However, that’s only really a concern to us tech-heads, what does this mean for the consumer?
In theory, it means better performance at a given price. The MSRP of GTX 650Ti BOOST is £124, placing it up against the AMD HD7850 1GB and cheaper than the 2GB edition of the same card. Additionally NVIDIA are adjusting the pricing throughout the entry-level range with the release of this card, enforcing a price drop to as low as £90 for the GTX 650Ti and £160 on the GTX660 (although both cards may be cheaper from certain AIBs/retailers).
Rich will be able to tell you how well it compares to AMD’s lineup, revised last week with the inclusion at the HD7790 at £120, but on the face of it the greatest threat appears to be that of the GTX 660, which is improving in value all the time. Indeed value will continue to be a theme for both camps, with the GTX 650Ti BOOST also being a part of NVIDIA’s Free2Play bundle offering $75 of additional in-game currency for Planetside 2, Hawken and World of Tanks.
Will this be the last new card we see from NVIDIA until the 700-series appears in 2014? We doubt it; if nothing else a low-fat part based on the GK110 seems highly likely. However this does appear to be the finest variation they can achieve with the GK106, meaning that it may be the final major low-to-mid range release until the new series. Enjoy the lull while it last, because it almost certainly won’t.
For more information on the GTX 650Ti BOOST check out NVIDIA's blog on the new card, and don't forget our launch reference card review.