Sometimes a great product needs a little tweaking in an effort to keep it great. AMD has been for a few generations now offering periodic “refreshes” to their product line. These refreshes are when the production methods of the current chip design have become refined enough that they can now eek out a little more clock speed. This is actually a pretty cool idea as it means that over the product cycle life of a CPU design AMD is able to periodically make the product line a little quicker and for the same cost.
This last week AMD did just that raising the high end speed of their Phenom II and Athlon II lines. This allows the cost of the previous chips to go a bit lower and consumers to now have more options. Also in this mix AMD introduced a new six core design, the 1075T. Placed at a clock speed of 3.0 Ghz it is squarely between the 1055T and the 1090T in terms of performance and at $245 is also position between in price. This is a locked chip like the 1055T but has some decent overclock potential and gives great performance at stock speeds.
On the Phenom II none six core side we see the X4 970 replaces the 960 with a 100 MGHz speed bump and the X2 Black model the 560 doing the same. Both of these offer a little speed boost but the bigger story from both of these is the price drop of the previous high end models.
The Athlon II side sees the X4, X3 and X2 all get the bump but I think you get the idea. This is not the sexiest or most amazing in CPU news I am sure but it is interesting to me because it shows AMD trying to keep consumer options open and things fresh. As they get better at making the chips they give us essentially the option of a free bonus. With the exception of the K chips I have not seen a new i7 since launch. Which either means Intel gets it perfect at first build or they just do not bother. Considering how chips are made and how the process works I would say the latter.
Overall this refresh is a good thing for DIYers. It means that the solid line already out gets a price drop and new options appear. Kind of rewarding those that held off a bit longer before moving into a new system.
The Computer Ed Show is going through a refresh as it where as well. Over the last year to 18 months I have let the shows focus slip from what you do with your computer to what your computer is. Don’t get me wrong hardware is important but hardware review sites and shows are a dime a dozen. I think it is time to put the focus back onto what you do with your PC over what your PC is made of.
Now that is not to say we will not be looking at hardware anymore. I am excited about seeing the new AMD Video card line up as well as their new CPUs. However I will spend less of the show on this material and more on getting the most out of your PC experience. So with this in mind I am asking you, my readers and listeners to send me material you would like to hear about. Be it a program you are interested in and want to know more, how to articles or questions about software you already have.
From the hardware end we will be still talking but we will shift the focus to such things as upgrading your cookie cutter PC. How to do basic repairs yourself and a whole lot more.
I have had great response to the show and great feedback over the last 18 months and using all of it is why the direction change. Not a big detour, more of a refinement, sort of the like the AMD refresh.
With the GTX 460 last week in our review sewing up the mainstream price point of $200 we where still left with the budget gamer market seeing no real changes and the 5750 holding firm onto it’s seat at the head of the table. However as I said in the 460 review, nVidia has changed tactics and the budget market was now squarely in it’s sites, introducing the GTS 450.
The GTS 450 from nVidia is squarely aimed at the AMD 5700 line of video cards. The stock 450 is seeing early pricing at around $120. If this pricing holds this will set the baseline card right on top of the 5750 in price but how does it rate in performance?
Well I wanted to take this card head to head with a 5750 but the only card I had around for testing in that line is a Sapphire Vapor-X 5770. This particular card is at the high end of the 5700 line and priced closer to the $160 mark. However as luck would have it the card sent to me by EVGA is their super clocked edition, thus is overclocked like the Vapor-X and priced similarly.
For purposes of this test I wanted to use a system that fits in the budget mindset of this card so I will be testing on a system running an AMD 1055T on an 870 based motherboard. As for the setup I am taking nVidia’s suggestion. When they gave us the briefing on this card they made it clear that this was targeted at the more budget oriented gamer. With this in mind they set their sights on making this card perform well at 1680×1050 with 4X AA. For purposes of our testing some of the tests where run at this specific setting. Others where run using the built in AA settings for the games tested and some did not allow the setting of the amount of AA< only if it was on or off. This means we set to 4X when we could and turn on when we could not do otherwise.
Taking the card put of the box we see that the 450 is a small card, in this comparison shot with a 5770 you can see it is about the same size. The cooler on the EVGA card is designed to exhaust the hot air from the card outside the case. While the EVGA card seems to be very close to the reference design in construction my testing showed that it ran about the same as the stock reference under load in temperatures and was actually quieter than the reference card.
This however is something I have come to expect from EVGA, the quality they produce is a step above and worth the small price hike over stock designs.
As with the 460 testing we decided to begin testing with Tessellation, this is the bread and butter both cards where built on. For purposes of pure benchmarking we used the Heaven benchmark on both cards with Tessellation set to normal, AA set to 4X and AF to 16X.
We see once again that the FERMI architecture of the 450 is superior when it comes to Tessellation with the 450 putting up 17.1 FPS vs the 15.4 on the Vapor-X. This comes out to around an 11% performance boost.
Next up we hit my favorite MMO, Star Trek Online and was the 450 deliver 6.5 FPS more performance than the Vapor-X. This amount to a 12% boost. Testing in EVE, Dirt 2, Mafia II, Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2 saw similar numbers.
A compilation of all the testing and averaging out the differences resulted in the GTS 450 delivering about 11% overall performance boost. Not bad for the same price card right? WRONG!
You see the numbers I gave you above where not a comparison of the Vapor-X 5770 vs the GTS 450, these numbers where from a comparison of the Vapor-X and a STOCK 450, a card that sells for about $40 less.
While nVidia might be trying the market the GTS 450 against the 5750 from a price point angle, in performance the card goes right up against the more expensive 5770 and WINS!
Less money and better performance how can you go wrong?
Wait what about the EVGA SC and the Vapor-X? Well testing there was predictable after the the stock results and we saw another 3% gain on average across the board using the Super Clock.
nVidia delivered on their promise of a card that would give good gaming experiences at 1050 resolutions with 4xAA. The games I threw at the card where smooth at these settings and delivered a great gaming experience.
With this card nVidia has in my opinion delivered a punch to AMD that no one saw coming. The GTS 450 when taken with the GTX 460 have taken control of the game card market from the budget 100$ price point through the $225 mainstream. There is no real competition. These cards deliver better performance for the same or less money and that makes them the best buy.
Now what about nVidia’s intangibles? What I mean are 3D Vision and PhysX. The truth is at these price points these two items are not really worth much consideration. While the features themselves are nice these cards lack the horse power to really drive these features and a good gaming experience unless you cut the resolutions and detail levels down quite a bit.
At the end of the day however these do not matter. At this price point you are look for pure gaming bang for the buck. You want a card that delivers a great gaming experience and does so at a reasonable price. The GTS 450 delivers on both counts.
As for the EVGA SC GTS 450, the factory overclock and quieter cooler give a great gaming card for a little extra money. The performance boost is there but the real advantage is the increase in quality. As always if you are going to buy an nVidia card EVGA is the first choice.
Normally today you would see a new entry today but the week we are holding until Monday. We have been given the opportunity to participate in the new product launch and so I am holding our entry for the launch date. However I can promise a full review of this new product will hit this site Monday morning. Stay tuned for more information…
The battle for the mainstream computer user has been one that AMD has been winning for the last year or so. They have been laser focused on that $200 and down price point and been the undisputed kings, until now.
When nVidia released the GTX 400 series it was with much criticism. The cards where late to the market and the release was only for three higher priced cards that where decent performing but at a cost of more heat and power consumption than their competition. During this time AMD’s lead in the mainstream looked very solid, especially since it seemed that another delay was occurring at nVidia with their mainstream offerings. However there is an old saying that good things come to those who wait.
The reason for the delay was that nVidia did something they have not, that I am aware of, ever done. They created a whole new chip design for their value segment. While the GTX 460 draws from the higher end cards for the core design the actual chip has been redesigned to make it more energy efficient and reduce the heat the chip produces, all this while keeping great performance.
The timing of my getting this card from EVGA could not have been better since only a few days earlier I got the Powercolor 5830 in as well. These two card are comparably priced, within about $20 and so competition is to be expected.
Opening the box it only takes a second to realize that EVGA is geared toward gamers and a hard core group in it’s approach. The box has a bumper sticker in it, I kid you not. Not only can you have your GTX 460 in your computer, you can also put a sign on your car letting people know it is there.
The rest of the packaging is standard fair, adaptors, power supply connectors, SLI bridge and of course the drivers. Nothing really fancy but at the same time a very classy package in the way it was done. This particular model is the Super Clock, meaning it has some factory worked overclocking already done. This is good for my testing as it allows me to down clock the card to baseline speeds and then test not only the regular card performance but the overclocked as well.
nVidia targets this card with 1920×1200 resolutions but looking at STEAM surveys and pricing I decided that testing at 1920×1080 made more sense. This card is priced at the high end of the mainstream and a 24” monitor is within that price grouping. Larger monitors fall outside the price spec’ing of what you would consider mainstream so I thought this a good place to test.
I again this round of testing a bit different however. When AMD put out the 5000 series of cards they sang the praises of Tesselation. With the GTX 400 series nVidia says they are Tesselation Done Right, are they?
We began this test with Dirt 2, one of the games that was supposed to herald the coming of Tesselation. The results where most interesting. While on average the 5830 could throw up around 52 FPS, the 460 was able to push that number up to around 60 FPS.
Using various DX11 benchmarks I was able to confirm these results, they show that nVidia does in fact do Tesselation better than ATI by about 18% or better in most cases.
Next we go back to our MMO benchmark with Star Trek Online. Remember back in our 5830 review we saw the AMD card hammer out 75 FPS, well the 460 again took over the top by putting up numbers around the 95 FPS mark. That is a real life game performance boost of around 25%.
Throwing my other games at the cards saw the same results, in the end the GTX 460 is coming in around 18% faster overall than the 5830. But while benchmarks are nice we do not rely on them here, we want to know what the real world difference was in actual game play.
A real world game play subjective comparison of the two cards gave no real difference. That was however to be expected. Both cards are great performers and the consumer is winning right now with the performance to dollar values we are seeing every day. However before we declare this a draw in everyday use lets throw a few more real world, real usage tests at the GTX 460 and 5830..
In our testing we used Batman: AA for it’s benchmark and game play but we turned off a nVidia feature for testing to make the testing fair. Turning on PhysX we now again throw our subjective test team at Batman and see what happens. The results where noticeable. The addition of PhysX to the game play was notice immediately and gave the GTX 460 an edge in gaming experience.
Also consider the higher end offerings of both companies with these cards. AMD touts it’s Eyefinity with it’s various cards but I would seriously doubt the ability of a single 5830 being able to truly game well on three monitors. Plus Eyefinity has a serious limitation for those of us in the real world, desk space. Try to imagine 3 monitors on your computer desk all right next to each other and get my drift.
The nVidia offering is 3D Vision. Now I am on record as saying that I am not a fan of 3D and feel it is gimmicky right now but nVidia deserves credit for getting on the bandwagon early and even doing it well. 3D Vision will fit on all our desks easily enough but does come at a cost, the more expensive monitor to run it. Both 3D Vision and Eyefinity in my opinion are not for the mainstream yet but of the two I am more inclined to see 3D Vision in average homes.
So at the end of the game we have two cards with a price difference of about 10% more for the nVidia. We have two cards that are in a dead heat in base line gaming experience, however the GTX 460 has around an 18% performance boost in raw benchmarking. Additionally the GTX 460 offers a much nicer feature set for real world experience add-ons with PhysX and 3D Vision.
The end result is a no brainer, the GTX 460 is the new king of the $200 price point. As for the EVGA sample, the overclocking is a nice touch that gives this card a small boost in benchmarks but makes no real difference in the experience. The card was stable and cool and the quality was outstanding, something that is expected from EVGA products.
For the mainstream gamer there really is not choice right now, the GTX 460 is the best with a clear hands down victory. If you are going to buy a nVidia card the only real choice is EVGA. They are the standard that other nVidia cards are set by and the pricing and quality is outstanding.
EVGA GTX460 SC Review as aired September 5, 2010