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NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450 – The Super-Affordable Fermi

Date: September 29, 2010
Author(s): Rob Williams

Been itching to buy a piece of NVIDIA’s Fermi architecture, but were looking for a total sweet spot? At $130, the GeForce GTS 450 might be it. In all of our tests, it competed nicely with AMD’s Radeon HD 5750, but most impressive might be the card’s scaling ability in SLI, which can be summed up in one word… awesome.



Introduction

A couple of weeks ago, NVIDIA unveiled what could be the final graphics card model to help complete it’s mainstream to high-end GeForce 400 line-up, the GeForce GTS 450 (GF106). At ~$130, it becomes a direct competitor to AMD’s Radeon HD 5750 – a card that came out last November. It took NVIDIA a while to get to this point, but we can hope that with Fermi’s strong points, the company’s latest offering will shake things up.

Currently, the GTS 450 is NVIDIA’s lowest-end Fermi offering that’s actually available to consumers, but in early September, the company quietly released its GT 420 budget card, one best suited for HTPCs or as an IGP replacement. Unfortunately, this model is only available to OEMs right now, so for those hoping for a budget GF100 solution, you’ll have to wait longer.

With the GTS 450 priced at around ~$130, it stands to be a good offering for those who don’t want to spend much on a graphics card, but don’t exactly want to forego pretty graphics or a decent resolution. As we’ve seen with our previous HD 5750 testing, these affordable cards offer a pretty surprising bang for the buck, and with resolutions of 1080p or lower, should prove suitable for a lot of people.

When we were briefed on the GTS 450 by NVIDIA prior to its launch, the fact that value-oriented gamers still want a decent gaming experience was reiterated to us more than once. Of course, given the price-point we’re dealing with, we wouldn’t have assumed otherwise. But, to be clear about this card’s intentions, it’s best suited for those with modest resolutions, such as 1680×1050 – and for most gamers looking for a card like this, that’s likely the resolution they’ll be running anyway.

Closer Look

The GTS 450, not counting the pushed aside GT 420, becomes the fifth release under NVIDIA’s Fermi-based line-up. Compared to all the other cards, its Core clock is much higher, at 783MHz, but it of course lacks in the overall number of cores. And though it also uses GDDR5 like the others, its bus has been tightened to 128-bit, on par with other value-driven cards, including the HD 5750.

Here’s a full run-down of NVIDIA’s current desktop line-up:

Model
Core MHz
Shader MHz
Mem MHz
Memory
Bus Width
Cores
GeForce GTX 480
700
1401
3696
1536MB
384-bit
480
GeForce GTX 470
607
1215
3348
1280MB
320-bit
448
GeForce GTX 465
607
1215
3206
1024MB
256-bit
352
GeForce GTX 460
675
675
1350
1350
3600
3600
768MB
1024MB
192-bit
256-bit
336
336
GeForce GTS 450
783
1566
3608
1024MB
128-bit
192

There’s not too much to say that hasn’t been already, so enough of these paper specs and onto a look at the actual card. As you can see, the cooler isn’t über-impressive to look at, but in my opinion, it does look a bit better than the reference coolers that AMD has used on its HD 5000 series of cards. The most important thing is that the cooler here is rather effective, though I find it a bit strange that the fan hovers just slightly above its chassis.

NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450

Like most of the other models in the GF100 series, this one includes two dual-link DVI ports and also a mini-HDMI. Multiple monitor support is possible with these cards, although if the goal is gaming across three monitors, then two cards will be required.

NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450

To complement our testing, ASUS sent along its ENGTS450 DirectCU TOP model, which improves upon the reference design in a couple of ways. First, the cooler is clearly more efficient, which is easy enough to tell simply by looking at it. Like many after-market GPU coolers available, this one focuses on allowing as much room for airflow as possible, and with its finned design, heat is sure to dissipate quickly and efficiently.

NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450

ASUS claims that with this cooler, the card will run about 20°C cooler and also be about 35% quieter. We’ll see if these claims are accurate with our testing. To get a better idea of the cooler, here’s a view that will fill in the blanks:

NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450

In addition to the special cooler, we received the TOP version of the card which means that it’s pre-overclocked, and is it ever! While the stock GTS 450 uses a stock Core clock of 783MHz, this model cranks that up an impressive 18% to 925MHz. Likewise, the memory has been bumped to 4,000MHz from 3,608MHz, and the shaders from 1566MHz to 1850MHz.

It should be mentioned that ASUS employs a couple of features to its DirectCU TOP card that the company hopes will set it apart from the rest. One such feature is the addition of POSCAP capacitors for increased power efficiency and for improved overclocking, and also an interesting “PCB stiffener”, which doesn’t affect performance of cooling, but adds durability.

With all that said, let’s quickly tackle our testing methodologies and then get right into our testing!

Test System & Methodology

At Techgage, we strive to make sure our results are as accurate as possible. Our testing is rigorous and time-consuming, but we feel the effort is worth it. In an attempt to leave no question unanswered, this page contains not only our testbed specifications, but also a detailed look at how we conduct our testing.

Test Machine

The below table lists our testing machine’s hardware, which remains unchanged throughout all GPU testing, minus the graphics card. Each card used for comparison is also listed here, along with the driver version used. Each one of the URLs in this table can be clicked to view the respective category on our site for that product.

Component
Model
Processor
Intel Core i7-975 Extreme Edition – Quad-Core @ 4.05GHz – 1.40v
Motherboard
Gigabyte GA-EX58-EXTREME – F13j BIOS (08/02/2010)
Memory
Corsair DOMINATOR – 12GB DDR3-1333 7-7-7-24-1T, 1.60v
ATI Graphics Radeon HD 5870 1GB (Sapphire) – Catalyst 10.8
Radeon HD 5850 1GB (ASUS) – Catalyst 10.8
Radeon HD 5830 1GB (Reference) – Catalyst 10.8
Radeon HD 5770 1GB (Reference) – Catalyst 10.8
Radeon HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire) – Catalyst 10.8
NVIDIA Graphics GeForce GTX 480 1536MB (Reference) – GeForce 260.63
GeForce GTX 470 1280MB (EVGA) – GeForce 260.63
GeForce GTX 460 1GB (EVGA) – GeForce 260.63
GeForce GTX 450 1GB (ASUS DirectCU TOP) – GeForce 260.63
GeForce GTX 450 1GB (Reference) – GeForce 260.63
Audio
ASUS Xonar D2X
Storage
Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200.11
Power Supply
Corsair HX1000W
Chassis
Cooler Master HAF X Full-Tower
Display
Gateway XHD3000 30″
Cooling
Corsair H50 Self-Contained Liquid Cooler
Et cetera
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

When preparing our testbeds for any type of performance testing, we follow these guidelines:

To aide with the goal of keeping accurate and repeatable results, we alter certain services in Windows 7 from starting up at boot. This is due to the fact that these services have the tendency to start up in the background without notice, potentially causing inaccurate test results. For example, disabling “Windows Search” turns off the OS’ indexing which can at times utilize the hard drive and memory more than we’d like.

The most important services we disable are:

The full list of Windows services we assure are disabled is large, but for those interested in perusing it, please look here. Most of the services we disable are mild, but we go to such an extent to have the PC as highly optimized as possible.

Game Titles

At this time, we benchmark with three resolutions that represent three popular monitor sizes available today, 20″ (1680×1050), 24″ (1920×1080) and 30″ (2560×1600). Each of these resolutions offers enough of a variance in raw pixel output to warrant testing with it, and each properly represent a different market segment: mainstream, mid-range and high-end.

Because we value results generated by real-world testing, we don’t utilize timedemos. The possible exceptions might be Futuremark’s 3DMark Vantage and Unigine’s Heaven 2.1. Though neither of these are games, both act as robust timedemos. We choose to use them as they’re a standard where GPU reviews are concerned.

All of our results are captured with the help of Beepa’s FRAPS 3.2.3, while stress-testing and temperature-monitoring is handled by OCCT 3.1.0 and GPU-Z, respectively.

For those interested in the exact settings we use for each game, direct screenshots can be seen below:

Colin McRae: Dirt 2

Colin McRae: Dirt 2 - Settings

Colin McRae: Dirt 2 - Settings

Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2 - Settings

Mafia II

Mafia II - Settings

Metro 2033

Metro 2033 - Settings

StarCraft II

StarCraft II - Settings

Colin McRae: Dirt 2

It’s not that often that faithful PC gamers get a proper racing game for their platform of choice, but Dirt 2 is one of those. While it is a “console port”, there’s virtually nothing in the game that will make that point stand out. The game as a whole takes good advantage of our PC’s hardware, and it’s as challenging as it is good-looking.

Colin McRae: Dirt 2

Manual Run-through: The race we chose to use in Dirt 2 is the first one available in the game, as it’s easily accessible and features a lot of GPU-pounding effects that the game has become known for, such as realistic dust and water effects, a large on-looking crowd of people and fine details on and off the track. Each run-through lasts the entire two laps, which comes out to about 2.5 minutes.

Prior to us receiving our samples of the GTS 450, NVIDIA stated that the card should compete nicely with the HD 5750, but so far, it’s AMD’s card that’s come out ahead. The one exception is at 1680×1050… but that changed at the higher resolutions. To be fair though, the performance of the GTS 450 couldn’t be called poor… it’s pretty well on par with the HD 5750 in the real-world.

There is something still impressive to gleam from these graphs though… the performance of the GTS 450 in SLI. It’s almost as powerful as the HD 5870, which costs $140 more!

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
NVIDIA GTX 480 1536MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
53
61.850
AMD HD 5870 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
52
60.85
AMD HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
42
50.325
NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (Reference SLI)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
44
53.584
NVIDIA GTX 470 1280MB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
42
49.032
AMD HD 5830 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
24
40.385
NVIDIA GTX 460 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA
38
44.090
NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Medium Detail, 4xAA
49
62.358
AMD HD 5770 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Medium Detail, 4xAA
44
58.439
AMD HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Medium Detail, 4xAA
39
50.327
NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Medium Detail, 4xAA
35
45.422

As good-looking as Dirt 2 is, all of our cards managed to handle it at 2560×1600 just fine, even with 4xAA enabled. For the lower-end cards, including the GTS 450, medium detail settings had to be used, but even then, the game looked good, and ran like a dream.

Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2 might not belong to a well-established series of games, but with its launch, it looks like that might not be the case for long. The game offers not only superb graphics, but an enormous world to explore, and for people like me, a countless number of hidden items to find around it. During the game, you’ll be scaling skyscrapers, racing through jungles and fighting atop snow-drenched mountains. What’s not to like?

Just Cause 2

Manual Run-through: The level chosen here is part of the second mission in the game, “Casino Bust”. Our runthrough begins at the second-half of the level, which requires us to situate ourselves on top of a car and have our driver, Karl Blaine, speed us through part of the island to safety. This is a great mission for benchmarking as we get to see a lot of the landmass, even if some of it is at a distance.

It’s clear that Just Cause 2 is optimized to work on AMD GPUs, even if it’s not on purpose. Even ASUS’ overclocked TOP card couldn’t overtake the stock-clocked HD 5750. Again though, the performance differences aren’t quite night and day, though they are still there. Our SLI configuration didn’t have quite as good a showing as it did with Dirt 2.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
AMD HD 5870 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
27
38.29
NVIDIA GTX 480 1536MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, SSAO Low, 0xAA
29
39.137
AMD HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, High Water, High Objects, 0xAA
27
38.468
NVIDIA GTX 470 1280MB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, Medium Shadows, Medium Water, Medium Objects, SSAO Low, 0xAA
33
37.932
NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (Reference SLI)
2560×1600 – Max Details, Medium Shadows, Medium Water, Medium Objects, High-Res Shadows Off, SSAO Off, 0xAA
39
46.988
AMD HD 5830 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, Medium Shadows, Medium Water, Medium Objects, High-Res Shadows Off, SSAO Off, 0xAA
31
38.230
AMD HD 5770 1GB (Reference)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, High Water, High Objects, SSAO Medium, 0xAA
31
42.332
NVIDIA GTX 460 1GB (EVGA)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, Medium Shadows, Medium Water, Medium Objects, High-Res Shadows Off, SSAO Low, 0xAA
43
48.724
NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (ASUS)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, Medium Shadows, Medium Water, Medium Objects, SSAO Medium, 0xAA
32
37.682
NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (Reference)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, Medium Shadows, Medium Water, Medium Objects, High-Res Shadows Off, SSAO Off, 0xAA
39
45.059
AMD HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, Medium Shadows, Medium Water, Medium Objects, High-Res Shadows Off, SSAO Off, 0xAA
35
43.306

One of the best things about Just Cause 2 is that it allows in-depth graphics customization so that you can tweak to your heart’s content and make sure you get a result that runs well on your particular GPU. Since this is a rather intensive game, our single-card GTS 450’s topped out at 1920×1080 resolution, but still retained good detail settings. Our SLI configuration boosted our performance and game detail settings up to HD 5830 levels.

Mafia II

For fans of the original Mafia game, having to wait an incredible eight years for a sequel must’ve been tough. But as we found out in our review, the wait might be forgotten as the game is quite good. It doesn’t feature near as much depth as say, Grand Theft Auto IV, but it does a masterful job of bringing you back to the 1940’s and letting you experience the Mafia lifestyle.

Mafia II

Manual Run-through: Because this game doesn’t allow us to save a game in the middle of a level, we chose to use chapter 7, “In Loving Memory…”, to do our runthrough. That chapter begins us on a street corner with many people around, and from there, we run to our garage, get in our car, and speed out to the street. Our path ultimately leads us to the park, and takes close to two minutes to accomplish.

Given that NVIDIA worked very closely with 2K Games on this title, I had expected the GTS 450 to dominate, but that wasn’t the case at all. The HD 5750 came out just inches ahead, and for our SLI configuration, that came out right behind the HD 5850. So far, it’s the SLI performance that’s impressing me the most… it’s almost amazing.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
NVIDIA GTX 480 1536MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, PhysX High, 0xAA
23
61.922
AMD HD 5870 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, PhysX Medium, 0xAA
39
60.947
NVIDIA GTX 470 1280MB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, PhysX Medium, 0xAA
30
50.955
AMD HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, PhysX Medium, 0xAA
27
38.468
NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (Reference SLI)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, PhysX Off, 0xAA
35
49.230
AMD HD 5830 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, PhysX Off, 0xAA
33
39.252
NVIDIA GTX 460 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, PhysX Off, 0xAA
27
38.625
AMD HD 5770 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Medium Shadows, Medium Geometry, SSAO Off, 0xAA
30
44.030
NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (ASUS)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, PhysX Off, 0xAA
41
54.285
NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (Reference)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, PhysX Off, 0xAA
38
46.118
AMD HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Medium Detail, PhysX Off, 0xAA
32
47.660

As odd as it may seem, even though the HD 5750 came out ahead in our standard tests, the GTS 450 proved the better card in our best playable tests. For whatever reason, the GTS 450 cards performed better at top settings without 0xAA at 1920×1080 than our HD 5750, which had to use medium detail settings.

Metro 2033

One of the more popular Internet memes for the past couple of years has been, “Can it run Crysis?”, but as soon as Metro 2033 launched, that’s a meme that should have died. Metro 2033 is without question one of the beefiest games on the market, and though it supports DirectX 11, it’s almost a feature worth ignoring, because the extent you’ll need to go to in order to see playable framerates isn’t likely going to be worth it.

Metro 2033

Manual Run-through: The level we use for testing is part of chapter 4, called “Child”, where we must follow a linear path through multiple corridors until we reach our end point, which takes a total of about 90 seconds. Please note that due to the reason mentioned above, we test this game in DX10 mode, as DX11 simply isn’t that realistic from a performance standpoint.

We’re seeing a bit of a repeat with the performance here. As with Dirt 2, the GTS 450 came out ahead in our 1680×1050 test, but fell short in the others. And again, the SLI performance of the cards simply skyrocketed up our charts and sits right behind the much more expensive HD 5870.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
NVIDIA GTX 480 1536MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA
46
62.563
AMD HD 5870 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA
39
60.947
NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (Reference SLI)
2560×1600 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA
32
50.060
NVIDIA GTX 470 1280MB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA
35
49.220
AMD HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA
30
47.746
NVIDIA GTX 460 1GB (EVGA)
1920×1080 – High Detail, DX10, 0xAA
45
66.894
AMD HD 5830 1GB (Reference)
1920×1080 – High Detail, DX10, 0xAA
30
44.030
NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (ASUS)
1920×1080 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA
38
54.930
AMD HD 5770 1GB (Reference)
1920×1080 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA
32
52.555
AMD HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA
32
47.660
NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (Reference)
1920×1080 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA
30
47.608

As such an intensive game, none of our cards earned a spot as best playable for the settings above, but when each has the graphics turned down to “Medium”, the performance improves dramatically.

StarCraft II

Of all the games we test, it might be this one that needs no introduction. Back in 1998, Blizzard unleashed what was soon to be one of the most successful RTS titles on the planet, and even as of today, the original is still heavily played all around the world – even in actual competitions. StarCraft II of course had a lot of hype to live up to, and it did, thanks to its intense gameplay and superb graphics.

StarCraft II

Manual Run-through: The portion of the game we use for testing is part of the Zero Hour mission, which has us holding fort until we’re able to evacuate. Our saved game starts us in the middle of the mission, and from the get-go, we build a couple of buildings and concurrently move our main units up and around the map. Total playtime lasts about two minutes.

Just Cause 2 might have leaned towards AMD’s graphics cards, but SCII clearly favors NVIDIA’s. Here, our SLI configuration of the GTS 450, which would run about $260, simply dominated the HD 5870, except at the top-end resolution of 2560×1600. And even there, the performance for both were above 50 FPS, so whether you’d actually see the difference or not is the big question.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
NVIDIA GTX 480 1536MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA
25
72.674
AMD HD 5870 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA
31
57.28
NVIDIA GTX 470 1280MB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA
20
55.961
NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (Reference SLI)
2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA
32
50.060
AMD HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA
32
48.787
NVIDIA GTX 460 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA
25
41.306
AMD HD 5830 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA
20
32.986
NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA
19
32.561
AMD HD 5770 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA
17
30.515
AMD HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – High Detail, 0xAA
23
37.297
NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – High Detail, 0xAA
22
33.331

StarCraft II might have some of the best aesthetic values in current titles, but it can fortunately run on a wide gamut of hardware without requiring you to tone down the details. As such, running 2560×1600 on all of our cards is no problem at all.

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

Although we generally shun automated gaming benchmarks, we do like to run at least one to see how our GPUs scale when used in a ‘timedemo’-type scenario. Futuremark’s 3DMark Vantage is without question the best such test on the market, and it’s a joy to use, and watch. The folks at Futuremark are experts in what they do, and they really know how to push that hardware of yours to its limit.

Similar to a real game, 3DMark Vantage offers many configuration options, although many (including us) prefer to stick to the profiles which include Performance, High and Extreme. Depending on which one you choose, the graphic options are tweaked accordingly, as well as the resolution. As you’d expect, the better the profile, the more intensive the test. The benchmark doesn’t natively support 2560×1600, so to benchmark with that, we choose the Extreme profile and simply change the resolution.

When NVIDIA told us that the GTS 450 should perform better than the HD 5750, this might be part of what it was talking about. It’s clear that where 3DMark is concerned, the GTS 450 does perform better, but that’s not quite what we saw in our real tests.

Unigine Heaven 2.1

While Futuremark is a well-established name where PC benchmarking is concerned, Unigine is just beginning to become exposed to people. The company’s main focus isn’t benchmarks, but rather its cross-platform game engine which it licenses out to other developers, and also its own games, such as a gorgeous post-apocalytic oil strategy game. The company’s benchmarks are simply a by-product of its game engine.

Unigine Heaven 2.1

The biggest reason that the company’s “Heaven” benchmark grew in popularity rather quickly is that both AMD and NVIDIA promoted it for its heavy use of tessellation, a key DirectX 11 feature. Like 3DMark Vantage, the benchmark here is overkill by design, so results here aren’t going to directly correlate with real gameplay. Rather, they showcase which card models can better handle both DX11 and its GPU-bogging features.

Being that NVIDIA’s Fermi architecture is heavily tuned to accelerate things like tessellation, the results here are of no surprise. In terms of tessellation and DirectX 11 in particular, any game that uses them should run far better on GF100 than AMD’s current offerings. NVIDIA might see some competition with AMD’s upcoming Radeon HD 6000 series launch, but that still remains yet to be seen.

Power & Temperatures

To test our graphics cards for both temperatures and power consumption, we utilize OCCT for the stress-testing, GPU-Z for the temperature monitoring, and a Kill-a-Watt for power monitoring. The Kill-a-Watt is plugged into its own socket, with only the PC connect to it.

As per our guidelines when benchmarking with Windows, when the room temperature is stable (and reasonable), the test machine is boot up and left to sit at the desktop until things are completely idle. Because we are running such a highly optimized PC, this normally takes one or two minutes. Once things are good to go, the idle wattage is noted, GPU-Z is started up to begin monitoring card temperatures, and OCCT is set up to begin stress-testing.

To push the cards we test to their absolute limit, we use OCCT in full-screen 2560×1600 mode, and allow it to run for 15 minutes, which includes a one minute lull at the start, and a four minute lull at the end. After about 5 minutes, we begin to monitor our Kill-a-Watt to record the max wattage.

The reference cooler seen on the GTS 450 didn’t look quite so efficient to look at, but it clearly does its job well, ranking very well in our charts. ASUS’ DirectCU cooler improves on things even further, though the actual differences aren’t quite as stark as I would have imagined.

On the power side of things, efficiency isn’t something the GF100 series thrives at, but things aren’t too bad here, with the GTS 450 sucking down 24W above the HD 5750 at load.

Final Thoughts

It might have taken NVIDIA a while to catch up to AMD in terms of a completed GPU line-up, but with the GTS 450, it’s happened, and fans of the green side will be pleased with the $130 performance seen here. NVIDIA’s card didn’t out-perform the HD 5750 in most tests, which is something we expected, but both cards in the real-world appear to be the same.

NVIDIA’s latest card flip-flops some pros and cons with AMD’s HD 5750. First, the power consumption is a bit higher on the GTS 450, but its temperatures are improved – even with the reference cooler. The performance on both cards could almost be called the same, although AMD’s card did come out ahead most of the time.

Where the GTS 450 shines is with DirectX 11 games, especially those where tessellation is involved. As we saw in our Unigine tests, all of NVIDIA’s offerings dominate AMD’s, and it’s clear that the company’s goals with Fermi are being realized. That’s the upside. The downside is that tessellation and DX11 in particular aren’t exactly proving to be all-important features right now.

The reason for that isn’t just the lack of games, but the lack of good use of these features. There are games like Metro 2033 that implement some nifty graphical effects, but as the game runs about as fast as frozen tar running down an arctic hill when in DirectX 11 mode, those might as well not exist. Then there are other games such as Dirt 2, which use DirectX 11 in minimal ways.

None of this is of course NVIDIA’s fault, but up to this point I haven’t seen a compelling reason to care about DirectX 11 – but, that could soon change. DirectX 11 titles began coming out a year ago, and in the next year, we should be seeing many more. I am hoping that it’s with these upcoming titles that DX11 will begin to look more attractive.

NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450

There are two rather major pluses that the GTS 450 has. The price is one of them, at $130 or thereabouts. There are a ton of models currently available on the market, from many different vendors, so finding the best model for you shouldn’t be too difficult. In particular, I quite liked the ASUS DirectCU TOP version I also tested, as it gave a nice boost to the performance and remained stable throughout all of our testing.

What impressed me most about the GTS 450 was its SLI scalability though. Simply put… it’s incredible. In some of our tests, that configuration pushed the performance up towards the HD 5870, and in the case of StarCraft II, past it. If the prices scaled the same, the performance gains wouldn’t be too impressive, but as the HD 5870 costs about $140 more than two GTS 450’s in SLI, that seems like quite the value.

To drill the point home… in most of our tests, the GTS 450 in SLI even performed better than a stand-alone GTX 470 – a card that currently costs $350, or $90 more than the aforementioned configuration. If I were a gamer today looking for a huge bang for the buck, and didn’t mind having two GPUs hogging up the inside of my chassis, I’d be jumping all over this.

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