NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Review

 

GTX-650-Ti

September saw Kepler come to the masses, with Nvidia releasing the highly-anticipated GTX 660 and the budget GTX 650.  Nvidia is releasing its final version of the Kepler family for 2012 with the GTX 650 Ti.  Striking a middle ground between the GTX 650 and the GTX 660, it's priced squarely at a $149 MSRP and gives gamers yet another option.  This card is small in stature, but we have been impressed by its gaming performance, especially for the price.  Although the GTX 660 is seen as the best bang for your buck card in the Kepler lineup, we think the GTX 650 Ti is pretty close in the value race, and gives gamers on a very tight budget a great option to play the latest games with next-gen features like PhysX on Borderlands 2.

Overview


NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti

With the introduction of the GeForce GTX 650 Ti, NVIDIA is completing the Kepler GTX lineup. The GeForce GTX 650 Ti brings turbocharged “Ti” performance to the GTX 650 family, running 40% faster than the standard GTX 650. It’s the perfect choice for gamers on a budget who want to step up to GeForce GTX gaming.

b_0_0_0_00_images_stories_gpus_Nvidia-GTX-650Ti_splash.jpg

Features

  • Kepler GPU Architecture
  • NVIDIA Adaptive V-Sync
  • TXAA Anti-Aliasing
  • NVIDIA SLI® Technology
  • NVIDIA PhysX® Technology

 

 

 

 

 

Courtesy of NVIDIA

 

  • NVIDIA CUDA™ Technology
  • Microsoft DirectX 11 Support
  • PCI Express 3.0 Support
  • NVIDIA 3D Vision® Ready

 

 

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
Courtesy of NVIDIA

 


 

More Performance For Your Budget


The GTX 650 Ti comes packed with features that are unprecedented for a card of its size and price. To cater to modern 1080p gamers, NVIDIA integrated the same GK106 GPU used in the GTX 660. Four SMXs with 768 CUDA Cores and 64 texture units round out the card's graphical prowess. Compared to the standard GTX 650, the Ti boasts twice the number of CUDA Cores and texture units in addition to more memory bandwidth, making it 40% faster on average. Thanks to Kepler's focus on power efficiency, the GTX 650 Ti consumes 22% less power under load than the GTX 550 Ti. 

Microsoft DirectX 11

A discussion of DX11 really boils down to two things: tessellation and displacement mapping. Put simply, a displacement map stores height information to give texture to surfaces it is applied to. Limitations arise from a lack of vertices to depict complex textures. Tessellation is able to slice and dice the polygons to deliver highly textured characters that border on film-like realism. Given that tesselation is programmable in DirectX 11, challenging graphics problems like bump mapping, smoothing, object popping, and artwork scaling. This means in a nutshell that gamers will enjoy all the details of their favorite games both far away and close up. A more detailed explanation of DX11 tessellation can be found on the GeForce website.

NVIDIA PhysX

Until we achieve something akin to the Star Trek holodeck, gamers will continue to demand a higher sense of realism from their virtual environments. Flags that don't flutter from a gust and walls that don't crumble from a shotgun blast are dead giveaways of a faked world. PhysX represent NVIDIA's best effort to pull the wool over our eyes by providing environments, objects, and figures that respond dynamically to the actions of the player and the game's AI.

NVIDIA Adaptive VSync

Vertical Synchronization, or VSync, is a known prescription for screen-tearing when an application's frame rates exceed the refresh rate of your monitor. We all know there's no such thing as a free lunch, and previous users of VSync suffered from stuttering due to the locked frame rate. Just as it sounds, Adaptive Vsync can selectively enable and disable the VSync frame rate lock, eliminating any sharp dips in performance while still preventing screen-tearing.

TXAA Anti-Aliasing

Anti-aliasing is particularly important for makers of CG films and game engines to ensure that the audience isn't distracted by jagged edges. Sophisticated filters enable to TXAA work to smooth these edges out at a level comparable to 4x the previous generation MSAA Anti-Aliasing. You also won't notice any jagged lines crawling in front of a slow-moving camera thanks to TXAA taking a "jitter" sample.


Design


 Nvidia Geforce GTX 550 Ti

Nvidia Geforce GTX 550 Ti PCBNvidia Geforce GTX 550 Ti Ports

When we pulled the card out of the armored transport that is Nvidia's shipping boxes, I was impressed by the tiny card that was waiting for me.  The GTX 650 Ti is about the same size as a standard 4x6 photo, and has a single fan with a spiral heatsink for cooling.  The PCB is all matte black and the back I/O panel provides dual-DVI and an HDMI output, and all can be used simultaneously for tri-monitor output, something Kepler has made a standard for Nvidia in response to AMD/ATI's Eyefinity.

 

Nvidia Geforce GTX 550 Ti Power Port

As mentioned before, the single fan is responsible for cooling up to the rated 110W TDP.  A single 6-pin power cable is needed, the same as the GTX 660 we looked at last month.  The reference GTX 650 Ti is fitted with a spiral heatsink, and we won't be surprised to see some fanless solutions hitting shelves from Nvidia's OEM partners, especially in this smaller form factor and workable TDP levels.


Test Setup


CPU: Intel i5-3570K

Thermal Paste:  Noctua NT-H1

CPU Cooler:  Cooler Master TPC 812

Motherboard: Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H

RAM: 2x4GB Patriot Viper Xtreme II 1600MHz DDR3

OS HDD: Patriot Pyro 60GB SSD

Secondary HDD: Kingston HyperX 3K 240GB SSD

OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit

 

Temps and Voltages

Even with a single fan and simple heatsink, the GTX 650 Ti maxxed at a relatively cool 52°C at only 23% fan speed.  It's essentially whisper quiet, and we're excited to see the near-silent solutions OEMs will equip the GTX 650 Ti with.  At full load, the GTX 650 Ti pulled 1.062V, which is quite low, even for Kepler GPUs.

 

Overclocking


Since we are testing a reference card and not one from a 3rd party manufacturer, detailed overclocking results likely won't reflect performance from a "normal" chip.  Our sample could be hand-picked off the line for OC potential or other similar criteria.  Additionally, the reference cooling system likely won't be representative of most GTX 650 Ti you'll be able to buy, so differing thermal performance also comes into play.  As such, we'll be saving overclocking on the GTX 650 Ti for actual retail cards, which will be more representative of actual consumer performance.  From our quick OC tests, we expect to see the GTX 650 Ti have quite a decent amount of overclocking headroom, making that much more out of your 150 hard-earned dollars.


Benchmarks - Far Cry 2 DX9


Far Cry 2 is a DirectX 10 title using Ubisoft's Dunia engine, which is coded to take advantage of multi-core processors.  The game allows DirectX 9 modes as well, and we'll test both to see how the cards compare in each scenario.  The Dunia engine utilizes physics-intensive semi-destructible environments to create a dynamic open FPS world with unscripted AI.

 

FC2-DX9-Benchmark

 

The GTX 650 Ti gives a significant boost over the venerable 9800GT, by offering 2.33 times the average framerate as the 9800GT with a much higher minimum framerate.  Compared to the past GTX 560 models, the GTX 650 Ti only performs about 72% as well.  The GTX 660, the next step up from the GTX 650 Ti in the Kepler family, provides about 1.57 times the average framerate, a trend we'll see in essentially every benchmark from here on out.

 

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2 DX10


FC2-DX10-Benchmark 

Similarly, in DX10 performance, we still see the GTX650 Ti give 2.31 times the framerate of the 9800GT.  The GTX 650 Ti delivers DX10 performance with average framerates that are still only 80% and 60.5% of the GTX 560 and the GTX 660, respectively.  However, we expect to see it do better in DX11 applications, with Kepler being packaged with optimization for next-gen technologies like Tesselation and PhysX for DX11 gaming.

 


Benchmarks- Batman: Arkham City


Batman: Arkham City uses DirectX11 features added to the Unreal Engine core to enable advanced graphics, such as tesselation and next-gen lighting, to create a detailed environment.  The DX11 features make it a relatively demanding GPU test when compared to many other games, and PhysX features add another level of physical detail.

 

Batman-Arkham-City-Benchmark

 

At full settings, the GTX 650 Ti did quite well relative to the GTX 560 Ti, and holds its own at Max settings and high PhysX.  In terms of playability it's very close to the 30 FPS threshold, and the minimum framerates match those of the GTX 560 Ti, the predecessor to the GTX 660.  Pretty impressive for a tiny card at the mid-$100 price point.  The $70 jump to the GTX 660 will give you about 1.62 times the average frame rate and over double minimum framerates for Batman: Arkham City.  Don't let the 9800GT score fool you, as it was running in DX10 compatibility mode, so it lacked many of the GPU-intensive rendering technologies, especially tesselation, which make Batman: Arkham City a demanding game.

 


Benchmarks - Dirt 3


Dirt 3 is a popular rally racing game, one of the several popular racing series by Codemasters, and uses their EGO 2.0 Engine to create very realistic environments and particle effects while using the latest Direct X11, which the GTX 500-series cards were designed for.

 

Dirt-3-Benchmark

 

The GTX 650 Ti handled Dirt 3 great and it ran very smooth throughout all of the runs we put it through, including a couple hours of gameplay.  The GTX 650 Ti is more than enough to run Dirt 3 at max settings at 1080P and, for all intensive purposes, matches the GTX 560's performance.  The GTX 650 Ti bests the 9800GT (in DX10) with about 1.4 times the framerate, and falls behind the GTX 560 Ti which gives 1.19 times the average framerate.  The GTX 660 continues to stay on the same trend, delivering about 1.55 times the framerates (not surprising since they're both on the same GK106 GPU).

 


Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator


Aliens vs. Predator utilizes Rebellion Developments' Asura engine to create detailed textural environments which use DirectX 11 and advanced (and demanding) graphical techniques such as tessellation.

All of the settings for the benchmarking tool were set to their highest values, which is "3" in the configuration file setup at a resolution of 1920x1080.

 

AvP-Benchmark

 

Again, we were happy to see how the GTX 650 Ti did in a game which is notoriously demanding.  Although not reaching the 30 frame per second threshold, the GTX 650 did an impressive job for its price to deliver a pretty smooth experience in the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark with full tesselation and other effects enabled.  Again, the overall value between the GTX 560 Ti and the GTX 660 are very close, as the framerate improvement is nearly-proportional to the price increase.

 


3DMark11 by Futuremark is the latest iteration of their "world's most popular" graphics benchmarking suite.  It's based upon DirectX 11 and "makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading."

We ran the four graphics tests of the "Performance" and "Extreme" presets to determine our system graphics score.  The four tests evaluate the following:

Graphics Test 1

  • Based on the Deep Sea scene
  • No tessellation
  • Heavy lighting with several shadow casting lights

Graphics Test 2

  • Based on the Deep Sea scene
  • Medium tessellation
  • Medium lighting with few shadow casting lights

Graphics Test 3

  • Based on the High Temple scene
  • Medium tessellation
  • One shadow casting light

Graphics Test 4

  • Based on the High Temple scene
  • Heavy tessellation
  • Many shadow casting lights

 

Benchmarks - 3DMark11 Extreme


3DM11-Extreme-Benchmark

 

Benchmarks - 3DMark11 Performance


3DM11-Performance-Benchmark

 

Both 3DMark11 tests  show the GTX 650 beating out the GTX 560, and coming in very similarly to the GTX 560 Ti, which again is impressive.  These benchmarks are more synthetic than what you'll see in the real world, and what we see is Kepler's improvement in handling next-gen rendering technology, allowing it to surge forward compared to Nvidia's past generation.

 


Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven


Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced UNIGINE™ engine. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of steampunk.

Features

  • Heavy GPU load, extreme hardware stability test.
  • Support of DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.0.
  • Comprehensive use of hardware tessellation technology (3 presets).
  • Advanced ambient occlusion.
  • Dynamic global illumination.
  • Volumetric cumulonimbus clouds of high physical fidelity.
  • Simulation of day-night shift and changing light conditions.
  • Dynamic sky with light scattering.
  • Interactive experience with fly/walk-through modes.
  • Support of NVIDIA SLI and ATI CrossFire technologies.
  • Stereo 3D modes:
    • Anaglyph
    • Separate images
    • 3D Vision
    • 3D Surround
    • iZ3D
  • Support of multi-monitor configurations.
  • Based on the latest, most advanced version version of powerful UNIGINE engine.

Description courtesy unigine.com.

 

Unigine-Heaven-Benchmark

*Running in DX10 Mode

 

The 9800GT is essentially brought to its knees by Unigine's Heaven benchmark, and we see something surprising about the the GTX 650 Ti's performance: its minimum framerates were comparable to the GTX 660.  We didn't believe it at first, and run after run had the same result, and averaged out with a minimum of only 1FPS lower than the GTX 660.  In lower framerate situations, the minimum framerate can be more important than the average, as it's the deep spikes that really ruin an experience.  The GTX 560 Ti gave 1.18 times the average framerate, and as we've seen in every other benchmark, the bigger GK106-packing brother, the GTX 660, delivers 1.6 times the framerate.

 


Benchmarks - Battlefield 3


Battlefield 3 is a gorgeous game, not only visually, but with an impressive sound engine as well.  Typical for the Battlefield franchise, it's a power-hungry, as my remembrance of the BF2 "upgrade wave" will attest to.  It's a gorgeous game with expansive environments with fantastic lighting and destruction physics on the Frostbite 2 Engine.

 

BF3-Benchmark

*Running in DX10 Mode

 

Getting into a game of Battlefield 3 was one of the first things I did when we fired up the system with the GTX 650 Ti.  The verdict, you can get this out of a $150 budget GPU?  Running at Ultra, it held its own and was definitely playable, but my overall performance in-game was somewhat impacted.  Dropping to high was near-perfect, but smoke+explosions caused stuttering that made things difficult at times.  At medium, which I've gamed on for nearly a week, the game still looks great and has delivered performance that is nothing less that satisfactory.  It's awesome that budget-conscientious gamers can get in on 64-player FPS games like Battlefield 3, and be completely happy with their experience.

 

As the benchmark results show, the campaign is definitely playable with an average framerate of over 30FPS with MAX settings, but those dips will, and do get to you.  High dipped every once in awhile, just enough to have me bump it down to medium (still full AA) for a perfect gaming experience.  To be honest, I don't notice much of a difference between graphics settings in Battlefield, so if you're one of those many 9600GT/9800GT gamers out there holding out for something easy on your pocket to get you into current-gen games, the GTX 650 Ti is going to drive a hard bargain to beat.  If you want an exceptionally-smooth experience even on Ultra settings, the $70 jump to the GTX 660 is also a solid bet, which gives 1.6 times the framerates at about 1.5 times the cost.

 


PhysX - Borderlands 2


Borderlands 2 is the sequal to the ever-popular Borderlands.  A new quest to shoot, steal, and fight your way to save Pandora is made incredibly immersive with NVIDIA'S PhysX technologies, which are heavily-utilized in Borderlands 2.

Bullets-Low-PhysXBullets-PhysX

Without GPU-accelerated PhysX, you get something similar to the left screenshot when shooting the ground.  A couple bullet holes and minimal environmental reaction.  However, with PhysX set to "high," you get varying and extensive particle reactions.  Shell casings remain on the ground, and the ground itself is littered with the bits and pieces of whatever comes into your path.

Bullymong-Low-PhysXBullymong-PhysX

Similarly, the left image shows a battle with a gang of Bullymongs throwing rocks at me (and connecting on quite a few).  You see the dead Bullymongs... and not much else.  The right image shows the carnage left behind with full GPU-accelerated PhysX at a buttery-smooth framerate. 

What may not be obvious is that with no PhysX, there are no flags... interesting, no?  That's because the fabric mechanics in Borderlands 2 take full advantage of PhysX, as the fabric is modelled as a system of tiny springs giving an incredibly realistic look which uses PhysX prominently.

Particles

Thet above screenshot shows the debris generated which remains in the level during battles, everything from shell casings, blood, loot, and just about anything else caught in the cross-fire.  Fluids also take advantage of PhysX, and although it's hard to adequately capture in still form, liquids really come to life using PhysX with much more "body" and a very good viscous mechanic, again using ingenious modelling accelerated by PhysX.


Final Thoughts


Here's what I find the most interesting about the GTX 650 Ti: it's a great value card.  Why is that particularly interesting?  I think it's interesting in the same sense that the GTX 560 Ti 448 Core was interesting, because it's based upon the same GPU as the next model up the food chain (the GTX 570), with a lower model number in its name.  The GTX 650 Ti is a scaled-down GTX 660, as opposed to a scaled-up GTX 650.  The interesting thing then, is at the $150 price point, it puts it at almost as good of a value as the GTX 660, where we saw about a 1.6x boost in frame rates, at about 1.53x the cost.  Price-per-performance is a little better for the GTX 660, but the GTX 650 Ti is right on its heels as the value king in the Kepler lineup.  The GTX 660 was the clear value king a couple weeks ago, but it's great to see that the price-per-performance ratio of the GTX 650 Ti being comparable at a very, very competitive price pont.  Nvidia has really equipped gamers, especially those with tight upgrade budgets, with two great options for next-gen gaming at 1080P.

 

This is a particularly enticing card for young gamers or those with limited budgets, because it will play almost any modern game at respectable settings at 1080P without a problem.  I've been gaming on BF3 and Borderlands 2 with it for the past week, and really never felt like I was losing out on anything.  Battlefield 3 still looks great on medium with full anti-aliasing, and it plays perfectly.  Borderlands 2 still plays with all the glory that full PhysX has to offer at high settings, and gives a great overall experience.  Tesselation-heavy games challenge the GTX 650 Ti to the point where a card like the GTX 660 is a better bet, but again, they're still playable, and that's impressive in itself.

 

Those still rocking 9600/9800GTs should have a compelling upgrade option if they're in the market, and either the GTX 650 Ti or the GTX 660 provide great solutions at their price points.  The GTX 650 Ti gave performance anywhere from 2.5 to 5 times better framerates, and at full DX11 glory which delivers texture and detail that really makes a huge difference in graphical realism.  Our suggestion for those who won't be venturing into the high performance graphics realm, find the GK106 GPU at the price point that best matches your budget, and you won't be disappointed.  You'll be able to play modern games at pretty high settings, and neither will dent your piggy bank all that much, especially when referencing the GTX 650 Ti.  The reduced power consumption over the GTX 550 Ti, at 22%, will also pay you back on the electricity bill.

 

Although this is temporary, we should mention that the GTX 650 Ti will ship with a copy of Assassin' Creed 3, adding $60 of value to an already great-value package.

 

Did we miss something or have any corrections?  Suggestions and corrections can be sent by commenting below or the "Contact" button at the top of the page.  Help us improve!

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Comments   

 
# three 2012-10-19 12:10
did you miss something? hell yah!
remember how 9800gt is a c2d era card?
now compare gtx 650ti to it on an [email protected] and we have something of a GPU upgrade advise here.
 
 
# Evan 2012-10-19 12:15
Quote:
did you miss something? hell yah!
remember how 9800gt is a c2d era card?
now compare gtx 650ti to it on an [email protected] and we have something of a GPU upgrade advise here.
I see where you are coming from, but most games today are exceedingly GPU-dependent, and you could possibly make the argument that the upgrade would be even more pronounced because the GPU would make up a greater percentage of the overall "horsepower" assuming the C2D doesn't create a blatant bottleneck. Of course if it did, you're point is very pertinent because the upgrade would require a new chipset.

Thanks for the input and perspective!
 
 
# three 2012-10-19 12:21
another thing to keep in mind is that 9800gt is only 512mb and is not a 1080p GPU and therefore should not be tested at higher than 1050p resolutions.
that and use quad or c2d OCed cpu to pit it against gtx 650ti for more accurate comparison results.