NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450 Review

Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Sunday, September 12th, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/NVIDIA_GTS_450/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

It was just over a month ago that the GeForce GTX 460 hit the market, finally giving NVIDIA a strong mainstream DX11 product. Since that time the GTX 460 has received rave reviews and has won the hearts of many gamers, however, for some the $200 retail price was still out of their range. For these gamers it is all about the price to performance ratio of a graphics card, and it is for this group that the GeForce GTS 450 was created.

The GTS 450 is NVIDIA’s lowest price Fermi graphics card to-date and is focused directly at gamers with a tight budget that play games at lower resolutions. This could make the GTS 450 an ideal solution for anyone looking to play current games on a 19"-22" monitor that supports resolutions up to 1280x1024, 1440x900, and 1680x1050. This is not to say the graphics card is limited to these settings, but according to NVIDIA these are the sweet spots and when used at these resolutions it should guarantee a smooth gaming experience across the board. Also, since the large majority of gamers are playing on monitors that do not exceed the target resolutions, the GTS 450 is a graphics card that could have a very wide appeal.

The GTS 450 will be the replacement for the current GTS 250 and will be priced competitively against the DX11 competition. This means NVIDIA will now have a Fermi graphics that fully supports DX11 available for just $130 dollars. There will of course be different version of the graphics card available, so the price will be adjusted per card depending on the additional features. Still, this does finally give NVIDIA a chance to compete with the likes the HD 5700 series and at $130 dollars the 450 is directly targeting the ATI Radeon HD 5750.

Along with the new GTS 450 we are also going to be looking at the new R260 drivers. The new drivers bring with them a new user interface and enhanced ease of use, but most importantly they also include substantial performance increases for all Fermi based graphics cards

Specifications:

CUDA Cores
192
Gfx/ Proc Clock
783/1566 MHz
Memory Configuration
1GB/ 128-bit GDDR5
Memory Speed
3.6Gbps
Power Connectors
6-pin
SLI
2-way
Length
8.25 inches
Thermal
Dual Slot Fansink

Outputs
DL-DVI
DL-DVI
Mini-HDMI

Along with the new graphics card NVIDIA is also releasing a new set of the drivers, called R260. These new drivers will bring with them a host of changes to the installation process including a all new user interface and the consolidation of drivers.

The first thing evident about the 260 driver is the new user interface, which has a more user friendly setup that includes a modular installation system. This will allow the user to control the drivers being installed such as PhysX, 3D Vision and so on. There is also an express option which will automatically install the video drivers with only one click. Additional changes to the new drivers include a retooled installation system which now completely wipes out the older installed version, so no driver related issues should occur. Also, NVIDIA has consolidated the graphics driver with that of the 3D Vision driver, so a standalone driver will no longer be needed to add 3D Vision support.

Along with the new interface, the drivers also provide a substantial performance increase across the board for Fermi based graphics cards. The internal results from NVIDIA show some impressive gains in many of today's hottest titles when using a GTX 460. So, owners of current Fermi cards will want to download the new driver as soon as they become available.

Another added benefit of the new driver is included official 3D Blu-ray support. This will allow anyone with a 3DTV, Blu-ray player and supported NVIDIA graphics card to watch Blu-ray movies in full 3D. This could be quite the incentive for HTPC owners to get the gear and driver.

While the new R260 drivers are set to be released with the GTS 450 it will take some time for it to be fully ready for download, so look for it to show up on the NVIDIA site about 9 hours after this review is posted.

In an effort to have gamers better understand what segment of the market their graphics card fits into, NVIDIA has started associating their products with gaming characters. As of now there are three classes which consist of the "Tank", "Hunter" and "Sniper" classes. The GTS 450 fits into the sniper class and is labeled as such because it is not the biggest, most powerful GPU available, but it is an instrument of precision that will yield great mainstream results.

The GTS 450 in a 8.25" graphics card that has a large black heatsink shroud with green accents that covers the entirety of the PCB. The included fan sits directly in the middle of the shroud and sticks slightly out of the top. This will allow the fan to pull in air from under the graphics card and exhaust it out both ends of the card.

The rear bracket of the GTS 450 uses a dual slot design with a single row of ventilation holes as well as the video output options. These consist of two Dual-Link DVI ports and a single mini-HDMI port. Since the DVI ports use the Dual-Link connection they will support resolutions up to 2560x1600 ,and monitors with a 120Hz refresh. Also, when dual graphics cards are used, the GTS 450 can support NVIDIA 3D Surround, which could make this a great budget option for anyone looking to utilize the technology.

The video options on the reference model are not necessarily universal as some GTS 450 graphics cards will have alternative video options. Some manufactures will opt to use a standard VGA port in place of one of the DVI ports, or change the mini-HDMI to standard size.

The rear portion of the graphics card has a single 6-pin power connector, which will supply the GTS 450 with any additional power beyond 75W. The total power requirement is stated to be just over the 100W mark, so the single power connector will provide more than enough power.

The graphics card secures to the board with a standard PCIe x16 bracket and uses the 2.0 interface that works with any PCIe x16 slot. There is also a single SLI connector on the GTS 450 which will allow for 2-way SLI with an additional GTS 450. NVIDIA has stated the SLI performance gains for this card are incredible (much like the GTX 460) and at just $130 a pop it would not cost an arm and a leg for the setup.

The cooling solution on the GTS 450 uses a low-profile design with a 75mm fan  that really highlights the low heat output of the GF106 core. For the most part this is the cooling solution that will be used by NVIDIA's partners, however, some manufactures will use aftermarket cooling solutions with overclocked versions of the GTS 450.

The reference cards have the core clocked at 783MHz, the shader clocked at 1566MHz and the memory at 902MHz. This card is rumored to be quite the overclocker though, so some manufactures such as ASUS will have overclocked version available as soon as this card hits the market.

The GTS 450 brings to the market a new Fermi GPU, however, unlike the switch from the GF100 to GF104 this one is not as dramatic. This is simply due to the GF106 using the same architecture as its older brother (GF104) but having one less Graphics Processing Cluster (GPC). With only one GPC instead of two, the GTS 450 has four SM's with 48 CUDA cores per SM, giving the card a total of 192 CUDA cores. Additionally, the GTS 450 comes packed with four polymorph engines, 32 texture units, 16 ROP units, two 64-bit memory interfaces (128-bit total) and 1GB of GDDR5 memory. So, the core is essentially half that of the GF104, but it should still pack quite a punch, especially when it comes to DX11 games with heavy tessellation.

In the image of the GF106 architecture you will notice that it does support three memory controllers and three ROP partitions, however, NVIDIA has chosen to disable one of each on the GTS 250 in an effort to create the best price to performance ratio for this product. Since these are already in the core though it seems likely that we could see a model using the additional power at some point.

 

Overclocking:

Overclocking both the memory and core on the GTS 450 was extremely easy and in the end I was quite happy with the results. the sample card that arrived at our lab was just shy of reaching 950MHz, which is quite an improvement over stock. The overclocking was not limited to the GPU though as the shader clock and memory were able to be pushed to 1846MHz and 2142MHz respectively. With results like these it is no wonder some manufactures are releasing overclocked versions so quickly after launch.

Hardware Configuration:

Software:

All the ATI cards used the Catalyst 10.6 drivers, while the NVIDIA cards used Forceware 257.21 drivers. The GTS 450 on the other hand will be using the new 260.52 drivers.

Benchmarks DX11:

Benchmarks DX10:

All benchmarks were performed at resolutions of 1280x1024, 1680x1050, 1920x1200 and 2560x1600. Vsync is disabled in the control panel and AA is set to x4 with AF set to x16. The only benchmark performed with lower AA and AF is Street Fighter IV which showed better scaling when AA and AF were set to 0.

Usage:

MSI's Kombuster will be used to gauge the power requirement and temperature of the graphics card. The program applies a very heavy load to the GPU and as such will push the card beyond that of a game or benchmark. For the minimum temperature and power consumption the system will be left in an idle state for 15 minutes and for load Kombuster will be left on for 15 minutes.

Comparison Specifications:

 
Nvidia GTS 450
ATI HD 5750
ATI HD 5770
ATI HD 5830
ATI HD 5870
ASUS ARES HD 5970
Nvidia GTX 295 Nvidia GTX 480
 
Processing cores
192 720 800 1120 1600 1600x2 240x2 480
 
Core Clock
783MHz
700MHz
850MHz
800MHz
850MHz
850MHz
576MHz 700MHz
 
Memory Clock
902MHz
1150MHz
1200MHz
1150MHz
1200MHz
1200MHz
999MHz 924MHz
 
Memory Interface
128-bit
128-bit
128-bit
256-bit
256-bit
256-bit
448-bit 384-bit
 
Memory Type
1GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
4GB GDDR5
896MB DDR3 1.5GB GDDR5
 
Fabrication process
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm
55nm 40nm

3DMark Vantage is the stunning sequel to 3DMark 06. Futuremark's benchmarking programs have always been at the center of every bragging match. The best way to show that you've got the greatest gaming rig, is to show that you've got the highest 3DMark score. Vantage does just that. It puts your system through a series of strenuous tests, and provides you with a score to brag about!

 

Right off the bat the GTS 450 has a strong start and at stock it is able to bypass the HD 5750 in 3DMark Vantage and aim its sights at the HD 5770. The overclocked results are even more impressive as it surpasses even the HD 5770.

Unigine Heaven became very popular very fast, because it was one of the first major DirectX 11 benchmarks. It makes great use of tesselation to create a visually stunning...heaven.

 

The superb tessellation performance of the Fermi series cards has the GTS 450 again blowing past the HD 5750 and aligning itself close to the performance of the HD 5770.

Aliens vs Predators is a DX11 Benchmark that runs though a scene straight out of the classic 80’s movie, Aliens. Since it uses DX11, it can often be more than a graphics card can handle.

Aliens vs Predator again has the GTS 450 ahead of its rival the HD 5750, but this time the performance difference is much closer.

Metro 2033 puts you right in the middle of post apocalyptic Moscow, battling Mutants, rivals and ratio-active fallout. The game is very graphics intensive and utilizes DX11 technology, making it a good measure of how the latest generation of graphics cards performs under the new standard.

 

The GTS 450 is starting to appear the place to be in terms of DX11 performance and in Metro 2033 it is again ahead of the more expensive HD 5770.

Street Fighter 4 doesn’t necessarily push a graphics card to the limits, but it is a good benchmark to gauge the overall performance. This test is run at default settings to show the best scaling possible.

 

We have another test showing the GTS 450 besting the HD 5750 and once overclocked it even surpasses the HD 5770 quite handily.

Batman: Arkham Aslyum mixes extraordinary visuals with great gameplay, in order to make an excellent benchmark. It's not a stressful as Crysis, but it can still push cards to their limits.

 

Batman was one of the games NVIDIA used to tout the performance of the GTS 450 and our results back up their claim.

Crysis Warhead is one of the most graphically intensive games on the mainstream market. It's graphically breathtaking, and can bring any system crashing to it's knees.

 

Crysis Warhead is the first game where the HD 5750 pulls ahead of the GTS 450, however once overclocked the NVIDIA card is again the clear performance leader.

Call of Duty is one of the most successful game franchises of all time and Modern Warfare 2 is the latest iteration in the series. The games combine modern-day settings and locations with jaw-dropping graphics and explosions.

 

The GTS 450 has amazing performance in Modern Warfare 2, especially at the 1280x1024 and 1680x1050 resolutions.

Darkest of Days puts the player in historic battles to ensure the survival of key figures from the past. It is a very interesting concept and the use of real life conflicts keeps the title engaging. The in-game options does not allow PhysX to be disabled, so it can often favor NVIDIA graphics cards over those from ATI.

 

Getting the results for this test proved to be somewhat difficult. This was because during multiple runs the benchmark would freeze midway through and shut the game down. After multiple runs I was able to get the results and they seem to have come out very consistent. Still, this game does appear to have issues with the 260 driver.

BioShock 2 is the sequel to the extremely popular Bioshock game, which was released back in 2007. The game uses the graphics friendly Unreal Engine, but it can still push a graphics card to its limits once the settings are increased beyond the mainstream level.

 

At stock speeds the GTS 450 was behind the HD 5750, however once overclocked it placed ahead of the HD 5770. BioShock 2 has proven to be a game that does not best support multi-GPU graphics cards, so in this instance the GTS 450 was even ahead of the GTX295.

Resident Evil V is the newest installment of the Resident Evil series. The game comes with a built in benchmark that features a bunch of zombies walking around the center of a village. Believe it or not this seemingly simple benchmark can push video cards way out of their comfort zone!

 

The GTS 450 initially comes in below the HD 5750 in this benchmark, but again the overclocked results place it above its direct competition.

Just Cause 2 places you in Panau, Southeast Asia as Agent Rico Rodriguez. The game is a third-person shooter that pits you against countless enemies with the opportunity for plenty of environment destruction. With explosions and gun fire galore, this game is perfect for testing out the latest hardware.

 

In DX10 games the HD 5750 and GTS 450 spar on equal footing, however since it overclocks easily the performance can be increased at no additional charge.

Temperature:

To measure core GPU temperature, MSI's Kombustor was used. The idle temperature was taken after leaving nothing running for up to 15 minutes. The load temperature was taken 15 minutes after starting Kombuster for Multi-Core graphics cards.

The GF106 runs nice and cool as the core temperature was under all the other graphics cards even after the overclocked settings were applied. It is actually very impressive to see that at stock this card is 20°C cooler than HD 5750 at full load! Also, even when the fan was rotating on high the sound level remained quite low.

 

Power Usage:

To measure power usage, a Kill A Watt P4400 power meter was used. Note that the above numbers represent the power drain for the entire benchmarking system, not just the video cards themselves. For the 'idle' readings we measured the power drain from the desktop, with no applications running; for the 'load' situation, we took the sustained peak power drain readings at the end of a 30 minute Kombustor run.

The GTS 450 uses less power than all of the competition, however, it is very close to the HD 5750 at both idle and load. The low power requirement should make this card an easy upgrade for the average PC gamer as it does not strictly require a high wattage power supply.

 

Conclusion:

With the performance of the GF104 core being what it is, I was expecting the GF106 based GTS 450 to perform well in our test bed of gaming benchmarks - and after spending some time with this product I am very satisfied with the overall performance. This is due to the fact that the GTS 450 competed evenly with HD 5750 in the DX10 testing, and beat it outright in the DX11 benchmarks. Its strong DX11 performance in games such as Metro 2033, Unigine and Aliens vs. Predator showed the power of the Fermi architecture. So, the superb tessellation performance has seamlessly passed down to NVIDIA's mainstream graphics cards and even with the reduced CUDA cores and Polymorph engines, the GF106 GPU proved itself to be the best DX11 option (in our testing) available for $129.99

NVIDIA’s target audience of the sub 1080p gamer is dead on with this product as it performed exceptionally well across the lower resolutions. With this being the case, gamers with monitors at or below the 1680x1050 level will find the GTS 450 a strong option for most current and upcoming games. In our internal testing the GTS 450 had great performance at both the 1024 and 1050 resolution mark, and it didn't really start to slow until around 1920x1200, so this graphics card does perform best at the lower resolutions, but is not necessarily limited to them.

The stock performance was good, but with the core and memory being able to easily overclock, the GTS 450 adds extra performance with no added cost. In our testing the GTS 450 was only 2MHz shy of hitting 950MHz, which is quite a substantial jump from the reference speeds. With the overclocked settings the GTS 450 performed beyond its $130 retail price and was able to perform nearly equal to graphics cards commanding a higher premium. Additionally, when overclocked the GTS 450 maintained a low power draw and even with a rather small heatsink it was still had the lowest core temperature out of all the comparison models.

During the testing process I ran into very little issues with the GTS 450 and in fact, the only problem I had dealt with random crashes while running Darkest of Days. This appears to be purely related to the graphics drivers though, so NVIDIA will most likely iron it out very soon.

AMD has had free reign on the mainstream DX11 market for nearly a year now, so it is nice to see some competition starting to form. However, for the most part the GTS 450 has DX10 performance only equal to that of the HD 5750 and AMD still has the only option available to support three displays from a single graphics card. This means the GTS 450 is not necessarily an all-out HD 5750 killer, but for the time being it could be a better option for anyone looking forward to upcoming games that utilize DX11 and tessellation.

»Neoseeker.com

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