Review: Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti, Asus DirectCU II TOP and MSI Power Edition - BeHardware
>> Graphics cards
Written by Damien Triolet
Published on October 22, 2012
With the GeForce GTX 650 Ti, Nvidia has now completed the GeForce 600 Kepler family and looks (at last) to have the Radeon HD 7770 in its sights. This new mid-range reference does however have plenty to do as AMD has gradually been repositioning the Radeon HD 7850 1 GB to keep pace.
The Radeon HD 7770 in its sights…Although the Kepler family has allowed Nvidia to make up ground on AMD in terms of energy yield and provide some ferocious competition at the high end, the roll out further down the range has been more problematic. The reason for this is that a higher cost architecture with an equivalent size chip puts Kepler at a disadvantage with AMD’s GCN architecture.
AMD's Pitcairn and Cape Verde GPUs thus have a performance advantage over the Nvidia GK106 and GK107 GPUs. Of course, the hardware of these GPUs isn't the only thing that decides their positioning but, given the higher production costs at 28nm, AMD does have more room for manoeuvre in terms of offering a better price/performance ratio.
We saw this recently with the GeForce GTX 650, which is equipped with the GK107 and gives performance on a par with the Radeon HD 7750, but costs the same as the Radeon HD 7770. With a view to facing the HD 7770 down with the GeForce GTX 650 Ti, Nvidia has had recourse to a bigger GPU, the GK106, in a cut down version. It now has a 128-bit memory bus (instead of 192-bit) and one of the five blocks of processing units (SMXs) is deactivated. You’ll be able to find more details on this GPU in the report on the GeForce GTX 660.
Such a configuration looks as if it should have the advantage over the Radeon HD 7770, but at what price? The GeForce GTX 650 Ti will cost you €150 or €140 against €120 for the Radeon HD 7770. This positioning looked okay as AMD had left a large hole in its range between the HD 7770 and the HD 7850. Nvidia also enjoys a better brand image, which means it doesn’t have to fight as hard when it comes to price/performance ratios.
… but this was to ignore the Radeon HD 7850 ambush!Unfortunately for Nvidia however, AMD is working its pricing well to put the pressure on in every segment. Over the last few months, the Radeon HD 7850 1 GB has been getting closer to this segment and AMD has now taken advantage of the arrival of the GeForce GTX 650 Ti to finalise this new positioning.
Introduced six months ago at €210 in a 2 GB version, the Radeon HD 7850 is now available from large etailers for €150 in its 1 GB option, with moreover a pretty tidy bundle including Sleeping Dogs or DiRT Showdown, or even both! Nvidia must be tearing its hair out! Will the GeForce GTX 650 Ti have any chance?
Specifications, the reference GeForce GTX 650
With a memory bus reduced by a third, the GeForce GTX 650 Ti has only 60% of the bandwidth of the GeForce GTX 660, but retains 72% of its processing power.
The GeForce GTX 600 range may seem a bit odd at first sight as the GeForce GTX 660 Ti and GTX 660 are equipped with different GPUs, the GK104 and the GK106. The same goes for the GeForce GTX 650 Ti and GTX 650, which are equipped with the GK106 and GK107 respectively. In truth this isn’t all that important as these GPUs are based on exactly identical technologies. Moreover this segmentation corresponds to certain additional features: thus the GeForce GTX 660 Ti and GTX 660 support GPU Boost and SLI, but the GeForce GTX 650 Ti and GTX 650 don't.
If Nvidia has passed up GPU Boost for the GTX 650s, this is for cost reasons. This turbo/monitoring ensemble is not integrated in the GPU and is based on external components which send information to the drivers. They complexify the PCB and increase production costs somewhat, in contrast to AMD PowerTune which is directly integrated into GPUs and doesn’t really represent an additional cost.
The abandonment of SLI support on the small cards is excellent news. We aren’t really a fan of these solutions, which in practice don't stand up to comparison with higher performance cards.
The reference GeForce GTX 650 TiNvidia supplied us with a reference GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1 GB for this test:
The reference GeForce GTX 650 Ti is very compact: 14.5 cm to which you have to add 0.5 cm for the cooler casing which sticks out a bit. This double slot cooler is relatively simple, but it does the job very well. It is based on a circular radiator, mounted with a 75mm fan and a casing with a profile optimised to allow the flow of air to enter efficiently.
While the card’s TDP may seem high at 110W, energy consumption is in practice markedly lower, as we’re going to see. This is linked to the absence of GPU Boost and the fact that there isn’t therefore any energy consumption control, obliging Nvidia to give us a TDP that is adapted to applications that are very demanding for the GPU as well as any samples that suffer from higher current leakage.
There are two phases to supply current to the GPU and one phase for the Hynix R0C GDDR5 certified at 1.5 GHz. A PCIE 6-pin power supply connector is of course necessary.
Although our sample is equipped with 1 GB of GDDR5, Nvidia has designed the reference PCB so it can also run with 2 GB of memory clocked at 1350 MHz. For connectivity, there are two DVI Dual Link outs as well as an HDMI 1.4a 3 GHz, which is enough to support up to three screens. Note that if partners put in the appropriate connectivity, this GPU can, like all Kepler GPUs, pilot up to four screens.
Asus DirectCU II TOP and MSI Power Edition
Asus and MSI also supplied us their GTX 650 Ti DirectCU II TOP and Power Edition:
Asus GeForce GTX 650 Ti DirectCU IIThere are three Asus customised versions of the GeForce GTX 650 Ti:
Asus GeForce GTX 650 Ti DirectCU II (DC2): €170
Asus GeForce GTX 650 Ti DirectCU II OC (DC2O): €175
Asus GeForce GTX 650 Ti DirectCU II TOP (DC2T): €181
Asus supplied us with a test sample of the 1 GB TOP model, with a factory overclocking of 11%, up from 928 to 1033 MHz.
Asus has gone for the standard DirectCU II cooling system here, in its double slot version but different from the one that equips the brand’s GeForce GTX 670/660 Ti/660. The three heat pipes now have a diameter of 6mm instead of 8mm and the radiator is made up of two parts, a base and a small separate radiator.
Although the entirely customised PCB is just 21cm long, the cooler sticks out another 7cm taking the total length of the card to 28cm. This is huge and probably not justified, especially as it gives the card a badly finished look. Moreover, while the GeForce GTX 660 had a plastic casing to reduce costs, here Asus has used a metallic case. Given the weight of this, a metal support has been placed on the top of the card. This doesn’t seem all that coherent and it makes us wonder if the manufacturer hasn’t simply recycled a stock of coolers designed for another model.
In place of the two analogue phases for the GPU power supply, Asus has included four digital phases. A power supply connector is required and Asus has also gone for Hynix GDDR5 ROC memory. Like the reference PCB, the Asus PCB has been designed for 1 or 2 GB.
In terms of connectivity, Asus has included two DVI Dual Link outs, a VGA out and an HDMI out. The card comes with a CD that contains the drivers and a small guide for mounting it.
MSI GeForce GTX 650 Ti Power EditionIn addition to a standard design version of the card, MSI is also marketing a factory overclocked GTX 650 Ti Power Edition with the GPU at 993 MHz (+7%) and a Cyclone II cooling system. The 1 GB version costs €159.
Used frequently by MSI, the Cyclone 2 cooler is made up of a circular radiator fixed to a nickel-plated copper base with two 6mm heatpipes leading off to two additional radiators. They form an ark in the middle of which the 90mm fan has been placed. This fan turns in reverse for 30s on system startup to avoid accumulation of dust. The Cyclone II system sticks out 2.5cm on the top of the card.
Like Asus, MSI has gone for an entirely customised PCB. It is however a little longer at 23cm. There are also four phases for the GPU power supply and an additional phase for the Hynix GDDR5 ROC. A 6-pin power supply connector is required and the PCB has been designed for 2 GB variants of the card.
For connectivity, MSI has gone with the same setup as the reference card: two DVI Dual Link outs and a mini-HDMI out. The card comes with a CD with drivers, a small mounting guide, a mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter, a DVI to VGA adapter and and a double molex to 6-pin PCI Express power supply cable convertor.
Noise and heat
NoiseTo observe the noise levels produced by the various solutions, we put the cards in a Cooler Master RC-690 II Advanced casing and measured noise at idle and in load. We used an SSD and all the fans in the casing, as well as the CPU fan, were turned off for the reading. The sonometer was placed 60 cm from the closed casing and ambient noise was measured at 20 dBA, which is as accurate as it is certified and calibrated to detect.
Remember that, unfortunately, a proportion of the GeForce GTX 670, 660 Ti and 660 reference cooling systems, which are similar, suffer from a very annoying vibrating mechanical noise which affects you much more than you'd guess from the noise level readings. Our reference GTX 670 was affected as was, to a lesser extent, our reference GTX 660 Ti. This mechanical noise also showed up on the GTX 660 and we have been wondering if it isn't linked to the debatable quality of the radial fan. In spite of this, in this test, the mechanical noise on this model didn't show up in our readings. As the card is pretty quiet apart from this mechanical noise, you notice it particularly at idle, especially when it isn’t in a closed casing.
There were no concerns of this type on the reference GeForce GTX 650 Ti, which is quiet at idle and not noisy in load. With their big cooling systems, the Asus and MSI cards are extremely effective, keeping the cards cool in silence at idle and in load.
TemperaturesStill in the same casing, we took a reading of the GPU temperature with the internal sensor:
Although the reference GeForce GTX 650 Ti is well cooled, the Asus and MSI solutions do much better, both keeping temperatures under 60 °C in load.
Readings and infrared thermography
Readings and infrared thermographyFor this test we used the new protocol as described here.
Here first of all is a summary of all the readings:
There’s not much of a difference between the cards at idle, though the Asus and MSI models are quieter. Note that the MSI card makes the entire system quieter and this may be due to various different things, namely different interference in air flows or a lesser impact on noise when meeting air flows from the system fan in the casing.
In load, the MSI Power Edition card has the least impact on the system temperature, probably because its cooling system distributes warm air in all directions.
Here, finally, is what the thermal imaging shows:
These photos highlight the relatively low temperatures on the MSI card’s power stage, though the higher temperatures are not a problem on the other cards.
Energy consumption and performance/watt
Energy consumptionWe used the test protocol that allows us to measure the energy consumption of the graphics card alone. We took these readings at idle on the Windows 7 desktop as well as with the screen in standby so as to observe the impact of ZeroCore Power. In load, we took our readings in Anno 2070, at 1080p with all the settings pushed to maximum, and in Battlefield 3, at 1080p in High mode:
The GeForce GTX 650 Ti models have similar energy consumption at idle to that of the GTX 660 and GTX 650. The Radeons consume a few extra watts on the Windows desktop, but a lot less with the screen in standby.
In load, energy consumption levels are close to those of the Radeon HD 7770. The Radeon HD 7850 draws more power, especially the overclocked MSI version that we have used to represent the 1 GB version (overclocking was neutralised for the tests which follow but not for the energy consumption readings).
We have put these energy consumption readings together with the performance measures, giving fps per 100W to make the data more legible:
[ Anno 2070 1080p Max ] [ Battlefield 3 1080p High ]
The GeForce GTX 650 Ti models are a little more efficient than the GeForce GTX 660, which is based on the same GPU but with a higher clock. In Battlefield 3, the GTX 650 Tis are particularly efficient, while they are slightly down in Anno 2070.
Note however that each game represents a particular case and that the yield varies from one card sample to the next, on the Radeons because their energy consumption varies and the GeForces because their maximum clock and therefore their performance levels vary. Here, the GeForce GTX 660 Ti clocked up to 1,071 MHz and the GeForce GTX 660 up to 1,097 MHz.
Test protocolWe have decided no longer to use the level of MSAA (4x and 8x) as the main criteria for segmenting our results. Many games with deferred rendering offer other forms of antialiasing, the most common being FXAA, developed by Nvidia and particularly useful at entry level. There’s therefore no point in drawing up an index based on a certain antialiasing level, which in the past allowed us to judge MSAA efficiency.
For this test, we decided to focus on a single quality level, at 1920x1080, which varies between high and medium depending on the game. With entry level and mid-range products, everything is a question of compromise between fluidity and maximum quality. By generally going for the game presets we aimed at what we estimate is the best compromise for the GeForce GTX 650 Ti and its direct competition: sufficient fluidity to play comfortably and a level of quality that allows you to enjoy recent games for what they are.
Very often we sacrificed MSAA or SSAA type antialiasing, going for FXAA or a similar approach. Note that some games can run at 30 or 40 fps because the action isn’t too fast moving and/or because their framerate is constant, while other games need almost 60 fps to be enjoyable… Sleeping Dogs for example.
Also we no longer show decimals in game performance results so as to make the graph more readable. We nevertheless note these values and use them when calculating the index. If you’re observant you’ll notice that the size of the bars also reflects this.
The Radeons were tested with Catalyst 12.11beta drivers and the GeForces with beta 306.38 drivers. All these games were tested with their latest patches. Most are updated via Steam/Origin.
We tested the GeForce GTX 660 Ti and GTX 660 with their minimum guaranteed GPU Boost specs. To do this we played with the overclocking settings to reduce the base clock by slightly adjusting the energy consumption limit so that the clock in practice would correspond to that of a card with a maximum turbo clock equal to that of the official GPU Boost clock. Note that this isn’t the same as turning GPU Boost off!
To recap, we took the opportunity of the report on the GeForce GTX 690 to introduce the X79 platform and a Core i7 3960X into our test system so as to benefit from PCI Express 3.0. Note that the activation of PCI Express 3.0 isn‘t automatic on the GeForce GTX 600s and requires a registry modification, which we of course effected and which gives a slight gain.
Test configurationIntel Core i7 3960X (HT off, Turbo 1/2/3/4/6 cores: 4 GHz)
Asus P9X79 WS
8 GB DDR3 2133 Corsair
Windows 7 64 bits
GeForce beta 306.38 drivers
Benchmark: Alan Wake
Alan Wake is a pretty well executed title ported from console and and based on DirectX 9. It has the particularity of imposing the use of MSAA, necessary for the correct rendering of grass.
We used the game’s Medium quality level, which includes MSAA 4x. We carried out a well defined movement and measured performance with Fraps. The game is updated via Steam.
Very demanding with MSAA 4x, Alan Wake performs the same on the GTX 650 Ti and the Radeon HD 7770.
Benchmark: Anno 2070
Anno 2070 uses a development of the Anno 1404 engine which includes DirectX 11 support.
We used the game’s very high quality mode and carried out a movement on the map, measuring performance with fraps.
In Anno 2070, processing power is important and again here the GTX 650 Ti is on a par with the Radeon HD 7770.
Benchmark: Batman Arkham City
Batman Arkham City
Batman Arkham City was developed with a recent version of Unreal Engine 3 which supports DirectX 11. Although this mode suffered a major bug in the original version of the game, a patch (1.1) has corrected this. We used the game’s benchmark.
We measured performance in Extreme mode (which includes the additional DirectX 11 effects) with MSAA 4x. The game is updated via Steam.
The GeForce GTX 600s are very effective with MSAA 4x and the GTX 650 Ti has a 25% advantage over the Radeon HD 7770.
Benchmark: Battlefield 3
Battlefield 3 runs on Frosbite 2, probably the most advanced graphics engine currently on the market. A deferred rendering engine, it supports tessellation and calculates lighting via a compute shader.
We tested High mode and measured performance with Fraps, on a well-defined route. The game is updated via Origin.
Although for a long time the GeForce GTX 600s had an advantage in Battlefield 3, AMD has now corrected any issues it had by introducing the the Catalyst 12.11s. The GTX 650 Ti has a slight advantage over the Radeon HD 7770 but the Radeon HD 7850 1 GB is 45% up on GTX 650 Ti.
Benchmark: Civilization V
Pretty successful visually, Civilization V uses DirectX 11 to improve quality and optimise performance in the rendering of terrains, thanks to tessellation, and to implement a special compression of textures thanks to the compute shaders, a compression which allows it to keep the scenes of all the leaders in the memory. This second usage of DirectX 11 doesn’t concern us here however as we used the benchmark included on a game card. We zoom in slightly so as to reduce the CPU limitation which has a strong impact in this game.
All settings were pushed to a max with MSAA 4x and we measured performance with shadows and reflections. The game is updated via Steam.
The GeForce GTX 600s benefit from the series 300 drivers here which bring a significant gain.
Benchmark: Crysis 2
Crysis 2 uses a development of the Crysis Warhead engine optimised for efficiency but adds DirectX 11 support via a patch and this can be quite demanding. As, for example, with tessellation, implemented abusively in collaboration with Nvidia with the aim of causing Radeon performance to plummet. We have already exposed this issue here.
We measured performance with Fraps in version 1.9 of the game in Extreme mode.
The GeForce GTX 650 Ti once again leads the Radeon HD 7770 easily but can’t compete with the Radeon HD 7850.
Benchmark: DiRT Showdown
Codemaster’s latest game, DiRT Showdown benefits from a slight development of the in-house DirectX 11 engine. In partnership with AMD, the developers have introduced some advanced lighting which takes numerous sources of direct and indirect light into account to simulate overall lighting. These additional options were turned on with the first patch of the game which was therefore deployed on our system, with the game updated via Steam.
To measure performance, we pushed all the graphics options to maximum, with the exception of advanced lighting effects which are too demanding for the cards tested here, and used fraps on the game’s test tool.
The GeForce GTX 650 Ti and Radeon HD 7770 give similar performance here.
Benchmark: Max Payne 3
Max Payne 3
Max Payne 3 has nice rendering overall though it does vary in places, notably with 'console quality' textures. It uses a DirectX 11 engine with differed rendering which supports several advanced effects such as HDAO or tessellation, which is rather heavy once pushed to a max.
It supports FXAA and MSAA, which is very heavy here given the type of rendering used. MSAA is still required for full aliasing as FXAA isn't sufficient but it is too demanding to be compatible with the cards tested here.
We pushed all the options to max and used Fraps on a well-defined route. The game is updated via Steam.
The high-end GeForce GTX 600s are particularly at ease in this game on which Nvidia has worked upstream with developers. The maximum level of tessellation is very heavy, which slows the Radeons and the entry level GeForces down a bit.
Benchmark: Sleeping Dogs
Sleeping Dogs offers a Hong Kong setting which can be very demanding for our graphics cards when the options on its DirectX 11 motor are pushed to a max.
We used the game’s benchmark. The game is maintained via Steam and we used version 1.5 for this test. The HD texture pack was of course installed. Although geometric aliasing is very important in this game, it is unfortunately too demanding in what is a game requiring a relatively high fps. We therefore settled for a minimal level of antialiasing (FXAA), but retained another of the game's heavy effects, HDAO.
To enjoy this game without having to sacrifice graphics quality too much you really need at least the oomph of the Radeon HD 7770.
Benchmark: The Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition
The Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition
The Witcher 2 graphics engine has been worked on gradually over time to give us the current version in the recent Enhanced Edition. Although it’s based on DirectX 9, it's relatively demanding once all the graphics options are pushed to a maximum, one of these, UberSampling, being particularly demanding. In reality it’s a 4x supersampling type of antialiasing with a few optimisations.
We tested the game at high quality without UberSampling, which is too demanding. Performances were measured with Fraps.
The Radeon HD 7000s are a little bit more effective than the GeForces in this game and the Radeon HD 7850 is 50% up on the GeForce GTX 650 Ti.
Benchmark: Total War Shogun 2
Total War Shogun 2
Total War Shogun 2 has a DirectX 11 patch, developed in collaboration with AMD. Among other things, it gives tessellation support and a higher quality depth of field effect.
We tested it in DirectX 11 mode, with the game’s Balanced quality, which settles for MLAA. The game is updated via Steam.
When MLAA is used, the Radeon HD 7000s do best in this game.
Performance recapAlthough individual game results are obviously worth looking at when you want to gauge performance in a specific game, we have also calculated a performance index based on all tests with the same weight for each game. We set an index of 100 to the Radeon HD 7770:
Compared to the Radeon HD 7770, the GeForce GTX 650 Ti has an average lead of 8%, which is sufficient to slightly outdo the Radeon HD 6850. With 67% of the performance of the GeForce GTX 660, which it was derived from, it fills the hole left by the GeForce GTX 650 and the GeForce GTX 550 Ti, to which it succeeds with a 45% advantage.
Limiting memory to 1 GB doesn't have an impact on the performance of the Radeon HD 7850 in the gaming conditions we went for here. Like the 2 GB version, it has a very marked lead over the GeForce GTX 650 Ti with a 44% advantage on average.
Performance: overclocking, Asus/MSI cards
GTX 650 Ti Asus DirectCU II TOP, MSI Power Edition, overclockingWhen it comes to overclocking, the GPU on the reference card clocked up by 175 MHz and the memory by 350 MHz, with the GPU/memory clocks thus going from 928/1350 up to 1103/1700 MHz. This is an enormous gain for the memory clock and you get the same on the MSI card: +150 MHz for the GPU and +325 MHz for the GDDR5 for final clocks of 1143/1675 MHz compared to the factory overclocking of 993/1350 MHz.
On the Asus DirectCU II TOP, the GPU is factory overclocked to 1033 MHz and only gave an extra + 50 MHz, taking the GPU clock up to 1083 MHz. The memory clocked up 75 MHz to give a final clock of 1425 MHz.
Compared to the reference card, the Asus TOP and MSI Power Edition models gave gains of 7.2% and 3.5% respectively. The additional overclocking gave a 20% performance boost on the reference and MSI cards, with a more modest 5.5% on the Asus.
Upgrade: comparison with older generation solutions
Upgrade: comparison with older generation solutionsIn our report on the GeForce GTX 660, we compared the performance of recent cards with as many older models as possible to help you when updating your system. We have now added the new arrival to these results as well as another ten or so additional cards.
Note that for this test, we used the 306.23 drivers for the GeForces 500 and older while the Radeon HD 4000s were tested with the Catalyst 12.6s, the latest cards that support them. The other Radeons were tested with the Catalyst 12.11betas. We updated the GeForce 600 results in Battlefield 3 with the drivers 310.61beta as they improve significantly their performances in this game (there is no change for previous GeForce with these drivers).
ConclusionWith a 10% advantage over the Radeon HD 7770, the GeForce GTX 650 Ti does what was asked of it. It is priced slightly higher but Nvidia's reference card is more compact and less noisy and above all the GeForce brand image and drivers mean that a small price/performance ratio deficit won’t damage sales...
...so went the sort of conclusion Nvidia was expecting when positioning its new GeForce. However, after six months of sales and with presumably lower production costs per unit of performance on its entry and mid-level range, AMD had the margins to trouble Nvidia and it hasn’t held back!
AMD has recently reduced the price of the Radeon HD 7850 1 GB again to bring it down to €150 and put pressure on Nvidia and the GeForce GTX 650 Ti, which was introduced at the same price. Even if the GTX 650 Ti is reduced to €140, as it no doubt will be by some etailers, the Radeon HD 7850 still has a huge performance advantage. What’s more, most Radeon HD 7850 1 GB cards are currently bundled with Sleeping Dogs or DiRT Showdown, or both!
While having 2 GB is potentially important for the future, a card at the level of the Radeon HD 7850 isn’t really handicapped with 1 GB in current games. If you’re looking for the best current deal, this Radeon HD 7850 1 GB is definitely what we would recommend.
This situation won’t only be affecting Nvidia, no doubt its partners will also be tearing their hair out. The Asus GeForce GTX 650 Ti DirectCU II TOP and MSI Power Edition that we have tested are very good cards (we have a slight preference for the better finished and better cooled MSI model). These cards can’t however stand up to the Radeon HD 7850 1GB, with the Asus card costing a ridiculous €181 and the MSI a more reasonable but still too expensive €159. While Nvidia should be able to reposition the cards a bit better, you have to wonder if the effective but bigger Asus and MSI cooling systems will remain economically viable.
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