NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST Graphics Card Review

The war has begun and battle is being waged. AMD started this particular battle with their HD 7790. NVIDIA is here today hoping to win it with their newest addition to the Kepler line – the NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST.

As evident in AMD’s slides, the HD 7790 was aimed at the GTX 650 Ti. Now it gets more interesting. NVIDIA has introduced GPU BOOST (v.1.0) to its GTX 650 Ti in the hopes of enticing those all-important mainstream 1080p gamers. Can NVIDIA take the day? Let’s find out!

Specifications & Features

The GTX 650 Ti BOOST uses the same GK106 GPU contained in the GTX 660. The GPU in the GTX 650 Ti BOOST is reduced to 768 CUDA cores and 64 texture units (versus 960 & 80, respectively on the GTX 660).  Both GPUs have 24 ROPs. While the GPU is cut down a bit, it operates at the same 980 MHz base / 1033 MHz boost as the GTX 660. The new GPU’s  TDP is 134 W. Memory is also identical, with 2 GB of GDDR5 operating at 1502 Mhz (6008 MHz quad-pumped) with a 192-bit interface. There will also be 1 GB versions available.

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST Stock GPUz

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST Stock GPUz

The actual stock boost frequency on this particular card ends up coming in at 1071.3 MHz, as shown via monitoring in 3DMark 11 and HWBot Heaven Xtreme.

Stock Boost Clock

Stock Boost Clock

As you can see, the GTX 650 Ti BOOST is more closely related to the GTX 660 than the GTX 650 Ti. As such, it performs considerably better than the GTX 650 Ti.

Positioning vs. GTX 650 Ti

Positioning vs. GTX 650 Ti

This slide is a bit over stated, so let me break it down. If you wait five years between upgrades, you can get a large increase in performance. that applies to GPUs from both sides of the fence, making this a little silly. NVIDIA says people usually wait two years or greater to replace their GPUs in this product segment, which is why they like to mention this.

NVIDIA Says Target Users Upgrade Less Often

NVIDIA Says Target Users Upgrade Less Often

This graph is a bit more relevant, comparing the GTX 650 Ti BOOST with the HD 7850 in NVIDIA’s internal testing. You also see the target for this GPU is not, in fact, the HD 7790 that came out last week, but the HD 7850, which hints at its pricing. The GTX 650 Ti BOOST with 2 GB of memory (as tested in this review) has an MSRP of $169. That may increase depending on board partner choices like overclock and cooler, but that’s the base pricing.

That said, they do expect to release a 1 GB version in April that has an MSRP of $149, just like the HD 7790. Did I mention a war was being waged? I love it!

Comparison vs. HD 7850

Comparison vs. HD 7850

In our conference call, NVIDIA also says their open beta of the GeForce Experience is getting positive feedback. They say they’ve even tweaked the experience based on user feedback. If you’re not familiar with it, GeForce Experience is a program that will monitor your PC’s GeForce driver version and notify you when upgrades are available.

More importantly, it can automatically set games’ video settings to match your system’s performance level. Most overclockers prefer to set their own settings, but if you want to give it a try, check out the GeForce Experience page.

GeForce Experience Feedback

GeForce Experience Feedback

AMD has a strong hold on the biggest titles for their gaming bundles, but NVIDIA isn’t letting that stop them from sending something with their cards. Rather than giving free games, they’re using Free-to-Play (F2P) games and giving you $75 in in-game credit.

FtP Game Credit Bundle

FtP Game Credit Bundle

Now you’ve seen the company line, let’s look at the GPU itself.

Meet the NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

Unlike the reference GTX 650 Ti, the GTX 650 Ti BOOST comes with a bit stronger squirrel-cage cooler. As you can see it also has a single 6-pin PCIe power plug.

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

Photo shoot time.

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

Not a bad looking card at all so far, but you probably won’t see too many identical models; most will have custom coolers placed on them by board partners.

As far as video outputs, there will be dual DVI and single HDMI & DisplayPort outputs.

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST Output

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST Output

Let’s take the cooler off and see how it looks underneath.

Under the Hood

The good thing about NVIDIA is that they use actual thermal paste unlike that chunky mess ASUS used on the HD 7790. Both are effective I suppose, but from a reviewer’s standpoint, if nothing else it’s easier to remove.

Cooler Removed

Cooler Removed

Cooler

Cooler

Like the reference GTX 660 Ti cooler we saw, the shroud is much larger than the heatsink itself, which is really a small slab of copper attached to aluminum fins. It’s definitely not much of a heatsink as GPU heatsinks go, but this is a budget GPU. Regardless, you’ll see better solutions than this on most, if not all partner cards.

Heatsink in Shroud

Heatsink in Shroud

Heatsink Separated

Heatsink Separated

Aluminum Fins

Aluminum Fins

Heatsink & Shroud

Heatsink & Shroud

Ahh, here’s the GTX 650 Ti BOOST in the flesh, sans cooler. It’s a short PCB like the rest of the low- and mid-range GTX series (as well as the HD 7790 we reviewed Friday).

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST PCB

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST PCB

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

The power section is also very similar to the HD 7790, with four phases for the GPU and one for the memory (you can see the memory phase in the photo above left, to the left of the far left memory chip).

GPU Power Delivery

GPU Power Delivery

Speaking of memory, NVIDIA continues to go with Samsung GDDR5 memory clocked at 1502 MHz (6008 MHz quad-pumped).

Samsung GDDR5 vMEM

Samsung GDDR5 vMEM

Lastly we have the GK106 GPU.

GK106 GPU

GK106 GPU

GK106 GPU

GK106 GPU

Overall, it looks the part of a solid budget card. Time to install it in a system and see what we can get out of it.

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST

Test Setup

Our test setup includes a 4.0 GHz i7 3770K with memory clocked at DDR3-1866 / 9-9-9-24. Competition comes courtesy AMD and NVIDIA above and below the GTX 650 Ti BOOST’s price range.

CPU i7 3770K @ 4.0 GHz
MB ASUS Maximus V Extreme
RAM G.Skill TridentX DDR3-2600 @ 1866MHz 9-9-9-24
GPUs ASUS HD 7790 DirectCU II OC
EVGA GTX 650 Ti SSC
Galaxy GTX 660 GC
PowerColor PCS+ HD 7850
OS Windows 7 Professional x64

**Important note about drivers** The HD 78xx cards graphed in this review have not been re-benched with the 12.x (or later) Catalyst drivers, which showed large performance gains over previous Catalyst versions. We are in the process of reviewing a newer HD 7870 and a HD 7850 is on the way for review as well, so you’ll get those numbers in the future.

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST Installed

NVIDIA GTX 650 Ti BOOST Installed

Installed on the Maximus IV Extreme, it’s not a bad look for a reference card at all.

Cooler Performance & Power Consumption

The GTX 650 Ti BOOST comes in right where it should, with cooler performance very similar to its slightly more powerful GTX 660 brother. Temperature wise, it just doesn’t compare to the HD 7790, but neither does the cooler itself, so that’s to be expected.

Being a blower-style cooler, it definitely doesn’t compare to the acoustics of the partner-designed cooling on the HD 7790. While the latter couldn’t ever be heard over my under-volted radiator fans, it was pretty obvious when this cooler kicked in. That said, it’s not really a fair comparison, because that was a partner-designed cooler and this one isn’t designed to compete with it.

Cooler Performance

Cooler Performance

Power-consumption wise, it is and acts like a cut down GTX 660, trimming a few watts off the top. The card is driving power consumption here too. While the HD 7790′s peak came when the CPU was loaded (in the 3DMark 11 Combined test), the GTX 650 Ti BOOST’s peak was during the GPU tests.

Power Consumption

Power Consumption

It fits right where it should in the power consumption chart. While it’s not as efficient as AMD’s latest offering, if it out-performs it, that wattage might be forgiven. We’ll just have to see.

Overclocking

Overclocking comes to us courtesy of EVGA’s PrecisionX. The total overclock, with voltage control, was +110 MHz on the GPU and +300 MHz (in PrecisionX, which translates to +150 MHz in reality) on the memory. It’s not as strong MHz wise as the HD 7790 and this overclock had voltage control to help it out. However, it’s not a bad overclock by any stretch.

650tiboost-oc-gpuz-oc

These are the settings used to obtain the overclock. Disregard the Temp Target; this was the version of PrecisionX already installed on my system from the Titan review. Rest assured, this card has GPU Boost 1.0, not 2.0.

PrecisionX Settings

PrecisionX Settings

Interestingly, this overclock was the max 24/7 stable, but it was not hammering up against the card’s power target. It picked a frequency and stuck to it. In this case, the actual boost frequency ended up being 104.5 MHz over stock, and it kept it throughout the benchmark.

Overclocked Boost Frequency

Overclocked Boost Frequency

Stability testing comes to us courtesy 3DMark 11 and HWBot Heaven Xtreme.

3DMark 11 Overclocked

3DMark 11 Overclocked

HWBot Heaven Overclocked

HWBot Heaven Overclocked

Not a bad clocking card at all and the overclock you set keeps on giving, without running into the pesky power limit and throttling back all the time.

Performance Results

All of our benchmarks are run per our GPU testing procedure guidelines, which you can check out right here. Long story short: benchmarks are run at their default settings and games are run with everything maxed. Because of the previously mentioned driver notes re: HD 78xx GPUs, I’ll keep my comments between the GTX competition and the HD 7790.

Synthetic Tests

3DMark03 is a known variable when it comes to Kepler cards. They just don’t have what they used to for this now-ten-year-old, which is pretty irrelevant to anyone but benchmarkers. However, we still keep it for old times’ sake (and because benchers are a solid chunk of our audience).

3DMark 03

3DMark 03

Moving to more relevant benches, it looks like the GTX 650 Ti BOOST steps up to the plate and takes out the HD 7790 in DirectX 10.

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage

Well, look at this. Looks like we might have a battle on our hands for benchmarking. The HD 7790 wins the day in 3DMark 11.

3DMark 11

3DMark 11

The HD 7790 is quickly unseated in Heaven Xtreme, with the GTX 650 Ti BOOST taking a healthy lead.

HWBot Heaven Xtreme

HWBot Heaven Xtreme

The newest 3DMark is a back and forth even within the same benchmark. The GTX 650 Ti BOOST wins at stock, but the further-overclocking HD 7790 takes the overclocked prize.

3DMark Fire Strike

3DMark Fire Strike

In case you’re wondering, 3DMark Fire Strike wasn’t included in the last review because there weren’t enough results in the HD 7790′s price range.

Game Tests

Now we reach the point where the rubber meets the road – game tests. Getting right to it, the GTX 650 Ti BOOST gets a solid “W” in Aliens vs. Predator.

Aliens vs. Predator DirectX 11 Benchmark

Aliens vs. Predator DirectX 11 Benchmark

More of the same, with results over ten FPS better in Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City

Even Battlefield 3 falls in favor of the GTX 650 Ti BOOST.

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3

Civilization V is closer and the overclocked result takes a step back (not uncommon for this game in cards from both sides), but still doesn’t lose to the HD 7790.

Civilization V

Civilization V

Dirt 3 continues the slightly-over-10-FPS lead.

Dirt 3

Dirt 3

GPU killer Metro 2033 is much closer, but the GTX 650 Ti BOOST still comes out on top.

Metro 2033

Metro 2033

In every game test, the GTX 650 Ti BOOST beats the HD 7790. That’s to be expected for $20 more and it does precisely what NVIDIA set out to do – stave off AMD’s newly increased power in this market segment.

Frame Times – a Short Introduction

There has been a lot of talk on the interweb recently about frame times, and this is the first step in considering including a frame time component in our reviews. It will start with with just me and just one game. It is a point of discussion with our editors and when Haswell comes, if we upgrade our test platform, we may include Frame Time testing in the future. If you have an opinion on frame time measurements, please feel free to share it in the comments.

If you’re unfamiliar with frame times, it is how long the GPU takes to render a frame. FPS is a good measurement to tell how many frames are being produced per second on average, but as we all know, FPS can vary as you’re gaming. That’s because your GPU often takes longer than that average to produce the frame. The simplest explanation I’ve seen came from SKYMTL, who writes for Hardware Canucks from his research:

  • Below 20ms: unnoticeable
  • Rapid, cyclical fluctuations above 25ms: you’ll notice it
  • Sudden “spikes” (non-cyclical) above 40ms: you’ll notice it
  • Grey area between 21ms and 25ms: debatable. Some will notice it while others won’t.

What I went with in our first frame time graph is the first 3000 frames of our Battlefield 3 run. As you can see, both of these GPUs have their moments above 30 s, some as much as 45-50 ms. The big spikes came from the GTX 650 Ti BOOST and it spent more time north of 30 ms than the HD 7790 did.

Battlefield 3 Frametimes

Battlefield 3 Frametimes

That said, don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill here. This is a lot of data thrown into a small graph and it looks intimidating. Both of these GPUs felt fine coming out of my monitor, even on Ultra settings, which is what you see graphed, and that’s what’s important.

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

The war wages on, but this battle between the newest GPUs from NVIDIA and AMD has come to a close, with the NVIDIA offering coming out on top.

In this market segment, money talks. The GTX 650 Ti BOOST is listed as having a (reference) MSRP of $169. That’s $20 more than the HD 7790′s $149, or 13%. However, that 13% price premium translates to 17-31% FPS increase, depending on the game. AvP, Batman, CivV & Dirt 3 come in at 27-31% higher FPS. That’s nothing to sneeze at. In fact, those games increase double FPS per dollar over the HD 7790.

Now, that said, the HD 7790 we reviewed was quieter, cooler, overclocked better and sipped less power. If it had been able to access voltage control it would likely have overclocked even further. However, we’ll have to see what NVIDIA’s board partners come out with before making any snap judgements on temperatures and acoustics, as reference coolers on the GTX 650 Ti BOOST won’t really be coming to market, just like with the HD 7790.

Also important to consider is that the HD 7790 comes with a copy of Bioshock: Infinite. Sorry NVIDIA, but to me, a brand new premium title is worth more than some credit to spend in some F2P games. The latter may have a large fan base, but a full game is better than some weapon upgrades. Of course, if you have no interest in Bioshock: Infinite and just want more horsepower for the games you have, there goes that advantage.

A significant problem for AMD is that the GTX 650 Ti BOOST (both reference and overclocked models) will be on sale at e-tailers today. AMD’s HD 7790 “launch” was a paper launch, with availability expected in early April. NVIDIA expects to get their 1 GB, $149 version of the GTX 650 Ti BOOST out in early April as well. The pricing and positioning wars continue on and that’s great news for everybody in the market for a GPU.

Reference vs. non-reference acoustics and temperatures aside, the GTX 650 Ti BOOST does one thing well – it beats its competition in this market segment with pure horsepower. When you’re looking at saving every dime you can but still game happily at 1080p, that’s the most important measurement.

Overclockers_clear_approved

Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)

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Discussion
  1. Liked the review as usual. Well done. :thup:

    This card has me wondering about taking a 1/2 step before any bench-worthy plunge into a higher end card. Guess I'll wait for the partner cards to be reviewed....hmmm.....just haven't gotten enthusiastic about many others 'cepting the 670s. But the dog needs neutering as he's becoming an embarassment. And more taxes. Biding my time...
    Oooh I love it, looks like a mini Titan.

    How much better is this than HD 4000 (i think that's the one intel is on now... lol)

    Is the $150+ worth it?

    I know that the 610m is hardly better at all than the HD 4000, but its sort of apples and oranges. Just wanna know.

    XD and I just updated my nVidia drivers and this exact model was on the installer.
    The other thing of course is that you need the equipment to actually test whatever it is you're reviewing. Sometimes that's easy, other times (PSUs for instance) it's not.
    Probably the best thing to do is pick out a piece of hardware you have and write a review of it.

    Read some of the reviews on the OCF frontpage, that is the writing quality and review quality that you'll need.

    Do note that it takes a while, it's far from a free lunch. My average PSU review for instance takes 4-6 hours and is 3000-4000 words and 3-5 dozen pictures.

    Average GPU review, excluding testing time (which is significant) is probably 3-4 hours for me, and another 3000-5000 words.

    Longest so far was about 6000 or 7000 words, somewhere in there.

    Shortest PSU review all time was "only" 2900 words.

    So, start writing, post a thread with your review in it, and go from there.
    briansun1
    ok, noob question how did you guys start doing reviews?


    DarrenP
    Yeah, i also want to know how one could get on the review team.. i buy a lot of misc parts and would like to review them for other people so they can know if they should buy or not.. :)


    If you want to get involved, here's the info sticky from the News Team sub-forum. Just read up and create a thread with questions.

    That info sticky is a little dated though.
    I started by writing tutorials on forums ages ago. I was also a moderator at the abit (former motherboard manufacturer) technical support forum, so that gave me a small bit of hardware/industry knowledge credibility. Then when I heard through a friend a site he wrote for wanted a writer, I used those tutorials as writing samples and was added to the team of a smaller site.

    Then, when Overclockers revamped their home page about four years ago now, I jumped in on the ground floor. Several of us core editors built our industry contacts (most of the manufacturers had worked with past people on our site, but we were a new team so we had to rebuild those relationships). We're a large enough site that we have the privilege of working directly with Intel, AMD (both sides - CPU & GPU) and NVIDIA as well as the vast majority of their partners. After doing this in some form for the past six'ish years, it's just grown to the point we're at now.

    Anyone is welcome to submit reviews for the front page with the caveat that you have to meet our editorial standards and it has to be on something we haven't either already reviewed or have already planned for review.
    Yeah, i also want to know how one could get on the review team.. i buy a lot of misc parts and would like to review them for other people so they can know if they should buy or not.. :)
    I forgot to note in the review that I've already got an EVGA GTX 650 Ti BOOST SuperClocked in-hand and will be reviewing that soon so we'll also have some SLI results for you.

    Other cards are starting to roll in as well. EarthDog has a Galaxy version coming and I think one other is supposed to be coming. :thup: