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EVGA GeForce GTS 450 1GB FTW Single & SLI Review

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SKYMTL

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If you have already read our main GTS 450 1GB review, you should be no stranger to how we feel about NVIDIA’s latest entry into more affordable waters. Basically, we found that it was a good little product being launched into a market segment where some competition was desperately needed. What stood out the most however was the card’s ability to perform some highly impressive overclocking acrobatics which garnered it significant performance gains.

In keeping with the overclocking-friendly nature of the GTS 450, EVGA will be launching a whole lineup of cards which cover every base from reference all the way up to products that carry mind-bending clock speeds. The usual SuperClocked and SSC models are there for the taking but there is one other which has been a rarity in recent months: the FTW (For the Win) Edition. It also happens to be the subject of this review.

This is the highest-end card in EVGA’s GTS 450 lineup and indeed the first FTW-branded GTX 400-series card that sports a standard heatsink design. Don’t expect it to come cheap though; at $150, the FTW flirts mid way between the price of a GTS 450 and the 768MB GTX 460 while equalling the cost of the ATI HD 5770. Its clock speeds on the other hand tend to tell a different story as it should take the title as the fastest GTS 450 available at launch.

For a GTS 450 1GB, there is no denying the FTW edition does cost quite a bit. However, it comes backed by EVGA’s truly excellent customer service and Trade Up program which give buyers piece of mind long after the initial purchase. However, for whatever reason EVGA decided to deck this card out with a meagre 2-year warranty. All in all, it should be interesting to see if this card is worth the price premium it demands.

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SKYMTL

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The Current NVIDIA Lineup

The Current NVIDIA Lineup


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It may have taken them a while to get the ball rolling at a meaningful pace, but NVIDIA is well on their way towards fleshing out their first generation DX11 lineup. Currently, the GTX 480 and GTX 470 hold the topmost rungs where they can compete against ATI’s single card flagships; the HD 5870 and HD 5850. They are both beastly cards that spill out the framerates as quickly as they consume power but there is no denying the fact that they each provide some excellent performance.

Running a bit lower along the rungs of the 400-series brings us to the GTX 465 which until recently represented an interesting wrinkle in the lineup. However, this GF100-based card’s performance and efficiency were brought under heavy scrutiny when the GF104 core was released.

The GF104 was NVIDIA’s first departure from the standard GF100 core layout and moved the Fermi architecture into a realm that was infinitely more affordable and attainable than past cards. Everyone’s darling, the GTX 460 series came front and center with a significant increase in its Texture Unit count versus GF100-based cards and it dazzled the press and consumers alike. There are bound to be additional GF104-based products coming soon so stay tuned.

Until additional 400-series cards are released, the GTS 450 1GB will act as NVIDIA’s lowest-end DX11 desktop card that is available at retailers. The GF106 core at its heart is essentially half of a GF104, and as you can see its specifications are very much in line with its asking price. Parallels will naturally be drawn between it and the outgoing yet infinitely long lived G92-based GTS 250.

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The fact that we are comparing this new GTS 450 card to one which sports a GPU core that essentially debuted in 2007 is simply shocking and yet tells two stories; the longevity of the G92 and the fact that NVIDIA has been relying on its associated architecture for FAR too long. Nonetheless, the GTS 450 is meant to act as a direct replacement for the GTS 250 in addition to the 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+ and 8800 GTS. Judging from specifications alone, it should be able to do this without a problem since the only areas where it really loses out is in the memory bandwidth and texture unit departments. By now we all know that the Fermi architecture somewhat makes up for its lack of TMUs with additional processing cores so this should be a non-issue as well.

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Out with the old, in with the new

Competition for this new card is of course ATI’s HD 5750, which is currently retailing for between $130 and $145. From our understanding, NVIDIA is hell bent on dominating this price category; be it by overall performance or a more appealing cost structure.
 

SKYMTL

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The GF106 & Its Features

The GF106


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Since the GF106 is based off of the exact same core design as the GF104, we recommend that you take a close look at our in-depth GF104 architecture analysis before reading any further. If you aren’t willing to do that, let’s just say that the GF106 at the heart of the GTS 450 1GB is essentially half of a fully enabled GF104. This evolution of the GF100 architecture is aimed at appeasing a market that is looking for higher efficiency than the higher end cards are capable of and yet still wants respectable performance. NVIDIA achieved this by upping the texture unit count per SM and slightly modifying the path by which higher level data is passed through the architecture.

The GF106 has four Streaming Multiprocessors which each contains 48 CUDA cores, 8 Special Function Units, 64KB of L1 cache, eight texture units and a Polymorph Engine containing the fixed function stages. In total, an unblemished GF106 has 192 cores and 32 texture units while lower-end cards could be created by disabling one or more of the SMs. This is all serviced by a single Raster Engine, 16 ROPs, 256KB of L2 cache and a pair of 64-bit memory controllers.


The GF106’s Features


As it stands, the GF106-based cards are the lowest priced units in the lineup that are compatible with NVIDIA’s Surround multi-monitor gaming setup. SLI is of course a requirement for Surround, but from our experiences the GTS 450 1GB is more than capable of delivering playable framerates across several monitors, as long as the detail settings are kept within acceptable ranges.

It goes without saying that other NVIDIA technologies such as CUDA, PhysX and 3D Vision are all useable on GF106-based cards but one of the main draws of the Fermi architecture’s efficient side is its ability to act as a higher-end HTPC card.


3D Vision & Blu Ray 3D

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Even though we believe the whole “3D” craze in Hollywood is highly misplaced when it comes to actual movie support, there is no arguing with the fact people’s interest in it is growing. Through the use of a built-in HDMI 1.4 connector, the GF106 and GF104 support the 3D Blu-ray format which is an absolute necessity for watching movies in 3D. Naturally, you will need supporting software like Cyberlink’s PowerDVD 3D but luckily NVIDIA has also released 3D Vision Play to guide things along.

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3D Vision Play is the final piece of the PC 3D movie puzzle. This piece of software allows the NVIDIA GPU to sync with 3D capable HDTVs via the HDMI 1.4 output. As a result, the standard 3D Vision glasses can be made to work with a TV set that would otherwise be incompatible, but beware that some HDTVs may still be incompatible.


Lossless Audio Playback

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All of the GF104 and GF106 GPUs also support full bitstreaming of HD audio over HDMI. This means every bit of signal processing is done on the GPU itself without the need for external decoding. This is a huge step forward for those of you who want true high definition audio to go along with a 3D experience but once again you will need software that supports this feature.

Much like ATI, NVIDIA now has their own HDMI audio driver that is packaged along with their standard Forceware driver stack. With the 250-series drivers, this worked perfectly for us in the latest version of PowerDVD 10 but there is a catch. Below is a response from Cyberlink regarding how to get BD Bitstreaming working on PowerDVD. Supposedly, the process will be streamlined in later versions.

To get BD audio bitstreaming going you will need to play a Blu-ray disc, pause, then go to the settings menu. Make sure you select your HDMI audio output, and then select “Non-decoded high-definition audio to external device.
 

SKYMTL

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EVGA GTS 450 FTW Specs / Packaging & Accessories

EVGA GTS 450 1GB FTW Specifications


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At launch, the EVGA GTS 450 FTW will likely be one of the highest clocked GTS 450 cards on the market. With a 920Mhz core clock it is a short step behind the ASUS TOP edition but the additional memory speed should push its performance above the competition, especially in bandwidth-intensive applications.


Packaging & Accessories


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All of EVGA’s present packaging schemes are pretty much the same and this one is no different other than the “FTW” moniker emblazoned on the front. Nonetheless, it is good to see that the box is small enough not to cost a fortune to ship.

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Unlike other EVGA cards we have seen in the past, this one uses a different and very basic internal packaging scheme. Gone are the usual plastic blister packs or cardboard holders. In their place is...nothing. The card is protected by a simple bubble wrap bag and is held in place by cardboard dividers within the box. This provides a measure of protection to the extent that you shouldn’t have to worry too much about receiving a damaged card.

We were expecting a bit more when it came to accessories. Since the FTW uses a mini-HDMI output and retails for a significant price premium, a mini-HDMI to HDMI adaptor or cable should have been included but it wasn’t. All that EVGA packages with their GTS 450 is a DVI to VGA dongle and a Molex to 6-pin power adaptor.
 

SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the EVGA GTS 450 FTW

A Closer Look at the EVGA GTS 450 FTW


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There is honestly nothing exciting happening here since EVGA has decided to rigidly stick to NVIDIA’s reference design for their highest clocked GTS 450. This means the standard heatsink and PCB design are used but EVGA did choose to go with a black PCB.

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The heatsink shroud has a muted EVGA sticker attached to it which features orange highlights. A single 6-pin power connector is also used despite this card’s sky high overclocks.


Absolutely nothing has been changed on this card from the reference version and that goes for the components attached to the PCB as well. Everything from the memory to the VRMs to the chokes is bog standard which could be one of the reasons EVGA has hamstrung it with a mere 2-year warranty.

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The output connectors included the expected dual DVI-D and single mini HDMI outputs but this causes some concerns as well. If you are going to be using this card for an HTPC or want the ability to stream sound over the HDMI output, you are going to have to fork over the money for a mini HDMI to HDMI adaptor or cable.
 

SKYMTL

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Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup

Processor: Intel Core i7 920(ES) @ 4.0Ghz (Turbo Mode Enabled)
Memory: Corsair 3x2GB Dominator DDR3 1600Mhz
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Cooling: CoolIT Boreas mTEC + Scythe Fan Controller (Off for Power Consuption tests)
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
Power Supply: Corsair HX1000W
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Graphics Cards:

EVGA GTS 450 1GB FTW
ASUS GTS 450 1GB TOP DirectCU
Gigabyte GTS 450 1GB
GTS 450 1GB (Single+SLI)
GTX 470 (Reference)
GTX 460 768MB (Reference)
EVGA GTS 250 1GB (Stock)

ATI HD 5850 1GB (Reference)
ATI HD 5770 1GB (Reference)
XFX HD 5750 1GB (Reference)


Drivers:

NVIDIA 260.52 + Starcraft SLI Update
ATI 10.8b + CAP 10.8a


Applications Used:

Aliens Versus Predator
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
DiRT 2
Far Cry 2
Just Cause 2
Metro 2033
Starcraft 2
Unigine: Heaven


*Notes:

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OUR BENCHMARKING PROCESS PLEASE SEE THIS ARTICLE

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 3 benchmark runs

All game-specific methodologies are explained above the graphs for each game

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game
 

SKYMTL

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Messages
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Aliens Versus Predator (DX11)

Aliens Versus Predator (DX11)


When benchmarking Aliens Versus Predator, we played through the whole game in order to find a section which represents a “worst case” scenario. We finally decided to include “The Refinery” level which includes a large open space and several visual features that really tax a GPU. For this run-through, we start from within the first tunnel, make our way over the bridge on the right (blowing up several propane tanks in the process), head back over the bridge and finally climb the tower until the first run-in with an Alien. In total, the time spent is about four minutes per run. Framerates are recorded with FRAPS.


1440 x 900

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1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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SKYMTL

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BattleField: Bad Company 2 (DX11)

BattleField: Bad Company 2 (DX11)


To benchmark BF: BC2 we used a five minute stretch of gameplay starting from the second checkpoint (after the helicopter takes off) of the second single player mission up until your battle with the tank commences. Framerates are recorded with FRAPS.


1440 x 900

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1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
DiRT 2 (DX11)

DiRT 2 (DX11)


Being one of the newest games on the market, DiRT 2 cuts an imposing figure in terms of image quality and effects fidelity. We find that to benchmark this game the in-game tool is by far the best option. However, due to small variances from one race to another, three benchmark runs are done instead of the normal two. It should also be mentioned that the demo version of the game was NOT used since after careful testing, the performance of the demo is not representative of the final product. DX11 was forced through the game’s config file. In addition, you will see that these scores do not line up with our older benchmarks at all. This is due to the fact that a patch was recently rolled out for the game which included performance optimizations in addition to new graphics options.

1440 x 900

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1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
12,840
Location
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Far Cry 2 (DX10)

Far Cry 2 (DX10)


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Even though Far Cry 2 has its own built-in benchmarking tool with some flythroughs and “action scenes”, we decided to record our own timedemo consisting of about 5 minutes of game time. It involves everything from run-and-gun fights to fire effects. The built-in benchmarking too was then set up to replay the timedemo and record framerates


1440 x 900

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1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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