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GTX 650 Ti Boost Roundup (ASUS, EVGA, Gigabyte, Galaxy, MSI)

SKYMTL

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NVIDIA’s GTX 650 Ti Boost quite literally came out of nowhere and turned the mid-range market on its head. This was done through the Boost’s introduction alongside some strategic price juggling on the GTX 650 Ti and GTX 660. As a result, NVIDIA has been able to achieve near-dominance in several segments without all that much effort.

With the $170 GTX 650 Ti Boost quickly becoming the go-to card for gamers who want excellent performance without spending an arm and a leg, it’s only natural that board partners would be quick to respond with their own versions. Indeed, there has been a literal flood of choices hitting the market and unlike previous generations, all of them tack a mere $10 or less onto the GTX 650 Ti Boost’s reference price. In this article, we are taking a look at five examples from premier board partners like ASUS, EVGA, Galaxy, Gigabyte and MSI, all of which are widely available from retailers.


Since the GTX 650 Ti Boost introduces GeForce Boost into the sub-$199 price point, a number of factors have to be taken into account. Maximum and average clock speeds are now largely determined by TDP which means core temperatures become a primary factor when the drivers and onboard systems determine engine frequencies. This should (in theory) allow manufacturers with better heatsinks to achieve better performance. In addition, no two cores are alike so there may be very minor frequency variances between similarly clocked cards.

When it comes to card versus card comparisons, let’s state the obvious first: once again, none of NVIDIA’s board partners have touched the GTX 650 Ti Boost’s memory frequencies. According to our conversations with several of them, increasing the GDDR5’s data rate would have necessitated time-consuming binning procedures without having a meaningful impact on performance. As such, they’ve elected to focus on graphics engine speeds.


The ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI cards all have very similar out-of-box core overclocks with their resulting Boost speeds being the main point of differentiation. Out of the three, MSI has their BIOS-defined Power Limit set at a slightly higher level than Gigabyte or ASUS which ensured better consistency across the games we tested. Ironically, the $170 Gigabyte card may have the highest “on paper” specifications but it lags slightly behind in terms of overall speeds.

Galaxy and EVGA start from very different ends of the spectrum. Galaxy has decided to leave their card at reference frequencies and even though they have a phenomenal heatsink design, speeds lag slightly behind those our original GTX 650 Ti Boost displayed. As we discussed, this may be due to actual core differentiation but average performance was exactly equal to a standard GTX 650 Ti Boost. EVGA’s Superclocked meanwhile is able to remain well ahead with some impressive Boost frequencies which plateaued above the 1200MHz mark on a regular basis.
 
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SKYMTL

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ASUS DirectCU II OC & EVGA Superclocked

ASUS GTX 650 Ti Boost DirectCU II OC



ASUS’ GTX 650 Ti Boost DirectCU II OC may have a mouthful of a name but its pedigree is above reproach. This is just the latest in a long line of great looking high performance cards from ASUS, though this time it comes with an affordable price of just $175. That’s particularly impressive since it represents a mere $5 premium over a reference card and yet comes packed full with features normally seen on much more expensive cards.


It should go without saying that ASUS equipped this card with a smaller, condensed version of their award-winning DirectCU II heatsink. It uses a pair of large flattened heatpipes which make direct contact with the core via a copper contact plate and support a large aluminum fin array. The two 80mm fans work alongside this impressive heatsink to lower temperatures by some 20% over the reference design.


ASUS has used their own custom PCB design for this card which is slightly longer than the reference version but it comes equipped with Super Alloy Power components. The SAP design allows for increased longevity, cooler operation and reduced power loss through the use of higher quality MOSFETs, capacitors and PWM chokes.

The DirectCU II’s length of about 10.25” shouldn’t be an issue for anything but the smallest mATX case.


EVGA GTX 650 Ti Boost Superclocked



As is usual for EVGA, they’ve decided to stick with a strictly reference design but their Superclocked’s clock speeds are anything but par for the course. It actually boasts the highest frequencies of any card in this roundup and does so while adding a mere $10 premium to the reference design’s price. EVGA also holds the edge in the end-user support category with some generous warranty and value-added services which are available for a few bucks when registering the GTX 650 Ti Boost.

EVGA has also concentrated on sprucing up NVIDIA’s heatsink shroud by giving it a more squared-off look. Some additional internal baffles have also been installed in order to optimize airflow over the internal heatsink.


EVGA’s changes continue on the card’s back with the elimination of the reference design’s dual air intakes on the heat shroud’s overhang. This may cause some constricted airflow when the Superclocked is installed into close-knit SLI configurations but we doubt it will have much effect on temperatures. EVGA has also installed their own custom I/O plate which makes use of larger ventilation holes in order to better air movement.
 

SKYMTL

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Galaxy, Gigabyte WindForce OC, MSI Twin Frozr III OC

Galaxy GTX 650 Ti Boost



Galaxy’s GTX 650 Ti Boost may use one wild heatsink shroud but it is also the most basic in this lineup, as evidenced by reference clock speeds and a $170 price. There is however some interesting additions here, some of which are questionable while others will help with overclocking and cooling performance.


The overall Batmobile-like design of this card’s heatsink shroud may cause some to roll their eyes but it effectively channels the large axial fan’s airflow out the backplate or over the VRM heatsinks. Galaxy has also installed a small 4-pin fan header next to the card’s power connector. We’re not quite sure what this is meant for but it could be that Galaxy is planning a dual fan GTX 650 Ti Boost sometime in the near future.


The completely custom PCB not only houses upgraded components but it also features a number of voltage read points for the GPU and memory. There is also a quartet of ventilation holes cut into it which are supposed to help VRM component cooling.


Galaxy has made an effort to increase the airflow potential of the GTX 650 Ti Boost’s backplate but this has also led to a non-standard connector layout. Gone is the second DVI connector and DisplayPort and in their place is a layout that includes a full-sized HDMI connector and VGA output alongside a single DVI-D. Since most people are still using DVI over DisplayPort, we have to appreciate the simplicity here but it does somewhat limit future connectivity options.


Gigabyte GTX 650 Ti Boost OC



Gigabyte’s tradition of offering some insane value for your money continues with their GTX 650 Ti Boost OC. It features a completely custom design, upgraded components and higher clock speeds while maintaining a price of just $170. On paper at least, this card leads this roundup from nearly ever perspective.


Gigabyte has equipped their card with a Windforce 2X heatsink that includes a quartet of massive 6mm heatpipes and a fin array which is specifically designed to reduce turbulence. This is an epically sized heatsink for such a small card and it is topped with a pair of 100mm PWM fans, leading to a very low acoustical profile.


The Windforce’s inclusion has pushed the Gigabyte GTX 650 Ti Boost’s length to around 9.25” but that still makes it one of the shortest cards in this roundup. Meanwhile, the PCB has been completely designed in-house and boasts Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable 2 components, ensuring long life and great stability.


MSI GTX 650 Ti Boost Twin Frozr III OC



MSI’s entry into this roundup follows their usual approach when it comes to custom cards. They’ve equipped the GTX 650 Ti Boost with a custom heatsink, higher clock speeds and upgraded components but its price is among the highest at $180. That represents a relatively small $10 premium for what amounts to a top-to-bottom redesign so we’re certainly not going to hold anything against MSI from a value perspective.


Equipped with the iconic Twin Frozr III heatsink, MSI’s version of the GTX 650 Ti Boost not only looks great but it should post some of the best temperature numbers in this roundup. This cooler’s two 72mm fans sit atop a large aluminum heatsink that’s fed with three heatpipes.


As with almost every other GTX 650 Ti Boost available on the market, MSI has used a custom PCB design for their version that comes with upgraded components. This time however, there is a vast expanse of blank PCB directly behind the PWM, ensuring the circuit board and Twin Frozr heatsink line up perfectly.
 

SKYMTL

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Test System & Setup

Main Test System

Processor: Intel i7 3930K @ 4.5GHz
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 32GB @ 1866MHz
Motherboard: ASUS P9X79 WS
Cooling: Corsair H80
SSD: 2x Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Samsung 305T / 3x Acer 235Hz
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Acoustical Test System

Processor: Intel 2600K @ stock
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB 1600MHz
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3
Cooling: Thermalright TRUE Passive
SSD: Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Seasonic X-Series Gold 800W


Drivers:
NVIDIA 314.21 Beta
AMD 13.2 Beta 7
AMD HD 7790 Beta



*Notes:

- 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 IQ settings were adjusted in-game and all GPU control panels were set to use application settings
 

SKYMTL

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Assassin’s Creed III / Crysis 3

Assassin’s Creed III (DX11)


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The third iteration of the Assassin’s Creed franchise is the first to make extensive use of DX11 graphics technology. In this benchmark sequence, we proceed through a run-through of the Boston area which features plenty of NPCs, distant views and high levels of detail.



Crysis 3 (DX11)


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Simply put, Crysis 3 is one of the best looking PC games of all time and it demands a heavy system investment before even trying to enable higher detail settings. Our benchmark sequence for this one replicates a typical gameplay condition within the New York dome and consists of a run-through interspersed with a few explosions for good measure Due to the hefty system resource needs of this game, post-process FXAA was used in the place of MSAA.

 

SKYMTL

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Dirt: Showdown / Far Cry 3

Dirt: Showdown (DX11)


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Among racing games, Dirt: Showdown is somewhat unique since it deals with demolition-derby type racing where the player is actually rewarded for wrecking other cars. It is also one of the many titles which falls under the Gaming Evolved umbrella so the development team has worked hard with AMD to implement DX11 features. In this case, we set up a custom 1-lap circuit using the in-game benchmark tool within the Nevada level.



Far Cry 3 (DX11)


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One of the best looking games in recent memory, Far Cry 3 has the capability to bring even the fastest systems to their knees. Its use of nearly the entire repertoire of DX11’s tricks may come at a high cost but with the proper GPU, the visuals will be absolutely stunning.

To benchmark Far Cry 3, we used a typical run-through which includes several in-game environments such as a jungle, in-vehicle and in-town areas.


 

SKYMTL

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Hitman Absolution / Max Payne 3

Hitman Absolution (DX11)


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/8UXx0gbkUl0?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Hitman is arguably one of the most popular FPS (first person “sneaking”) franchises around and this time around Agent 47 goes rogue so mayhem soon follows. Our benchmark sequence is taken from the beginning of the Terminus level which is one of the most graphically-intensive areas of the entire game. It features an environment virtually bathed in rain and puddles making for numerous reflections and complicated lighting effects.



Max Payne 3 (DX11)


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/ZdiYTGHhG-k?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

When Rockstar released Max Payne 3, it quickly became known as a resource hog and that isn’t surprising considering its top-shelf graphics quality. This benchmark sequence is taken from Chapter 2, Scene 14 and includes a run-through of a rooftop level featuring expansive views. Due to its random nature, combat is kept to a minimum so as to not overly impact the final result.

 

SKYMTL

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Temperatures & Acoustics / Power Consumption

Temperature Analysis


For all temperature testing, the cards were placed on an open test bench with a single 120mm 1200RPM fan placed ~8” away from the heatsink. The ambient temperature was kept at a constant 22°C (+/- 0.5°C). If the ambient temperatures rose above 23°C at any time throughout the test, all benchmarking was stopped..

For Idle tests, we let the system idle at the Windows 7 desktop for 15 minutes and recorded the peak temperature.



The GTX 650 Ti Boost’s core doesn’t output all that much heat and every one of the custom heatsinks is able to handle things well, even when higher clock speeds are taken into account. Gigabyte and Galaxy lead the pack but not by all that much. EVGA’s mostly reference design meanwhile tops out at 78 degrees which is a very respectable result for a highly overclocked sample.


Acoustical Testing


What you see below are the baseline idle dB(A) results attained for a relatively quiet open-case system (specs are in the Methodology section) sans GPU along with the attained results for each individual card in idle and load scenarios. The meter we use has been calibrated and is placed at seated ear-level exactly 12” away from the GPU’s fan. For the load scenarios, a loop of Unigine Valley is used in order to generate a constant load on the GPU(s) over the course of 15 minutes.


Basically, every one of the custom cooled cards within this roundup is more than quiet enough to feel right at home in an HTPC. You’ll never hear any of them. Even the result of 42.7 dB for EVGA’s Superclocked is low enough that it won’t be heard over most case fans.

With all of this taken into account, there are of course some leaders here. Gigabyte’s massive 100mm fans and Galaxy’s simple yet effective heatsink both post simply outstanding results with ASUS and MSI not all that far behind.


System Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we used 15 minutes of Unigine Valley running on a loop while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 15 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption.

Please note that after extensive testing, we have found that simply plugging in a power meter to a wall outlet or UPS will NOT give you accurate power consumption numbers due to slight changes in the input voltage. Thus we use a Tripp-Lite 1800W line conditioner between the 120V outlet and the power meter.


If anything this chart confirms our initial suspicion that the reference GTX 650 Ti Boost we received consumed a lower amount of power than an average sample. Take the Galaxy card as a perfect counterpoint since it runs cooler and at the same clock speeds yet isn’t quite as efficient which is likely why it can’t normally boost higher than the stock card. Of course, the other overclocked cards behave exactly as we would expect by requiring more power.
 

SKYMTL

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Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


Overclocking is anything but an exact science with identical cards posting wildly different frequencies. Luckily, this time around, most of our samples dialed in around the same clock speeds once everything was said and done.

In order to achieve the overclocks you see below, we used each manufacturer’s overclocking software (ASUS GPU Tweak, EVGA Precision, Galaxy’s Xtreme Tuner Plus, Gigabyte’s OC Guru and MSI’s Afterburner. In each case, we maximized the Power Target to 110% and set core voltage at 1.15V. All overclocks are what we would consider 24/7 stable and the memory frequencies are stringently tested to ensure the GDDR5’s error correction isn’t kicking in.


Despite being equipped with the lowest out-of-box clock speeds of this roundup, Galaxy’s card posted a surprising win here and led the pack by a slim margin. ASUS was a close second with a great showing while even EVGA, Gigabyte and MSI allowed for some impressive clock speed increases. The GTX 650 Ti Boost may not be the best overclocker around but a few minor tweaks will have any of these cards performing at least on par with a GTX 660 2GB.

 

SKYMTL

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Messages
12,857
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Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


NVIDIA’s $170 GTX 650 Ti Boost is a stellar graphics card which couldn’t have been introduced at a better time. It competes perfectly against higher priced AMD cards which, for the most part, still have recently received some steep rebates. Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that the $170 HD 7790 2GB remains largely missing in action, weeks after launch.

With such a competitive solution in their stables, it’s obvious that NVIDIA’s board partners have put a ton of effort into creating the best possible GTX 650 Ti Boost cards without associated price premiums. Indeed, as we saw in this roundup, the amount of value being packed into these custom designs is nothing short of astounding. In our opinion, every one of these cards would make a great match for a budget-conscious gamer but there are several points of differentiation between them.


ASUS GTX 650 Ti Boost DirectCU II OC

ASUS’ card set itself apart from the pack by posting respectable framerate numbers, low temperatures and a nearly silent acoustical profile. We couldn't objectively test the component selection's impact upon longevity of stability but the SAP design is supposed to excel in both of those areas. With that being said, in real world gaming scenarios, its out-of-box frequencies don’t allow for performance that’s noticeably different from the reference design.

Where the DirectCU II really shines is in the overclocking category where ASUS' excelletn GPU Tweak allowed it to nearly match Galaxy’s competitor in clock speeds. With that factored into the equation, this card can easily match a GTX 660 2GB. For a mere $5 more than a standard GTX 650 Ti Boost, you’d be hard pressed to find a better value.


EVGA GTX 650 Ti Boost Superclocked

EVGA’s entry into this roundup may have the highest temperatures and acoustics of the bunch but neither of these points was all that important in the grand scheme of things. It was still quiet and anything under 85° really doesn’t affect performance or longevity. Ironically, its temperatures didn’t hold back overclocking by one iota since NVIDIA only allows a limited amount of voltage tuning on the GTX 650 Ti Boost.

The real point of distinction here is clock speeds. In most scenarios, EVGA’s Superclocked was nearly able to match the performance on NVIDIA’s GTX 660 2GB, a product that costs about $20 more. Unlike the ASUS and Gigabyte cards, a gamer will certainly be able to “feel” the difference between a stock GTX 650 Ti Boost and this card. EVGA also happens to have one of the best support structures around and when combined with the Superclocked’s performance, that’s a recipe for complete success.



Galaxy GTX 650 Ti Boost

With an article featuring overclocked competitors, Galaxy was certainly facing an uphill battle with their stock-clocked GTX 650 Ti Boost. Making matters even more interesting was their card’s inability to hit the same maximum boost frequencies as the reference design. As we’ve mentioned time and again, slight variances from one ASIC to another could result in slightly different clock speeds when comparing identical cards and Galaxy’s entry proved that point.

Despite the aforementioned frequency discrepancy, performance-wise, it didn’t lag behind the stock card, posted some of the best temperature results we’ve seen and remained whisper quiet throughout testing. Overclocking was also top-notch. While there may be slightly higher performing alternatives which match this card's price, you still have to respect Galaxy's delivery of excellent cooling and overclocking headroom at the $170 price point.


Gigabyte GTX 650 Ti Boost OC

Value is the name of the game here since Gigabyte is offering an overclocked, upgraded, custom cooled GTX 650 Ti Boost without adding a penny to NVIDIA’s stated SRP. This allows it to stand head and shoulders above the competition and readily brings better performance to a more affordable price point.

In some ways, Gigabyte’s GTX 650 Ti is very much in the same boat as ASUS. It doesn’t perform all that much better than a standard GTX 650 Ti Boost but it boasts great cooling potential and is by and large the quietest GPU in this roundup. If we had to recommend a GTX 650 Ti Boost to someone who is looking to upgrade, it would be Gigabyte’s.



MSI GTX 650 Ti Twin Frozr III OC

MSI’s Twin Frozr III may not stand out in any way, nor does it post chart-topping overclocking results but it came in with a strong overall performance. Once average Boost clocks were factored into the equation, this GTX 650 Ti’s framerates remained a hair behind EVGA’s Superclocked. This is likely due to MSI’s generous BIOS-specific power limit which allows their card some excess headroom as it strives to hit higher clock speeds.

Like many other custom cards, MSI has added a custom heatsink to their newcomer, one which achieves low temperatures and extremely quiet acoustics even when overclocked. Every one of these factors combine to make the Twin Frozr III OC a great choice, provided the price is right.
 
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