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PNY GeForce GTS 450 1GB XLR8 Review

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SKYMTL

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For all intents and purposes, the GeForce GTS 450 1GB isn’t what we would call a high performance graphics card but it does fit well into NVIDIA’s current lineup. It competes exceedingly well against the HD 5750 and sometimes catches up with the HD 5770 which should make it appealing to a wide swath of the budget-conscious market.

Companies like ASUS, EVGA, MSI and Gigabyte have decided to release overclocked editions of the GTS 450 and in our initial reviews it was made quite apparent that value-added products will likely carry sales of this card. Instead of banking on higher clock speeds or price augmenting custom designs, some of NVIDIA’s board partners have decided to go a different way towards catching people’s interest: by adding items to the card’s bundles. PNY has done exactly this with their XLR8 series.

Even though the “accelerate” moniker placed on this PNY product may hint at higher performance, it is in fact a reference card with stock clock speeds. What really distinguish it from the competition are two main factors: PNY’s warranty and their included bundle. While their lifetime warranty is reserved for the GTX-branded NVIDIA cards, PNY still saddles their GTS 450 XLR8 with a 5-year warranty. This puts it head and shoulders above most of the competition. In addition, the bundle has been expanded to include a 14 day / 7 hour trial to StarCraft II and a pair of Sony movie downloads. We will be touching on the download service and ESEA membership a bit later in the review but for the time being, let’s just say they are worthwhile features.

It goes without saying that PNY’s departure from the usual “let’s overclock it and add a cool heatsink” mentality many board partners take is a breath of fresh air. Considering the XLR8 doesn’t cost any more than a reference card, things definitely look like they are on the right track.

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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 GF 106


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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 desktop 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. Meanwhile, the mobile market uses a GF106 core with 24 ROPs, 384KB of L2 cache and a 192-bit memory bus for the GTX 460M.


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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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories


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As is par for the course with budget friendly cards like the GTS 450, PNY’s version is packaged in a compact box in order to minimize shipping costs on the part of the sender and receiver. The box design itself is quite similar to what many other of NVIDIA’s board partners are doing: black with a splash of green.

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There are a number of things which distinguish this card from those of the competition including PNY’s excellent 5-year warranty (it is knocked down to 3 years if you don’t register your cards in the 90 days after purchase), a 3-month subscription to E-Sports Entertainment, a voucher for two FULL movies downloads and finally a free trial of StarCraft II.

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PNY’s GTS 450’s internal packaging scheme is actually quite unique. The card is fully suspended within a reverse plastic clamshell box that protects it on all sides quite well and also provides a compact area beneath the card for all of the accessories.

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When it comes to accessories, PNY has spared very little expense since everything from a DVI to VGA adaptor or a mini HDMI to HDMI dongle is included along with the usual Molex to 6-pin adaptor.

Some of you may be wondering where all of the voucher codes are for PNY’s advertised offers and they are actually quite well hidden. Believe it or not, they are all located on the INTERIOR of the box’s outside sleeve.
 
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SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the PNY GTS 450 XLR8

A Closer Look at the PNY GTS 450 XLR8


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As we mentioned in the introduction, PNY’s XLR8 edition is basically a reference card with a souped up accessory package. Everything remains the same as per NVIDIA’s standard specifications.

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Aside from using the same excellent heatsink as is usually installed on GTS 450 cards, PNY has added a few of their own touches in the form of tasteful decals next to the main cooling fan as well as on the heatsink shroud’s side.

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The only change which is apparent on the card’s back is the fact that PNY chose to go with a slightly different PCB color. Instead of the usual black or green, a distinctly Gigabyte-esque blue is used.

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The backplate has a pair of DVI connectors as well as a single mini HDMI output which can be converted into a full size connector via the use of the included adaptor.
 

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:

PNY GTS 450 1GB
GTX 460 768MB (Reference)
EVGA GTS 250 1GB (Stock)

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


Drivers:

NVIDIA 260.63
ATI 10.9


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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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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Location
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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

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Messages
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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
12,857
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Far Cry 2 (DX10)

Far Cry 2 (DX10)


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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