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The GTX 750 Ti Review; Maxwell Arrives


Author: SKYMTL
Date: February 17, 2014
Product Name: GTX 750 Ti

NVIDIA’s Kepler architecture has been around for some time now. While it may be hard to believe, we were introduced to Kepler in GTX 680 guise back in March of 2012 which means it’s nearly two years old now. There have been some revisions since then, allowing the architecture to deliver better performance per watt and better compete against AMD’s alternatives. Now the time has come to unveil their next generation DX11 architecture, code named Maxwell.

Unlike previous launches, Maxwell isn’t being rolled out into the high end market but will initially target volume sales within the $99 to $149 price points via a new 1.87 billion transistor GM107 core. This focus on budget minded gamers may sound like an odd decision on NVIDIA’s part but they feel the current flagship GeForce parts compete well against AMD’s product stack (and they do) so there’s more than enough time to fine-tune Maxwell for other applications. Make no mistake about it though, GM107 is simply a pipe-cleaner part that is meant to test a new architecture and prepare the way for higher end products in the near future.

Contrary to AMD’s scattershot approach by flooding the mid-range with a deluge of different, closely priced cards like the R7 260X, R7 265 and R9 270, NVIDIA is taking a more measured approach. The GM107 will be first rolled into two different SKUs: the GTX 750 Ti and GTX 750.

Even though it uses a tried and true 28nm manufacturing process, Maxwell’s primary goal is to deliver groundbreaking improvements in performance per watt, essentially allowing NVIDIA’s engineers to do more with less. This is particularly important for the GTX 750 Ti and GTX 750 since they will fit perfectly into older prebuilt systems without needing an expensive and sometimes complicated power supply swap.

The GTX 750 Ti is equipped with 640 CUDA cores, 40 texture units, 16 ROPs and 2GB of GDDR5 operating across a 128-bit memory interface. The Maxwell architecture is particularly effective in the TDP department, allowing the GTX 750 Ti to hit just 60W (the actual power requirement is closer to 65W). Yes, you read that right; 60W or a bit more than half of what a GTX 650 Ti output. Such low power numbers don’t hold back frequencies either since it has a Base Clock of 1020MHz but due to NVIDIA’s purposeful underrating of core speeds, most users will likely see their cards operate at 1050MHz or higher.

Remember what we said about doing more with less? That’ll be the common thread that binds together Maxwell products and the GTX 750 Ti provides no better example of this. It is meant to drastically outpace the GTX 650 Ti even though it is equipped with fewer cores, less texture units and a similar memory interface layout, while requiring a lot less power. Those improvements may seem impossible when looking at the paper specifications but they all come down to large-scale architectural changes going on behind the scenes. We’ll get into those a bit later.

Back when the R7 265 was reviewed, we mentioned that with the GTX 650 Ti Boost’s discontinuation, NVIDIA had a gaping hole within their lineup between the GTX 650 Ti and GTX 660 2GB. The GTX 750Ti will now take over from the Boost at $149 or exactly the same price as the now-EOL’d mid-tier darling. Those are some big shoes to fill since the GTX 650 Ti Boost was considered one of the previous generation’s best values, combining a low price (particularly after NVIDIA’s aggressive price cuts late last year) with excellent 1080P performance. NVIDIA will also be launching a GTX 750 Ti 1GB at a slightly lower price point of $139 a bit later this month.

The GTX 750 on the other hand uses the same GM107 core but with two Streaming Multiprocessors disabled, resulting in lower Core and TMU counts. Core frequencies will remain the same, though the memory allotment and speeds will be scaled back. At $119 and with a TDP of just 55W, the GXT 750 could become the ultimate HTPC and SFF card.

The GTX 750 Ti and GTX 750 will work in tandem to replace the GTX 650 Ti (the GTX 650 will stick around for now) and offer some form of response to AMD’s packed lineup. As 650 Ti replacements they look like a home run but positioning against the $149 R7 265 may prove to be challenging for the GTX 750 Ti since it lacks the AMD card’s 256-bit memory bus and raw gaming horsepower. However, considering the Radeon lineup’s abysmal pricing track record as of late, whether or not the R7 265 will actually hit $149 is anyone’s guess. We wouldn’t bet on it though since we still haven’t seen the R7 260X at its new $119 price point yet, nearly a week after the reduction’s announcement.

Maxwell shares quite a bit in common with Kepler. G-SYNC support, which is a huge deal for lower end cards, has been included provided board partners include a DisplayPort output. There’s also a built-in, and improved H.264 video encoder for compatibility with NVIDIA’s GameStream ecosystem and ShadowPlay. There’s no SLI support though, so NVIDIA’s higher end solution are safe from a possible dual GTX 750 threat.

NVIDIA has learned their lessons when it comes to paper launches. Even though the GTX 750 Ti and GTX 750 are based on new technology, they will be widely available right away from major retailers. Free games and other incentives from the 700-series and 600-series won’t be carrying over to them but NVIDIA is hoping a combination of extreme efficiency and good performance will be enough to sway budget-minded gamers over to their side.

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