NVIDIA’s GeForce GTS 450: Pushing Fermi In To The Mainstreamby Ryan Smith on September 13, 2010 12:02 AM EST
After the launch of the GTX 460 series, we had been hoping to see NVIDIA continue to drive forward with the same level of hyper-competitiveness that we saw with the 460. In some ways that has happened today, and in some ways that hasn’t.
The GTX 460 was a card that made the comparable AMD card obsolete and brought significantly improved performance to the $200 market. NVIDIA had a card built to hit one of AMD’s weak spots, and it struck beautifully. The same cannot be said for the GTS 450 however. It’s not targeting an AMD weak spot – instead it’s going right for AMD’s stronghold that is the 5700 series, and this is a much harder job.
Had AMD kept the price of the Radeon HD 5770 at $140+, there would have been a well-defined place – however small – for the GTS 450. But instead for the time being AMD dropped the price of the 5770 to $130 and brought it in to direct competition with the GTS 450. The GTS 450 isn’t competition for the 5770; at best it’s as fast, at the worst it’s as slow as a 5750.
What’s funny is that in a roundabout way we have NVIDIA to thank for this, as their pricing tactics with the GTS 450 and GTX 460 made this price drop happen. So in a sense NVIDIA is definitely competitive on pricing. But what this gives us is a situation similar to the GTX 470 launch – a competent card priced right between two competition cards with a performance level that meant it was competitively priced, but not aggressively priced. It’s aggression that’s missing from today’s launch, the GTS 450 simply isn’t aggressive enough on a price/performance basis.
Ultimately the card is not so slow that we would completely write it off; if you need to be in the NVIDIA ecosystem for whatever reason you could grab the GTS 450 and be satisfied without feeling like you’re missing too much by not going with the Radeon HD 5770. But if you’re a free agent and have no attachment to NVIDIA’s ecosystem, there’s not a game we benchmarked today where the 5770 was more than a hair’s width slower. Thus at NVIDIA’s new $130 price point the card to get is not the NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450, it’s the AMD Radeon HD 5770. It’s a bit warmer and a bit louder than the reference GTS 450, but the performance gap is hard to argue with.
Quickly, we’ll also touch on the factory overclocked cards. A good factory overclock can wipe out the 5770’s performance advantage, the only problem is that factory overclocked cards carry a price premium that make them more expensive than the GTS 450, and by extension the Radeon HD 5770. The cheapest factory overclocked card we looked at today was the Asus ENGTS450 Top, which provided 5770-like performance for only $10 more. Ultimately our nod still goes to the 5770 because it’s $10 cheaper, but at this point we’re basing things on what amounts to little more than lunch money. For $140 you could grab the Asus card or a similarly overclocked card and be quite happy with the purchase.
Finally, there's the GTX 460 factor. With the recent price drop to $170, there's only a $40 difference between the GTX 460 768MB and the GTS 450 - and less if we're comparing it to an overclocked GTS 450. The GTS 450 is at that point on the price-performance curve where an extra dollar goes a long way (and the 5770 is just as guilty of this). If you can only spend $130-$140 then what you see is what you can get, otherwise a GTX 460 768MB is much more than a simple step up, offering upwards of 50% more performance for at most 30% more in price. Given those conditions the GTX 460 768MB is in a sweet spot that makes both the GTS 450 and Radeon HD 5770 pale in comparison.
Wrapping things up, we still have 1 more NVIDIA launch to go with: GF108. With the basic details of the chip already announced earlier this month with NVIDIA’s mobile GPU launch we already have a solid idea of how the chip is built. At this point it’s safe to assume that when it launches it will be going up against AMD’s 5500/5600 series, so stay tuned for that battle.