NVIDIA's GeForce GT 430: The Next HTPC King?by Ryan Smith & Ganesh T S on October 11, 2010 9:00 AM EST
We opened up this article talking about how NVIDIA is foregoing performance in the name of digital media and HTPCs with the GT 430. Whether it’s by NVIDIA’s design or matters out of their hands, GT 430 simply isn’t competitive with AMD’s 5570 and 5670 in gaming performance, with the latter cleaning the GT 430’s clock every single time. NVIDIA isn’t pushing the GT 430 as a gaming performance card so we aren’t going to recommend it as one. If you need budget gaming, then the only choice to make is to go AMD.
With that out of the way we can get in to the meat of the issue: HTPCs. Asus is rightly pitching the ENGT430 at HTPC users, as this is the scenario most enthusiasts are even going to look at this card. So whether we can recommend the GT 430 at all is going to hinge on the GT 430’s capabilities in an HTPC environment.
Rarely are we afforded the opportunity to give a straightforward answer, and this is not one of those opportunities. NVIDIA does some things well here while stumbling in other areas. So let’s start where they stumble: image quality. In the quest for the more perfect HTPC card we found the Radeon HD 5570 earlier this year, and it was good. In more recent times AMD has put a lot of effort in to stepping up their game on image quality with the release of the HQV 2 benchmark and it shows in our results.
We always hate to rely so much on a single benchmark, but at this point HQV 2 provides the best tests we can get our hands on, so we can’t ignore the results. Certainly the GT 430 is a step up from the likes of Intel’s GMA, however the Radeon 5570 has an even bigger advantage over the GT 430. If image quality absolutely matters to you, then the Radeon 5570 is definitely the card to get for the time being until NVIDIA can spend more time on improving the video capabilities of their drivers.
So if NVIDIA stumbles on image quality, where do they excel? 3D stereoscopy. The only rational conclusion that we can draw from these results is that NVIDIA is banking hard on 3D this Christmas, like so much of the consumer electronics industry. They have HDMI 1.4a and they have 3D Vision, and as a result they’re in a position where they can offer a 3D experience that AMD cannot match. If you believe that 3D is king like NVIDIA does and you’ll be using an HTPC to experience it, then clearly there’s no other option than an NVIDIA GT 430.
NVIDIA and Asus also deserve a nod here for noise, and a weak smile for power consumption. The acoustics of the ENGT430 are fantastic, and while load power consumption runs high, idle power consumption looks good. If you’re indifferent about 3D and about picture quality, then perhaps acoustics and power consumption are worth considering? Just bear in mind that with so many vendor designs for both the AMD and NVIDIA cards, what we’re looking at today is only a small sample of what else is out there.
Finally, taking all of this in to account, we’re left with little choice but to offer a tepid reception to the GT 430. As enthusiasts, we can accept the ultimate HTPC card even if it doesn’t deliver on gaming performance, but what NVIDIA has given us is not the ultimate HTPC card. 3D and HDMI 1.4a are good, but 2nd place image quality is not. Since image quality is directly a product of driver development, there’s a great deal of hope for the future and at some point we hope we’ll be able to revisit things and to find a different conclusion.
But for the time being, NVIDIA has delivered an $80 card that is slower and offers inferior image quality compared to its competition – an unenviable position indeed. Only by 3D stereoscopy is it saved from being a flop, making the GT 430 a very significant gamble for NVIDIA. If it turns out that this isn’t a 3D Christmas then it’s not just going to be the CE companies that would be hurting.