Summary: Launched last week, the GeForce GTS 450 is NVIDIA's answer to the Radeon 5700 series. In stock form, it's not a bad performer, but NVIDIA's board partners have already introduced their own GTS 450 boards with dramatically higher clocks, and custom cooling. In today's article, we take a look at 4 GTS 450 cards. All of them are OC'ed for faster performance. See how they stack up against each other, and AMD's latest offerings in this article!
Last week, NVIDIA launched their latest GPU based on the Fermi architecture, the GeForce GTS 450. Targeted toward the budget-minded gamer, this model aims to bring major DX11 performance down to the sub-$150 price range. Much like the launch of the GTX 460 back in July, board partners hit the ground running and provided ample supply of these graphics cards to the market on (or even before) day one.
Naturally, this means there are a lot of choices, but how do you know what to buy? Never fear, your pals at FiringSquad are here to help you better decide which particular product would be the right one for you. Obviously we can’t test every single SKU available, but we can gather a handful and put them to the test. Hopefully, you’ll learn enough from that to be able to make an educated decision as to which GTS 450 you should buy, if any. From big names like EVGA and Gigabyte to lesser-knowns Palit and Galaxy, we’ve got mixtures of custom cooling and overclocking such that will make your head spin!
Palit lays claim to the fastest GTS 450 on the market with their Sonic Platinum model, the cutting edge of their offerings in this segment. It also sports an even more compact PCB design, a custom cooling solution, and an alternate selection of display outputs. However, it is also the most expensive graphics card here.
EVGA’s GTS 450 FTW Edition is part of their flagship “For The Win” series of GPUs, which are hand-picked to be among the best overclockers and come standard with their highest factory overclock. Otherwise, it is rather plain, being closely based upon NVIDIA’s reference design.
Galaxy is relatively unknown to the average consumer in the West, but this Hong Kong-based company has been making graphics cards for more than 10 years. Their GTS 450 Super OC is only moderately overclocked compared to the previous two contenders, but features dual-heatpipe cooling and even a detachable fan.
Finally, we have the Gigabyte GTS 450 OC, the underdog in this race. With clock speeds that are hardly much higher than stock, the custom cooler with two fans, two heatpipes, and a giant heatsink seems like overkill. However, any enthusiast worth his salt knows what you can do with thermal overhead like that…
Before we take a closer look at each of the four cards individually, take a gander at this comparison chart for a quick overview of their attributes:
With a core clock speed of 930 MHz -- an increase of 17.5% over stock -- Palit claims their Sonic Platinum board to be the fastest GTS 450 on the market. Technically, that is true, with the closest competitor being from ASUS and clocking in at 925 MHz. We’ll take a look at whether or not that self-proclaimed title has any bearing on real world performance a little later on.
The first thing we noticed about this card was that the PCB is shorter than normal; it measures about 7.5”, a full three-quarters of an inch shorter than the reference board. While a more compact design doesn’t really help much unless you’re lacking in case room, it certainly doesn’t hurt anything, either. Also in line with the space-saving mentality is the fact that the 6-pin power connector is located on the side of the board, rather than the end.
Palit didn’t bother with an enclosure to improve air flow, instead choosing to rely on a much larger heatsink with dual copper heatpipes to keep temperatures down. The standard 75mm fan is mounted directly in the center of the board, lending some symmetry to its overall appearance. As you’ll see on the temperature graphs, this configuration succeeds in negating any extra heat the cranked up clocks manage to generate.
Another change from the reference design lies with this GTS 450’s display outputs. Rather than sticking to the standard dual-DVI plus mini-HDMI configuration, they’ve switched out the latter for a full-size HDMI port and even added a VGA connector, as well. It’s great that they’ve eliminated the need for a mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter, and considering that this is a budget video card, it isn’t too far-fetched to think some people might still be using an older CRT display.
As you know from the chart on the previous page, Palit is charging $159.99 for this graphics card. That’s definitely going to raise some eyebrows, and for good reason. After all, that’s practically a 25% increase from the base price of the GTS 450. The question you would need to ask yourself is whether or not you value the guaranteed overclock out of the box that much.
Bundle and accessories
There’s not much to see here, which is expected of a low-end GPU, but also a little disappointing considering the $30 premium you would pay for this package:
Aside from the respectable factory overclock of 920MHz core and 1026MHz memory, this graphics card is almost identical to the reference board we evaluated previously. The only way you would know it came from EVGA is the pretty design they put on the cooling enclosure. Although, EVGA does offer something that the other manufacturers featured in this round-up do not – overclocking software in the form of their Precision and OC Scanner utilities.
Precision allows you to easily tweak the speed of graphics clocks and fans, monitor temperatures and GPU usage, or even track FPS and take screenshots when you’re in-game. Save your settings as profiles that you can assign to hotkeys and change between them anytime, or simply have Precision automatically apply your OC whenever Windows starts up. You can also configure Precision to display hardware data in the system tray, via an in-game on-screen display, or on your Logitech keyboard’s LCD display.
OC Scanner is a combination stress test, benchmark, and artifact scanner that is meant to be used in conjunction with Precision to push your graphics card to its limit. Once you’ve overclocked the GPU to the level you want to test for stability, you can use the stress test to check your load temperature(s) and detect artifacts, if there are any. If you’re satisfied, you can then run the benchmark to be assigned a score that you can use to compare your graphics performance with that of others.
Finally, the purchase of this graphics card also comes with EVGA’s standard 2-year warranty and 24/7 technical support. All you have to do is register your serial number on EVGA.com within 30 days of your purchase to take advantage of free repairs or replacements. If you have any questions concerning your new GPU or any related issue, you can contact them by phone or online at any time of day or night.
Bundle and accessories
EVGA generally likes to toss a few extras in the box, but for $149.99, you’ll have no such luck. Since there is no VGA output on the GPU, they include an adapter for that, but otherwise there is nothing more than the bare necessities to be had.
Compared to the previous two boards, this Galaxy graphics card has been more conservatively overclocked by about 100 MHz on each the core and memory, resulting in 888 MHz and 1,000 MHz, respectively. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be pushed higher by you, the end-user. We found that it easily reached over 900MHz and so became competitive in performance with the others in this round-up.
Of course, it is more than able to handle the thermal load with its combination of a larger, rectangular heatsink, copper heatpipes, and full-length fan enclosure. The detachable-ness touted on the front of the box sounds cooler than it actually is (pun intended). You really shouldn’t remove the fan completely unless you don’t plan on running any 3D applications (i.e. games) at all. Using only its passive cooling, it can quickly heat up to nearly 90 degrees C, and soon after that will engage the automatic safety shut down. Apparently, this feature is meant more as a convenience to facilitate cleaning dust out of the heatsink than quieter alternative to active cooling.
Otherwise, there’s little else about Galaxy’s Super OC video card that we found to be noteworthy. It has the 6-pin power connector on the side, and the combination of HDMI/VGA/DVI outputs that seems to be popular among many of the GTS 450 board partners. There is mention of the memory being rated at 0.4ns rather than the standard 0.5ns, but there’s no telling what that does for performance, if anything at all.
Bundle and accessories
This retail package, like the others, is nothing special.
At only 830MHz and 902MHz on the core and memory, this GPU offers very little overclocking from the factory. However, it’s still a great value for enthusiasts that don’t mind handling that themselves, as it’s only $15 more than Gigabyte’s other GTS 450 -- a compact, lower-clocked board with bare minimum cooling that sells for the standard price of $129. Rather than charge an arm and a leg for some pre-overclocking, you pay only for the tangible upgrade in the form of some very high quality cooling.
This is definitely the most sophisticated cooling solution of any GTS 450 we’ve tested. There are two 75mm fans in a new inclined configuration called WINDFORCE that was designed for and successfully applied to Gigabyte’s GTX 460. This is on top of a hefty aluminum heatsink with two nickel-plated copper heatpipes, providing excellent thermal dissipation. A jumper switch on the rear end of the board allows you to choose between two different styles of fan operation.
Dual Power Mode has each fan taking turns spinning for 30 seconds at a time, while Smart Alternate Mode elongates those shifts to 4 minutes. The latter option is meant to be less intensive and is even supposed to clean out dust somehow… Whichever way you choose to run the fans, the controller chip is programmed to have both kick on full-time if the GPU reaches 70 degrees C, which ought to prevent the temperature from rising any higher. However, as you will soon see, it never even reached the 70-degree mark so that we could find out how that mechanism worked!
There is a side effect of this fancy-schmancy cooling setup, though; the PCB length was increased by about 3/4 of an inch, making it 9” long. This isn’t too terrible, and the card should still fit in the average ATX mid-tower case. It’s still pretty short compared to the high-end GPUs that can measure in the 10.5-11” range.
Bundle and accessories
These items aren’t pictured because we only received a sample of the graphics card, not a retail package, but here is what you can expect in the box:
EVGA X58 3-Way SLI
6 GB OCZ Gold Triple-Channel DDR3-1600 @ 1440 MHz
Palit GTS 450 Sonic Platinum (930MHz core / 1000MHz memory)
EVGA GTS 450 FTW Edition (920MHz core / 1026MHz memory)
Galaxy GTS 450 Super OC (888MHz core / 1000MHz memory)
Gigabyte GTS 450 OC (830MHz core / 902MHz memory)
NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450 1GB
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 768MB
ATI Radeon HD 5750 1GB
ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB
1TB Western Digital Caviar Black
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Unigine Heaven 2.1
High shaders, Normal tessellation
Bokeh filter Off, GPU-simulated water Off
Most of the boards performed similarly in terms of operating temperatures, with the custom cooling solutions idling lower than the EVGA with its stock setup. All of the fans are very quiet since they never need to rev up very high. Of course, if you wanted to trade some noise for a few degrees, you could manually set the fan to spin faster. The WINDFORCE cooling on the Gigabyte, however, totally blew us away, never warming up past 65 degrees on full load, even when overclocked. Perhaps this particular fan controller chipset was programmed to make that the limit?
Palit GTS 450 Sonic Platinum
Fundamentally, the only difference between the EVGA FTW edition and the standard GTS 450 is the clock speeds. Sure, you get a guaranteed factory overclock that is covered by their warranty but is that really worth the extra $20? We would tend to think no – not at this price point, anyway. Unless you’re a die-hard EVGA fan that also happens to shy away from overclocking for fear of voiding your warranty, this is probably not the GTS 450 to buy.
Galaxy GTS 450 Super OC
By far the best value of the bunch, Gigabyte’s premium GTS 450 gets the best score in this round-up and our Bull’s Eye Award. An extra $15 gets you some incredible cooling and, interestingly enough, more accessories than are found along with the more expensive boards. Yes, its stock clock speeds are hardly increased over the reference GTS 450 – in fact, the memory is not overclocked at all out of the box – but once you apply a little elbow grease, the difference between it and the other three overclocked boards is negligible at best. And let’s face it; if you’re reading this, you’re probably not afraid of some DIY action.
Though the standard price is $145, Gigabyte’s GV-N450OC-1GI is available right now on Newegg for only $130, with an additional $20 rebate! This is an absolute steal, so if you’re in the market for a GTS 450, buy this now, before they realize how ridiculous of a deal it is and put the price back up.
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