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EVGA's GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost Superclocked
Nvidia sent us a reference version of the GTX 650 Ti Boost, which looks just like the reference GTX 660—and, according to the company, won't actually be available in stores. The official line is that shipping products will "differ greatly" from it.

Luckily, we have one of those shipping cards in our labs: EVGA's GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost Superclocked, which is slated to cost $179.99 when it hits stores tomorrow. At least from the outside, the EVGA card isn't a drastic departure from the reference design:

It, too, is 9.5" long. It has the same style of cooler and an identical assortment of display outputs: dual DVI, one DisplayPort, and one HDMI. The cooling shroud looks slightly different, however, and the GPU under it has had a few extra cups of coffee. Instead of using the default 980MHz base clock and 1033MHz Boost clock, EVGA cranks this puppy to 1072MHz and 1137MHz, respectively. You can see the effects of this increase on the card's peak theoretical rates below:

Base
clock
(MHz)
Boost
clock
(MHz)
Peak
ROP rate
(Gpix/s)
Texture
filtering
int8/fp16
(Gtex/s)
Polygon
throughput
(Mtris/s)
Peak
shader
tflops
Memory
transfer
rate (GT/s)
Memory
bandwidth
(GB/s)
Radeon HD 7770 1000 N/A 16 40/20 1000 1.3 4.5 72
Radeon HD 7790 1000 N/A 16 56/28 2000 1.8 6.0 96
Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 1075 N/A 17 60/30 2150 1.9 6.4 102
Radeon HD 7850 1GB 860 N/A 28 55/28 1720 1.8 4.8 154
Radeon HD 7850 2GB 860 N/A 28 55/28 1720 1.8 4.8 154
GeForce GTX 650 Ti 928 N/A 15 59/59 1856 1.4 5.4 86
Zotac GeForce GTX 650 Ti 2GB AMP! 1033 N/A 17 66/66 2066 1.6 6.2 99
GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost 980 1033 25 66/66 2066 1.6 6.0 144
EVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost SC 1072 1137 27 73/73 2274 1.7 6.0 144
GeForce GTX 560 810 N/A 26 45/45 1620 1.1 4.0 128
MSI GeForce GTX 560 Twin Frozr II 870 N/A 28 49/49 1760 1.2 4.2 134

On paper, the 650 Ti Boost Superclocked looks like a suitable competitor for the similarly priced Radeon HD 7850 2GB. Even the vanilla 650 Ti Boost is no slouch, however; it compares quite favorably to the Radeon HD 7790, whose only theoretical advantage seems to be its higher shader throughput. This is all theory, of course—for the practice, turn to the next page.

Our testing methods
I had very little time to put together this review. A GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost sample arrived at my apartment last Tuesday, but at the time, I was busy benchmarking the Radeon HD 7790 and its rivals. After working multiple 12- to 16-hour days and finally posting the 7790 review at midnight on Friday morning, I was left with exactly four days—including the weekend—to tackle the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost.

A few compromises had to be made.

I wound up passing over two cards I had planned to test: the GeForce GTX 660 and the GTX 650 Ti 1GB, since I wasn't able to obtain samples in time. I also had to re-use results from the 7790 review, since I didn't have time to benchmark everything again at different settings. You might therefore see the GTX 650 Ti Boost overachieve in some of the tests on the next few pages. Just keep in mind that, if you see frame rates well above 60 FPS (or frame times well below 16.7 ms), chances are the card could happily handle higher detail settings while still staying close to the monitor's refresh rate.

Anyhow, despite the tight deadline, I was able to supplement the new GeForces with a couple of extra cards in order to provide added context. I underclocked Zotac's GeForce GTX 650 Ti 2GB AMP! Edition to simulate the company's non-AMP! model, which retails for $164.99. That's smack-dab between the 7790 and the stock 650 Ti Boost—a useful reference point. Also, since I didn't have a vanilla Radeon HD 7850 2GB on hand, I tested an XFX Black Edition model underclocked to match the reference speeds. In terms of performance, this underclocked Black Edition card should be comparable to retail offerings like this one, which sell for $179.99—the same price as EVGA's GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost Superclocked.

Oh, and all the Radeons except for the 7790 were re-tested using AMD's Catalyst 13.3 beta drivers, which include all of the company's latest frame latency optimizations. The driver AMD sent us for the 7790 review last week also included recent optimizations, but for some reason, they only seem to apply to the 7790—the Radeon HD 7850 and 7770 behave as they do with older driver releases.

You'll find exact clock speeds and driver version numbers for the aforementioned cards in the last table on this page.

As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Tests were run at least three times, and we reported the median results. Our test systems were configured like so:

Processor Intel Core i7-3770K
Motherboard Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H
North bridge Intel Z77 Express
South bridge
Memory size 4GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type AMD Memory
DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz
Memory timings 9-9-9-28
Chipset drivers INF update 9.3.0.1021
Rapid Storage Technology 11.6
Audio Integrated Via audio
with 6.0.01.10800 drivers
Hard drive Crucial m4 256GB
Power supply Corsair HX750W 750W
OS Windows 8 Professional x64 Edition

Driver revision GPU base
clock
(MHz)
Memory
clock
(MHz)
Memory
size
(MB)
Diamond Radeon HD 7770 Catalyst 13.3 beta 1000 4500 1GB
Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Catalyst 12.101.2.1000 beta 1075 6000 1GB
XFX Radeon HD 7850 1GB Core Edition Catalyst 13.3 beta 860 1200 1GB
XFX Radeon HD 7850 2GB Black Edition (underclocked) Catalyst 13.3 beta 860 1200 2GB
MSI GeForce GTX 560 Twin Frozr II GeForce 314.21 beta 880 1050 1GB
Zotac GeForce GTX 650 Ti AMP! (underclocked) GeForce 314.21 beta 941 1350 2GB
Zotac GeForce GTX 650 Ti AMP! GeForce 314.21 beta 1033 1550 2GB
GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost GeForce 314.21 beta 980 1502 2GB
EVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost Super OC GeForce 314.21 beta 1072 1502 2GB

Thanks to AMD, Corsair, and Crucial for helping to outfit our test rig. Asus, EVGA, Diamond, MSI, Nvidia, Sapphire, XFX, and Zotac have our gratitude, as well, for supplying the various graphics cards we tested.

Image quality settings for the graphics cards were left at the control panel defaults, except on the Radeon cards, where surface format optimizations were disabled and the tessellation mode was set to "use application settings." Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

We used the following test applications:

Some further notes on our methods:

  • We used the Fraps utility to record frame rates while playing a 90-second sequence from the game. Although capturing frame rates while playing isn't precisely repeatable, we tried to make each run as similar as possible to all of the others. We tested each Fraps sequence five times per video card in order to counteract any variability. We've included frame-by-frame results from Fraps for each game, and in those plots, you're seeing the results from a single, representative pass through the test sequence.

  • We measured total system power consumption at the wall socket using a P3 Kill A Watt digital power meter. The monitor was plugged into a separate outlet, so its power draw was not part of our measurement. The cards were plugged into a motherboard on an open test bench.

    The idle measurements were taken at the Windows desktop with the Aero theme enabled. The cards were tested under load running Skyrim at its High quality preset.

  • We measured noise levels on our test system, sitting on an open test bench, using a TES-52 digital sound level meter. The meter was held approximately 8" from the test system at a height even with the top of the video card.

    You can think of these noise level measurements much like our system power consumption tests, because the entire systems' noise levels were measured. Of course, noise levels will vary greatly in the real world along with the acoustic properties of the PC enclosure used, whether the enclosure provides adequate cooling to avoid a card's highest fan speeds, placement of the enclosure in the room, and a whole range of other variables. These results should give a reasonably good picture of comparative fan noise, though.

  • We used GPU-Z to log GPU temperatures during our load testing.

The tests and methods we employ are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.