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The competition
Not to be outdone, Nvidia has responded to the R7 260X launch with some price cuts, which it says are permanent.


EVGA's GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost 1GB and Asus' GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB.

As of Monday, the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB is available for $149.99, or $129.99 after a mail-in rebate. The 1GB version of the same card is down to $129.99, or $109.99 after a mail-in rebate. Those are $20 cuts over last week's prices, and they put the 650 Ti Boost cards smack dab in R7 260X territory.

That's a big deal. Our review of the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB showed that card substantially outperforming a retail 7790 clocked not far below the R7 260X. The GTX 650 Ti Boost 1GB should be slower than its 2GB sibling, since its memory runs at 5 GT/s instead of 6 GT/s, but it should still be a tantalizing solution at $129.

For reference, here's how these cards all stack up on paper. (Don't worry; we'll get to the game benchmarks in a minute.)

  Peak pixel
fill rate
(Gpixels/s)
Peak
bilinear
filtering
(Gtexels/s)
Peak
bilinear
fp16
filtering
(Gtexels/s)
Peak
shader
arithmetic
rate
(tflops)
Peak
rasterization
rate
(Gtris/s)
Memory
bandwidth
(GB/s)
Radeon HD 7790 16 56 28 1.8 2.0 96.0
Radeon HD 7790 (Asus) 17 60 30 1.9 2.2 102
Radeon R7 260X 18 62 31 2.0 2.2 104
Radeon HD 7850 28 55 28 1.8 1.7 154
GeForce GTX 650 Ti 15 59 59 1.4 1.9 86
GeForce GTX 650 Ti 2GB (Zotac) 15 60 60 1.4 1.9 86
GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost 1GB 25 66 66 1.6 2.1 120
GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB 25 66 66 1.6 2.1 144
GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB (Asus) 26 69 69 1.7 2.2 144

The Radeon R7 260X has higher peak shader performance and a higher peak rasterization rate than both versions of the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost. However, 650 Ti Boost cards have higher peak pixel fill rates and texture filtering rates. They also have higher peak memory bandwidth, thanks to their wider, 192-bit memory interfaces. The R7 260X may fare better in highly shader- or tessellation-intensive titles, but it looks like the GeForces could have the edge otherwise.

Our testing methods
We tested using our tried-and-true "inside the second" methods. Since we don't have FCAT equipment up here at TR North, we used Fraps to generate all our performance numbers.

Fraps gives us information about things happening at the start of the rendering pipeline—not, as FCAT does, at the end of the pipeline, when frames reach the display. Having both sets of numbers would be better, but the Fraps data is largely sufficient for the kind of testing we're doing here. We don't expect there to be much of a discrepancy between Fraps and FCAT numbers on single-GPU, single-monitor configurations like these.

In any event, our "inside the second" Fraps numbers are far more informative than the raw frames-per-second data produced by more conventional benchmarking techniques. Such data can cover up problems like latency spikes and micro-stuttering, which have a real, palpable impact on gameplay.

For more information about Fraps, FCAT, and our inside-the-second methodology, be sure to read Scott's articles on the subject: Inside the second: A new look at game benchmarking and Inside the second with Nvidia's frame capture tools.

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 Base GPU
clock
(MHz)
Memory
clock
(MHz)
Memory
size
(MB)
Asus Radeon HD 7790 Catalyst 13.11 beta V1 1075 1600 1024
AMD Radeon R7 260X Catalyst 13.11 beta V1 1100 1625 2048
XFX Radeon HD 7850 1GB Catalyst 13.11 beta V1 860 1200 1024
Zotac GeForce GTX 650 Ti 2GB (simulated) GeForce 331.40 beta 941 1350 2048
EVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost 1GB GeForce 331.40 beta 980 1502 1024
Asus GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB GeForce 331.40 beta 1020 1502 2048

Thanks to AMD, Corsair, and Crucial for helping to outfit our test rig. AMD, Asus, Nvidia, 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 60- or 90-second sequences 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 Crysis 3 at the same quality settings used for our performance testing.

  • 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.