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GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB Review

Date: December 17, 2012
Author(s): Rob Williams

NVIDIA does such a great job filling holes in its product line-ups, that sometimes it manages to fill a void we didn’t even know existed. The GTX 650 Ti is a perfect example of this. This GK106-based card sits close to the GTX 660, and with GIGABYTE’s overclocked GV-N65TOC-1GI, we’ll see if we can close the gap even further.



Introduction

If there’s one thing NVIDIA cannot be accused of, it’s not giving its fans freedom of choice. More than any other GeForce generation in recent memory, the 600 series is truly packed to the gills with choice. We not only have proper steppings ranging from 610 up to 690, but sub-models in between, such as the “Ti” (Titanium) cards.

One such card is the one we’re looking at here, the GeForce GTX 650 Ti. This is a card that seemed unlikely to come to fruition simply by the fact that NVIDIA’s line-up was already so full. After the GTX 660 launch, I felt confident that that would be it until the 700 series – but no. It’s clear that NVIDIA both likes to remain in the limelight, and make sure people get exactly the card they’re looking for at the price they can afford.

The downside to all this is that the number of models NVIDIA offers can become overwhelming, quick. Take for example the fact that the GTX 650 Ti isn’t built on the same GK107 chip that the GTX 650 is. Instead, it’s built using GK106 – shared with the GTX 660. This results in a card that’s much closer to the GTX 660 than the GTX 650. As I mentioned upon the launch of the GTX 650, it was one card that shouldn’t have been released with the GTX moniker. To me, the GTX 650 Ti is what the GTX 650 should have been.

Let’s take a look at the 600-series table below to gain an understanding of the differences we’re dealing with:

 CoresCore MHzMemoryMem MHzMem BusTDP
GeForce GTX 69030729152x 2048MB6008256-bit300W
GeForce GTX 680153610062048MB6008256-bit195W
GeForce GTX 67013449152048MB6008256-bit170W
GeForce GTX 660 Ti13449152048MB6008192-bit150W
GeForce GTX 6609609802048MB6000192-bit140W
GeForce GTX 650 Ti7689251024MB5400128-bit110W
GeForce GTX 65038410581024MB5000128-bit64W
GeForce GT 6403849002048MB5000128-bit65W
GeForce GT 630968101024MB3200128-bit65W
GeForce GT 620967001024MB180064-bit49W
GeForce GT 610488101024MB180064-bit29W

The GTX 650 Ti doubles the core-count of the GTX 650, has a decreased core clock but increased memory clock. Compared to the GTX 660, it suffers the loss of 192 cores, slight clock reductions and a drop from 192-bit memory down to 128-bit -these cards need to be different, after all. Thanks to this table, it’s easy to understand why the GTX 650 Ti is much closer to the GTX 660 than the GTX 650.

As a middle-of-the-road card in NVIDIA’s 600-series, the reference model looks the part:

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti

The card we’ve benchmarked is GIGABYTE’s GV-N65TOC-1GI, an overclocked model; boosting the core clock from 925MHz to 1032MHz but leaving the memory clock alone. This increases the price a bit (about $20), but as overclocks like this are not rare, you should be able to run a similar config if you pick up a reference-clocked model that has a sufficient cooler.

Given we had a reference model here, it was our intention to benchmark it alongside this GIGABYTE one, but it unfortunately died overnight one night preventing us from finishing-up our benchmarking. I’m not sure what caused it, but I don’t suspect it’s typical.

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti

GIGABYTE’s card features a cooler similar to the reference, though with a larger heatsink and fan. It also looks considerably better as well, depending on your tastes. Unlike the reference model, it features a VGA and HDMI port in addition to dual DVIs. For much-improved cooling, GIGABYTE also offers a GV-N65TOC-2GI model, using a ‘WINDFORCE’ dual-fan cooler, retailing for about $175 (+$35 over most reference-styled models).

Test System & Methodology

At SmartKevin, we strive to make sure our results are as accurate as possible. Our testing is rigorous and time-consuming, but we feel the effort is worth it. In an attempt to leave no question unanswered, this page contains not only our testbed specifications, but also a detailed look at how we conduct our testing.

Test Machine

The below table lists our testing machine’s hardware, which remains unchanged throughout all GPU testing, minus the graphics card. Each card used for comparison is also listed here, along with the driver version used.

 Graphics Card Test System
ProcessorsIntel Core i7-3960X – Six-Core, 4.20GHz, 1.35v
MotherboardGIGABYTE G1. Assassin 2 (X79)
MemoryCorsair Dominator GT 4x4GB – DDR3-2133
GraphicsAMD Radeon HD 7750 1GB (Catalyst 12.9)
AMD Radeon HD 7770 1GHz Edition (Catalyst 12.9)
NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 1GB (GeForce 306.23)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB (GeForce 306.38)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 2GB (GeForce 306.23)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 2GB (GeForce 306.23)
AudioOn-Board Creative X-Fi Audio
StorageKingston HyperX 240GB Solid-State Drive
Power SupplyCorsair AX1200
ChassisCorsair Obsidian 700D Full-Tower
CoolingCorsair H70 Liquid Cooler
Et ceteraWindows 7 Professional 64-bit

When preparing our testbeds for any type of performance testing, we follow these guidelines:

General Guidelines

To aide with the goal of keeping accurate and repeatable results, we alter certain services in Windows 7 from starting up at boot. This is due to the fact that these services have the tendency to start up in the background without notice, potentially causing inaccurate test results. For example, disabling “Windows Search” turns off the OS’ indexing which can at times utilize the hard drive and memory more than we’d like.

The services we disable are:

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3

DiRT: Showdown

DiRT: Showdown

DiRT: Showdown DiRT: Showdown

Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Total War: SHOGUN 2

Total War: SHOGUN 2

Game Test: Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 is a rare treat when it comes to PC gaming. Rather than develop the game for the consoles first and then port over to the PC, DICE built the game with the PC in mind from the getgo. It’s graphically one of the most impressive games ever created, so it’s of little surprise that it finds itself in our testing.

Battlefield 3

Manual Run-through: Operation Guillotine (chapter 5) is the basis for our benchmarking here, as it features a lot of smoke, water, debris and is reliable to benchmark repeatedly. Our run starts us at the top of a hill, where we immediately rise up and run down it. We make our way down to the riverbed below, and end our run once we hit the first set of stairs.

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - Battlefield 3 (1680x1050)

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - Battlefield 3 (1920x1080)

It should come as a surprise to no one, but NVIDIA’s GTX 650 Ti isn’t able to handle many games at resolutions above 1080p. Even there things can become sketchy, especially in blockbuster games such as Battlefield 3. Maxed-out, we eked about 31 FPS on average from the card at that resolution – aka: it wasn’t very playable.

Things change once you disable anti-aliasing, SSAO and shadow blur. Do that, and you can expect average framerates in the 60 FPS area (min: 37, avg: 59 to be exact).

Game Test: DiRT: Showdown

For so many reasons, the DiRT series is one of the best out there for racing fans. Each game offers outstanding graphics and audio, excellent control and environments that are way too much fun to tear up. Showdown is an interesting beast, as it features destructive racing, but as we discovered in our review, it too is a ton of fun.

DiRT: Showdown

Manual Run-through: In our search for the perfect Showdown track to test with, we found that any of the snow levels offered the greatest stress on a GPU. The specific track we chose is the second race in the second tier, taking place in Colorado. We begin our FPS recording as soon as the countdown to the race begins, and end it as soon as we hit the finish line at the end of the three-lap race.

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - DiRT: Showdown (1680x1050)

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - DiRT: Showdown (1920x1080)

Battlefield 3 requires a fairly beefy system if you want to run the game at max detail at 1080p or higher, but thankfully, the same can’t be said about DiRT: Showdown. The reason I say “thankfully” is that the game, when maxed out, still looks amazing. Here, we averaged to about 53 FPS with the 650 Ti and never dipped below 43 FPS. These were completely playable framerates, so no further tweaking was necessary.

Game Test: Metro 2033

One of the more popular Internet memes for the past couple of years has been, “Can it run Crysis?”, but as soon as Metro 2033 launched, that’s a meme that should have died. Metro 2033 is without question one of the beefiest games on the market, and only just recently have GPUs been released that can allow the game to run in its DX11 mode at modest resolutions.

Metro 2033

Manual Run-through: The level we use for testing is part of chapter 4, called “Child”, where we must follow a linear path through multiple corridors until we reach our end point, which takes a total of about 90 seconds. Please note that due to the reason mentioned above, we test this game in DX10 mode, as DX11 simply isn’t that realistic from a performance standpoint.

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - Metro 2033 (1680x1050)

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - Metro 2033 (1920x1080)

There are few games on the planet that can make Battlefield 3‘s requirements seem modest, but Metro 2033 heads up the club. The game came out two years ago and still manages to punish current systems when the DirectX 11 mode is used. With our lowly 650 Ti, the game was simply unplayable. To make it so, we had to drop down to DirectX 10 mode, which boosted us to 54 FPS on average. Thankfully, we were able to retain the “High” detail setting.

Game Test: Sleeping Dogs

Many have called Sleeping Dogs the “Asian Grand Theft Auto“, but the game does a lot different that helps it stand out of the crowd. In lieu of supplying the player with a gazilion guns, Sleeping Dogs focuses heavily on hand-to-hand combat. There are also many collectibles that can be found to help upgrade your character and unlock special fighting abilities – and if you happen to enjoy an Asian atmosphere, this is one tree you’ll want to bark up.

Sleeping Dogs

Manual Run-through: Our run here takes place during the chapter “Amanda”, on a dark, dank night. Our saved game begins us at the first apartment in the game (in North Point), though that’s not where we begin capturing our framerate. Instead, we walk outside and request our motorcycle from the garage. Once set, we begin recording framerates and drive along a specific path all the way to Aberdeen, which takes about two minutes.

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - Sleeping Dogs (1680x1050)

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - Sleeping Dogs (1920x1080)

Sleeping Dogs hasn’t been praised too much for its graphical capabilities, but I believe it should be. It’s a great-looking and highly-detailed game that, as these graphs can prove, has the ability to punish any current graphics card. This is especially true with the 650 Ti, which again, is unable to generate very playable framerates at our default settings. Fortunately, improvement is a mere two options away. Disable SSAO and decrease AA to low, and you can expect to see average framerates of about 80, with nary a dip below 60 at the low-end.

Game Test: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Of all the games we test with in our current suite, there is no other that’s likely to suck hundreds of hours out of your life than Skyrim. An expansive world, in-depth game mechanics, and the feeling that there’s always something to do… it’s no wonder the game has hit the right mark with so many people. While not the most graphically-intensive game, we like to test with it due to its popularity and the fact that it scales well in performance.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Manual Run-through: From the entry point in Markarth, our path leads us around the entire city, ultimately bringing us back to where we started.

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (1680x1050)

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (1920x1080)

As under-powered as the GTX 650 Ti may seem based on the previous pages, it’s games like Skyrim that lay off the smackdown a bit and allows it to breath. At 1080p and with ultra detail settings, the 650 Ti had no problem giving us 55 FPS on average. This performance resulted in a very playable game, so unless you’re a stickler and want to run your games at 100 FPS, you won’t have to change a thing after clicking that “Ultra” button.

Game Test: Total War: SHOGUN 2

Strategy games are well-known for pushing the limits of any system, and few others do this as well as Total War: SHOGUN 2. It fully supports DX11, has huge battlefields to overlook with hundreds or thousands of units, and a ton of graphics options to adjust. It’s quite simply a beast of a game.

Total War: SHOGUN 2

Manual Run-through: While we normally dislike timedemos, because strategy games such as this are very difficult to benchmark reliably, we’ve opted to use the built-in benchmark instead.

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - Total War: SHOGUN 2 (1680x1050)

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - Total War: SHOGUN 2 (1920x1080)

I mentioned before that Metro 2033 can punish PCs worse than Battlefield 3, but SHOGUN 2 is another such game that can hold that distinction. The number of tweaking options made available to the user is rather incredible (as seen on page two of this article), so if your GPU isn’t up to the task with the settings you’ve punched in, you have a lot of leeway. Just don’t expect to get into the game right away if you find yourself on a quest to find the “perfect” arrangement of settings.

Not surprisingly, 1080p was truly brutal to our GTX 650 Ti. A quick fix is to hit the Very High preset, then disable tessellation. You can then expect to run the benchmark at about 62 FPS on average.

Synthetic Test: Futuremark 3DMark 11

Although we generally shun automated gaming benchmarks, we do like to run at least one to see how our GPUs scale when used in a ‘timedemo’-type scenario. Futuremark’s 3DMark 11 is without question the best such test on the market, and it’s a joy to use, and watch. The folks at Futuremark are experts in what they do, and they really know how to push that hardware of yours to its limit.

Futuremark 3DMark 11

Similar to a real game, 3DMark 11 offers many configuration options, although many (including us) prefer to stick to the profiles which include Performance, and Extreme. Depending on which one you choose, the graphic options are tweaked accordingly, as well as the resolution. As you’d expect, the better the profile, the more intensive the test. The benchmark doesn’t natively support 2560×1600, so to benchmark with that, we choose the Extreme profile and simply change the resolution.

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - 3DMark 11 Performance

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - 3DMark 11 Extreme

According to 3DMark, GIGABYTE’s overclocked GTX 650 Ti performs close to 40% faster than AMD’s Radeon HD 7770 1GHz edition. This seems reasonable based on our earlier test results, but it’s important to bear in mind that AMD’s card can easily be found substantially cheaper than this GTX 650 Ti. Tis the joys of GPU buying.

Synthetic Test: Unigine Heaven 3.0

While Futuremark is a well-established name where PC benchmarking is concerned, Unigine is just beginning to become exposed to people. The company’s main focus isn’t benchmarks, but rather its cross-platform game engine which it licenses out to other developers, and also its own games, such as a gorgeous post-apocalyptic oil strategy game. The company’s benchmarks are simply a by-product of its game engine.

Unigine Heaven 2.1

The biggest reason that the company’s “Heaven” benchmark grew in popularity rather quickly is that both AMD and NVIDIA promoted it for its heavy use of tessellation, a key DirectX 11 feature. Like 3DMark Vantage, the benchmark here is overkill by design, so results here aren’t going to directly correlate with real gameplay. Rather, they showcase which card models can better handle both DX11 and its GPU-bogging features.

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - Unigine Heaven 3.0 (1680x1050)

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - Unigine Heaven 3.0 (1920x1080)

The GTX 650 Ti doesn’t have quite the same advantage here as it did with 3DMark, but it does scale well with the HD 7770 based on pricing.

Temperatures & Power

To test graphics cards for both their power consumption and temperature at load, we utilize a couple of different tools. On the hardware side, we use a trusty Kill-a-Watt power monitor which our GPU testing machine plugs directly into. For software, we use Futuremark’s 3DMark 11 to stress-test the card, and techPowerUp’s GPU-Z to monitor and record the temperatures.

To test, the general area around the chassis is checked with a temperature gun, with the average temperature recorded (and thus noted in brackets next to the card name in the first graph below). Once that’s established, the PC is turned on and left to site idle for five minutes. At this point, GPU-Z is opened along with 3DMark 11. We then kick-off an Extreme run of 3DMark and immediately begin monitoring the Kill-a-Watt for the peak wattage reached. We only monitor the Kill-a-Watt during the first two tests, as we found that’s where the peak is always attained.

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - Temperatures

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti - Power Consumption

Despite GIGABYTE’s GTX 650 Ti being an overclocked offering, its open-air cooler allowed it to run cooler than AMD’s Radeon HD 7770 – which, to be fair, uses a reference cooler. Things change when we look at power consumption. There, the GTX 650 Ti soars past the HD 7770. Again, we see fair scaling here since the GTX 650 Ti is in fact quite a bit faster, but it’s something to bear in mind if you like to keep on top of power-efficient parts (as a general rule, overclocked parts = bad for “green” goals).

Final Thoughts

Throughout our testing, NVIDIA’s GTX 650 Ti proved itself to be quite capable in most games at 1080p, with some tweaking needed on occasion to enable truly playable framerates. A common hindrance on performance across some of our tested games was screen-space ambient occlusion – SSAO for short. This advanced shadow / lighting technique is extremely hardware-intensive, so if you’re experiencing poor performance in any game, make sure that option isn’t enabled. Past that, disabling anti-aliasing usually remedies things fast. Overall, the loss of SSAO and AA are not really a big deal – especially not when you’d need a GPU twice as expensive to make up for it.

This of course begs the question – is the GTX 650 Ti worth picking up? How about GIGABYTE’s overclocked variant which costs $20 or so more? Generally speaking, at $140, a stock-clocked GTX 650 Ti is very worth it. Our overclocked model, at best, will add 5 FPS to our average framerates – without those extra 5 FPS, our end recommended settings for each game would still remain the same.

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti

The GTX 650 Ti is quite a bit faster than the HD 7770, but what about the HD 7850, a card we didn’t test? This is a tough comparison, because that card generally starts out at a price-point $40 higher than the stock-clocked 650 Ti, and $20 higher than the GIGABYTE model we took a look at. It’s only about 10% faster than the GTX 650 Ti in our quick testing, however, so both the reference GTX 650 Ti and GIGABYTE’s variant seem to be the better buy.

After pouring over the results, I couldn’t imagine anyone going wrong with the GTX 650 Ti that look to power today’s hottest games at modest settings at no higher than 1080p. The card’s 1GB framebuffer could be a concern for certain games and your goals, however, so bear that in mind (don’t expect AA on every game).

All said, both the stock-clocked GTX 650 Ti and GIGABYTE’s overclocked model here are fantastic offerings for their price-points. In general, you can expect it to be about 30% faster than AMD’s HD 7770 and 10~15% slower than the HD 7850.

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB

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