Nvidia GeForce GTS 450: Hello GF106, Farewell G92

GeForce GTS 450: Farewell, G92

There’s something about a game of catch-up that inspires urgency. After struggling to bring its Fermi architecture to market six months after AMD launched its own DirectX 11-class Radeon HD 5000-series, Nvidia’s derivative GPUs are now hitting one after the other, in rapid succession.

I’ll admit—I was worried when the company launched its GeForce GTX 465, based on the massive GF100 with nearly half of the chip disabled. Was it having problems with derivative designs?

Then Nvidia introduced the GeForce GTX 460, based on the GF104 graphics processor. That card impressed me. It was, as our respective review mentioned, what GeForce GTX 465 should have been. Then we tested two GeForce GTX 460s in SLI and gave that configuration another Recommended Buy award—not necessarily for what those two boards did against the competition from AMD, but for the fact that they trounced a GeForce GTX 480 at a comparable price. Suddenly, we were seeing solid value from Nvidia.

Now, two months later, the company has another derivative part ready to rock. Its GF106 is, in essence, one half of a complete GF104. But remember that the GeForce GTX 460 is really seven-eighths of a GF104. So, the GeForce GTS 450 is in all actuality a bit more than one-half of a GTX 460.

Enter The Next Cut-Down Fermi-Based GPU

Remember back to the GeForce GTX 480 launch. The company’s flagship was (and still is) based on a cut-back version of the GF100 GPU. This was a consequence of not getting the yields needed to launch with a 512-shader part. The GeForce GTX 460 was (and still is) based on a cut-back version of the GF104 GPU. This was to avoid showing up the GeForce GTX 470 with too much performance.

Today, the GeForce GTS 450 represents Nvidia’s first Fermi-based card based on an unaltered graphics processor, GF106. Update: it turns out that the block diagram Nvidia sent out isn't true to the silicon. The GF106 used on GeForce GTS 450 actually is deliberately handicapped by Nvidia. The only product, thus far, based on an unaltered GF106 is the GeForce GTX 460M mobile graphics module. Here, one ROP partition is turned off and simply "ignored" by Nvidia's team of block diagram marketers.

GF106: The GPU driving GeForce GTS 450

GF106 is composed of one Graphics Processing Cluster (GPC), with four Streaming Multiprocessors (SMs). Each SM wields 48 shader cores. These are the same “modified” SMs first seen on GF104, equipped with four dispatch units and eight texture units (instead of two and four, respectively). In total, that gives us 192 shader cores, four Polymorph engines (one per SM), and 32 texture units.

One of four wide SMs in the GF106's GPC

The chip’s back-end is similarly cut down to a pair of ROP partitions, each capable of eight 32-bit integer pixels per clock. Nvidia refers to that arrangement as 16 ROPs. Naturally, each partition is associated with a 64-bit memory path, yielding 128-bits aggregate this time around. That’s half of what the GeForce GTX 460 1 GB has available to it, so we expect to see a substantial performance hit with anti-aliasing enabled.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • Poisoner
    Man, G92 still holds it own. What an amazing piece of technology.
  • welshmousepk
    Slightly underwhelming to be honest. the GTX 460 seems like a way better choice. or a 5770.
  • IzzyCraft
    Well now that it is competing with the 5750 maybe they will push both down to $100 and we wouldn't need to buy old G92 or R700's :D
  • teeoneimme
    anyone else NOT so excited about this card?
  • skora
    As Chris pointed out with Tessellation, DX11 isn't going anywhere fast with the programmers. I'd say still go for a 1gb 4850 or CF two and really have a powerful GPU subsystem for the $200-$220 price point. By the time they are aged, you'll have 2nd gen DX11 GPUs out and the software will finally be available to use them.
  • eklipz330
    im still chuggin along on my hd 4850... and if i ever needed to, i can crossfire another one for a mere $90, these cards have been overpriced for a year

    its a shame that ati's cards didn't drop in MSRP. hell, the hd 5850 is finally approaching it;s MSRP of $250 from a year ago. I was hopign last year by around this time, hd 5870 would be ~$200... it's not even close =
  • Jzcaesar
    Man, I was hoping to see some overclocking; hopefully, they'll be included in another article. But I agree with Chris: the 450 is a bit disappointing at $130.
  • one-shot
    YAWWWWNN....This card is putting me to sleep. I'm going to bed.
  • duk3
    I'd like a gtx 460 maxcore.
    Perhaps a gtx 485 aka gtx 460 X2 would be nice as well.
  • sandypants
    Just bought a second 4870 1 GB to complete my CF setup which was planned 1.5 years ago. Only $130 from Newegg. 4870 vs 450 is not a tough choice if you are buying for a dedicated gaming rig. The 4000 series are still very adequate.