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Nvidia GeForce GTS 450: Hello GF106, Farewell G92


So here’s the deal. For the most part, Nvidia’s GeForce GTS 450 does what the company says it’s supposed to. It generally lands in between the Radeon HD 5770 and 5750 performance-wise. And, if Nvidia is correct with its pre-launch pricing projections, it’ll cost somewhere around $129.

Maybe it’s the fact that we’re all jacked up on Mountain Dew. Maybe it’s the fact that we’re used to talking about more enthusiast-class graphics products. Or maybe it’s the fact that last generation’s cards still make for good gaming solutions. Whatever the reason, it’s genuinely difficult to get excited about something we saw from AMD 11 freaking months ago, priced to match.

But I’m not going to limit my nerd rage to the GeForce GTS 450. Even AMD’s Radeon HD 5750 is a tough sell if you’re already rocking an older G92-based card or a Radeon HD 4850. You can find previous-generation products from both AMD and Nvidia selling brand new for $90 bucks or so. If you’re a cash-strapped gamer looking for legit value, I don’t see any problem buying up those boards on the cheap until they’re no longer available.

As a pure play on performance for your dollar, stepping up to the latest DirectX 11-class cards won’t really net you a lot of additional speed. Instead, what you get is lower power consumption, media-oriented features like high-def audio bitstreaming over HDMI, and support for Microsoft’s most current 3D API. To the degree that each of those highlights applies to you, upgrading from a GeForce GTS 250 to a GTS 450 may or may not be worth it. But it’s a lot like buying the 2011 Lexus IS when you already own the 2010 model. Are you really going to get that tweaked over new wheels and LED daytime running lights?

With GeForce GTX 460 768 MB cards selling for as little as $170 (after rebate) on Newegg, I say save up an extra $50 and buy the more exciting card. GF104 uses more power under load, sure. But it also supports bitstreaming in an HTPC environment and DirectX 11. Shoot, the GTX 460 and GTS 450 occupy the same dimensions, so it’s not like you’re giving anything up there.

The silver lining here is SLI. With two GeForce GTS 450s rendering cooperatively, we’re seeing 190% of a single card’s performance consistently. If two GeForce GTS 450s run $260 or so, then you’re looking at a $40 premium over a single GeForce GTX 460 1 GB at $220. We’re not as excited as we were after comparing two GTX 460s to a single GTX 480. But still, SLI’s tremendous scaling potential remains a reason to keep two of these cards in mind for a future upgrade.

Stepping up to a faster card is the only way you’re going to see noticeably faster frame rates in the games you play today. To that end, I’m staying bullish on the GeForce GTX 460. GF106 simply cuts too much “oomph” off of the Fermi architecture to whet my whistle. Hopefully, Nvidia can get this one down to the $100 range sooner than later.