It’s hard to believe that Nvidia’s Kepler architecture has been around for nearly two years now. In those two years Nvidia has continued to innovate with Kepler exclusive features like Shadowplay and PC streaming to your Nvidia Shield. Well now it is finally time to take a look at what Nvidia has been working on with its latest architecture, Maxwell. Interestingly enough Nvidia isn’t launching their new architecture with a flagship card, they chose to fill in a gap in their current 700 series of cards down at budget price points. Today they are introducing the GTX 750 Ti and the GTX 750 and I will be putting a GTX 750 Ti through its paces as well.

Product Name: Nvidia GTX 750 Ti

Review Sample Provided by: Nvidia

Written by: Wes

Pictures by: Wes

 

Maxwell and more

The launch of a budget card wouldn’t normally get the attention of a lot of people. But something tells me this one will be a little different. With this being the first peak at Maxwell it will be interesting to see how well it performs. As with any architecture change Nvidia worked on improving performance from Kepler to Maxwell but what is more interesting is their focus on lowering power usage. This was a big focus going from Fermi previously to Kepler as well and it paid off very well by leaving them a lot of room on the high end to increase clock speeds to bring out newer and faster video cards. Lower power consumption also allows for packing more power into smaller form factors, like the shorter PCBs seen on a few Kepler cards. In our documentation on Maxwell Nvidia is claiming an improvement of twice the performance per watt over Kepler while using the same 28nm manufacturing process.

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So what is Maxwell all about? Well first generation Maxwell GPUs have the same API functionality as Kepler GPUs and a lot of the fundamentals are the same on the GPU as well. Maxwell uses multiple SM units within a Graphics Processing Cluster (GPC) and each SM includes a polymorph engine and texture units. ROPs are still aligned with L2 cache slices and memory controllers, but they have greatly increased the L2 cache size.

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One of things they did to speed things up was to rewrite the SM scheduler architecture and algorithms to avoid unnecessary stalls while further reducing the energy per instruction required for scheduling. They also simplified the SM design to save area and power as well the side benefit of a lower computation latency. Each Maxwell SM is significantly smaller while still delivering 90% of the performance of a Kepler SM. That smaller size allowed them to pack in more SMs, on the GK107 they had two where the GM107 (Maxwell) has 5, increasing the number of CUDA cores by 1.7 times and giving 2.3 times more performance in shader performance.

Here is a direct comparison between the older GK107 to the new GM107 introduced today.

GPU

GK107 (Kepler)

GM107 (Maxwell)

CUDA Cores

384

640

Base Clock

1058 MHz

1020 MHz

GPU Boost Clock

N/A

1085 MHZ

GFLOPs

812.5

1305.5

Texture Units

32

40

Texture fill-rate

33.9 Gigatexels/sec

40.8 Gigatexels/sec

Memory Clock

5000 MHz

5400 MHz

Memory Bandwidth

80 GB/sec

86.4 GB/sec

ROPs

16

16

L2 Cache Size

256KB

2048KB

TDP

64W

60W

Transistors

1.3 Billion

1.87 Billion

Die Size

118 mm

148 mm

Manufacturing Process

28-nm

28-nm

So what does the addition of these new cards do to Nvidia’s product lineup? Well as you can see below the GTX 750 Ti and GTX 750 slip in under the GTX 660 and above the GTX 650, replacing the GTX 650 Ti. It’s still a little confusing with the mix of 600 and 700 series cards though. I’m not sure if I would prefer it this way over rebranding cards just to fill in those blanks. Both options can be confusing.

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So here is a peak at the specifications of the GTX 750 Ti and the GTX 750, both being introduced today. They both are based on a new GM107 Maxwell GPU. They share similar clock speeds but the Ti will get you a few more CUDA cores. Additionally the Ti pulls a little more wattage at 60 watts, but even so that is less than the Kepler cards it is replacing. The price breakdown is as follows

GTX 750 Ti 2GB : $149

GTX 750 Ti 1GB : $139

GTX 750 : $119

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The third card introduced today is the often rumored GTX Titan Black.  Nvidia bumped up the number of CUDA cores from 2688 to 2880, improved the clock speed both on the GPU as well as the memory to improve the Single Precision performance from 4.5 Teraflops to 5.1 Teraflops. Sadly we don’t have a card on hand to test, but the improvements seem to be focused on bringing the Titan up to the GTX 780 Ti levels of performance while still keeping the double precision performance that makes the Titan such a monster. The price point is staying at the $1,000 mark that the original Titan has held as well.

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Card Layout and Photos

The reference GTX 750 Ti isn’t all that exciting of a card to look at, but I think this is one of those situations where the fact that Nvidia was able to improve performance and lower wattage to the point where a large heatsink to catch your eye wasn’t needed. The 750 Ti PCB is similar in size to the GTX 760 reference PCB but its one and a half slot design is smaller and begging for an aftermarket cooler. What is especially interesting is the 6 pin power connection mounting point up in the top right corner. The 750 Ti doesn’t require it, but I wonder if this could be a sneak peak at another model that will share the same PCB.

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The heatsink Nvidia went with here on the reference design is the same cooler that we saw previously on the GTX 650. The GTX 650 Ti had higher power requirements so it had a larger heatsink, this is a little clue on the GTX 750 Ti’s lower power requirements and heat output. The heatsink itself reminds me a lot of an Intel stock heatsink or even the oldschool GPU heatsinks before we went to dual and triple slot cards for nearly everything.

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Typically I would be talking about SLI bridge connections and power connections right about now. But the GTX 760 Ti only pulls 60 watts, keeping it low enough to run directly off of the PCI Express slot for power. The GTX 650 Ti that this card replaces did require a 6-pin with its 110W TDP, so this is a nice improvement. This should be great for people looking to get an upgrade on their OEM manufactured PCs that don’t have extra power connections available on their power supplies. Without an SLI bridge the GTX 750 Ti does not support SLI, this isn’t a big surprise with the GTX 650 Ti going the same route.

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The GTX 750 Ti is a one and a half slot wide card. The PCI slot itself is single but the cooler is taller preventing you from being able to run a card in the slot directly next to it. For video connections you will get two DL-DVI ports and a mini-HDMI plug. I hope that other manufactures consider running a full sized HDMI when they have the chance, a card like this that doesn’t require a power connection could be very useful in HTPCs or Steamboxes. Having a full sized HDMI plug would come in handy and not require people to have to pick up a special cable.

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On the flip side of the card there really isn’t too much going on. There isn’t a GPU support bracket or a backplate, nor is one needed with a card of this size/weight. Nvidia did go with a black PCB, but I would expect to see other variations from a few of the other manufactures.

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Our Test Rig and Procedures

Our Test Rig

CPU

Intel i7-3960X

Memory

Corsair Vengeance 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM Quad Channel  (4x4GB)

Motherboard

Asus Rampage IV X79 Motherboard

Cooling

Intel Active Thermal Solution RTS2011LC

Power Supply

Corsair AX1200

Storage

Kingston Hyper X 120 SSD

Seagate Constellation 2tb Hard drive

Case

High Speed PC Test Bench

Our Testing Procedures

Bioshock Infinite

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Bioshock Infinite on the “Xtreme” quality setting. This has a resolution of 1920x1080, FXAA turned on, Ultra Texture detail, 16x Aniso Texture Filtering, Ultra Dynamic Shadows, Normal Postprocessing, Light Shafts on, Ambient Occlusion set to ultra, and the Level of Detail set to Ultra as well.

Tomb Raider

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Tomb Raider on the “Xtreme” quality setting. This has a resolution of 1920x1080, Exclusive Fullscreen turned on, Anti-Aliasing set to 2xSSAA, Texture Quality set to Ultra, Texture Aniso set to 16x Aniso, Hair Quality set to TressFX, Shadow set to Normal, Shadow Resolution on High, Ultra SSAO, Ultra Depth of Field, High Reflection quality, Ultra LOD scale, Post Processing On, High Precision RT turned on, and Tessellation is also turned on. 

Hitman: Absolution

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Hitman: Absolution on the “Xtreme” quality setting other than the MSAA setting is turned down from 8x to 2x. That setting puts the resolution at 1920x1080, MSAA is set to 2x, Texture Quality is set to High, Texture Aniso is set to 16x, Shadows are on Ultra, SSA is set to high, Global Illumination is turned on, Reflections are set to High, FXAA is on, Level of Detail is set to Ultra, Depth of Field is high, Tessellation is turned on, and Bloom is set to normal.

Sleeping Dogs

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Sleeping Dogs on the “Xtreme” quality setting. That means our resolution is set to 1920x1080, Anti-Aliasing is set to Extreme, Texture Quality is set to High-Res, Shadow Quality is High, Shadow Filter is set to high, SSAO is set to High, Motion Blur Level is set to High, and World Density is set to Extreme.

F1 2013

We use the built in benchmark for F1 2013. We set our resolution to 1920x1080 and then use the “Ultra” setting.

Total War: Shogun 2

Direct X11 Benchmark High setting

Crysis 2

Using Adrenaline Crysis 2 benchmark.  1080p, 4x Anti-Aliasing, DX11, Laplace Edge Detection Edge AA, on the Times Square map, with hi res textures turned on.

Battlefield 3

Using Fraps with the game set to Ultra settings with 4x MSAA Antialiasing Deferred, 16X Anisotropic Filter, at 1920x1080.

Sniper V2 Elite

1920 x 1080 resolution, graphics detail set to ultra

Dirt Showdown

1920 x 1080 resolution, 4x MSAA multisampling, Vsync off, Shadows: ultra; Post Process: High; Night Lighting: High; Vehicle Reflections: Ultra; Ambient Occlusion: Ultra; Water: high; Objects: Ultra; Trees: Ultra; Crowd: Ultra; Ground Cover: High.

Metro Last Light

Using the included benchmark tool. The settings are set to 1920x1080, DirectX 11, quality is set to very high, Texture filtering is untouched at 4x, and motion blue is set to normal. SSAA is unselected, PhysX is unselected, Tessellation is off. We run through scene D6 three times to get an average score.

3DMark (2013)

We run through the Fire Strike benchmark on standard and extreme settings.

Unreal Heaven Benchmark 4.0

Using the “Extreme” preset

Unreal Heaven Benchmark 4.0 heat testing

We run through Unreal Heaven at 1080p for 30 minutes to test in game heat performance and noise output of the card while under load.

Power Usage

Using Unreal Heaven Benchmark 4.0, we get our “load” power usage number from the peak power usage during our test. We get our numbers from a Kill-A-Watt connected to the test benches power cord.

Noise Testing

Our Noise testing is done using a decibel meter 3 inches away from the video card on the bottom/fan side of the card. We test an idle noise level and then to get an idea of how loud the card will get if it warms all the way up we also turn the fan speed up to 100% and test again. The 100% test isn’t a representation of typical in game noise levels, but it will show you how loud a card can be if you run it at its highest setting or if it gets very hot.

 

 


Cooling, Noise, and Power

Nvidia designed the GTX 750 Ti and Maxwell as a whole to be very power efficient, so going into our power and cooling testing I am extremely interested to see how it compares to previous cards. To put things to the test I ran the 750 Ti through Heaven Benchmark 4.0 to test its peak power usage in game. As you can see below, with a peak power usage of 262 watts the GTX 750 Ti was the second lowest power usage in our charts. Maxwell is obviously a lot more power efficient.

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Our noise testing put the GTX 750 Ti down near the bottom of our charts once again with a 100% load result that was only a few decibels off from the idle noise result. The 50% fan speed results show this even more with it being only .4 decibels off from the idle noise level.

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I ran the GTX 750 Ti through the Unreal Benchmark 4.0 on loop to heat things up. The peak temperature of the 750 Ti was down near the bottom of our charts once again, this time tied with a few other cards at 59 degrees. Even with its small heatsink Nvidia still managed to keep things cool. I suspect that this should mean a lot of overclock room, especially on cards with aftermarket coolers like the DirectCU cooling from Asus or Twin Frozr from MSI.

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Synthetic Benchmarks

So we know the GTX 750 Ti runs cool, is quiet, and uses very little power, but how does it perform? Well my first set of tests were synthetic benchmarks like 3DMark Fire Strike and Unreal Heaven Benchmark 4.0. In 3DMark Fire Strike the GTX 750 Ti came extremely close to the overclocked 260X that we tested just this past week. We don’t have reference 260X performance numbers, but it is safe to assume that the 750 Ti edges it out. In Unreal Benchmark 4.0 the 750 Ti outperformed the overclocked 260X by a few FPS.

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In Game Benchmarks

Now that we know that Maxwell can perform, we just need to find out what you can expect from the GTX 750 Ti while actually gaming. To do that I ran through our benchmark suite of 11 different games. The test suite consists of a range of modern games, hopefully a few will help you determine how well the GTX 750 Ti will perform for you.

Before I look to see how well the card performed compared to the other cards, I took a look through the results to get an idea of how well it handled all of the games running on their highest settings at a resolution of 1920 x 1080. Of the 11 games 9 of the games had an average of 30 frames per second or more. That is what most would consider playable. Of those 9, two were above 60 FPS with a third being just a few FPS short. 60 FPS would typically be considered completely smooth. While its obvious that the 750 Ti doesn’t hold a candle to the high dollar video cards we sometimes get in. It is still very impressive that so many of the games in our benchmark suite resulted in more than playable FPS. The few that were a little lower should only require a couple setting changes to enjoy them as well.

In the benchmarks that favor AMD cards typically the 750 Ti still performed with or just slightly higher than the overclocked 260X and overclocked HD 7790’s. In the benchmarks that favor Nvidia cards the difference between the 260X and the 750 Ti was even greater. I can’t wait to see what the 750 Ti could do with a comparable overclock as well.

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Overclocking

When we test a new architecture I never really know what to expect, especially when going into overclocking. Sometimes they overclock well and other times they just don’t leave much headroom. To put Maxwell to the test, I ran the GTX 750 Ti through our standard overclock testing. I test for max GPU clock speed by bumping up my overclock bit by bit and then running through a benchmark in 3DMark 11. I do the same with the memory overclock, and then I attempt to put them together and make sure they both will run together. I document all of my results including the average FPS result of the benchmark in the table below.

Overclocking the GPU didn’t take too long really. I started with an overclock of 1100MHz according to the Asus overclocking tool that I was using (+80 offset to everyone else), with the GPU Boost the resulting clock speed ended up being 1165MHz. I continued bumping up my overclock until I hit the peak offset/overclock that it would allow me to do. With the GPU Boost the end overclock ended up being 1282MHz. There seems to still be a lot more room left in the card truth be told. I bet we will see big numbers with Maxwell once we have cards with dedicated power connections and the juice to back up the overclocks.

On to memory overclocking, I spent a while bumping up and passing through our test. It wasn’t until I attempted a crazy overclock of 7300MHz that I started seeing issues. There wasn’t a crash, just some artifacts but with a clock speed like that we had to be pushing the limits. In the end my max memory overclock was 7100MHz, WELL over the 5400MHz clock speed that comes on the card. Lastly I put the GPU and memory overclocks together and gave it a try. Not only did it work, but we ended up with an impressive FPS average as well. We started with a 28.42 FPS result with a small overclock and ended up with 32.33. That is nearly a 14% increase in performance, not bad at all for a little card that pulls all of its power off the PCI bus.

GPU Clock Speed Overclocking

GPU Clock Speed

Resulting Clock Speed

FPS Result

Notes

1100MHz

1165MHz

28.42

 

1150MHz

1215MHz

30.50

 

1200MHz

1266MHz

31.44

 

1218MHz

1282MHz

31.73

 

Memory Clock Offset Overclocking

Memory Clock Speed

Pass/Fail

FPS Result

Notes

5500MHz

Pass

29.16

 

5700MHz

Pass

29.24

 

5900MHz

Pass

28.27

 

6100MHZ

Pass

29.32

 

6300MHz

Pass

29.38

 

6500MHz

Pass

29.41

 

6700MHz

Pass

29.45

 

6900MHz

Pass

29.49

 

7100MHz

Pass

29.52

 

7300MHz

Fail

N/A

Artifacts

7200MHz

Fail

N/A

Artifacts

7150MHz

Fail

28.51

Artifacts

GPU and Memory Overclocks Together

GPU Clock Speed

Memory Clock Speed

FPS Result

Notes

1219MHz

7100MHz

32.33

 

 

 


Overall and Final Verdict

Sure its not a Titan or a GTX 780 Ti, or an R9 290X, but the GTX 750 Ti put up some impressive numbers in our testing. It’s not going to be your first choice on your next high end build of course, but for a budget card it performed very well in game as well as in the synthetic benchmarks. When it came to noise, power, and cooling testing the Maxwell architecture really pulled its weight by dominating the charts. Without a doubt the 750 Ti is the fastest card we have ever tested that didn’t require a power connection. That means all of you with Dell PCs can rejoice. You can finally drop in a card that is going to play most of the games on the market without having to upgrade your power supply.

The power requirements of the GTX 750 Ti benefited the card in other areas as well. For one it ran very cool and quiet. When it came to overclocking I was extremely impressed with its performance as well. The biggest limitation I had with overclocking the GPU on the 750 Ti was the clock speed offset limit in the software itself. Really my only complaint about the card was how underwhelming the heatsink is. Talk about a first world problem, Nvidia creates a card that runs so cool that the heatsink needed to keep things cool is small and underwhelming. It’s really hard to fault them for that really, considering its performance I really don’t think the 750 Ti is far off from being able to be passively cooled.

With this being a new GPU launch, we also need to take a look at its price point in relation to the completion. At $149 for the 2GB model testing here I think Nvidia hit the nail on the head. The R7 260X ranges in price from $139 to $159 right now and the 750 Ti out performed an overclocked 260X in nearly every test. Sadly I can’t say how well it will perform against the R7 265 that was introduced just this past week. That will be the biggest question because the R7 265 should be hitting the shelves at a similar price point. But considering the R7 265 has a whopping 150W TDP, I don’t think they are going to come anywhere near the performance/watt of Maxwell for a while. 

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Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: http://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #34111 18 Feb 2014 14:46
Today Nvidia launched their GTX 750 Ti and their GTX 750. This is the first of their Maxwell based cards. You guys should take a peak and see what its all about to see what to expect for their upcoming cards.
SpeedBump's Avatar
SpeedBump replied the topic: #34118 19 Feb 2014 05:21
Nice card and good review. I had a couple GT240s when they were one of the fastest cards that didnt need the extra power. They were very useful cards and I see this one in my future. ATM, I don't see any "stockers" listed for actual sale. Found a good many here and there, but they all have 6pin requirements. I think that is kinda defeating the purpose here. I personally don't see a need for this card if it is going to require additional power. Just my take.

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