For the last few years’ two companies have dominated the 3D video card market, NVIDIA and ATI. They launch a new architecture every two or three years upon which their new cards are based upon. NVIDIA launched the Fermi graphics architecture late last year and early this year launched the GeForce GTX 480 and 470 cards based upon that new architecture.
The GeForce GTX 480 was priced at $499, making it a high-end enthusiast card with few buyers even in the best of circumstances. With the market already having a full lineup of AMD video cards in the form of the HD 5870-5450 series, the card was late, and drew more power and ran hotter than the competition. NVIDIA launched the GTX 465 to mixed reviews as it used the same chip and had the same heat and power requirements.
The second group of cards based on the GF100 architecture was first released on the GF104 chip, which powers the GeForce GTX 460. This card uses fewer transistors and has less power draw than the GF100 chips. The GTX 460 is a far better chip for the masses. One issue with NVIDIA’s lineup of video cards is that the least expensive chip was priced in the $229 range. The vast majority of video cards are sold between the prices of $0-200. According to Mercury Research, of the 15 million GPUs sold last quarter, only 1.6 million were priced above $200, with 4.5 million in sales between $100-200 and 9.2 million between $0-100. This means NVIDIA has left a huge segment of the market all to ATI on DirectX 11 due to the lack of DX11 chips.
NVIDIA’s answer to this challenge is to release a new chip, the GF106 that forms the basis of the GeForce GTS 450 video card. While NVIDIA actually has sold more units their average selling price is lower as AMD’s units are mostly DirectX 11 parts. The GeForce GTS 450 is aimed squarely at the between $100 and $200 video card bracket with the HD 5750 meant to compete against it. The GF106 chip is the first one from NVIDIA to be targeted at this price range and should form the basis for other cards in this price range. This is based upon a similar chip to the GF104 with reduced SPs and performance but also targeted for a more mainstream price. NVIDIA was kind enough to send a pair of these cards and today’s review is on two NVIDIA reference GeForce GTS 450s in SLI mode.