While it may have taken nVidia a bit longer than its rivals to start launching its new graphics cards, it's easy to see why the company felt it could afford to take its time. First of all we saw the GTX 680, an extremely powerful card that established itself as the fastest single-GPU card – but without pushing the power ratings to the max. It was quickly followed by two more cards. The 690 (watch for a review soon) looks to be armed for speed but with a prohibitive price tag nudging £900. However, this product, the nVidia GeForce GTX 670, hits a rather more affordable price tag of £330, while still providing quite fantastic performance. See also Group test: What's the best graphics card?

nVidia GeForce GTX 670: Features

The nVidia GeForce GTX 670 is based around the same GK104 technology that now fuels the GTX 680. It's just that it offers rather less of a number of things – although in several notable areas, the differences are actually surprisingly small. Indeed, the memory clock happens to be identical, with both the 670 and 680 content with a 1502MHz memory clock – boosted to an effective 6008MHz through the quadrupling effect of GDDR5. And both cards start with 2GB of RAM as default – although 4GB versions of the 670 will be available.

The 256-bit memory interface was a slight disappointment in the case of the GTX 680 – we pondered why nVidia didn't ratchet up the frame rates on such a high-end card by increasing this aspect – although the same 256-bit interface is less of a issue when found on the cheaper nVidia GeForce GTX 670.

All of this means that the nVidia GeForce GTX 670 can boast exactly the same 192.5GBps memory bandwidth as its bigger brother. This figure wasn't a great achievement for the 680, but it'll certainly do here – and is a long distance clear of the Asus Radeon HD 7870 DirectCU II's 154.9GBps, despite that card only saving you around £50.

The nVidia GeForce GTX 670's default core clock is a rather less impressive 915MHz. But while this may seem to be some way adrift of the GTX 680's four-figure 1006MHz, it's worth noting that, already, overclocked versions of this card are pushing this figure to 967MHz and, in one or two cases, are even matching the 680's 1006MHz. Expect us to cover overclocked versions of this card in greater detail in the future.

The number of texture units has been cut from 128 (in the GTX 680) to 112, although the 32 ROPs have been retained. The texture fill-rate of 102.5GTps remains reasonably competitive for the price, although it can't match the 118.4GTps of the only slightly more expensive AMD Radeon HD 7970.

The number of stream processors have seen a small cut too, from 1536 to 1344, although this is still a healthy complement for a GeForce card.

While AMD has been devoting many of its resources to remoulding its chips so that they're better placed to handle the varied workloads of today's gaming scene (as can be seen in the move to Graphics Core Next), nVidia had already modified its architecture in the previous move to Fermi. That's allowed nVidia to work on other aspects, in particular the power.

The GTX 680's power figure of 195 watt was impressive for such a high-end card, and the 670's corresponding figure of 170 watt is also very light given the capabilities of this product. The Radeons don't fare as badly as you might expect, though, and the 7870's rating of 175 watt is impressive.

nVidia GeForce GTX 670: Performance

In testing we did find there to be an almost 15 watt difference between the two cards though, so the nVidia GeForce GTX 670 certainly maintains the theme of GK104 proving light on power consumption.

The nVidia GeForce GTX 670 is also reasonably quiet, and we'll be interested to see how much further the noise levels can be brought down when manufacturers start bolting on specialist fans and cooling systems.

Priced almost halfway between the 7870 and the 7970, it was a matter of where the GTX 670 was going to go. As it turns out, it leans far more towards the 7970, to the point where it was actually the faster of the cards in one test.

BattleForge was the only game where it was clearly slower than the 7970. Here it registered figures of 78.3, 66.3 and 44.0fps across the 1680 x 1050, 1920 x 1200 and 2560 x 1600 resolutions. These were generally between 1 and 1.5fps slower than the 7970. Not a great difference, but a difference nonetheless.

In Crysis it was almost neck and neck with the 7970, and its figures of 47.9, 39.4 and 25.8fps were never more than 0.3fps behind.

It actually finished in top in Stalker: Call of Pripyat, and its figures of 90.1, 79.2 and 57.1fps were generally 0.4-0.6fps faster.

For all practical purposes, then, the cards were almost equal in gaming speed. The AMD Radeon HD 7870, incidentally, was generally 6-11fps further back.

nVidia GeForce GTX 670: Benchmarks

Crysis 2 (1,680x1,050 / 1,900x1,200 / 2560x1600)                47.9 / 39.4 / 25.8
Battleforge (1,680x1,050 / 1,920x1,200 / 2560x1600)                79.1 / 66.8  / 45.9
Stalker Pripyat (1,680x1,050 / 1,920x1,200 / 2560x1600)            90.1 / 79.2 / 57.1

NEXT PAGE: Loyd Case of PCWorld.com offers his review of the nVidia GeForce GTX 670 >>

Nvidia’s GTX 670 arrives hot on the heels of the super-expensive, dual-GPU GTX 690. The 690’s rarified price--a cool grand, if you can find it--makes it of limited interest to most gamers. The GTX 670, on the other hand, offers performance as good or better than last year’s high-end GTX 580 while consuming much less power. At roughly £329, it’s still not a budget card, but it’s certainly affordable for users looking for a robust PC gaming experience on HD-resolution displays, but unwilling to shell out the small fortune necessary for its high-end cousin, the GTX 680.

Let’s take a quick look at the speeds and feeds for the GTX 670, and see just how it’s different from its pricier cousin. Note that clock frequencies are for the reference board. Shipping retail boards may differ in clock frequencies, depending on the design of the board and what the company shipping the board wants to support. See also Group test: What's the best graphics card?


The chip used in the GTX 670 is the exact same GK104 GPU as the higher-end GTX 680, but with one entire functional block--what Nvidia calls an “SMX”--disabled. The clock frequency is a little lower for the GPU core itself, but the memory clock frequency and quantity are identical.

Those are the base specs in a nutshell. Now it’s time to check out how the reference board actually performs.

Performance

Performance data was collected using FutureMark’s 3DMark 2011 and five DirectX 11 games: Crysis 2, Shogun 2: Total War, DiRT3, Metro 2033, and Batman: Arkham City. Also, system power under idle and load was measured using a Watts Up Pro power meter. The system used for testing consisted of an Intel Core i7 3960X running at 3.3GHz with 12GB of DDR3 RAM running at 1600MHz. Power supply, motherboard, and other hardware remained the same during the entire run, as did the operating system, Windows 7 Ultimate x64.

 

Nvidia’s new $399 card easily bests last year’s high-end GTX 580 in 3DMark 2011, as well as both current high-end GPUs from AMD, the Radeon HD 7950 and Radeon HD 7970.

It’s worth noting that the GTX 670 easily beats last year’s model, as well as the similarly priced Radeon HD 7950. The average game performance is essentially a dead heat with the pricier Radeon HD 7970.

It’s impressive how idle power has improved on all the current-generation cards. However, it’s also worth noting that the GTX 670 used here consumed just a little more power than a GTX 680 reference board. The actual difference was only a couple of watts, so it’s probably just variation in manufacturing.

Under full load, measured when running 3DMark 2011 at very high resolutions and all features maxed out, the GTX 670 proves to be the most efficient card, though the Radeon HD 7950 is just a step behind.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 670

Cards are shipping now, from a variety of manufacturers, including Asus, eVGA, Gainward, and more. While the target price is £329, prices will likely vary, depending on the level of factory

overclocking and other included features. The eVGA card, for example, will ship with a base clock of 967MHz, as well as pushing the memory clock to an impressive 1552MHz. Most companies building cards based on the GTX 670 will ship factory-overclocked versions. Some even take up more than two slots.

Actual availability is an open question. The original GTX 680 has been difficult to find, with waiting lists for cards from most online retailers. It’s possible that GTX 670 cards will be built from GPU dies that weren’t able to pass full GTX 680 certification. If so, more of them should hit retail shelves.

Final Thoughts

At £329, the GTX 670 is still aimed more at the subset of high-end gamers who are likely playing on a single, HD resolution display. At $100 less, you still get performance better than last year’s high-end GPU from Nvidia, and equaling more expensive cards based on AMD’s Radeon HD 7970.

The card is surprisingly compact for its performance, and should fit in most midtower cases--even those lacking the depth to handle some higher-end cards. Power-supply requirements should be modest--a good 500W PSU should do the trick.

If you’re a serious PC gamer thinking about upgrading, and already have a GTX 580 or similar high-end card, it’s probably not worth moving to a GTX 670. But if you have an older GTX 200 series or 400 series card, it may be well worth the investment.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 670: Specs

  • Graphics Cores: 1344
  • Texture Units: 112
  • ROPs: 32
  • Base Clock Frequency: 915 MHz
  • Boost Clock Frequency: 980 MHz
  • Memory (Frequency): 2GB GDDR5 (1502 MHz)
  • Memory Interface: 256-bit
  • Transistor Count: 3.5 billion
  • Display Connectors: 2 x Dual Link DVI, 2 x HDMI 1.4a (Fast), 2 x DisplayPort 1.2
  • Power Connectors: 2 x 6-pin PCIe
  • Thermal Design Power (TDP): 170W
  • Graphics Cores: 1344
  • Texture Units: 112
  • ROPs: 32
  • Base Clock Frequency: 915 MHz
  • Boost Clock Frequency: 980 MHz
  • Memory (Frequency): 2GB GDDR5 (1502 MHz)
  • Memory Interface: 256-bit
  • Transistor Count: 3.5 billion
  • Display Connectors: 2 x Dual Link DVI, 2 x HDMI 1.4a (Fast), 2 x DisplayPort 1.2
  • Power Connectors: 2 x 6-pin PCIe
  • Thermal Design Power (TDP): 170W

OUR VERDICT

Almost identical in performance to the AMD Radeon HD 7970, despite costing £30 less, the nVidia GTX 670 is a fantastic deal. And the best news is that this is only the card running at its default settings. The next few months should bring all manner of new configurations, and an overclocked version of the GTX 670 would be more than a match for the 7970. It's also much lighter on power – around 55 watt – and quieter. It's still not cheap, but it's clearly the card to buy if you want excellent game framerates without a £400+ price tag.

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