Only last month we were sounding a lament for the graphics cards market of 2013, suggesting that the heavyweight Titan might be the last significant graphics card release for some time. From a purely technological point of view, that might be true, but the continued pursuit of more frames per second for your pound has driven both AMD and nVidia to unleash new products in the same month.
See: more graphics cards reviews.
In truth, only the AMD is really new, but though the nVidia GeForce 650 Ti Boost might be more of a new tilt at older technology, the results are compelling for mid-range consumers.
Both products come in close to the £150 mark, so we're not talking bargain-basement products here. But neither are we covering cards that can only really appeal to those with gargantuan bank accounts or a serious gaming addiction to feed.
Working with the tried-and-tested GK106 chip, the Boost builds on the standard GTX 650 Ti. That card, reviewed previously in a PNY version, had significantly inferior specifications to the 650 Ti.
Not only has the 928MHz core-clock speed of the standard 650 Ti been pushed up to 1033MHz (versions of the card with factory specifications go up to 980MHz), but nVidia has enabled the Boost feature, so it can turn on the throttle and speed up to a maximum of 1098MHz - a sizeable 170MHz increase on the standard 650 Ti.
The memory clock speed has been raised noticeably too, with the 1350MHz of the PNY's 650 Ti being increased to 1502MHz in the 650 Ti Boost.
Add in the quadrupling capabilities of the GDDR5 RAM (of which a capacious 2GB is offered), and that means that the effective memory clock of 6008MHz is a very great improvement on the 5400MHz of the standard 650 Ti.
The original 650 Ti was itself partly a cut-down version of the 660, with the stream processors and texture units cut to 768 and 64 respectively. The Boost retains these specifications.
However, it raises the number of raster operation units from 16 to 24. And, more crucially, it improves on the memory interface. The 650 Ti's 128-bit version was rather limited, and constantly kept a lid on the performance of the GK106. The Boost, though, pushes this up to a 192-bit version.
Combine this with the extra clock speeds of the Boost, and you now have a rather powerful little piece of silicon.
The memory bandwidth (often an interesting indicator of real-world performance) comes in at massive 144.2GBps, as opposed to the 86.4GBps of the standard 650 Ti. That's a massive difference, and much of it is down to the increased memory interface.
The Boost also improves on the 650 Ti's texture fill rate, using that boost feature to push the figure from 59.4GTps to 70.3GTps.
MSI GeForce GTX 650 Ti OC Boost Twin Frozr: Perfromance
The MSI GeForce GTX 650 Ti OC Boost Twin Frozr does come with quite a high TDP of 134 watt - a good 49 watt up on the 7790. This is also a significant jump on the 110 watt of the standard 650 Ti.
In practice, we found the difference between the 650 Ti and 650 Ti Boost to be about 18 watt. Not quite as high as the figures on paper, but still reasonably power hungry.
Helped by MSI's customised dual-fan design, the card is fairly quiet, and remained relatively cool throughout testing.
The MSI GeForce GTX 650 Ti OC Boost Twin Frozr makes full use of that 192-bit memory interface, and this addition seems to give the card perfect balance that permits it to push frame rates to their max for this price point.
In Crysis 2 it produces figures of 30.5 and 21.1fps at the highest resolutions (1900 x 1200 and 2560 x 1600).
These are comfortably superior to the Radeon 7790's figures of 26.6 and 18.9fps, but even the immensely powerful 7870 can only offer figures of 33.7 and 22.6fps respectively.
As the tests get easier, the 650 Ti Boost extends its advantage, pushing to 65.9 and 41.3fps in Stalker: Call of Pripyat, and opening up double-figure leads over the 7790.
It's also a good margin ahead in Battleforge, offering figures of 59.8 and 36.1fps against the 7790's inferior scores of 51.5 and 28.0fps.