As if it wasn't already convoluted enough, nVidia has chosen to add yet another new chip to the soupy broth that is the graphics cards market. See all PC Components and Upgrade reviews.
Following hot on the heels of the GTX 780 and 770 comes this cheaper-still 760. It’s another card based on the GK104 chip - others built upon this include the aforementioned 770, and the GTX 670 and 660 Ti. Take a look at our review of the nVidia GeForce GTX 770.
This clever retooling of old technology, the heart of two of the three new series 700 chips, demonstrates either that nVidia is very keen to wring the very last drops of value from its technology. Or that it doesn't feel much need to hurry out newer and more sophisticated hardware, in the absence of a serious challenge from rival AMD. Visit Group test: what's the best graphics card?
In any case, it's worth showing where the 760 is very different from countless other chips based on the GK104.
The standard GK104 has a potential eight streaming multiprocessors (or SMXes). Each single SMX handles 192 stream processors and 16 texture units - these are the parts that handle shading and texturing of graphics.
In the case of the GTX 770, all eight SMXes are turned on, giving it access to 1536 stream processors and 128 texture units. The older 670 and 660 Ti chips also seem pretty well specified, with seven of their eight SMXes turned on - resulting in 1344 stream processors and 112 texture units in both cases.
The new GTX 760, though, has just six of the eight SMXes enabled, giving it a relatively humble 1152 stream processors and 96 texture units.
Now, before we rush to proclaim it to be the weakest of the four GK104 configurations here, it's worth pointing out that the 760's 256-bit memory interface is significantly superior to the 192-bit version on the 660 Ti - and matches that of the 770 and the 670. Also, the 660 Ti has only 24 raster operators (ROPs), whereas the 760 comes with 32.
In other words, the 760 is perhaps superior to the 660 Ti, but still some way behind the GTX 670.
The MSI-made GTX 760 that we're reviewing here costs around £220. The 660 Ti is a little cheaper, at the £200 mark, while the GTX 670 will set you back about £260.
The GTX 770, at around £360, is in a different bracket again. The 760, then, is slightly more expensive than the 660 Ti, but a much cheaper prospect than the 670 or 770.
But it starts to make inroads even on the likes of the 670, thanks to some improved speeds. The standard GTX 670 and 660 Ti come with a core-clock speed of 915MHz, with 980MHz available with Boost.
The standard 760, on the other hand, can deliver 980MHz even without Boost - and with the latter on, it soars to four-figure 1033MHz.
We're reviewing an enhanced MSI version, which pushes the figures to 1006MHz and 1072MHz (before and after Boost). Not that this necessarily helps the 760 compensate for the lower texture units. While the 670 and 660 Ti both notch up a texture fill-rate of 109.8GTps, even the faster MSI version of the 760 can only muster 102.9GTps - and the standard 760 tallies a mere 99.2GTps.
So, even with better speeds, the 760 seems marginally behind the 660 Ti and 670 when it comes to shading or texturing. As you might expect, given the price difference, the 770 is significantly ahead of all these chips, offering an eye-popping fill-rate of 138.9GTps.
The 760 fares better when it comes to memory performance. The 760, 670 and 660 Ti all come with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, and they also have the same 1.5GHz memory clock speed - which increases to an effective 6GHz when the quadrupling capabilities of the GDDR5 memory is taken into account.
However, the 660 Ti is saddled with that 192-bit memory interface, whereas the others luxuriate at 256-bit. As a result, the 760's memory bandwidth of 192.3GBps matches that of the 670, and comfortably destroys the 660 Ti's figure of 144.2GBps.
The 770 is in a class of its own here, using its amazing 7GHz memory clock to produce a stunning bandwidth of 224GBps. All the same, the 760's 192.3GBps looks pretty good, given its low price tag - it outstrips the only other card within striking distance of it on price.
At this point, we should probably bring in the AMD competition - namely, the 7950. The handy Asus and Gigabyte cards based on this chip have very similar specifications, including a larger 384-bit memory interface, 112 texture units, a core speed of 900MHz, and a 1.25GHz memory clock (5GHz effective).
All of this amounts to a very impressive memory bandwidth figure of 240GBps, and a rather more modest texture fill rate of 100.8GTps. The AMD card comes with an impressive 3GB of memory, half as much again as the 2GB of the nVidia GTX 760, 670 and 660 Ti. It does cost around £270, though, so is very much more expensive than the 760 - indeed, it costs more even than the typical 670.
The truth, as is often the case, isn't fully revealed until we get to real-world gaming scores. And here the news is rather good for the 760. In most cases it manages to keep to within a couple of frames of the vastly more expensive 670.
The not too dissimilarly priced 660 Ti, by contrast, is a significant distance behind, as is the rather expensive 7950.
In Crysis 3, the 760 scored 33.8 and 18.7 fps at resolutions of 1920 x 1080 and 2560 x 1440 respectively. This is only marginally behind the 670, which notched up figures of 34.8 and 19.8 fps.
The 660 Ti and Radeon 7950 are a significant distance behind, on 30.4/15.6 fps and 28.6/15.5 fps respectively.
In Bioshock Infinite Rage, the 760 was a whole 2.3 fps behind the 670 at 1920 x 1200, notching up 59.9 fps to the 670's 62.2 fps. It was 2.2 fps behind at 2560 x 1600, scoring 34.7 fps to the 670's 36.9 fps.
The 660 Ti and Radeon 7950 were, again, several frames adrift, scoring 55.1/29.5 fps and 52.7/26.4 fps respectively.
In Stalker Call of Pripyat, it was a similar story again, the 760's scores of 77.8/55.6fps once more only marginally behind the 670's 79.2/57.1 fps, while the 660 Ti and Radeon 7950 were substantially behind on 72.6/49.9 fps and 70.4/46.1 fps.
The 770 was particularly notable for pushing up power requirements, reversing the recent trend in graphics cards of tumbling TDPs. The 760, though, at least matches the 670's 170-watt TDP, the reduction in SMXes compensating for the higher speeds.
Theoretically, we could say that 170 watt is an increase, as the 660 Ti - which you could see as the chip replaced by the new 760 - has a figure of ‘just’ 150 watt.
Nonetheless, given that the 760 is noticeably faster than the 660 Ti, and gets very close indeed to the 670 on gaming figures, we're not going to complain too much.
In practise, we found that the 760 did actually consume less power than the 670, but only in the order of 3-4 watt. It was a similar gap back to the 660 Ti, making these three cards reasonably close on actual power output.
Surprisingly, the 760 wasn't any quieter than the 770 we tested, notching up the same noise levels. This made the 670 marginally louder, with the 660 Ti itself a decibel or so quieter than the 760.