Excellent performance for the price. Uses relatively little power. Includes full range of current-generation Nvidia features.
Not quite the fastest card out there. Blocks a second expansion slot.
Nvidia may call its newest release, the GeForce GTX 670, a video card, but another term might be more appropriate: AMD killer. It’s tough to think of many other useful ways to describe this product, which doesn’t just employ the impressive technologies Nvidia introduced on its Kepler-based top-of-the-line single-GPU card, the GTX 680, a couple of months ago, but does so with performance and at a price ($399 list) that give AMD’s flagship card, the Radeon HD 7970 , a serious run for its money—and threatens to steamroll the same-priced Radeon HD 7950 altogether. Though you’ll still need to pony up an extra Benjamin to get the fastest-of-the-fastest GTX 680, those who want to keep a little of their cash—and can live with a little less speed—will find the GTX 670 unusually compelling.
As far as its construction is concerned, the GTX 670 is, much like its predecessors the GTX 570 and the GTX 470, a toned-done version of the top product in the stack. Though the GTX 670 shares the GTX 680’s four Graphics Processing Clusters (GPCs), it has dropped one advanced Streaming Multi Processor (SMX) for a total of seven. This reduces the number of CUDA parallel processing cores (from 1,536 to 1,344) and texture units (from 128 to 112). The base clock speed has also been lowered (from 1,006MHz to 915MHz), though the amount of memory (2GB) and its clock rate (6,008MHz) have remained unchanged.
As, for that matter, have a lot of the other features, such as GPU Boost (which can accelerate the base clock to a higher value when the electrical and thermal headroom exists for it—though here to an average of 980MHz rather than the GTX 680’s 1,058MHz), four output ports (two dual-link DVI, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort), and the ability to drive a total of four monitors from a single card. Even the GTX 680’s basic power improvements have been retained in almost their entirety: Nvidia recommends a slightly smaller power supply for this card (500 watts instead of 500 watts) for use with its marginally lower TDP (170 watts versus 195 watts), but the card requires the same dual six-pin PCI Express (PCIe) power connectors. (As with most upper-tier cards, it will also block an adjacent slot in your PC.)
If all this sounds like you should expect near–GTX 680 performance from the GTX 670, congratulations—because that’s almost exactly what we found. Looking at our slate of gaming tests running at 1,920 by 1,200 with all settings maxed out, the GTX 670 was routinely nipping at the GTX 680’s heels, with results like 50.5 frames per second (fps) versus 52fps in Aliens vs. Predator, 67fps versus 68fps in Batman: Arkham City, 86.1fps versus 92.9fps in DiRT 3, 63.7fps versus 67fps in Just Cause 2, and 64.8fps versus 70.3fps in Lost Planet 2. So in almost every case, the GTX 680 does not have a significant performance lead despite its higher price.
What’s more surprising is how well the GTX 670 competes not with the Radeon HD 7950, which you’d expect (as it also hovers around $399), but the 7970—which can be found for upwards of $450. The GTX 670 came out ahead of the AMD card more often than we could have anticipated: in Futuremark 3DMark 11 (2,868 for the GTX 670, 2,801 for the 7970), in DiRT 3 (the 7970 managed 82.5fps), in the Heaven Benchmark(40.3fps versus 40fps) in Just Cause 2 (the 7970 picked up 60.5fps), and in Lost Planet 2 (53.9fps for the 7970). In the other aforementioned tests the 7970 was the winner—but you would think it wouldn’t even be a close contest.
Then there’s power usage. We weren’t surprised that the GTX 670 excelled here, given how astonishing both the GTX 680 and its dual-GPU successor, the GTX 690, have proven. But, still, a full system idling at 98.2 watts (as measured with an Extech Datalogger) and using 291.6 watts under full graphics load—compared with 298.2 watts for the GTX 680 and 345.7 watts for the 7970) is impressive.
Come to think of it, “impressive” is a good word to use to describe the GTX 670 overall. With this card, Nvidia may very well be redrawing the battle lines around $400 rather than $500, where (for the last few years, at least) the highest-level fighting in the market has occurred. In terms of sheer performance, AMD is having serious trouble competing at the prices Nvidia has set—and, barring a truly unforeseen development, it may not be until the next generation (which could be six months away or more) that AMD can reorient itself. That’s a potential problem.
But for consumers it’s an undisguised blessing, as the GTX 670 presents them an opportunity to get almost-best-in-class performance while paying only about 80 percent of the price of the current single-GPU champ. It’s not entirely clear what this means for the future of the GTX 680, as paying $100 more for it doesn’t get you commensurate performance in most cases—although if all you’re concerned with is having the fastest card out there, you probably don’t care. For everyone else the GTX 670 is an outstanding buy and a fascinating glimpse into the more powerful (and less expensive) places the enthusiast video card market may be heading.