Graphics cards are commonly divided into three main classes. The bog-standard bottom end stuff for 'Home Office' type PCs. The ultra-high end, money no object cards for those who demand the absolute best. And finally the in-between cards that most of us use, which try and strike a balance between affordability and performance.
Regular readers here at OC3D will know that we adored the GTX570. It provided the perfect blend of high-end performance at a reasonable price. In fact when overclocked the performance was good enough to make the GTX580 only worthwhile for those who like the look of the big card in their signature.
Following the excellent performance of the GTX680 it's time to take a look at the GTX670 and see if it follows on from the GTX570 as being the weapon of choice for all but the most flush users.
A small reduction (192) in both CUDA cores and clock speed are the only big changes to the GTX670, so hopefully it should still be capable of bringing the performance we demand.
With a reference card it looks exactly as we'd expect an nVidia card to be. Especially given the GTX680 looks. So it's a very plain black affair with a hint of the nVidia green.
Although the colouring can be an acquired taste, we do like the name being emblazoned across the side. Given that the side and, to a lesser extent, the back are the only bits we really see it makes a lot of sense to label that, rather than the front. Similar to the GTX680 the GTX670 only has a 6+6 arrangement for power input, in keeping with the current commitment to low power draw.
The outputs are the regulation ones, with a DisplayPort, an HDMI and a couple of DVIs. We also have enough SLI fingers for a multi-card setup.
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.6GHz
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Noctua NF-F12 Fans
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Most of the clock speed reduction has been clawed back with our overclock, which leaves only the reduction in CUDA cores as the performance detriment when compared to its big brother. Our anticipation is almost palpable.
With the stock cooler and a hefty old overclock the GTX670 isn't exactly cool. Of course this leaves plenty of room for other manufacturers to leap in with their alternative solutions.
3D Mark Vantage
The two big comparisons are against the GTX680 and, in target audience terms, the HD7950. The GTX670 provides a great start, handily beating the AMD offering and running the GTX680 surprisingly close, especially in the Extreme preset.
3D Mark 11
With the overclock the GTX670 really runs close to the stock GTX680, at only 75% of the price. Again in 3D Mark the AMD HD7950 is left a little behind, but it's all quite tight.
Starting with the ageing Alien vs Predator the GTX670 makes quick work of it in both stock and overclocked trim. Perhaps the most eye-opening result is that it is, at stock, very near to the VTX HD7970. Impressive start.
Batman Arkham City
A positively spectacular result in Arkham City. Not only does the average frame-rate look great, but the minimum frame-rate remains at a high level ensuring a smooth playing experience.
The stock performance is becoming the most impressive element of the GTX670, really putting up some good numbers. With the overclock it runs the reference GTX680 almost neck and neck. So far, so good.
Our first middling result comes courtesy of Crysis 2. Although 59 fps is still a good result, it's not quite up there with the relative performance we've seen so far.
From the average to the incredible, Dirt 3 makes full use of the GTX670 to provide some truly excellent results, a long way ahead of anything we've recently tested.
Far Cry 2
A bit of a curiosity here. We're not sure if nVidia have tweaked something in their latest drivers, certainly nothing in the release notes would indicate a benefit for Far Cry 2, but regardless the score is so good that we're going to dismiss it as an aberration.
Mafia 2 gives us the first major benefit from our overclock, the best part of a twenty frame improvement. Although at stock it's no slouch, albeit not quite up to the standard set by the HD7950.
We all know what to expect from a single nVidia GPU in Metro 2033 and the GTX670 is no exception.
Resident Evil 5 - DX9
Such is the easy performance available from Resident Evil 5 that the slightly reduced shaders actually come in to play, with the GTX670 not quite able to push the very best cards, but still giving a super-smooth experience.
Resident Evil 5 - DX10
The DirectX 10 rendering path always gives a more consistent result than the DirectX 9 variant, and again the very top end of performance is just out of reach of the GTX670. Most surprising is how little extra the overclock brings.
Rounding off with Unigine, a stern test if ever there was one. Although the GTX680 is a little out of reach the GTX670 definitely romps ahead of the AMD equivalent, the HD7950.
With the image quality right up to the maximum with 8xMSAA, the GTX670 shines even brighter, running the stock GTX680 very close and only just being pipped by an overclocked HD7950. Impressive stuff.
Some hardware lives on in the memory long after it has been retired from active duty. Anyone who owned a 3DFX card at launch time will remember the mind-blowing levels of eye-candy. Equally the E8600 has gone down in folklore as a hardcore overclocker. Certain parts just tick all of the boxes to transcend being a merely utilitarian part of the greater whole and enter our hearts as something we can reminisce about in our dotage. The GTX570 was one such item giving us incredible performance at a very good price-point, delighting all who took the plunge to purchase one.
So you can imagine our nervousness at the GTX670 appearing. Would nVidia take the best business decision and cut it down from the glorious performance of the GTX680 to force people to purchase the flagship card? Would they be kind to us enthusiasts and trim it just enough to allow us to nod knowingly at the wise purchasing decision of anyone with one?
The answer is clear. They definitely have trimmed the GTX670 just enough to enable it to be priced more attractively than the GTX680, but still provide incredible levels of gaming performance. Unlike with the 570's PCB which was almost identicle to the 580 to the point where you could fit a 580 block to a 570 the GTX670 is a completely different animal. The PCB is completely different and more noticeably than anything else much smaller. The small PCB is yet another hint that Nvidia did shuffle the naming of the cards about because the PCB is tiny. If rumors are to be believed this would have been the GTX650 and the PCB size would lean towards this idea. Thats why we think they have the cooling fan hanging off the end of the card to make it appear bigger than it really is. The problem with adding the fan off the end of the PCB is the power connectors, they are not at the end of the card where you would expect, this makes neat cabling imposable and just confirms to us that this was very much an after thought to make the card appear bigger because as you've seen its cant of been to add on some amazing cooling.
Don't mistake the size for a card that's fairly asthmatic out of the box and requires a hefty prod in the Megahertz department to unleash it. The stock performance is outstanding, even in this reference guise. Overclocking is a breeze and it's possible to get very close to the scores available from the big Kepler beast that is the GTX680 and the performance comes along with ever extra clock the GPU has to hand.
At just over the £300 mark it's almost rendered the GTX680 pointless for all but the most demanding user with multi-screen setups and the desire to flaunt their rig in their forum signature. For everybody else the GTX670 has all the performance you could require, at a reasonable price, and is capable of mixing it with the flagship cards from either AMD or nVidia themselves.
The cooling leaves a little to be desired as we'd expect from a reference card, so seek out a partner model with a more robust cooling solution. Otherwise we can't recommend the GTX670 highly enough and it's an easy winner of our OC3D Gold Award.
Thanks to nVidia for supplying the GTX670 for review. Discuss in the OC3D forums.