With AMD stealing Nvidia's thunder a tad recently, the big N seems a little dazed by having the carpet pulled out from under it so mercilessly.
It's not all bad, though: combine Nvidia's own CUDA and PhysX with its ventures into 3D and it's clear that it will once again come into its own in the next few years.
It's also catching up with AMD big time by releasing a range of affordable but powerful cards, ranging from £100 to almost £400. We've pulled together six of the best from the green beast.
1. MSI GeForce GTS 450 Cyclone - £103
We asked for a GTS 450 close to £100, and we got it: it's currently just £3 over the mark. MSI has constructed a rather beefy card, too, with a humongous fan dominating it, which delivers cool performance from a single PCI power connector. In benchmarks terms it's what we expected from a GTS 450: good performance, but the £150 GTX 460 beats it. But it's a small card without much power draw, which makes it perfect for an SLI or media centre set-up.
2. Asus GTS 450 TOP - £113
Since time began, Nvidia and AMD have been stuck in the graphics card race, and this is Nvidia's attempt to out-do AMD in the budget stakes. It's not a bad little card, too, with a decent overclock and rock-solid core performance. It competes almost directly with AMD's similarly-priced 5770, adding Nvidia's own CUDA and PhysX to the DirectX 11 mix. Asus' overclocked "Top" edition beat the 5770 in our benchmarks by a hair's breadth - something the original GTS 450 wasn't capable of.
3. EVGA Superclocked GTX 460 768MB - £129
There's a difficult balancing act in the GTX 460, between the 1GB versions and the 768MB cards, such as this EVGA effort. EVGA has made up for the comparative lack of memory by "Superclocking" this card, which means it's got a little more power where it's needed. The result is some fairly impressive benchmarks, although it doesn't offer quite as much overclocking headroom as a full 1GB card. If you're happy with the decent
4. EVGA GeForce GTX 460 1GB FTW Edition - £219
EVGA's other GTX 460 - the 1GB FTW edition - sits at the other end of the scale to its cheapo 768MB card. The FTW is a wonderful card, too, delivering the best out of box GTX 460 performance we've seen, with a decent price tag to boot. It's not a great overclocker (that accolade goes to MSI's GTX 460 HAWK), and it does get rather toasty, but it's a solid graphics card you can slap straight into your PC without having to get your hands dirty with all those overclocking shenanigans.
5. Zotac GeForce GTX 470 - £291
Sitting firmly between the GTX 460s and 480s, the Geforce GTX 470 is essentially a trimmed 480, but it's still a perfectly capable high end card. It packs a definite graphical grunt, sailing through all but our Metro 2033 benchmarks. It doesn't take too much power (a single PCI-e connector is all that's required), and it's also fairly small. Our biggest gripes are the price and its higher-than-average noise levels, but it's still a killer card, and far cheaper than its GTX 480 forefather.
6. Zotac GTX 480 AMP! - £392
GTX 480s are infamous for getting as hot as the surface of the sun, hence the need for not one, but two, industrial coolers on Zotac's take on the card. This allows Zotac to up the clocks a little, giving a four per cent increase on stock performance and an AMP! moniker. Not all that great, but what really impressed us about the GTX 480 AMP! is the extra headroom on top of this - we managed to get the overclock up to 20 per cent. It's incredibly pricey, but it's one of the best cards out there, and able to handle everything we threw at it with aplomb.
7. Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 review - £399
So why not eschew the outgoing 480 and plump for the 580? In terms of performance, the GTX 480 was a very good card. In single-GPU metrics, it was the fastest card available, despite AMD's launch of its second-generation DX11 cards: the Radeon HD 6870 and HD 6850. With the 580, there's been no strange reordering of Nvidia's card nomenclature to match what we've seen from its competitors. What's more, this new graphics behemoth is also heralding the approach of the 500 series of second-generation Fermi cards, with the lesser-lights of the card family filtering through fairly soon after. Watch this space.
Liked this? Then check out our Graphics card buying guide
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