The GTS 450 offers mainstream gaming at an affordable price-point. This tiny powerhouse (well, it's still dual-width, but pleasingly short) is capable of feats beyond its £100 price tag.

What's more, in SLI, you'll see massive performance gains of 80 to 90 per cent, making the dual-card upgrade path a realistic and rewarding option for budget systems.

It bears architectural similarities to its bigger brother, the GTS 460, but with half the memory bandwidth and half the CUDA cores. What's impressive is that it doesn't offer half the performance in DX10 games, which it's perfectly happy with.

Start throwing DX11 at it though, and it begins to run out of puff in fairly short order. The market has moved around the GTS 450. Initially priced against AMD's HD 5750 (which it beats into a cocked hat), price-drops on the AMD side mean it now squares off directly with the HD 5770. Now that's a tough fight.

DX10 performance at the mainstream resolution of 1680 x 1050 is where the GTS 450 really excels. It starts to run low on poke when you up the ante to 1,920 x 1,080, and under the long shadow of DX11, it really feels the pinch.

If you want to get the most out of the best and brightest new games, you're going to need a bigger boat.

We've been consistently impressed with the GTS 450 since it launched. A combination of pricing, midrange performance and the current ease-and-excellence of SLI dual-card setups has made it an attractive prospect all-round for gaming on a budget.

Gaming excellence

DirectX 10 gaming is really where it excels, though. When you start adding DX11 routines such as tessellation into the mix, it feels the pressure, and performance drops as a result.

All our tests were run with 4x AA applied, both at 1,680 x 1,050 and 1,920 x 1,080, which the GTS 450 was quite happy with in DX10. Dropping this improves DX11 performance, but not by an awful amount.

What's more, AMD price drops have put it slap-bang beside the HD 5770. There's really not a lot to choose between them. And thanks to price drops for the GTX 460, it's becoming harder to call the GTS 450 the mainstream card of choice.

Inexpensive examples of the 1GB GTX 460 can be had for just £30 more than the standard GTS 450, and it's safe to say that the former is way more than £30 more powerful.

The GTS 450's position, then, is weakening over time. It struggles with DX11, making it a poor choice for future-proofing, and price drops from the competition – both friend and foe – mean that it's not quite the bargain powerhouse it once was.

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