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Nvidia Cards: The Old Enemy / 22nd of June 2015

The last time I can remember owning an Nvidia GPU was buying an XFX GeForce 8800 GTX Extreme 768MB back in the day around 2007, prior to that I had been using an ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition for two to three years. Further back than that and I really can’t recall. When I had the 8800GTX the biggest draw for me was running two in SLI, I couldn’t fault the 8800GTX at the time, it ran everything I wanted it to, wasn’t even that noisy under load and it was quite powerful. But as I get older I get more interested in real world concerns, does a GPU run my game well, and is it relatively quiet? I’m not too bothered about how much power it draws, or how well its overclocks. The thought of pushing a card to its limits, how much I can overclock it, stress testing to get the most out of a GPU is just not for me. All I want is a GPU that meets my current needs, I can install quickly and it does its job with the minimum of hassle. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for one minute dissing people who tweak their systems, I admire people researching, pushing cards and giving detailed reviews, guides and information. I respect these individuals, teams, groups and forums and use many different resources on the internet every day. The internet’s a wonderful place, if you take the time to search, read and research you can literally find out how to do, build or fix anything. The only golden rule is to always check different sources before making informed choices from the facts, plan, prepare and get the right tools for the job. Anyway I’ll get back to the article before I end up writing up a Clinton Foundation fund raising speech or get offered a job at job at the UN.

I like AMD Cards, they have for a long time offered great value of money, they usually pack a lot of punch, and have always provided a great bang for your buck coefficient. I’ve, over the years, grown quite bitter towards NVidia and the way I feel they continue to have a vice like grip over the gaming industry and studios. I always felt like they’re the bad guys, the same way many feel about EA. When EA mentioned EA Access I initially expected EA to be covertly setting it up to shaft consumers, but was then pleasantly surprised by how good it was and I gladly paid for it and believe it offers great value for console gaming. I’ve grown sick of reading how games run significantly better on Nvidia hardware, and have often felt like they are actively trying to shit on AMD users from above. Don’t get me wrong I often feel miffed with AMD, there’s many issues with their drivers, mostly related to new releases. But is it really AMD’s fault that NVidia get early builds of games, data and heads up from the game studios of possible issues when they are tied to them and their exclusive features?

Are there any other gripes I have with AMD’s GPU’s, bar poorer support on day one with some new releases? I can’t be the only one that wonders why their cards are far too noisy. Is it a combination of packing in so much power to a card that it gets super-hot? Noise is a major issue for me, as you might have guessed, so why is it that so many AMD cards feature rubbish fans, or is it something else? I’d love to know why there so bloody noisy even when the systems not under load. I hate needless background noise, or a GPU sounding like a Nazi pulse engine as soon as I start up even a tiny Indy game. I can buy almost silent case fans, quiet and effective water cooling but if the GPU is noisy then my experience is spoiled. And this is especially true when it comes to media streaming. In my media systems there’s practically no noise, I always use fan-less GPU’s so I don’t hear my PC’s whilst watching TV shows or movies. Obviously this isn’t practical for gaming, but it certainly makes me rage when my gaming rig sounds like an overpriced Chelsea salon full of WAGs getting there £300 blow dry.

Whilst I’m slagging off my favourite GPU brand can I just add that I hate so many of AMD’s processers, I think there rubbish, I only see them as fodder for Toshiba “shatellites”. For office managers that want to get laptops which are cheap, underwhelming, and under-powered. However this again, I don’t think it entirely AMD’s fault. In my head I feel that as Intel have liked to buy patents since they started, so that every time AMD’s R&D team comes up with something great, someone in their legal department tells them that it’s too close to some Intel technology, or that Intel own the rights to using blah blah… you get the idea. I’m a massive Intel CPU fanboy but I’d soon enough be an AMD CPU fanboy if I actually felt there products were cutting edge and gave me equal or better performance than Intel.

The same goes for GPU’s, I just want the best product I can get for my specific needs. Whether it’s gaming, 3D modelling, portability and power consumption, or video playback and rendering. But with such strong opinions and having been wearing AMD tinted sunglasses it really is time for me to try a budget Nvidia card and see if I should maybe reconsider my stance and maybe try one of their beefier GPUs. Maybe I’ll even jump ship to Nvidia land for a bit, or maybe just add a dedicated Nvidia rig to my ever expanding list of PCs.

As it happens, a very cheap MSI GTX 750 Ti (2Gb) fell into my lap recently, so I’ll be using that to dip my toes into Nvidia territory. It’s the single fan version, not the sexy TwinFrozr gaming one (damn the MSI gaming branded range is sexy). The card is running on a mini-ITX board with 16Gb of RAM, an I5 4460, and a 250GB SSD for the OS which is my interim living room rig until I finalise my system.

Straight away I really like the Nvidia GPU, it’s pretty much silent whether I’m just using Windows, playing with Adobe or watching a movie. Even when I’m playing games it’s still silent (when I say silent it’s ever so slightly louder than one of my Proliant N54L micro-servers). It’s just what I need to placate the rage, and so for my needs it could be a real game changer. The second thing I really like is how regular I’ve received updates for the GPU and other Nvidia software. I’ve had several updates in the two weeks I’ve tested out the card and they’re so easy to apply.

For its tiny size pack quite a decent amount of grunt, I’m only playing in 1080p, a man’s got to know his limitations when it comes to budget cards, just because I’m playing on a 4K TV and the card outputs 4K doesn’t mean it’s advisable to brutalise the GPU. I’m also playing on consoles so 1080p whilst I’m relaxing in the living room is plenty for me. It’s handled everything I’ve thrown at it so far. Usually automatically selecting high settings on the latest games, while any games over a year old have most of the settings on ultra by default.

I cracked out Crysis 3 and played 60 FPS at 1080p, with high settings (although I did mess about and turn up a few more settings without any drops in frame rate). In my new favourite Gas Guzzlers Extreme, I played on max settings and the game sat at a constant 41-45 FPS. I tried Grid Autosport with the high resolution textures pack added, using max settings and it never dropped below 48 FPS. However I didn’t play more than a few races, as me and my friend both agreed Grid Autosport is balls when compared with Forza 5 and Forza Horizon 2. I’ not a fan of racing simulators that kick you in the plums until you’ve adapted your driving style to fit their flawed, physics defying model.

Anyway, I’ve used the card for movies as well and I’m just as happy with it as I was with any of my AMD Cards. I just want to listen to DTS-HD or Dolby True HD on my AV Receiver and I could certainly do that, I keep having to tell myself that the 750 Ti has a fan and that it’s an Nvidia GPU. I haven’t done a full on technical analysis of the card, my setup, power consumption etc, that’s just not me. I’m no expert in benchmarking or specifics, but I use a lot of various bits of kit and sometimes a change is good.

Going forward I quite fancy trying an MSI Nvidia GTX 970 gaming TwinFrozr (4Gb). Then I’ll compare it to an R9 290x (4Gb) and see how I get on. I’m warming to the thought of pairing the 970 with my B85/i5 4460 based system and building a new Z97 based mini-ITX system with a i7 4790k, and popping one of the new AMD cards in to it at launch. I’m really quite open to giving more Nvidia GPU’s a shot, as for a GPU under £100, it’s outstanding. What we do have to remember is AMD have been essentially rocking the same old architecture for all of the current cards and they’re excellent. The Nvidia offerings are already using new technology and when AMD are so close to dropping their voluptuous new GPU’s, Mantle looking promising, and Direct X12 being nearly upon us it’s a really exciting time in the world of GPU’s.

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