Nvidia has continued to roll out the GeForce 700 series this week with the GTX 760 — the generation's first truly mainstream product, with pricing well under that of the GTX Titan, 780 and even the 770, which at $400 stillcosts more than the average gamer is willing to spend. In other words, the GTX 760 has the potential to be today's most relevant option for someone who needs a new graphics card.
Previous 700 series cards have been heavy hitters, with the GTX 770 packing about as much muscle as the GTX 680 for about $100 less. Assuming Nvidia doesn't throw us a curve ball, we expect the GTX 760 to deliverperformance comparable to that of the HD 7950 with a price tag that's closer to HD 7870s — a situation that would invariably benefit anyone shopping for a mid-range GPU.
Like the GTX 770, 680, 670 and 660 Ti before it, the GTX 760 is based on Nvidia's GK104 architecture. That said, the newcomer's core configuration has been cut down quite significantly when compared to last month's GTX 770. Before you close the tab, there is some good news: Nvidia has left the card's 256-bit wide memory bus intact, affording the GTX 760 quite a lot of memory bandwidth.
Gainward has given us our first look at the GTX 760 with the company's special Phantom edition graphics card, which features a heavily modified board design packing upgraded cooling and some factory overclocking. We're generally pleased with the results of partners' efforts to customize their products, though it definitely adds some complexity to determining a card's value proposition.
As was the case with the GTX 770, Gainward prepared its Phantom card in time for the GTX 760 release, touting a reworked PCB, factory overclocking and a massive triple slot cooler — the last of which is the most noteworthy enhancement. Also like the GTX 770, the GTX 760 receives the new third-generation Phantom cooler with replaceable fans.
The new Phantom delivers better thermals while making less noise and boasting a sturdier construction. It's unlike any triple-slot cooler we've encountered before, featuring four 8mm heatpipes that extract heat from the base and distribute it evenly throughout the heatsink. Gainward claims that its Phantom cooler allows the GTX 760 to run 16 degrees cooler than the reference board.
The most unusual part of the cooler design is its fans — their location, specifically. Fans are typically attached to the top side of the heatsink, but instead Gainward has embedded two quiet 80mm brushless PWM fans inside the heatsink. The fans are also removable, featuring a tool-less design. Similar to the way hot-swappable hard drive bays work, the fans slide out once a single thumb screw has been removed — no cables, no fuss.
The heatsink measures 210mm long (the PCB itself is just 170mm long), 65mm wide and just 15mm tall. It has a black fan shroud that forces the 80mm fans to draw air in through fins above them and push it over the card below them at the same time. Unlike the higher-end GTX 770, the GTX 760 Phantom doesn't have a heat spreader over the memory chips, leaving them naked instead.
Nvidia has designed the GTX 670 with three graphics processing clusters, six streaming multiprocessors, 1152 CUDA cores, 92 TAUs and 32 ROPs. In the previous generation, this would place the GTX 760 in between the GTX 660 and 660 Ti. Despite that, we expect the card to be quite a bit faster than the GTX 660 Ti, as it's not only clocked faster but it has a wider memory bus (256-bit versus 192-bit). While the 660 Ti was limited to a peak memory bandwidth of 144.2GB/s, the GTX 760 enjoys a much larger 192.3GB/s of bandwidth.
By default, the GTX 760 core is clocked at 980MHz with a boost frequency of 1033MHz while the 2GB of GDDR5 memory operates at 6GHz. The GTX 660 Ti in comparison runs at 915MHz with a boost of 980MHz but its memory also operates at 6GHz.
Gainward has of course done some factory overclocking boosting the base core frequency to 1072MHz with a boost speed of 1137MHz. This is a 9% increase in core speed, while the memory has been overclocked by 3% to 6.2GHz.
The rest of Gainward's card remains fairly standard, including a pair of SLI connectors, two 6-pin PCIe power connectors and an I/O panel configuration consisting of HDMI, DisplayPort and two DVI ports.
The GTX 760 averaged 66.1fps at 1920x1200 in Battlefield 3, 6% slower than the overclocked Gainward GTX 760 Phantom. Although the GTX 760 Phantom was faster than the HD 7950, the standard GTX 760 was 3% slower, though it was still 9% faster than the GTX 660 Ti and 12% faster than the HD 7870.
The GTX 760's frame time performance results were fairly similar to what we saw in its frames per second testing as the card was 5% slower than the Phantom edition but 8% faster than the GTX 660 Ti, 17% faster than the HD 7870 and 2% faster than the HD 7950.
The GTX 760 rendered 33.1fps at 1920x1200 in Crysis 3, faring 6% worse than the Gainward GTX 760 Phantom while outperforming the GTX 660 Ti, HD 7870 and HD 7950 by 13%, 39% and 10%.
Crysis 3's frame time margins were quite interesting as AMD-based cards performed better than they did in the frames per second testing. The GTX 760 was still 6% slower than the Phantom model and 14% slower than the GTX 660 Ti, however it was "only" 28% faster than the HD 7870 while it just managed to match the HD 7950's performance.
Benchmarks: BioShock Infinite, Metro Last Light
The GTX 760 averaged 54.3fps when testing BioShock Infinite, which was 3% slower than the GTX 660 Ti yet 11% faster than the HD 7950 and 33% faster than the 7870.
The frame time margins were similar to those seen when measuring the frames per second performance, as the GTX 760 was 2% faster than the GTX 660 Ti, 19% faster than the HD 7950 and 38% faster than the 7870.
Despite being the newest game tested, Metro: Last Light only managed to drag the GTX 760 down to 43.7fps — 5% slower than the overclocked Phantom card, but 11% faster than the GTX 660 Ti, 3% faster than the HD 7950 and 9% faster than the 7870.
The frame time results were quite different to the fps data as the GTX 760 was just 1% faster than the GTX 660 Ti and 3% slower than the HD 7870.
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Steven Walton is a writer at TechSpot. TechSpot is a computer technology publication serving PC enthusiasts, gamers and IT pros since 1998.