Nvidia has spent the last few months busily refreshing its GPU line-up, starting with the top-end Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan back in February. Now it's the Nvidia GeForce GTX 760's turn; this new midrange card is being billed as a replacement for the Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 Ti – despite the name similarity, Nvidia has indicated that the Nvidia GTX 660 will remain in production.
Comparing the 600 and 700 families can get confusing, depending on whether you compare by price point or by card features. At the top of Nvidia's current stack, there's the GTX Titan – an £830 card based on the GK110 GPU. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 is a £550 card that also uses the GK110 architecture, but has fewer total cores. It's significantly more powerful than the GTX 680 that it replaced. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 is an Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 with faster clock speeds and more cores enabled, with a correspondingly higher price of £329.
The Nvidia GTX 760 continues this trend. It has 1,152 cores, 96 TMUs, and 32 render output units (ROPs), compared to 960 cores, 80 TMUs, and 24 ROPs on the old GTX 660. The price is also up, with this new card costing £209. The card we tested is a 2GB GPU – Nvidia expects this to be the most common configuration, though manufacturers have the option to include 4GB if they see fit.
Unlike the higher-end cards, all of which have borrowed the GTX Titan's cooler design, the GTX 760 keeps the plastic shroud and styling of the 600 family. One difference between the GTX 660 and the new GTX 760 is the power requirement – the newer card requires a pair of six-pin PCIe connectors, where the 660 only needed one.
Since Nvidia is keeping the Nvidia GTX 660 on the market, the new GTX 760 serves as an additional price point rather than an attempt to lift Nvidia's margins by raising the price of its midrange card. The closest AMD competitor to the new GTX 760 that we had on hand was the AMD Radeon HD 7950. While it’s just a little more expensive, it also offers more RAM (3GB) and AMD's potent "Never Settle" bundle of video games.
Our performance comparisons were done using an Intel Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge CPU, 16GB of DDR3-1600, a 256GB OCZ Vector SSD, and a 27in Asus VG278HE monitor at 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. We're comparing primarily against the AMD Radeon 7950 which as we’ve just mentioned is pitched at around the same price, and the Nvidia GTX 770, at the heftier £329 price point.
The GTX 690 performance was simulated using a pair of GTX 680s in SLI; tests have demonstrated that the performance delta between the two configurations is essentially nil. All of our tests were run at 1,920 x 1,080 with maximum details set. Multisampled antialiasing was activated when available and turned up to 8x if possible. In Metro Last Light, the game's "SSAA" (super-sampled antialiasing) box is checked, rather than a specific level of MSAA.
In Civilization V's "Late Game View" benchmark test, the GTX 760 was slightly behind the newer Nvidia GTX 770 at 87 frames per second (fps) versus 89 fps. The AMD Radeon 7950 also hit 89 fps, which puts all three solutions in an effective three-way tie. Shogun 2: Total War, on the other hand, showed some differences – the GTX 760 hit 39 fps here, slightly ahead of the AMD Radeon 7950 at 37.5 fps, but far behind the Nvidia GTX 770 at 50 fps.
In Metro 2033 and its sequel, Metro: Last Light, AMD pulled slightly ahead. The GTX 760's score of 29 fps in Metro 2033 and 26 fps in Metro Last Light was slightly behind the AMD Radeon 7950's 32 fps and 27 fps, respectively. The GTX 770 hit 33 fps in both tests, but you'll want to adjust video details downwards on all these cards if you're aiming for a smooth frame rate. The AMD Radeon 7950 led the Nvidia GTX 660 in BioShock Infinite (63 fps to 57 fps), and the Nvidia GTX 770 sped past both at 71 fps. In DiRT 3, the AMD Radeon 7950 turned in a score of 92 fps while the GTX 760 hit 84 fps.
Hitman: Absolution also favoured the AMD Radeon 7950 – the GTX 760 scored 29 fps in the game's built-in benchmark test, compared to 34.5 fps for the AMD solution. Again, the Nvidia GTX 770 is well ahead at 44 fps, as we'd expect given the fact that this card costs around £100 more than the others.
According to Nvidia, the GTX 760 is the last new GPU release for the next several months. In this case, the company isn't retiring the old Nvidia GTX 660, which will continue at around the £170 mark. Overall, the GTX 760 drops neatly into the gap between the GTX 770 and the GTX 660 – it's more expensive than the latter, but offers more GPU cores, more raster outputs, and higher clock speeds.
The AMD 7950, however, isn't particularly threatened by this new launch. While the two cards trade shots in several titles, the AMD solution is faster in five of the six games we tested – although of course, the 7950 is a touch more expensive.
Like the Nvidia GTX 770, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 is best characterised as an incremental improvement to a strong product line. The AMD 7950 is a strong alternative for a little more money (and it comes with the Never Settled bundle), but if you're an Nvidia fan with a card from the GTX 400 or 500 era, this is a strong option as an upgrade that won't break the bank.