Tested: Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 Video Card

By Loyd Case

Nvidia's new mid-range video card is cheaper than the last-gen GTX 660 Ti, the card it replaces. But in terms of performance, it's still serviceable, hitting over 60 frames per second in modern games at 1080p resolution. But this isn't the card you'll want to max game settings out on a 2560x1600 monitor.

Nvidia’s recent 700 series updates to its Kepler GPUs were great-looking video cards in their own right, even if you ignored performance. The GTX 780 and GTX 770 both were all brushed metal and elegant lines. Those reference designs sparked a lot of positive comments, and I heard many people remark about how much they’d love to be able to buy the reference cards. The actual partner shipping cards were far more prosaic looking.

By contrast, the company’s new GTX 760 reference design is downright boring. It’s simple, matte black plastic shroud won’t inspire many second glances, but at least that means actual retail cards might look more interesting.

But what counts is how much performance can be delivered at a certain price point. And at first blush, the price certainly looks right. Most GTX 760s will start at $250, although expect factory overclocked cards with customized cooling may to cost more.

The GTX 760 is built around Nvidia’s GK104 GPU, the same Kepler architecture chip used in the GTX 780 and 770, but with considerably fewer graphics cores. The GTX 760 has fewer cores than even the GTX 660 Ti, but it offers a 256-bit wide memory bus, as compared to the GTX 660 Ti’s 192-bit memory interface.

It’s not much to look at, but it’s speedy and inexpensive.

Assuming card makers come close to the $250 price point, that would make the GTX 760 less expensive than the current GTX 660 Ti cards, which are priced more like $300. Let's compare the GTX 760 with the rest of the Kepler family and its nearest siblings.

FeatureeVGA GTX 660GTX 660 TiGTX 770GTX 760
Shader Cores960134415361152
Core Clock (MHz)10469151046980
Boost Clock (MHz)103398010851033
Memory (MB)204820482048-40962048
Memory Interface192-bit192-bit256-bit256-bit
Memory Speed (MHz)6008600870006008
Texture Units8011212896
Max TDP140W150W230W170W
Price$225$300$400$250 (est.)

That’s right, the GTX 660 Ti is riding off into the sunset. Here’s Nvidia’s actual product mix for the rest of 2013. I ran a number of performance tests on the same Core i7 3770K system as was used in the GTX 780 review. Unfortunately, the lone Asus GTX 660 Ti I had on hand decided to keel over and die, so I wasn’t able to include GTX 660 Ti benchmarks. However, I compared performance to the GTX 560 Ti 448 cores GTX 660, GTX 670, Radeon HD 7950 and GTX 780. It’s worth noting that Nvidia is actually phasing out the GTX 660 Ti.

No GTX 660 Ti going forward; the GTX 760 will fill those shoes.

Users aren’t likely to upgrade from even a GTX 660 to a 760, but what about older cards? Let’s check out performance.

Power Efficiency Droop

The GTX 760 uses a GK104 core, and uses a pair of 6-pin PCI-Express power connectors. So you expect power consumption to be greater than the GTX 660, which took power just from a single PCIe power connector.

The GTX 770 is more power efficient than you’d expect given the added 8-pin power connector.

Idle power is marginally higher than the GTX 660 at idle, but about 30W higher at full load. It’s even a little higher than the GTX 670, which is surprising, since the 670 includes more shader cores. Like the GTX 770 and 780, the cooling system uses Nvidia’s new adaptive temperature controller, so perceived noise should be lower than earlier cards. Subjectively, we didn't notice much difference between the 760 and the 660, but the older 560 Ti 448 was somewhat louder. The Radeon HD 7950’s noise levels were annoyingly high by comparison.

3DMark FireStrike

FutureMarks’ FireStrike synthetic tests hammers all aspects of DirectX 11 capable GPUs. While it’s synthetic in nature, the benchmark still gives an idea of relative performance differences between cards in an idealized DirectX 11 environment, but the result doesn’t always reflect actual game performance.

The GTX 760 is considerably faster in 3DMark than the 660, and only trails the 670 by a small amount.

The Radeon HD 7950 did beat out the 760 in this test, but that card also costs more.

Games Running with Maxed Out Settings

As with the earlier reviews, I tested the cards with Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider and Metro Last Light. At maxed out (“Ultra”) detail levels, the GTX 760 couldn't really compete. This card isn’t really well suited for running with every graphics knob and lever turned to the far right, though it's still playable at 1920x1080 resolution.

The GTX 760 trails both the 670 and HD 7950 by a notable margin, but it’s the least expensive card of the three. The 760 certainly outperforms the 660 Ti and older Nvidia cards, as you’d expect. It’s even a touch faster than the GTX 580.

What’s startling is just how much faster the GTX 760 is while running Tomb Raider with its fancy TressFX hair effect than the older GTX 560 Ti 448. The difference here is stark.

With Bioshock: Infinite at Ultra settings, the GTX 760 shows its mettle, eking out a win over the Radeon HD 7950. Better still, the GTX 760 almost hits the magical 60fps number in Bioshock: Infinite at the mainstream 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution.

Metro is incredibly demanding when you dial up all the eye candy. The GTX 770 still manages to hit over 30fps in this test at 1080p.

Okay, so nothing is particularly fast in Metro Last Light with maxed out eye candy. But the $250 GTX 760 holds its own with the pricier HD 7950.

Games Tunning at High Settings

Using the generic high preset yields better frame rates, as expected. But the landscape shifts a bit as well. It’s closer to a dead heat between AMD’s best and the new GTX 770.

It’s amazing how much effect dialing back the detail levels just a notch make in Tomb Raider. The GTX 760 easily exceeds 60 fps, even at 2560 x 1440, as well as outpacing the former high end GTX 580.

The GTX 760 definitely hits the sweet spot in 1080p Bioshock playback. Not bad at all for a $250 card.

Metro Last Light puts huge demands on GPUs, but the GTX 760 at least exceeds 30 fps at 1080p. That’s certainly respectable for $250.

GTX 760: No Miracles at $250

Nvidia’s $250 GeForce GTX 760 is faster in most games than the previous high-end GTX 580 from two generations ago. That’s an impressive achievement in its own right. But as modern games amp up the graphics workload, more demanding PC games will still require users to dial back detail levels a notch. On the other hand, today’s games running at medium-high to high detail levels look pretty damned good, especially at 1080p in a living room HTPC. If you’re willing to sacrifice a little on ambient occlusion and anti-aliasing, the GTX 760 is an extremely capable card that won’t break your budget.