While we usually try to bring you timely and breaking facts from the two main discrete GPU makers, Nvidia and ATI, as of late it's not been up to us to bring balance to the coverage that goes to each company. Out of our last seven graphics card reviews, only one was about a new GeForce GPU, and a terrible one at that.
Towards the end of last year, Nvidia launched a new graphics card, the GeForce GT 240. This forgettable product was supposed to sit between the GT 220 and 9800 GT in terms of both price and performance. However, much like the GeForce GT 220 that was released a bit prior, the GT 240 was a huge disappointment. For about $100, we saw no real reason why anyone would pick up this card other than to possibly use it as a dedicated PhysX card.
The older generation GeForce 9600 and 9800 GT offered better value at its respective price points, but perhaps most importantly, the Radeon HD 4770 destroyed the GT 240, for a mere extra $10. Then for $40 more, the DirectX 11-enabled Radeon HD 5750 offers very playable performance in most games, even at 1920x1200. While it could be argued that power consumption levels are better on the GT 240 compared to the 9800 GT, Radeon HD 4770, or 5750, they are not in relative terms due to its inferior overall performance.
But it's a new year and we know Fermi, Nvidia's next-generation GPU is coming pretty soon. Yet we quickly learned at CES that Nvidia doesn't plan to offer any new budget or even mainstream graphics products based on the new architecture, leaving a huge gap for ATI to make the most of it. Not one to rest on its laurels, AMD has gone ahead and released a new $100 graphics card.
The Radeon HD 5670 is based on the same Evergreen GPU that makes up the HD 5800 cards, albeit seriously cut down to reach the $100 price point. The new card has a memory bandwidth of 64GB/s, versus 128GB/s on the Radeon HD 5850, and its core configuration has been halved compared to the mainstream HD 5770. The feature set remains intact, however, so you have DirectX 11 support, Eyefinity, HDMI audio bitstreaming, and of course low power consumption.
Although the Radeon HD 5670 is supposed to bring DirectX 11 functionality to gamers on a budget, we are not getting too excited about this. The latest rendering technologies need a greater deal of horsepower to be fully utilized, and unless a game's visual settings are maxed out with a reasonable level of anti-aliasing enabled, DirectX 11 is not going to turn many heads.
On paper, it looks like AMD is aiming for the GeForce GT 240, and we can't help but feel worried that they have not set their goals for the Radeon HD 5670 higher. But that's not to say we won't give it a fair go, so let's move on to check it out in more detail.