If you were looking for some low-end Kepler-based graphics cards to support your much older computers, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. While Nvidia wowed everyone (and you too, shortly) with their technology shown at GTC 2012, they very quietly did a rebrand with Fermi for retail consumers with their new Geforce GT610, GT620 and GT630 cards. Yeah, don’t be surprised, they did this with their laptop chipsets as well.
For those of you buying a new low-end graphics card, the Geforce 600 series won’t disappoint. The ones available in retail channels are Fermi-based and made using the 40nm process. If you’re lucky enough to have made friends with suppliers who have the OEM Kepler-based parts, those would be the better solution. Read below for the specs of the new HTPC challengers.
Starting off the low-end fight is the GT610 which is a cheaper GT520. Bringing better performance to the low-end is Nvidia’s goal here, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t want to invest too much R&D while doing it. The GT610 ships with 48 CUDA cores, 1GB of DDR3 RAM clocked at 1800Mhz on a 64-bit bus and a very, very low 29w TDP. This would fit in fine with both older computers and ultra-low power HTPCs running on Intel’s Atom N2800 integrated into mITX boards. Altogether, you could fit a very capable system with a SSD, a 2TB hard drive, Blu-Ray drive and the GT610 into a 100w power draw. The CUDA-capable cores mean that low-end systems that require video recoding using Handbrake will benefit handsomely from the extra available power.
Moving along to the GT620, its an upgrade to the OEM-only GT530 which was actually quite good, assuming you found the passive DDR5 version. The GT620 packs 96 CUDA cores, 1GB of DDR3 RAM and the same lowly 64-bit memory bus. Performance should end up about double that of the GT610, but won’t go much higher without DDR5 RAM. You can expect third-party manufacturers to product passive versions of this card as well as ones with 2GB of DDR3 RAM. Particularly useful for your…uh, PowerPoint presentations. With 96 CUDA cores, it might fit inside systems that have an AMD graphics card, but gamers would like the option of enabling Physx for better in-game reality.
The GT630 is where I would consider low-end budget gamers to start off with their purchases. Based off the bargain GT440 which wasn’t so bad, the card comes with 96 CUDA cores, 128-bit bus widths and ship with either DDR3 or DDR5 memory. The extra bandwidth, even with DDR3, should be enough to discourage buyers from looking at the GT620 as this will be the better choice. Gaming at 720p resolution with low-to-medium settings should be just fine so long as you don’t apply any AA. As far as performance comparisons go, this is about the same as you’d get from AMD’s HD6650M that’s found in its new Trinity chipset, although there’s no improving the performance of this card beyond what you’d get from overclocking. Perhaps a toy to play with on dry ice? One wonders what you could do with such a thing.
Do you know what’s really interesting? This cheap-ass card is more powerful than Nvidia’s popular 9600GT. I’ll let that sit in the back of your head while you watch your GTX660 get kicked to the curb by the R900 GT950 in a few year’s time.
So what’s in store for gamers with a little more cash? The probable GT640 is where I’d expect things to get interesting, as that’s the point where I’d expect Kepler to enter the fray. Perhaps with 128 CUDA cores, 128-bit memory bus and DDR5 RAM as standard, it should become the new favourite for gamers who are seriously cash-strapped. The GT650Ti will be even better and today is the default for gamers who want high settings at 720p resolution without performance hitches. Exciting times ahead, then!