The GeForce GTX 400 series was expected to expand, just like any other new generation of graphics cards. But as opposed to AMD that had no problems spreading its Radeon HD 5000 architecture into all price segments, Nvidia’s promotion of GeForce GTX 400 was hampered from the very beginning by the extraordinary characteristics of the GF100 graphics core, particularly by its high manufacturing cost and very low chip yield. Nvidia committed a fatal mistake when it had made the decision to introduce its new architecture from the very top downwards. While AMD only had to double the number of graphics cores to release its flagship product, Nvidia had originally designed the GF100 as the top-of-the-line solution and its derivatives could only be less but not more advanced than it. There is only one method of such going down – by turning off some functional subunits of the original graphics core. This cannot lower the manufacturing cost of the chip since the die is manufactured in maximum configuration anyway. Partially defective chips can also be utilized, but this won’t be profitable if the chip yield is high.
We have written all this in our GeForce GTX 465 preview and can only add that the current problems with GF100 production play into Nvidia’s hands in some way. Considering how complex that graphics core is, there is a high chance that a large share of defective cores are able to work if one or a few stream multiprocessors are disabled in them. Of course, such cores should be used for GeForce GTX 470 or, in case of serious defects, for GeForce GTX 465 rather than got rid of as waste. Selling the junior GeForce GTX 400 series products brings some profit to Nvidia after all.
However, you cannot cut the GPU configuration down too much because the end product may come out too slow to be priced at a profitable level. We have some reasons to think that Nvidia inadvertently stumbled into this kind of a pitfall with the GeForce GTX 465. While the GeForce GTX 470, despite having a cut-down GPU, is a competitive solution, our preview of the GeForce GTX 465 showed that its performance was not up to its pricing in some games. Officially priced at $279, the GeForce GTX 465 is supposed to compete with the Radeon HD 5850 which is $20 more expensive but also much faster. We also found the GeForce GTX 465 to be inferior in some situations to its predecessors, even to the mainstream GeForce GTX 275 which had been priced at $229-249 at the moment of its own announcement.
Lower performance at a higher price is not what Nvidia fans expected and the advanced capabilities of the new graphics architecture cannot make up for the sheer lack of speed. But we must also admit that we previewed the card using the older version of the driver whereas optimized drivers are known to be just as important as good hardware. A GPU developer can achieve a performance boost of 15-20% and higher by just optimizing the graphics driver, so we want to give the GeForce GTX 465 another chance today, on the day of its official announcement. Backed up by the new driver, the card may prove competitive in its price category of $279-299 after all. Our tests will show.