NVIDIA's New Maxwell GPUs Sip Power While Threatening AMD

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About two years after launching its first GPUs based on the Kepler architecture, NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA  ) has revealed the first products built on the company's new architecture, Maxwell. Maxwell is the first architecture for NVIDIA that started out as a mobile-first design, a shift from starting with high-powered desktop GPUs and scaling down. The results from initial benchmarks for the first two Maxwell GPUs show that the company has made incredible progress increasing the energy efficiency of its GPUs. Competitor AMD's (NASDAQ: AMD  ) products look power-hungry in comparison, and Maxwell poses a significant threat to AMD's graphics business.

A look at Maxwell

GTX 750 Ti. Source: NVIDIA

The two Maxwell GPUs released by NVIDIA, the GTX 750 and the GTX 750 Ti, are mid-range desktop cards priced at $119 and $149, respectively. In terms of performance, these cards don't offer much of a boost compared to NVIDIA's Kepler-based cards launched at the same price, and in fact AMD's cards still outperform NVIDIA at this price range. The real story here is power consumption.

Compared to AMD's R9 270, which launched with an MSRP of $179, NVIDIA's new cards practically sip power. While idle, the R9 270 uses nearly 50% more power than the GTX 750 Ti, while under load the difference falls to 42%. While AMD's card provides greater performance, NVIDIA's performance per watt is unmatched.

It should be noted that retail prices of many of AMD's GPUs are currently inflated due to high demand from cryptocurrency miners. At the current prices, NVIDIA's new GPUs are lot more competitive from a performance-per-dollar perspective. This high non-gaming demand for AMD's GPUs was likely partially responsible for NVIDIA's recent blockbuster quarter, when sales of GTX GPUs jumped by 50% year over year.

What this means for NVIDIA
These first two cards from NVIDIA, while less powerful than similarly price cards from AMD, are perfect for any application where power consumption and heat matter. Home theater PCs, game consoles, Steam Machines, and mini-desktops are good examples, and the huge leap forward in terms of performance per watt from Maxwell gives NVIDIA the most attractive product for these types of applications.

Going beyond these two launch cards, the lower power consumption will allow NVIDIA's eventual high-end Maxwell GPUs to squeeze out more performance, while using the same amount of power as AMD's high-end cards. Couple that with the price inflation going on with AMD's cards right now, and NVIDIA could win even more market share among PC gamers.

NVIDIA has seen its revenue from notebook GPUs decline as of late, with both the PC market contracting and Intel ramping up its graphics efforts. With notebooks getting thinner and lighter, battery life is a big concern, and power-hungry graphics cards have no place. But Maxwell will allow NVIDIA to compete against integrated graphics in terms of energy  efficiency, while providing greater graphics performance in the process. This could help revive NVIDIA's notebook GPU business and prevent Intel from dominating the space.

What this means for AMD
Given that AMD launched a new line of GPUs at the end of last year, a new architecture likely won't be coming for quite some time. When NVIDIA launches high-end cards based on Maxwell, presumably later this year, AMD likely won't have an answer, and if prices are still inflated due to cryptocurrency miners, NVIDIA will be the only real option for gamers.

AMD, which has split its attention between its CPU business, GPU business, and semi-custom deals like the PS4 and Xbox One, is running the risk of falling far enough behind NVIDIA that the lead becomes insurmountable. The GTX 750 Ti appears to be more powerful than AMD's GPU in the Xbox One, with NVIDIA's card able to play soon-to-be-released Titanfall at a higher resolution than the Xbox One is capable of doing. And it does so while using little power and retailing for just $149.

TitanFall. Source: Respawn Entertainment

Maxwell spells trouble for AMD's graphics business, plain and simple.

The bottom line
NVIDIA's Maxwell graphics architecture is impressive, not for the performance gains that it brings, but for the extreme energy efficiency. Small form factors, where power usage and heat are important, will likely be dominated by NVIDIA going forward, and if Steam Machines ever catch on, you can expect most of them to be powered by NVIDIA. At the high-end, NVIDIA is benefiting from the price inflation of AMD's GPUs, and the company is likely stealing away gamers because of it. Maxwell allows NVIDIA to deliver high-quality graphics in any form factor, and that will be a big advantage going forward.

Don't stop there
NVIDIA's Maxwell benefits the company's PC business as well as its efforts to get its chips inside of tablets and smartphones. But truth be told, one company sits at the crossroads of smartphone technology as we know it. It's not your typical household name, either. In fact, you've probably never even heard of it! But it stands to reap massive profits NO MATTER WHO ultimately wins the smartphone war. To find out what it is, click here to access the "One Stock You Must Buy Before the iPhone-Android War Escalates Any Further..."

Read/Post Comments (7) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2014, at 11:52 AM, KenLuskin wrote:

    Poor Timmy.... The GPUs you are discussing go into DESKTOPS!

    They are ADD in BOARDS... mostly bought by individuals who want better GAMING performance.

    POWER use in Desktops is NOT a factor!!!

    In Desktops decisions are made based upon PERFORMANCE only!!

    How is it you can continually write about things that you know NOTHING about????

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2014, at 12:31 PM, KenLuskin wrote:


    The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti and GTX 750 Review: Maxwell Makes Its Move

    by Ryan Smith & Ganesh T S on February 18, 2014 9:00 AM EST

    >>>But on a competitive basis things are not so solidly in NVIDIA’s favor.<<<

    >>>In this case NVIDIA has purposely chosen to forgo chasing AMD for the price/performance lead, and as such for the price the GeForce GTX 750 cards are the weaker products<<<

    >>>Radeon R7 265 holds a particularly large 19% lead over GTX 750 Ti, and in fact wins at every single benchmark. Similarly, Radeon R7 260X averages a 10% lead over GTX 750, and it does so while having 2GB of VRAM to GTX 750’s 1GB.<<<

    >>>On a pure price/performance basis, the GTX 750 series is not competitive. If you’re in the sub-$150 market and looking solely at performance, the Radeon R7 260 series will be the way to go.<<<

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2014, at 3:47 PM, TEBuddy wrote:

    And oh by the way genius......AMD just launched a new Hawaii architecture at the high end. It is still GCN, but GCN 2.0 basically and all of the lower end are refreshed Sea-Islands from 2 years ago. Soooooo, when AMD releases new lower end based on Hawaii their performance per watt is likely to improve. Especially is they do it on 20nm for the low to mid cards.

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2014, at 5:32 AM, rav55 wrote:

    What a marroon! What an ignoranimous.

    These FOOL HACK writers are now making stuff up. They are DESPERATE!!!!

    Where is Assraff? How come he didn't write this? This is right up his alley? Lies and innuendo, hyperbole and yellow journalism.

    Thsi articla is almost as stupid as the Forbes artical about how nVidia is going to take the Crypto-currency mining crowd?

    Forts they write stories about how mining is going to destroy AMD's business then they are writing stories about how nVidia is going to "win the crown."

    This bullsyte just disgusts me.

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2014, at 5:36 AM, rav55 wrote:

    @Timothy Green

    "The GTX 750 Ti appears to be more powerful than AMD's GPU in the Xbox One,"

    Are you a complete idiot Green?

    GTX 750 Ti IS more powerfull it is a discete graphics silicon and costs about 5x as much as Jaguar. It had better be more powerfull.

    You are such an idiot why did the editors even allow this tripe to be written?

    Go back to analysing consumer cleaning products or better yet feminine hygiene products.

    You have risen to the level of your incompetence.

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2014, at 6:23 PM, DesrtEagl wrote:

    I have a Desktop I built recently , I figured to go the route of not having to upgrade every year . The only thing I am looking to improve is my "Graphics Quality" you can have performance but without quality on a 32 inch HDMI 1080p monitor its no fun. I currently am running a ASRock Z77 Extreme 6 , with the i7 - 3770K Intel Processor , An Antec 1200 watt power supply , an Antec 1200 Case (full tower I like lots of room) , a SoundBlaster X-Fi Elite pro Sound system with the Enspire 5.1 surround sound speakers , and 2 , Palit GeForce GTX570 Sonic Platinum , set SLi , I am really pleased with the build I have done , but I am looking to Improve the graphics , the higher the better. if you have the quality it stands to reason you have the performance . It gets irritating to hear nothing but performance and Frames per Second when anything over 60 is something the human eye cannot see . The Quality is for me the key , If I could get a series of Reviews on who has the absolute mind blowing Best Graphics Available , to me that would be a whole lot more interesting and something to look to buy into.

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2014, at 6:24 PM, DesrtEagl wrote:

    Sorry I forgot to mention the build has 32 Gig Ram

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