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Review: €399 performance king, barely
Today we're looking at a green, Nvidia from Gainward, but this company isn't a stranger to ATI red either. A few days ago, Gainward publicly announced that they’ll be offering Radeon cards too. You can’t blame them for supporting both camps, especially knowing that the new Radeon 4800 series cards offer great value for money, and this is something that's always on consumers' minds. AMD is finally doing well in the graphics field and in this business it’s not a good idea to pass up an opportunity to rake in some dough. However, today we’re not talking about Gainward’s forbidden red fruit, but rather its Geforce GTX 280 PCI-E 1024MB DDR3 TV-OUT 2DVI.
Gainward’s card is a reference design, but this time they opted on a new blue sticker motif. That’s all they could do because Nvidia told their partners to strictly stick to reference cards for this launch. That resulted in an uninteresting launch where we’ve seen a bunch of identical GT200 cards – but where’s the fun in that? Overclocked cards are everywhere now, and a 700MHz is the Holy Grail when it comes overclocked GTX 280 cards.
The name of the card, GTX 280, reveals that this is the better one out of two GT200 GPUs, where the weaker version is called GTX 260.
GTX 280 packs no less than 240 shader processors, whereas the weaker card is, as usually, crippled version of the same card. This time GTX 260 ended up having 192 shader processors. Gainward offers both cards, but currently there’re no famous BLISS or GHL versions.
Gainwar GTX 280 runs at reference 602MHz and 1296MHz for shaders. The memory runs at 1107MHz (DDR 2214). GTX 280 features a frame buffer of 1GB of GDDR3 memory with 512bit memory bus. Unlike AMD, Nvidia didn’t opt for GDDR5 memory for their new high-end part, but simply upgraded to 512bit memory bus that doubled the memory bandwidth. AMD was temporarily troubled by insufficient quantities of GDDR5, that’s still an exotic item on the market.
The next page shows GT200 GPU dominating among the card’s components. The card features 16 memory modules in total, 512MB on the front and 512MB on the back of the card.
GTX 280 features the largest graphics processor ever. It’s built in 65nm and packs no less than 1400 million transistors. Nvidia is currently working on a 55nm chip, that’s supposed to be faster, but we won’t be seeing it in the following weeks. For now we’ve got a powerful but large chip, that looks big even compared to the DDR2 memory module.
Nvidia is trying to put GTX 200’s graphics processor to good use – whether it’s rendering games or any other task. We hear the term ‘beyond gaming’ more often these days, which means that, thanks to Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA) your graphics card can be used for so much more besides gaming. Using CUDA we communicate with the GPU that returns processed data, but this technology is still in its infancy, and it’s yet to prove itself to the world. One of the GTX200’s already usable features is PhysX. The physics we’ve seen on Ageia’s PhysiX cards is a force to be reckoned with so implementing it on graphics cards should take gaming to the next level.
Gainward GTX 280 has a reference dual-slot cooler that looks nice but runs quite loud. Still, that’s the same case as with all the reference GTX 280 cards, and you’ll see the GPU hitting 80 degrees Celsius. No need to worry though, your card is perfectly safe, but overclocking might prove to be a bit difficult.
You can see the memory we were talking about on the back. Everything is wrapped nice and tight.
As far as consumption goes, this chip still consumes much like the last G92 generation. The card is powered through one 6pin and one 8pin power connector, and it consumes 236W at max load. Of course, this is the worst case scenario, because apart from HybridPower technology that lets your integrated graphics core handle less-demanding graphics, this card can also turn off certain chip parts that are not in use at any given time. It also has dynamic frequency and voltage regulation, similar to Radeon cards.
In case you want to connect your TV or monitor directly to your PC, the I/O panel features two dual-link DVI outs that you can use to route sound and video for HDMI. Gainward included a DVI-to-HDMI dongle as well as an SPDIF cable for routing the sound from the motherboard/sound card to the graphics card.
Now a high-end card, such as GTX 280, can run in TriSLI mode, and the SLI connectors are placed behind rubber caps.
Compared to Radeon 4870 priced at around €230, GTX 280 PCI-E 1024MB DDR3 TV-OUT 2DVI is available at €470. This is the price we’ve seen prior to the latest price-cuts. If you recall, Nvidia decided to slash prices due to the increasing pressure. Fudo already found the cards that were affected, and now you can find a GTX 280 for €399.
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