Nvidia's GT200 series has had quite a rough ride since its introduction several months ago. First of all, it failed to hold its ground against ATI's RV770-based products. The GTX 260 with 192 shaders was slower than an HD4870, while the GTX 280 couldn't match the performance of ATI's dual-GPU HD 4870 X2. Apart from less than stellar performance, there was the question of the rather high price. Just weeks after launch Nvidia dropped prices significantly, but a bitter taste still remained, especially if you were one of the early adopters.
In the meantime, some things have changed for the better. An improved version of the GTX260 was introduced, featuring 216 cores instead of 192 on the original design, and more importantly GT200 prices have dropped significantly and ATI's price/performance lead has been compromised. The latest good news for Nvidia comes in the form of a driver, the 180.47, and this is what we'll be playing around with today.
In part two of our review, we'll take a closer look at the performance increases over the previous driver versions, but today we're letting it loose against ATI, Gainward's HD 4870 Golden Sample with 1GB of memory to be exact. Nvidia's honor was defended by EVGA's overclocked GTX 260 Core 216 SSC and a reference card. It has to be said that Gainward's card is feature-packed compared to Nvidia's cards, as it boasts HDMI and DisplayPort. However, Gainward's card is also a bit pricier than a plain HD4870, but it's overclocked and features those useful connectors which are often forgotten for the sake of achieving a marginally lower retail price.
We tested the new driver with the hottest holiday games out there, at least according to Nvidia. The illustrious five are: FarCry 2, Dead Space, Fallout 3, Call of Duty World at War and Left 4 Dead. Unfortunately, we didn't manage to get a copy of Left 4 Dead in time for our test, but four games are more than enough to give us a clear picture of the performance boost provided by the new driver.
Motherboard: MSI P45D3 Platinum ( Provided by: MSI );
Processor: Intel Core 2 QX9770 Extreme edition at 3.6GHz ( Provided by: Intel );
Memory: Corsair Dominator 12800 7-7-7-24 ( Provided by: Corsair);
HDD: WD VelociRaptor 300G 10,000RPM ( Provided by: SmoothCreation );
Call of Duty: World at War
Company Of Heroes
World in Conflict
The holiday shopping spree hasn't started yet, and it seems Nvidia has done a good job getting ready for it. It stands quite a good chance of standing up to ATI in this market segment, thanks to 180.47 drivers which have significantly boosted the performance of GT 200 cards and some rather aggressive pricing on Nvidia's part.
Even with current pricing Nvidia stands a good chance against ATI, which wasn't the case just a couple of months ago. The cheapest GTX 260 cards with 216 cores sell for just under €230, while ATI's cheapest HD4870 sells for €199.
In all fairness, both are a good deal, but Nvidia just got a bit better and if it manages to cut prices soon, ATI will be in trouble. It's worth mentioning that ATI will have some new drivers of its own in the second week of December, but we are not sure if this driver can change the odds to Nvidia's advantage.