Review: Breathing down GTX 280’s neck
Today we bring you the full review on the latest Geforce GTX 260 with 216 shaders. We've so far discovered that this card clearly has the upper hand when compared to HD 4870 1GB, but we've also seen how the new drivers significantly improve its performance (here). Many Nvidia's partners jumped at the opportunity to overclock GT200 core on GTX 260 cards, which are reinforced with some additional shaders.
XFX named the card “Black Edition,” something they do with the crème of the crop cards, and it’s our privilege to put it through its paces today for your reading pleasure. Besides the sheer strength that this card packs, you’ll surely like the gift game that XFX ships with this card - FarCry 2. Looks-wise, you can’t tell GTX 260 cards apart, since they all feature reference cooling, which in this case does a good job.
Black Edition is, of course, black, and looks quite nice, but we prefer what’s hidden under the hood. GTX 260 will let you play any games without thinking about dreaded recommended and minimum requirements, and the fact that Nvidia recommends this card as the best one for playing this year’s games speaks for itself. Of course, there are better cards like HD 4870 X2 or GTX 280, but price-wise, GTX 260 is much closer to the consumer market. With 896MB of GDDR3 memory, which is in this case overclocked by 300MHz over reference 2000MHz, you can be sure that memory won’t be a bottleneck. Memory bus is 448-bit, which results in 128.8GB/s bandwidth.
The core runs at 666MHz and the shaders at 1404MHz. These are quite high figures and they even allow XFX Black Edition card to run on par with reference GTX 280 at times.
GPU-Z reads that XFX’s card has 216 shaders, meaning it’s a newer and stronger GTX 260 model. GTX 200 series has 10 shader clusters (24 shaders each), totaling in 240 shader processors; GTX 280 utilizes them all and it’s currently Nvidia’s top card. The first GTX 260 model, on the other hand, features 8 shader clusters with 192 shaders, whereas the latest GTX 260 comes with 9 shader clusters, meaning 24 additional shader processors. By enabling the additional cluster on the GTX 260, Nvidia managed to ensure that this card will walk away a winner from a duel with HD 4870.
Reference core and memory speeds for both GTX 260 cards are left unchanged – 576MHz for the GPU and 999MHz for the memory. Of course, XFX isn’t the one to stick with reference speeds and today’s card is truly a treat.
Powering the Geforce GTX 260 is done via two 6-pin PCI Express connectors. The I/O panel features two dual-link DVI outs, which come with HDCP and can be used as HSMI outs if an adequate adapter is used. You’ll get the aforementioned adapter in the box together with the SPDIF cable, which you’ll be using to bring audio together with video to your HD TV using just one cable. One end of the cable plugs into the graphics card (the connector is next to the power connectors) whereas the other end goes into the SPDIF out on your motherboard.
The box is painted black to go with the name, and if you look closer you’ll see small FarCry2 and 666MHz stickers saying that you’ll get a great gift and a speed-demon card – all in one package.