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.
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 );
EVGA GTX 260 Core 216 is only a couple of MHz faster than XFX’s card, so you’ll often see them switch positions on the ladder. These things happen during testing and you can never be 100% sure that you’ll get identical results. Both cards are quite fast, whereas Zotac GTX 260 closely follows. The only GTX 260 with 196 shaders is marked as such, whereas the rest GTX 260 cards in our testing are the latest versions with 216 shaders. It’s interesting to see that XFX GTX 260 Black Edition’s scores sometimes put it in GTX 280’s class.
3DMark 06 results are not quite actual indicators of the true punch that these cards pack, but it’s nice to see a more expensive GTX 280 card losing to XFX GTX 260 and the rest of turbo-competition.
Vantage Mark puts things in perspective. Geforce GTX 280 is, of course, the fastest card, but scores only 2-3% better than XFX GTX 260 Black Edition. XFX’s card managed to score up to 23% better compared to the old GTX with 192 shaders and up to 16% better results than reference GTX 216 Core.
GTX 280 is just as good as the overclocked GTX 260 cards, but XFX managed to outrun it in one instance. XFX scored 18% better than the old 192 Core and 13% than 216 Core.
Call of Duty - World at War
Almost all GTX 260 cards scored similarly, and not even GTX 280 managed to leave the pack significantly behind. XFX beat the old GTX 260 by 15%. Just like we mentioned in the beginning, additional shaders and overclocking made GTX 260 an unlikely contender to GTX 280’s throne. The same scenario happens in the following games.
Company of Heroes
World in Conflict
If you’re worried about consumption, XFX GTX 260 is definitely a better choice than GTX 280, as it consumes up to 34W less.
XFX GTX 260 Black Edition consumes less power than GTX 280; it nearly matches its performance and runs cooler all the time.
XFX really knows their stuff, and these guys overclocked the card so high that even GTX 280 can feel the ground shaking beneath its feet. Running at evil 666MHz, the card can take anything you throw at it and it beats the old GTX 260 with 192 shader processors by 20%.
The card comes with a gift game FarCry 2, a gift that anyone buying this graphics card will surely like. XFX stuck to reference cooling, but don’t worry, as the card runs quiet and cool. You’ll need two PCI Express power connectors to power this card, but that’s usual in this performance range. We’ve no other choice than to recommend this card to anyone, so that it can keep them warm through cold winter nights.