Since this spring, the performance crown has been in the hands of dual-chip cards. Last time around ATI managed to steal the performance crown with its dual RV770 55nm card, and the time has come for Nvidia to counter ATI with its dual-card.
Nvidia believed that a single monolithic GT200 65nm chip should be enough to beat the Radeon HD 4870 X2, and this time around, Nvidia was very wrong. A dual GT200 card was not planned at the beginning, but it was kept as a last resort option; it took Nvidia some six months to finish development of this card.
The card that we got for a preview today is the answer to Radeon HD 4870 X2 and it is called Geforce GTX 295. This is Nvidia's dual-chip card based on two new GT200b 55nm chips, but this time the chips are hybrid breed from a GTX 260 mother and GTX 280 father. (Sounds kind of sick-sub.ed.)
Nvidia continues making its dual-cards with its famous sandwich design, where two PCBs are placed at the ends of the card while the big cooler is in between them. The card is heavy, but lighter than a Geforce 9800 GX2 and it has a very interesting matte paint finish on the metal parts.
The card has two 8-pin and 6-pin Power connectors, and in the worst case scenario its maximal power consumption is 289W. This is slightly worse than ATI, but again, Nvidia claims that its average power consumption should be better than ATI's. Honestly, we don't make a big deal out of it, as long as the card is fast enough.
This dual-card has two new chips and both of them are manufactured at 55nm. It took Nvidia quite a long time to transition to 55nm with GT200 architecture, but at least they are there now. As this is a preview this means that the card will be properly launched and in sales at some point in January.
Both chips are clocked at 576MHz core, 1242MHz shader clock, while the memory runs at 1998 MHz. The card has a total of 1,792MB of memory, which means that each chip addresses 896MB of memory. It is easy to conclude that the card has a 448-bit memory interface and that one of the chip clusters is disabled.
The full GT200 chip can support 512-bit memory and total of 1024MB but this time, each chip behind the GTX 295 has 240 Shaders, or processor cores, as Nvidia calls them today. When you multiply this by two you get the final number of 480 Shaders. The total bandwidth of the card is 223.8 GB/s and the card has 56 ROPs (28 per core ) and 160 Texture filtering units.
The card has one big fan in the middle of the card and Nvidia claims that the GPU will be fine all the way up to 105 degrees Celsius, while if the temperature goes a tad over that, the GPU will drop its clock in order to save the chip. This is usually called throttling, but with such a cooler you're not likely to experience any throttling.
The card is naturally PCIe 2.0 and it comes with two DVI-I, both capable of supporting 2560x1600 and a single HDMI. The card is dual-slot, and this is something that you can expect from such a high performance part. The maximal board power is listed to 289W, and since this is a pre-production card, Nvidia asked us not to measure the real power consumption or the noise levels, but we can tell that the card can get a bit noisy in games.
Nvidia was also very strict and said that we could test four games of Nvidia's choosing and one game of our choice, simply as 180 drivers are still not polished for all the other games. The final driver should appear in January, at the same time the card becomes available. Without further ado, here are the scores.