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.
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 );
Far Cry 2
Performance in Crysis Warhead is affected by some sort of bug at highest resolution, but Nvidia claims it will fix it prior to launch. In Far Cry 2 at 1680x1050, Nvidia is 16 percent faster, while with AA it outruns ATI by 13 percent. At 1920x1200 the GTX is 7 percent faster than the Radeon, and the gap increases to 10 percent when you turn on AA. In 2560x1600, the GTX ends up 8 percent slower than Radeon HD4870 X2, but with AA the GTX 295 jumps back into the lead and ends up 16 percent faster.
In 1680x1050 the GTX 295 outperforms ATI by 45 percent, with 4xAA 8xAF the lead increase by 1 percent. In higher resolutions and with more effects, the gap closes, but Nvidia is still on top. At 1920x1200 it's 48.5 percent faster, but with AA and AF the difference drops to 30 percent. In 2560 the lead is 38 percent, but after we turned on AA and AF, it dropped to 18 percent below ATI.
Left 4 Dead
Although GTX 295 continues its spell of dominance in this test, too, we recorded the lowest performance difference at 1680x1500 and 4xAA 8xAF - only 0.5%. At 1920x1200 however, Nvidia again gains ground and beats ATI by 9%. At 2560x1600, the GTX 295 is faster by 4.5%, whereas turning on 4xAA and 8xAF results in GTX being faster by 18%.
Fallout 3 is limited by the platform we've used, and both cards scored almost identical results at all resolutions.
Call of Duty: World At War
At 1680x1050 and 4XAA 16xAF, GTX beats ATI by 12% and it seems Nvidia is just too strong for ATI, as 1920x1200 and 4xAA 16xAF results in Nvidia extending the lead to 14%. At 2560x1600, GTX leads by 8%, but after we turned 4xAA and 16xAF on, the performance difference soars to 31% in Nvidia's favor.
Overall, Nvidia did a good job with the GTX 295. The 55nm GT200 performs well and it's a step in the right direction. It's not very quiet, but not too loud, either, and the power consumption is high, but this is a top of the range card so power consumption is not a priority. However, this is not to say that it's the worst power-hog around, far from it, as it consumes less than HD 4870 X2 in both idle and workload scenarios, which is really impressive, especially after taking today's results into consideration.
Obviously, it has enough power to outperform the HD 4870 X2, but it's hard to make any sort of verdict before we see it in action with finalized drivers and, more importantly, before we see the retail price.
The price is what will make or break it. ATI's HD4870X2 sells for €400, and since a single GTX280 card currently costs over €335. We're not sure about GTX295 pricing, but we're hoping it will sell for around €500.
All in all, it seems like the "performance belt" is getting back to the green corner, but we'll still wait for the final version of this card before we reach our final verdict. However, Nvidia does have an ace up its sleeve for 2009, and you've guessed it, it's Physx.