Review: The 295+ beast is out
Our hardware testing always results in one winner, and this is surely a sad day for ATI since Nvidia takes the throne once again. These companies take pride in calling themselves the ones with the fastest card around, but we know that most of the dough they rake in comes from low-end and mainstream graphics cards. It’s a simple strategy – when a customer is to make a choice between two average low-end cards, they usually pick the company that has the fastest card in their offer. Nvidia is famous for being the fastest, and since they definitely insist on that more than ATI, they’re not planning on letting go. Well, GTX 295 is officially out today and it is set to dethrone ATI’s champion HD 4870 X2. Both cards in question are dual chip cards, so the time when single-chip cards held the throne is definitely a thing of the past.
Last year, we’ve seen the large GT200 chip ready to beat ATI’s RV770, the chip on ATI’s HD 4870. However, the optimism didn’t last long as dual chip RV770 card, named R700, managed to beat the GT280 (GT200 chip). Two small but high-clocked chips on HD 4870X2 (or R700) managed to beat the 65nm GT200, but Nvidia didn’t sit idle and transitioned to the 55nm process that resulted in cooler and cheaper processors. We have compliment Geforce GTX 295 as, although it’s a “sandwich design”, this card has unusually good thermal properties, not to mention the sheer muscle it packs under the hood.
So, GTX 295 is a dual chip card where a large cooler is placed in the middle, sandwiched between the two PCBs. The GPUs communicate via the bridge, implemented with SLI technology. GTX 295 looks quite appealing and it’s not very different looks-wise from other dual slot, single PCB cards.
EVGA sent us their version of the GTX 295, named GTX 295+ which suggests that it’s an overclocked edition. Seeing these cards already overclocked on launch-day paints the picture of just how determined Nvidia is in taking the throne back.
Both chips on the reference card run at 576MHz for the core and 1242MHz for the shaders whereas the memory runs at 1998MHz. The card packs 1792MB of memory in total, meaning that each chip addresses 896MB of memory. Such odd memory numbers mean that the card has 448bit memory interface and that one of the chip clusters is disabled. The chips on this card are somewhere in between the specs on GTX 280 and GTX 260, where Geforce GTX 295 retained the clocks and the memory from GTX 260, and the shader processors from GTX 280.
EVGA GTX 295+ runs at 594MHz, which is an overlock of only 18MHz or 3%, but our tests show that any overclocking on these cards will add to the performance. Shaders are overclocked by 54MHz and the memory by 27MHz compared to the reference GTX 295.
GT200 chip supports the 512bit memory interface and 1024MB of memory, but it wasn’t utilized to the max on the GTX 295. This time around, each chip in the GTX 295 has 240 shaders just like we’ve seen on the GTX 280, and when you multiply it by two you’ll get a total of 480. All the texture units were used; 80 of them per chip to be exact.
Furthermore, each chip on the GTX 295 has seven ROP and framebuffer partitions. Each ROP partition contains 4 ROP units, resulting in total of 56 ROP units on the card. At the same time, each of the seven ROP partitions is linked to the main memory via a 64bit link, which explains the 448 bit memory interface. The total card’s bandwidth is 223.8GB/s, whereas the EVGA’s card ends up with a bandwidth of 229,8GB/s.
Each framebuffer partition is connected to 128MB of memory, totaling to 896MB of memory per graphics processor. That means that GTX 295 has a total of 1792MB of GDDR3 memory. The next gen Nvidia GPUs, now known as GT212, will use GDDR5 memory, and if you’re wondering as to why they haven’t done that already, the answer is that GT200 memory controller doesn’t feature GDDR5 support.
GTX 295’s cooler has a job of cooling the two GPUs, that aren’t quite cool during operation. In order to solve thermal issues, Nvidia designed a new cooler that improves cooling by 46% compared to Geforce 9800 GX2, the company claims. The new heatsink and the fan have what it takes to dissipate more than 289W.
The cores face inwards touching the sandwiched cooler. The fan blows air towards the I/O panel, pushing the hot air out of the case and the rest trough the vents on the top of the card. It’s quite important that your case has an adequate airflow, in order to get rid of the hot air still lingering within the case.
The GPU on the card will run normally until it hits 105 degrees Celsius, but upon crossing that threshold, the GPU will immediately downclock in order to save the chip. This is called throttling, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll experience throttling with this cooler. The maximum temperature we measured during our gaming and testing was 85°C, which is better than HD 4870 X2 that goes over 92°C.
In order to lower the card’s consumption and temperatures when in idle mode, core and shader clocks are halved and the memory runs at mere 100MHz. Radeon HD 4870 X2 hits 64°C in idle mode, which is 16°C more than on GTX 295. The following picture is surely worth a thousand words, so see for yourself.
You might've noticed that the card comes in a black mesh-grill shell, that improves airflow. It also does a job of protecting the front of the card and it's made from metal that when touched, due to special Soft-touch paint, resembles rubber.
The PCB we see is almost identical to the one on the other side, the one not covered by the hood. The only difference is the SLI connector that's located on one side only and the HDMI and DVI outs that are located on different PCBs.
The card is of course PCIe 2.0 and it comes with two dual link DVIs, both supporting 2560x1600, and one HDMI port.
Maximum board power is listed at 289W, but our testing revealed that it consumes 20W less compared to HD 4870 X2. The card is powered via one 6 and one 8pin PCI-Express power connector, so we'd recommend a PSU rated at no less than 680W.
Just like all the newer Geforce cards, GTX 295 also comes with a SPDIF audio connector. EVGA also ships a cable you'll need to route sound from your motherboard/soundcard to the graphics card, resulting in HDMI cable carrying both the video and audio signal to your HD TV device.
This time around, Nvidia left enough space around the power connectors, unlike what we've seen on Geforce 9800 GX2 when we experienced problems when trying to connect the 8pin power connector. The gap was just too tight and Nvidia quickly blamed PSU manufacturers for not following standards.
EVGA tends to use same packaging on all cards, it's only the pictures that change, which isn't half bad if you ask us. It's nice and compact and we often find the fastest Nvidia's offerings inside, which alone is enough of a reason to grow fond of it.
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 );
This is the one of a few tests where HD 4870 X2 can beat the GTX 295.
Although HD 4870 X2 has the upper hand here, the "upper hand" accounts to only about 1% better performance. The two GTXs run on pare here.
Compared to the previous test, in Vantage is the GTX 295 undisputed king.
On high and performance settings, EVGA GTX 295+ shows some serious muscle and thrashes the HD 4870 X2 by 40% and 46%, whereas extreme settings see GTX 295+'s advantage duck to 28%. GTX 295+ beats the reference GTX 295 by 2% on high and performance settings and by 4% at extreme settings.
Far Cry 2 shows that all these cards are great for gaming at higher resolutions.
At 2560x1600 and no antialiasing, Radeon 4870 X2 makes up for previous low results and even snatches a pretty tight lead, but it loses by 19% after we turned on the filters. EVGA keeps up its 2% lead over the reference card, which concurs with EVGA's overclock of 3%.
Fallout 3 is limited by the platform we've used, and both cards scored almost identical results at all resolutions.
Left 4 Dead
EVGA GTX 295+ keeps its rightful lead, and although HD 4870 X2 bounces back occasionally, it's not enough to beat the new champ.
GTX 295 continues its spell of dominance in this test, but 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%.
This is the game where HD 4870 X2 takes the worst beating of all during our testing, ranging from EVGA's already impressive 58% advantage to almost unbelievable 78%.
At 1920x1200, EVGA's GTX 295+ humiliates the HD 4870 X2 by beating it by 58%, whereas the reference GTX 295 lags behind the EVGA's card by only 1%. AA doesn't change the scores, except for extending EVGA's lead over the reference card to 2%.
2560x1600 is a test that HD 4870 X2 will surely want to forget soon as it looses to EVGA's GTX 295+ by impressive 72%. Turning AA on decreases EVGA's advantage to 63% whereas the reference GTX 295 lags behind its overclocked version by 4% in both scenarios.
World in Conflict
World in Conflict isn't making things any easier for ATI, as GTX 295+ keeps marching on the throne.
At 1920x1200, 295 and 295+ run on par but beat the HD 4870 X2 by as much as 24%, and the margin stays the same after we turned on 4xAA and 16xAF filters. At 2560x1600, EVGA 295+ separates itself from the pack by beating the reference version by 5% and extends the lead over the HD 4870 X2 to 26%. The same scenario occurs when we turn on 4xAA and 16xAF, except that the reference GTX 295 narrows the performance gap to 2%.
Call od Duty - World at War
EVGA continues on its path beating both the reference GTX 295 card and the previous champ HD 4870 X2.
At 1920x1200, GTX 295+ beats the HD 4870 X2 by 11% and the reference GTX 295 card by 2%. At 1920x1200 4xAA / 16xAF EVGA extends the lead over both HD 4870 X2 and the reference GTX 295 by 19% and 4% respectively.
At 2560x1600, GTX 295+'s advantage ducks a bit and it beats HD 4870 X2 and the reference GTX 295 by 13% and 4% respectively, but if you think these results are working in EVGA's favor, then wait until you see what happens when we turned the filters on. 2560x1600 with 4xAA/16xAF results in EVGA's GTX 295+ literally trashing the HD 4870 X2 by 39% and extending the lead over the reference GTX 295 to 6%.
Nvidia should've improved performance on the highest tested resolution with AA, but that didn't happen with the driver we recieved for our testing. We're hoping that the next version will remedy that, but the Crysis Warhead performance bug that suddenly and significantly downgrades performance at 2560x1600 with AA on is thus unresolved as of yet.
However, although ATI has the upper hand here, it's still not enough fps for gaming.
It didn't take long for us to grow fond of the GTX 295, and no wonder. Although it's a dual PCB card featuring a "sandwich desing", the temperatures are good and it's not too loud. For those who crave gaming on 2560x1600 resolution - look no further, as this card packs enough punch to take it in stride, but lesser resolutions, of course, won't be a problem either as it leaves the competition behind by a hefty margin. Its top competitor is HD 4870 X2 that's priced lower and will also provide comfortable gaming of all the popular games.
Still, Nvidia's aces are Nvidia Geforce 3D Vision, PhysX and CUDA, and this card will definitely satisfy anyone's hunger. EVGA is the first company that offers an overclocked GTX 295, and we've seen that even the slightest overclock scales well to gaming performance. We've no other choice but to recommend this card as it is the current performance champ that brought the crown back to Nvidia.
EVGA is also the first to offer availability of these cards and we found them at Ditech Austria priced at €499. So, in closing, we had no choice but to reward this card with our Fudzilla Recommended award. And on that note, hurry up until the stocks last.
*We apologize for the 2008 logo, as our new 2009 logo is unfortunately still in the works.