Review: One of the fastest single GPU cards
The Geforce GTX 285 is the most powerful single GPU card, and EVGA‘s GTX 285 SSC (Super Super Clocked) is already established among the top GTX 285 graphics cards (only the recently announced EVGA GTX 285 FTW ends up faster). The card’s clocks are much higher than reference, resulting in better performance of course, but it also comes at a high price.
You can always find cards cheaper than EVGA’s top models, but don’t expect them to match EVGA performance or warranty. The best, crème of the crop chips are chosen to run SSC cards, and these cards run at higher speeds and end up having a longer life than other cards overclocked to these speeds. Still, we don’t expect you to simply take our word for it, so we’ll move on and see what EVGA GTX 285 SSC has got to offer.
You might’ve been expecting a different cooler design, but EVGA followed the “If it ain’t broken, it doesn’t need fixing” rule. The reference cooling performs well and isn’t too loud, so EVGA decided to keep it. It’s a dual slot design covering the entire face of the card, together with the fan underneath that pushes the hot air out of the case. Such a scenario is always nice, as it prevents other internal components from overheating.
Looks-wise, EVGA GTX SSC isn’t any different from the rest of the GTX 285 pack, but after all – it’s the speed that sets it apart. EVGA GTX 285 SSC runs at 702MHz GPU whereas the reference card (picture below) runs at 648MHz.
In case you didn’t know, GTX 285 is basically a refresh of the GTX 280. The GT200 GPU, used on both cards, has transitioned from 65nm (GTX 280) to 55nm (GTX 285). There’re still 240 shaders, 32 ROPs and the rest of the specs are left unchanged. However, the speeds have been changed, and it resulted in a GTX 285 rename. Since the GPU and the memory got a boost, it’s clear from the start that the GTX 285 is faster than GTX 280.
Compared to GTX 280, the new card is more efficient as it consumes less energy and at the same time offers better performance. All chip and transistor manufacturers strive towards shrinking components, as it results in cooler operation, lower consumption and overall less material needed in manufacturing. Nvidia has, just like ATI, transitioned to the 55nm process, and the logical next step would be 40nm.
The GTX 285/280 packs 1024MB of memory running at 1242 (GTX 285 – effectively 2484MHz) and 1107MHz (GTX 280 – effectively 2214MHz). The following two pictures show the most important characteristics of GTX 280 and GTX 285 cards, and we see that the new reference card’s shaders run at 1476MHz. This, however, is not the case with EVGA’s SSC card as its shaders got a boost and now run at 1584MHz.
The GDDR3 memory with 512bit memory interface is still used. The difference in bandwidth and data processing power is a direct result of overclocking the new 55nm GT200 core.
EVGA GTX 285 runs at high 702MHz, but it comes as no surprise, especially knowing that the old GTX could’ve easily been pushed to run at 700MHz. The new chip results in easier overclocking to these speeds at a lower power expense.
Due to lower power consumption, 53W lower than the old GTX 280 in best case scenario, the card requires only two 6pin power connectors. The GTX 280 is powered via a one 6pin and one 8pin PCI Express power connector.
The power connectors are located at the same spot as on the GTX 280. It’s a modern standard for high end cards to require more than 75W that PCI-Express slot provides, and Nvidia says that this card’s maximum TDP is 183W. Next to the power connectors is the SPDIF-In connector that you’ll need in order to bring the sound to the card. In case you want to route both audio and video to your TV via a single HDMI cable, you’ll need to use this. HDMI is supported but you’ll need to use a DVI-to-HDMI dongle.
We see that the far end of the card features small vents that let air in for power components in that part of the card. The fan is angled in order to blow air directly towards the GPU. The design is efficient and looks nice.
Apart from standard SLI, GTX 280/285 and GTX 260 cards offer three-way SLI support. This means that if your budget supports it, you can treat yourself to three identical cards and treat yourself to some serious three-way gaming goodness. Of course, for such a feat you’ll need a special SLI connector usually provided with motherboards supporting this feature.
The outs feature two dual-link DVI outs and a TV-Out.
A DVI-to-HDMI converter enables you to connect it to HDMI compatible devices.
If you’re an early adopter and don’t like waiting for your card to get outdated, EVGA’s 90 day “Step-Up” program lets you swap your existing EVGA card for a new one, after paying the price difference of course.
Unlike the GTX 280, which features 8 memory chips per PCB side, the new GTX 285 has all 16 modules, 64MB each, on the side of the GPU. The card is 10.5’’ long.
This card also features PureVideo HD (video processing software that puts the GPU to use in HD decoding and playback tasks), CUDA and PhysX but not HybridSLI technology (that combined with an appropriate motherboard lets your card power down during non-demanding tasks, passing the task on to the motherboard’s integrated GPU - more here).
Of CUDA supported apps, we tried out the Badaboom video converter, which really puts the GPU’s muscle to good use while transcoding video formats. CPU-intensive operations that used to go on for hours are now, thanks to the GPU’s power, are down to just minutes. CUDA, or Compute Unified Device Architecture if you will, is an architecture that developers will find quite appealing as programming in high-level programming language C puts some serious parallel processing power at their disposal.
Gaming physics is not an easy task if you want it in realtime, but it’s getting increasingly easier to implement thanks to PhysX technology combined with Nvidia GPU processors. The most popular game supporting this technology is Mirror’s Edge, and you can find it here. EVGA promotes this game and provides a coupon, but only with certain GTX 260 graphics cards.