Wednesday, August 13, 2008

EVGA GeForce GTX 280 1GB FTW Edition Review

1. Introduction
2. EVGA GTX280 FTW Edition Features
3. EVGA GTX280 FTW Edition Layout
4. EVGA GTX280 FTW Edition Bundle
5. Test Setup And Software
6. Overclocking And Gaming
7. 3DMark
8. DirectX 10
9. DirectX 9
10. PCMark Vantage
11. 3DMark Vantage
12. Conclusion


NVIDIA is on the warpath once again and like a rampant machine they keep making progress in the area of GPU technology pushing the envelope just a bit farther than previously attained. Fast video cards that push pixels and framerates beyond anything the competition can bring to the table has been NVIDIA’s claim to fame, and the new GTX 280 series once again validates that point.

When NVIDIA first announced we would see a new card just after seeing the latest release of the 9800GTX just a few months back I thought it was just going to be a little bump in the performance and rumor had it around the globe that the new 9900GTX was coming to town. I held out on posting that rumor as
I was specifically told that a new chipset was coming, but that the nomenclature of 9900 was not it.

The birth of the new GT200 chipset was the only truth in that rumor.

EVGA GTX280 FTW Edition Features.

The new GTX280 is something that very much surprised me in how well it was supposed to work and my first impressions were very positive to say the least. EVGA was kind enough to provide us their FTW Edition of their GTX280 series and it is clocked much higher than the reference edition offering superior performance and faster gaming framerates than ever seen before. EVGA is known for their overclocking abilities in both the VGA and motherboard market and have many NVIDIA based products that have won the hearts of PC enthusiasts across the globe. NVIDIA is becoming more and more aggressive in their chipset development and are putting Moore’s Law to the test by releasing new technology with shorter and shorter time delays between releases. This card has less hype and more meat than any release yet and was kept under tight wraps until a few days before its release, let’s see how fast this new overclocked FTW Edition card really is and what it’s made up of.

EVGA GTX280 FTW Edition Features.

NVIDIA calls the GTX280 their 2nd generation Unified Shading architecture, and as such this new card has a lot of new enhancements to things like General Purpose Graphics Processing Unit (GPGPU), which is using the graphics chip to process mathematical equations and other things than just gaming alone. The GTX 280 is based upon TSMC’s 65 nanometer process with 1.4 Billion transistors. This is in fact the first card to feature over a billion transistors from either ATI or NVIDIA. The new card has 240 Stream Processor cores based of the new GT200 Chipset. Earlier NVIDIA cards like the 9800GTX had 128 SPs so this is nearly doubling the number of processor cores. Each group of 8 Stream Processors is grouped into a Shader Multiprocessor. Each group of 3 Shader Multiprocessors make up a Texture Processing Cluster. The GTX280 has a total of ten TPCs which comprise the sum total of 240 SPs.
NVIDIA says that game developers don’t need DirectX 10.1 as it is an incremental upgrade from 10.0. Therefore they state that they didn’t make the GeForce GTX280 fully DirectX 10.1 compliant. Truthfully, at this moment there are no DirectX 10.1 games available except Assassin’s Creed and the developers took support for it out in the first patch. The GeForce GTX280 supports all of the features of DirectX 10.0, including Pixel Shader 4.0, Vertex Shader 4.0 and the Geometry Shader. NVIDIA says that they improved the Geometry Shading with the GTX280 and there are other architectural improvements as well bringing performance up on the new card. Below is a short evolutionary chart of the advancement of the NVIDIA VGA chipset.

The GeForce GTX 280 is designed to be both a computing processor and a graphics processor. The CPU of a system and GPU have been converging in terms of their features and flexibility as of late. Intel will launch their own graphics architecture next year based upon their multi-core CPUs in some part, presently code name Larrabee. NVIDIA is heading towards making the graphics processor more flexible and programmable heading towards making the CPU less and less important in the overall graphic equation. EVGA clocks their FTA version of the GTX 280 at an impressive 670MHz, a full 68MHz higher than the reference clock of 602MHz like the default clocked cards that will emerge onto the market. This gives the EVGA GTX280 a pixel fillrate of 21.4 Gigapixels a second and a texture fillrate of 53.6 Gigatexels a second. The EVGA graphics card is capable of over 1 TeraFlop of floating point operations a second, the first available graphics card with this capability enabled. That is an impressive fact just in itself kind of like breaking another sound barrier only quieter.
The memory clock on the EVGA card is 1215MHz. The reference clock on the standard GTX280 is 1100MHz, meaning that the memory clock is much higher than NVIDIA’s and other reference cards will be. NVIDIA’s GTX280 has a 512-bit memory interface, which is a jump from the 256-bit interface on the 9800GTX and a jump from the 384-bit interface of the original GeForce 8800GTX card launched in 2006. ATI is using GDDR5 memory with their next generation cards but on a 256-bit bus, meaning that the memory bandwidth will be more or less equal this generation. NVIDIA is really pushing physics processing with the GeForce GTX280 and GTX260 graphics chips. NVIDIA bought Ageia makers of the PhysX PPU (Physics Processing Unit) four short months ago. With the GeForce GTX280 launch they are pushing the fact that the GeForce GTX280 will be able to run PhysX software with a driver scheduled for a few short weeks from now. PhysX is used by every major platform (PC, Wii, X360, PS3) and upcoming games will allow wonderful effects like flags waving in the wind that have a more natural and realistic look to them. A good 20’’ through 28”” monitor will be the perfect matchup to this card as it is intended for high-resolution gaming that a 19’’ or smaller monitor just plainly cannot support

EVGA GTX280 FTW Edition Layout.

The EVGA GTX 280 FTW card is similar in most respects to the NVIDIA reference card as far as looks go with the main difference being the card art from EVGA. The cooler is a 2-slot cooler with EVGA’s logo and the GTX logo prominent on the front side of the card. The fan itself is a 53-fin fan that covers the rear of the PCB to keep the capacitors cool. I am sure many aftermarket liquid cooler guru’s will have liquid coolers available for these cards in the near future.

The rear of the PCB has a vent that allows airflow from the rear of the card to cool the chip on the front. This is the first time an NVIDIA video chip has cooling on the rear of the PCB as well as the front. It’s interesting to note that the EVGA card follows the NVIDIA reference design exactly with only the paint job being different from an outside view. The overclocking is the backbone of the FTW series of cards not the artwork. Almost every NVIDIA partner will adopt to us the NVIDIA reference design as it is the fastest way to market.

There are two bridges for SLI connectivity on the top left hand portion of the PCB. This means that the GTX280 will be able to run in Tri-SLI mode as well as regular two card SLI mode. Tri-SLI requires three GTX280 cards and two bridges or a Tri-SLI bridge connector. It also requires a hefty power supply, as a single GTX280 requires a maximum of 236W of power and three would require 678W of power by themselves. NVIDIA will list compatible tested motherboards after launch and I am sure there will be many motherboards supporting this new series of cards as they get qualified.

The GTX280 is a PCI Express Generation 2.0 card. This means that the data transfer rate between the GTX280 and the motherboard is up to 8GB/second, twice that of PCI Express Generation 1.0. Note that the GTX280 is a long card being 10.5” long and weighs a decent amount as well. If you have a case that has trouble fitting long cards, you may need to upgrade the case to allow for the GTX280. The GTX280 has two Dual Link DVI connectors on the IO and a HDTV Output port. Dual monitors can be accomplished by using the two ports or using adapters such as DVI-to D-sub adapters or HDMI to DVI adapters. The GTX280 is capable of running HD-DVD content or Blue Ray Disc content with HDCP protection and the HDTV out can be used in conjunction with HDTV monitors.

EVGA GTX280 FTW Edition Bundle.

All the basics are included in the box that are needed to get up and going minus your PC with the appropriate PSU. EVGA has not given a game in quite awhile and that is a bit of a bummer, but their products are top-notch so to some a free game may mean nothing, to others it may mean a lot. All the proper cables, manuals, driver CD and adapters are in the box. You may still want to take a web trip over to NVIDIA’s website to get the latest BIOS and drivers available as they change pretty fast, especially in light of a new card release.

Test Setup And Software.

Test System.
· XFX GeForce GTX280 running 177.34 drivers default clock speeds
· EVGA e-GeForce GTX280 FTX Edition
· 2GB Crucial Tracer DDR3-2000 running@2000MHz
· EVGA nForce 790i Ultra SLI motherboard running 9.64 Forceware
· 2 WD Raptor SATA 74GB 10000 RPM SATA drives
· Antec Quattro 1000 PSU

Test Software.

DirectX 9.0C.

· 3DMark05/06 1280x1024, 1920x1200 no AA no AF
· COD4 Modern Warfare 1280x1024, 1920x1200 4x AA 16x AF Custom FRAPS walkthrough
· UT3 1280X1024, 1920X1200 4x AA 16x AF Custom FRAPS walkthrough
· SpecViewPerf 10
· PCMark05
· PCMark Vantage

DirectX 10.0.

· Crysis 1280x1024, 1680x1050 4x AA 16x AF Custom FRAPS Walkthrough
· Bioshock 1280x1024, 1920x1200 4x AA 16x AF Custom FRAPS Walkthrough
· 3DMark Vantage 1280x1024, 1920x1200 no AA no AF, GPU score performance preset

Overclocking And Gaming.

Overclocking results on this card were not the greatest as this card is already pushed way beyond spec as is and the FTW version comes overclocked right out of the box anyways and we had a severe time limitation until publication. There is not a game available currently on the market that can daunt the GTX280, it just spits out major pixel muscle and framerates at excellent speeds.
Even at resolutions of 1920X1200(WS) every game we played on the new EVGA GTX280 FTW Edition was able to be run with all features set to their maximum game capabilities, and without any performance hits at all, all framerates remained at a constant 80 or above, yes even Crysis the doomsayer of bad VGA performance could not hinder the performance power of this card. It is a gamers dream card come to life in this time frame.


DirectX 10.

DirectX 9.

PCMark Vantage.

3DMark Vantage.


Wow, there is fast and then there is faster and then there’s the fastest. The new EVGA GTX208 FTW Edition VGA card is the fastest single card solution we have ever had to grace our labs period; it’s as fast as an entry level 9800GX2 and faster than dual 9800GTX’s running in an SLI configuration. Usually with a release that comes so soon after a previous release you see just slight improvements in performance over its predecessor, but the GTX280 release brings over double the power of the 9800GTX. EVGA has also taken an already fast chipset and pumped up the volume by way of their FTW overclocked Edition, which just blazes a trail of pixel pumped framerates. And with EVGAs new overclocking tool called Precision you can push that little old GTX card just a wee-bit further lads.
There is no doubt that this card is going to sell well on the market and evens ATIs new 4000 series cards will be hard put to beat the performance of the new GTX280 series cards. Most retailers and e-tailors should have stock available for purchase as early as tomorrow, but they are going to sell out like pancakes to a starving audience with all the raving reviews surrounding them. If you already own an EVGA VGA card you can take advantage of their ongoing upgrade program and save yourself some cash with a trade-in. EVGA also has an excellent warranty program that is second to none and many users find buying comfort with that knowledge in hand as it adds another dimension to the final purchase choice. Like always with the luxury of the best comes the best price-tag and the new EVGA GTX280 FTW Edition is not for the meek of cash as it comes with a cost allotment of $650-680 American presidents to get your hands on one. There is no doubt that this is a serious Editors Choice Award product as it just plain kicks major pixel pumping ass and can even tame resource greedy games like Crysis. Its new, it’s fast and it’s here folks the GTX280 is the fastest single slot solution video card on planet Earth!
Thanks to Evga for this Fantastic product.
Till Next time....

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