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Gigabyte GTX 260 (216SP) 896MB Super Overclock Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Gigabyte GTX 260 (216SP) 896MB Super Overclock Review




Manufacturer’s Product Page: Gigabyte GTX 260 SOC
Product Number: GV-N26SO-896I
Price: Approx $200USD / $220CAD
Warranty: 3-years



With several evolutions under its belt, Nvidia’s GTX 200-series cards have gradually moved from being expensive, overly power hungry products to more affordable and slightly more efficient through manufacturing revisions. While some people may call these cards a bit long in the tooth at this point, anyone will tell you that as an architecture matures and companies get a better handle on it, more and more variations of it are released. We have seen overclocked GTX 280, GTX 285 and GTX 260 cards aplenty in the past but that has all changed of late with more intricate cards being released. In the last few months new products like the ASUS GTX 285 Matrix and the more recent EVGA GTX 285 Classified have shown just how far companies have come in their customization of the 200-series. Today, Gigabyte adds their name to the growing list of companies that are pushing the limits of this current architecture.

Even though the name GTX 260 won’t exactly inspire awe in most jaded hardware enthusiasts, Gigabyte is endeavouring to keep the Nvidia fires burning with a new take on a tried, tested and true platform. Its name? The GTX 260 Super Overclock.

Gigabyte’s Super Overclock is the card that blows away all the stops when it comes to designing what is hoped will be the torch carrier for the entire GTX 260 lineup. Like many other current Gigabyte GPUs, this one makes use of the high quality components from the Ultra Durable Video initiative along with another interesting addition: a highly binned GPU. We will be going into more detail about Gigabyte’s custom binning process a little later but for now lets just say that it allows them to hand pick the GPU cores which are best suited for high clocks and better efficiency. This allows their Super Overclock card to sport the highest out of the box clock seeds of any GTX 260 currently on the market.

Naturally, you are all wondering about pricing and whether this card will ever become available at retail. According to Gigabyte, we should see the Super Overclock hit the same price point as the lowest-priced GTX 275 cards which are around $200USD or $220CAD. That isn’t a huge premium to pay when you remember most other GTX 260s go for around $175USD. Considering the binning process weeds out the majority of cores, the number of cards in the retail channel will never reach that of a stock card. That being said, we expect that retailers will receive their first batches at the beginning of October.

Granted, it is a little late in the game for this product but as a wise man once said: better late than never. If anything, the Gigabyte GTX 260 Super Overclock will add a new option for everyone in the market for a sub-$250 Nvidia card.


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SKYMTL

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A Look at the GPU Gauntlet & Ultra Durable VGA

Gigabyte GPU Gauntlet


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In the enthusiast and extreme overclocking community, hand-picking components which ensure the best possible overclock and durability are regular occurrences. World record holding overclockers can go through dozens of processors before they find the one that suits their needs. Graphics card manufacturers do the same thing when it comes to picking GPUs for their highly overclocked cards since they have to ensure the chips they use will run the specified clock frequencies. The rejected chips are usually used for reference-clocked products.

Gigabyte has taken things to the next level by running the cores through what they call the GPU Gauntlet before they are deemed acceptable for their Super Overclock cards. Due to the clock speeds these chips have to maintain, the binning process is really meant to find the diamonds in the rough. Here is how Gigabyte explains the way their binning system works:

Only the strongest processors survive the GPU Gauntlet.

First, our database analysis system evaluates the GPU core engine, shader engine, and
memory. If a processor doesn’t meet the pre-defined standard, it will not qualify for the Super
Overclock Series.

Then, our proprietary testing toolkit allows us to inspect and select the GPUs with the highest frequency. This program operates for 30 minutes and provides important data on the maximum overclocking ability compared to a stock GPU. Once the Super OC point has been determined, our engineers will boost the frequency to offer the highest factory default clock setting in the market.

Next, each Super Overclock Series GPU faces the Graphics benchmarks, Furmark and 3Dmark Vantage, to measure performance and stability under an intense graphics load. A GPU that passes this stage will perform at a lower temperature and fan speed compared to a standard GPU. By choosing the cream of the crop, we ensure rich rendering of intricate 3D scenes and realistic physical effects (water, gas, steam, fire, etc) for a lifelike gaming adventure.

Lastly, we test the power switching and stability. The GPUs with the best power efficiency and lowest power consumption are qualified for the Super Overclock Series. And we understand that premium graphics cards should not sound like a cement truck rolling down the freeway, so a large cooling fan provides for a quiet computing environment.

So the question remains…will your graphics card make it through the Gauntlet?



Ultra Durable VGA


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Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable VGA has been used for quite a while now and it involves a number of high-quality component choices which are made to increase efficiency, decrease temperatures and even have a positive effect on the overclocking potential of a GPU. Having a Gigabyte UDV card means that you are guaranteed the best possible component choices rather than bargain-basement components that some manufacturers use to cut costs.

(From Gigabyte)

2 oz Copper PCB

2 oz copper PCB board doubles the copper inner layer of PCB board and provides unrivaled performance compared with traditional 1 oz PCB board.


Tier 1 Samsung and Hynix Memory

Ultra Durable VGA promises 1st tier Samsung/Hynix memory built with 100% fully testing.


Japanese Solid Capacity

Solid capacitors contain a solid organic polymer, while electrolytic capacitors use a common liquid electrolyte. Our cards use Japanese solid capacitors made by leading Japanese manufactures and offer better electronic conductivity for unrivaled performance.


Ferrite Core (Met ) Chokes

Ferrite core chokes are comprised of a compound of iron-oxide whose properties hold energymuch longer than common iron-core chokes at high frequency. They are able to store energy longer and prevent rapid energy loss at high frequency.


Low RDS (on) MOSFET

Lower RDS (on) MOSFETs are specially designed to produce lower switching resistance for faster electric current charging and discharging.
 

SKYMTL

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Specifications / Packaging and Accessories

Specifications


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Gigabyte promises a lot with this card and judging by these somewhat ludicrous specifications, they seem to be more than set to deliver. Every clock speed on the Super Overclock edition is pushed to stratospheric levels when compared to a stock GTX 260 216 and it even seems to have enough gusto to eclipse a reference GTX 275. Granted, the 275’s additional shader cores will probably come into play in some benchmarks but as it stands, Gigabyte’s card has one of Nvidia’s top cards beat when it comes to pure clock speeds.

What impresses us the most is the memory speeds. Sure, that 104Mhz overclock on the core and the additional 224Mhz for the shaders are nothing to sneeze at but the extra 502Mhz on the memory is drool worthy.


Packaging and Accessories


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A limited edition card such as the GTX 260 Super Overclock deserves a unique package and that is just what Gigabyte has given it. They have moved away from their usual anime-oriented theme and used a predominantly black color scheme with a faintly holographic finish. Personally, I love the new look.

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On the back of the box there are some numbers that boast about what UDV technology is supposed to add to this card. Increased overclocking, higher efficiency and lower temperatures are sure tempting points but we will have to see if these claims are carried over into real-world differences.

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The exterior of the box is nothing more than a sleeve that covers an additional black package in which resides the card and all its accessories. Gigabyte is well known for giving their graphics cards copious amounts of protection and this one is no different with high density foam and an anti-static bag protecting its precious contents.

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The accessory packaging isn’t anything to write home about but it does have all the necessary extras which you would expect with a higher-end card. You get the usual DVI to VGA dongle and Molex to PCI-E adaptors but where this package differs is with the inclusion of an S/PDIF cable and a HDMI to DVI dongle.
 

SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the Gigabyte GTX 260 Super Overclock

A Closer Look at the Gigabyte GTX 260 Super Overclock


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Upon first glance, there is nothing to distinguish this highly overclocked product from all of the other GTX 260 cards on the market. The length remains the standard 9.5” and the only thing that really looks different is the blue PCB that comes with all Gigabyte graphics cards.

While we were a bit surprised that Gigabyte didn’t go with a custom cooler, it seems they have found that the reference heatsink is more than adequate for their sky-high clocks. It should be interesting to see if they needed higher fan speeds to compensate.

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The heatsink sticker repeats the motif found on the packaging and looks great with the black color of the heatsink shroud. Unfortunately, the blue PCB takes away the sinister good looks that could have been achieved with an all-black color palette.

Even though the higher clock speeds of this card will invariably require more power to be supplied, the usual two 6-pin PCI-E connectors are all that is required. Next to these is the S/PDIF header for high-def audio pass-through.

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The back of the card reveals that the PCB used is a custom Gigabyte affair which is par for the course considering they use a PCB with 2 ounces of copper added for additional thermal dissipation.

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The connector options Gigabyte serves up with this card are downright perfect. You get a HDMI connector, a VGA port for all you using older monitors and a DVI connector. This should mean that any monitor or TV can be driven from this card without the need of an adaptor. If you are using a pair of LCDs, Gigabyte includes the aforementioned HDMI to DVI adaptor.
 

SKYMTL

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Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup

Processor: Intel Core i7 920(ES) @ 4.0Ghz (Turbo Mode Enabled)
Memory: Corsair 3x2GB Dominator DDR3 1600Mhz
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Cooling: CoolIT Boreas mTEC + Scythe Fan Controller
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
Power Supply: Corsair HX1000W
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1


Graphics Cards:

Palit HD 4870X2
Gigabyte GTX 260 216 Super Overclock
EVGA GTX 285 (Stock)
GTX 275 896MB (Stock)
GTX 295 (Stock)
EVGA GTX 260 216 (Stock)


Drivers:

ATI 9.9 WHQL
Nvidia 190.62 WHQL


Applications Used:

Call of Duty: World at War
Call of Juarez II: Bound in Blood
Crysis: Warhead
Dawn of War II
Fallout 3
Far Cry 2
Left 4 Dead
Tom Clancy’s HawX


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 4 benchmark runs

All game-specific methodologies are explained above the graphs for each game
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Call of Duty: World at War

Call of Duty: World at War


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To benchmark this game, we played through 10 minutes of the third mission (Hard Landing) starting from when the player first enters the swamp, through the first bunker until the final push onto the airfield. This was benchmarked using FRAPS.


1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood


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CoJ is a bit of an oddity without any in-game AA options but nonetheless, it looks incredible. For this benchmark we used a 10 minute gameplay sequence which included panoramic views of a town and gun battles. FRAPS was used to record the framerates.

1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Crysis: Warhead (DX9)

Crysis: Warhead (DX9)


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To benchmark Warhead, we recorded a 5 minute timedemo on the Ice level which included ranged and hand to hand combat. The sequence was then played back using the Crysis Benchmarking Tool from HOC

1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Crysis: Warhead (DX10)

Crysis: Warhead (DX10)


HD4890-23.jpg

To benchmark Warhead, we recorded a 5 minute timedemo on the Ice level which included ranged and hand to hand combat. The sequence was then played back using the Crysis Benchmarking Tool from HOC

1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Dawn of War II

Dawn of War II


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Even though Dawn of War II has its own in-game benchmarking tool, we decided not to use it. Instead, we played through approximately 10 minutes of the final Sapce Marine mission “Last Stand” while recording framerates with FRAPS. With a massive amount of enemies rushing your position and additional troops deployed on your side, this mission features some of the largest battles in the single player game. In addition, since the Tyranid swarms appear at regular intervals, this mission is also perfect for comparison testing.

1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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