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

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Fallout 3

Fallout 3


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For these Fallout 3 benchmarks we decided to use one of the more graphically intensive portions of the game: a gameplay session which starts at the exit from Vault 101, through Springvale, over a small hill towards Washington and then back towards Megaton. Within this session two ants were fought near Springvale. All in all, the gameplay time is about 6 minutes.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Far Cry 2 (DX9)

Far Cry 2 (DX9)


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Even though Far Cry 2 has its own built-in benchmarking tool with some flythroughs and “action scenes”, we decided to record our own timedemo consisting of about 7 minutes of game time. It involves everything from run-and-gun fights to fire effects. The built-in benchmarking too was then set up to replay the timedemo and record framerates

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
Far Cry 2 (DX10)

Far Cry 2 (DX10)


HD4890-24.jpg

Even though Far Cry 2 has its own built-in benchmarking tool with some flythroughs and “action scenes”, we decided to record our own timedemo consisting of about 7 minutes of game time. It involves everything from run-and-gun fights to fire effects. The built-in benchmarking too was then set up to replay the timedemo and record framerates

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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
12,840
Location
Montreal
Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead


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For benching Left 4 Dead, we used a pre-recorded 5 minute timedemo taken on the No Mercy campaign during The Rooftop Finale mission. Framerates were captured with FRAPS.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Tom Clancy’s Hawx (DX9)

Tom Clancy’s Hawx (DX9)


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Even though HawX has a built-in benchmarking tool, we found that it did not provide accurate enough results needed to reflect what actual in-game performance would be. Thus, we played through the first 6 minutes of a mission and recorded the results with FRAPS.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
12,840
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Tom Clancy’s Hawx (DX10 / 10.1)

Tom Clancy’s Hawx (DX10 / 10.1)


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Even though HawX has a built-in benchmarking tool, we found that it did not provide accurate enough results needed to reflect what actual in-game performance would be. Thus, we played through the first 6 minutes of a mission and recorded the results with FRAPS. All ATI cards have DX10.1 enabled.

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SKYMTL

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Extreme IQ Settings Testing

Extreme IQ Settings Testing


In this section we take a number of games we have tested previously in this review and bring things to the next level with additional AA and / or higher detail settings. All other methodologies remain the same.

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SKYMTL

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Heat & Acoustics / Power Consumption

Heat & Acoustics


For all temperature testing, the cards were placed on an open test bench with a single 120mm 1200RPM fan placed ~8” away from the heatsink. The ambient temperature was kept at a constant 22°C (+/- 0.5°C). If the ambient temperatures rose above 23°C at any time throughout the test, all benchmarking was stopped. For this test we use the 3DMark Batch Size test at it highest triangle count with 4xAA and 16xAF enabled and looped it for one hour to determine the peak load temperature as measured by GPU-Z.

For Idle tests, we let the system idle at the Vista desktop for 15 minutes and recorded the peak temperature.


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What we did here is a two step approach: first we tested at the Super Overclock’s default speeds and then underclocked the card to the same level as a reference card while fixing both cards’ fan speeds at 40%. This gave us an idea of how much more efficient the Gigabyte card is and it seems like UDV is more than just marketing speak. There is indeed a noticeable difference in load temperatures between the two cards with the Super Overclock coming out on top. However, it should be noted that this could be due to anything from different thermal compound applications to slight variances in the heatsink’s base.

Even at stock fan speeds, this card was remarkably quiet even though the heatsink had to cool down a highly overclocked core. Not once did the fan go above the 60% mark even though it was kept under load for an hour.

Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we once again use the Batch Render test in 3DMark06 and let it run for 30 minutes to determine the peak power consumption while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 30 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption. We have also included several other tests as well. Please note that after extensive testing, we have found that simply plugging in a power meter to a wall outlet or UPS will NOT give you accurate power consumption numbers due to slight changes in the input voltage. Thus we use a Tripp-Lite 1800W line conditioner between the 120V outlet and the power meter.

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The power consumption numbers we saw were quite interesting even with the Super Overclocked card running at its predetermined clock speeds. I personally thought that a card which such high clocks would consume a lot more power than the reference-clocked version. Even though the results were surprising, they are still extremely good.
 

SKYMTL

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Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


Believe it or not, I wasn’t expecting much of any additional overclocking headroom with the GTX 260 Super Overclock. It may have been naiveté on my part but from experience, the cards that push the limits of pre-overclocking rarely have much left in the tank. Once again though, Gigabyte surprised me with an additional 42Mhz of headroom on the core and 160Mhz (DDR) for the memory. Incredible!

Final Overclocks:

Core: 722Mhz
Shaders: 1593Mhz
Memory: 2660Mhz (DDR)

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SKYMTL

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Conclusion

Conclusion


We mentioned at the beginning of this review that – be it a processor family or GPU series- as an architecture matures and manufacturers get a better handle on what it is capable of, they are able to push things to new heights. Gigabyte did just that with their GTX 260 Super Overclock while showing us how to add value by way of overclocking.

To say that we were impressed with the performance of Gigabyte’s flagship GTX 260 is a massive understatement. It simply wowed us again and again. While it may not be the fastest single-chip card on the face of the planet, the Super Overclock certainly made a name for itself in our testing. For a GTX 260, this thing is balls-to-the-wall fast to the point where it leaves skid-marks all over the face of a reference-clocked GTX 275. In some benchmarks it even comes close to the mighty GTX 285.

In all reality, it would be an insult to compare Gigabyte’s Frankenstein of a card to a reference GTX 260 because they just aren’t even in the same league. There were some tests where the Super Overclocked showed results that were a “mere” 15% more than a reference card but other than those few and far between situations, we were looking at twenty and sometimes even thirty percent performance increases. We have said in the past that many pre-overclocks we see on cards are just window dressing and won’t mean a thing when it comes to perceptible real-world gaming increases. Well, in this case the card totally bucked that trend and that in itself is damn well impressive.

We also saw that Gigabyte’s pimping of their Ultra Durable Video’s component selection and PCB manufacturing process may be much more than just smoke and mirrors. Naturally, the GPU Gauntlet binning process did wonders for the achievable overclocks but it seems like a combination of other factors contributed to this card having noticeably lower temperatures when compared apples to apples against a stock GTX 260. This meant the fan was able to run at lower levels resulting in an extremely quiet gaming experience. Power consumption proved to be interesting as well since we were expecting significantly lower efficiency than what we ended up seeing.

Some of you may be questioning the use of such a card when next-generation products are right around the corner. While we can’t tell you exact pricing, what we can tell you is that none of the upcoming cards will hit anywhere near the price the GTX 260 Super Overclock will go for. Honestly, it will be months until we see a next-generation card priced under $275USD. This may give the GTX 260-series a shot in the arm with Gigabyte’s card leading the pack when it comes to value for your money in the sub-$250 price segment. And yes, it still has some overclocking headroom for yet more performance.

Gigabyte had a lot they had to live up to with this card since it seemed they were promising more than they could actually deliver. Well, deliver they did and then some. It is hard not to get excited because it breathes some much-needed air into the lungs of the GTX 260 line up at a time when new cards from ATI are about to steal the limelight. Because of its performance, additional overclocking headroom, near-silent running fan and a whole list of other reasons, the Gigabyte GTX 260 Super Overclock wins our Dam Good Award.


Pros:

- Very high performance
- Cool running
- Quiet
- Additional overclocking headroom
- Perfect connector selection


Cons:

- Stringent GPU binning may mean limited availability


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