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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295 Video Card Preview

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295 Video Card Preview





People like excess. It doesn’t matter if the economy is in a tailspin or our savings are collapsing; there will always be a guy running around town in a red Ferrari with a blond in the passenger seat and another waiting on his yacht in the Mediterranean. Wanting the best of the best is only natural which is why companies are more than willing to release high-end products which the working class can drool over and only the privileged few can actually afford. These are items for niche markets ranging from high performance cars for the ultra-rich to computer graphics cards that can net you the jealousy of everyone at the next LAN party. Well folks, you are about to get the next lesson in excess brought to you courtesy of Nvidia.

Following in the footsteps of such cards as the Rage Fury Maxx, 9800 GX2, HD 3870 X2 and HD 4870 X2 comes the dual GPU behemoth called the GTX 295. Let’s be honest for a second here; the HD 4870 X2 was a slap in the face for Nvidia since it outperformed Team Green’s GTX 280 in the majority of benchmarks which made it the fastest graphics card on the block. Some of you may be snickering over there on the sidelines since you remember the ridicule Nvidia threw ATI’s way when it took the performance crown with a dual GPU card and are now releasing one of their own. In the end, if it performs up to expectations, who are we to question the dual chippery found on the GTX 295? Nvidia believes they have a winning combination on their hands with their current (and near-future) lineup being supplemented by this new card and that should be enough to justify just about anything. Right?

Naysayers have long said that the GTX 200-series would never be compatible with a dual GPU, single card solution due to the immense power requirements and heat output of the 65nm G200 core. Well, enter a die shrink to 55nm and Nvidia has made into reality what many thought was impossible. We should also mention that pricing is….are you sitting down?...pegged at around $500 USD which puts it into direct competition with the HD 4870 X2. Actually, that is a tad LOWER than the SRP for the HD 4870 X2.

Talking big about a product is all fine and dandy but putting the rubber to the road so-to-speak is something else altogether. Naturally, with this being a mere preview, we are limited in exactly what we can show you and considering reviewers have had the card in their possession for a few short days (or a few hours in my case), you can’t expect miracles. With all of this said, you should be aware that the full review with complete benchmark numbers (including some expanded testing with extreme IQ settings) coupled with actual availability of the GTX 295 will be coming in the next few weeks. Something else to remember is that we are working off of early drivers as well as pre-production hardware so expect performance to change somewhat once the final production samples are ready for release.

The GTX 295 could prove to be a boon to Nvidia since it is a proof-of concept for their new 55nm G200b cores and it could also wrest the performance crown off ATI’s head. Let’s get this preview underway!

GTX295-10.JPG
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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A Closer Look at the GeForce GTX 295

A Closer Look at the GeForce GTX 295


GTX295-11.JPG

I am sure many of you will be looking at these specifications and are scratching your head since you heard that Nvidia would shove a pair of GTX 260 cores into this monster. Well, the early rumors were wrong once again since specifications of the cores used on the GTX 295 sit somewhere between a GTX 260 and a GTX 280 performance-wise. Hold on for a second while we explain things here.

Essentially, the clock speeds, number of ROPs (28), accessible memory (896MB) and memory bandwidth (448-bit) of the GTX 295’s cores are identical to those of a GTX 260. On the flip side, the number of texture filtering units (80) and Stream processors (240) for each core equal those of a GTX 280.

If you take a second to sit down and look at these specifications they make perfect sense from a performance standpoint. This may be a slight oversimplification but we can state that the HD 4870 X2 is a pair of HD 4870 1GB cards installed on a single PCB. As we have seen in recent articles, a single HD 4870 1GB will outperform even a slightly overclocked GTX 260 with 216SPs every now and then under the right circumstances. Thus, Nvidia needed a surefire solution to beat the HD 4870 X2 which meant increased rendering potential through the use of more SPs and ROPs than a standard GTX 260 216.

While we will not be testing the overall power consumption in this preview, Nvidia has listed the maximum board power at about 289W which puts its consumption above that of the GTX 280 by 53 watts. All in all, this isn’t too bad considering the fact that there are two GPUs on this one card and a pair of 65nm GTX 260 cards would have a combined TDP of 364W (182W each).

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Click on Image to Zoom

There aren’t many shots to show you of this card yet since all we have is an engineering sample but upon first glance I won’t blame you if you think it’s a 9800 GX2. According to Nvidia, this is what the final product will look like baring a few minor tweaks. Other than that, the main shroud takes up the GTX 295’s entire 10.5” length and is slightly dimpled making it quite different from past cards’ sleek looking heatsinks.

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Click on Image to Zoom

Unlike the 9800 GX2, this card carries a single-sided heatsink since there aren’t any memory modules present on the backside of each PCB. Cooling is handled by a single fan which draws cool air in through holes in the PCB.

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GTX295-7.JPG

Click on Image to Zoom

Power connector-wise we are looking at a single 6-pin and single 8-pin connector which is the same as the current GTX 280 but you should remember that on average, the GTX 295 will draw more power than a single 65nm GTX 280. Next to these two power connectors is an SPDIF audio pass through connector which can be used to stream sound through the GTX 295 and on to an optional DVI to HDMI connector.

Meanwhile, on the backplate you get the usual resident DVI-D connectors as well as a single HDMI output. There is also a pair of small LEDs; one of which is a power indicator while the other will tell you which card is operating as the primary output in an SLI setup.

GTX295-8.JPG
GTX295-9.JPG

Click on Image to Zoom

There is a single SLI connector on the card which can be used to link a pair of GTX 295 cards together for some quad-SLI action. This connector is located right next to some additional exhaust vents on the side of the card. Unfortunately, in testing it seems that these vents seem to allow the majority of heat buildup from within the heatsink to be dumped directly into your case. This in turn can lead to increased interior case temperatures if you do not have sufficient airflow within your enclosure. More on this in the upcoming review.

Ok, enough about the exterior of the GTX 295. Let’s get onto the one thing I am sure you are all waiting to find out: performance!!

GTX295-1.JPG

Click on Image to Zoom
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup

System Used

Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Extreme QX9770 @ 3.852Ghz
Memory: G.Skill 2x 2GB DDR2-1000 @ 1052Mhz DDR
Motherboard: ASUS P5E Deluxe X48
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 320GB SATAII
Fans: 2X Yate Loon 120mm @ 1200RPM
Power Supply: Corsair HX1000W
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1


Graphics Cards:

Nvidia GTX 295
Palit HD 4870 X2
Sapphire HD 4870 1GB
Palit HD 4870 512MB
EVGA GTX 280
EVGA GTX 260 Core 216 Superclocked
BFG GTX 260
EVGA 9800 GTX+


Drivers:

Nvidia 180.87 (GTX 295)
Nvidia 180.48 WHQL
ATI 8.12 WHQL


Applications Used:

Call of Duty: World at War
Crysis: Warhead
Dead Space
Left 4 Dead
Far Cry 2
Fallout 3


*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
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Call of Duty: World at War

Call of Duty: World at War


To benchmark this game, we played through 10 minutes of the second mission (Little Resistance) starting from right after the player calls in the rocket strike on the enemy positions on the beach. This was benchmarked using FRAPS.


1680 X 1050

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2560 X 1600

GTX295-16.JPG


GTX295-17.JPG

We start this testing off with Call of Duty: World at War along with the first “holy shit” moment of testing. The GTX 295 blows right through a low-resolution CPU bottleneck I THOUGHT I had with the HD 4870 X2 while posting some absolutely incredible framerates. Overall, this new Nvidia card is a good 20% faster than the HD 4870 X2 while posting some minimum framerates which were higher than the average HD 4870 X2 scores. So far so good for Nvidia’s new flagship.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Dead Space

Dead Space


To benchmark Dead Space, we used a timed 10 minute gameplay session around in Chapter 2: Intensive Care on Hard Difficulty in which we battle a few necromorphs and enter a zero-G environment. Seriously, what good is a benchmark without action sequences? “Walkthroughs” are unacceptable around here… Once again FRAPS was used.


1680 X 1050

GTX295-18.JPG


GTX295-19.JPG


2560 X 1600

GTX295-20.JPG


GTX295-21.JPG

Nvidia domination is the name of the game with Dead Space but that is expected considering this title’s inclusion in their “Top 5” game titles. Once again the GTX 295 posts some framerates which could only be considered unreal until you remember that these are averages of 4 benchmark runs which means there were instances where even higher averages were achieved.

One issue we did notice was that as the framerate reaches 150; your character becomes a bit harder to control since the mouse movements become less responsive for some reason. This happens with ALL cards.
 
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SKYMTL

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Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead: GPU Performance


For benching Left 4 Dead, we used a pre-recorded 5 minute timedemo taken on the Death Toll campaign during The Church mission. Framerates were captured with FRAPS.


1680 X 1050

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2560 X 1600

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As we can see, this is the first game in this preview which faces some serious CPU bottlenecking even with 4xAA enabled at 1680 x 1050 resolution. However, as the resolution increases so to does the lead the GTX 295 has over the HD 4870 X2. Due to its extremely fast-paced nature, this is one game we definitely want at or above 60FPS. It will be interesting to see what kind of performance the GTX 295 is able to eke out when we hit it with higher instances of anti aliasing in the actual review.
 
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SKYMTL

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Far Cry 2 DX9

Far Cry 2 DX9


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.


1680 X 1050

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2560 X 1600

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Once again it seems that Far Cry 2 is being CPU bottlenecked or the GTX 295 and HD 4870 X2 are just extremely well matched in this game. However, this is also the first time we see some issues with the GTX 295 at high resolution with AA enabled. The HD 4870 X2 is able to push pretty far ahead with some incredible AA performance while the GTX 295 looses nearly 25 frames per second the second 4xAA is turned on. This isn’t exactly the best result for Nvidia’s wunderkind but hopefully this can be shored up with some driver revisions before release.
 
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SKYMTL

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Far Cry 2 DX10

Far Cry 2 DX10



1680 X 1050

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2560 X 1600

GTX295-32.JPG


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We have mentioned it before and will do it again here: Far Cry 2 DX10 offers better performance than DX9 mode. Nvidia is able to take full advantage of this with the GTX 295 which pretty much runs away with the show. It is interesting to note that even though ATI supposedly has a more streamlined AA implementation method, the gap between the two top cards actually widens when 4xAA is turned on.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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12,857
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Fallout 3

Fallout 3


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.


1680 X 1050

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2560 X 1600

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GTX295-25.JPG

ATI is traditionally strong in Fallout 3 and shows this again by keeping up quite well with the GTX 295 and then narrowly passing it on the final high res test. Overall, it looks like at higher resolutions in Fallout 3 the GTX 295 takes a bit bigger hit than its ATI competitor when AA is turned on.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Crysis: Warhead DX9

Crysis: Warhead DX9


To benchmark Warhead, we recorded a 5 minute timedemo on the Ice level which included ranged and hand to hand combat.


1680 X 1050

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2560 X 1600

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These are some interesting results since as you can see; the GTX 295 is able to hold a considerable lead over the HD 4870 X2 in the first test. However, that lead shrinks as resolution and IQ settings increase until the two cards are running neck and neck. What disappointed us somewhat is the fact that the minimum framerates don't see that much of an improvement with the GTX 295.

It seems like there are also some underlying issues with either the driver or the game since there is an actual increase in minimum FPS when applying AA at lower resolutions.
 
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