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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295 Video Card Preview

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Crysis: Warhead DX10

Crysis: Warhead DX10



1680 X 1050

GTX295-46.JPG


GTX295-42.JPG



2560 X 1600

GTX295-43.JPG


GTX295-44.JPG

The devil is in the details, isn’t it? Granted, the average framerates posted by the GTX 295 look hale and healthy but the minimum frames per second…that ain’t pretty folks. Judging from actual gameplay time and watching the timedemo, it seems like there are very small increments (between 2-3 seconds) where the framerate suddenly dips for no apparent reason and then shoots back up again. This is why such low minimum FPS don’t adversely impact the average score. To us this feels more like a driver issue but only time will tell.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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12,857
Location
Montreal
Initial Impressions

Initial Impressions


What can we really say about this card? After months on the sidelines watching the HD 4870 X2 take and keep the ultra high end single graphics card market, Nvidia had to answer ATI’s challenge and answer they did. Many of you will probably look at the GTX 295 as nothing more than chest-thumping by Nvidia given the limited market for $500 GPUs coupled with the current economic climate. Well, damn right it is chest thumping and from the results we have seen, Nvidia has every right to be proud of their latest creation. We may not be singing its praises from the rooftops just yet but the potential for a performance monster is definitely there. Like it or not, consumers will soon have another option at the ultra high-end of the performance spectrum.

Indeed, since this was only a preview where we showed you the very tip of the iceberg regarding the GTX 295’s performance, I won’t draw any hasty conclusions. What I can say is that with this card it seems like Nvidia is back on track to take the performance crown from ATI with a card that costs nearly the same as the vaunted HD 4870 X2. Unfortunately, we can’t give the GTX 295 the title of “Fastest GPU on the Planet” just yet since there is still a whole review to publish come January with (hopefully) more mature drivers and a slew of additional games, resolutions and IQ settings. However, even with these early drivers, performance is right up at the top in the majority of applications with excellent scaling when compared to single Nvidia GPUs. That in itself is an achievement since as we have seen with other dual GPU cards, getting acceptable performance increases when going from one GPU to two is challenge. That being said, in order to really benefit from the raw power the GTX 295 brings to the table, you need to be playing at ultra high resolutions which is where this card can really shine.

If this preview showed us anything, it is the importance of including minimum framerates since in some situations; the GTX 295 seemed to suffer a bit. Whether this was the result of immature beta drivers or something else is best left for the actual review but to be honest with you, performance every now and then (particularly in Crysis Warhead DX10) left us scratching our heads. In other situations, there were some unexplained performance drops like the one seen going from no AA to 4xAA in Far Cry 2 DX10 2560 x 1600.

Back when we reviewed ATI’s HD 4870 X2 we saw again and again that its domination is very much tied to the implementation (or lack thereof) of proper Crossfire profiles within a game. The same thing can be said about the GTX 295’s SLI profiles since when they work, they work well but when they don’t the performance of Nvidia’s flagship card suffers, particularly in the minimum frames per second department. Basically, good drivers make the dual GPU world go round. It is as simple as that.

All in all, this card has left a pretty positive first impression with me but it is evident that Nvidia has a ways to go when it comes to ironing out some of the kinks. Even though CPU bottlenecking becomes a real concern at lower resolutions, cards like this shine at 2560 x 1600 and allow you to really crank the image quality settings. If Nvidia can deliver on pricing along with their claim power consumption will be lower than the HD 4870 X2 and carry over the performance we saw here today into our final review testing, the GTX 295 will find its potential customers waiting with open arms.
 
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