Conclusions and Final Thoughts
Today’s release of the NVIDIA GT200 architecture and the pending release of AMD’s RV770 design signify a pretty big change in the way the two companies view each other and the market.  NVIDIA wants to quickly branch out of the gaming world while AMD is content to keep their GPU designs ground just with a smaller, more manageable design.  Both have their strengths and weaknesses…

New Architecture

While we talked in length about the new NVIDIA GT200 architecture and design, in truth the differences between it and what we know as G92 are pretty minor.  The GT200 is basically the G92 on steroids – tons more shader processors, a refined ROP system with double the throughput and an improved memory bus architecture for better throughput are really the features that stand out from the gaming perspective.  Gone are the days of wondering what G92 could have been if it weren’t saddled with a measly 256-bit memory bus – we now know and the results are pretty impressive.

NVIDIA GT200 Revealed - GeForce GTX 280 and GTX 260 Review - Graphics Cards  1
 
The GT200 is a refined design on a path that NVIDIA has come to embrace over the last several years – one big chip to rule them all.  Obviously AMD has some negative things to say about this way of doing things, and really would you expect them not too, but in the end what the gamers and enthusiasts care about is price and performance. 

Read more about the GT200 and general purpose parallel computing in our separate article: Moving Away From Just a GPU.

Performance

Starting with the GeForce GTX 280 1GB card, I have to say I was very impressed with the performance the card was able to turn in.  In nearly all instances the GTX 280 was able to beat out the 9800 GX2, a card based on not one but TWO of the previous generation GPUs which more or less proves the GT200 is about 2x the speed of G92.  It wasn’t ALL roses, as we saw in UT3 and Bioshock; there are some areas that the SLI configuration in the 9800 GX2 is able to hold its grip on the lead. 

Compared to the 9800 GTX, NVIDIA top single GPU product still in production, the contest wasn’t even close: the GTX 280 is stomping the ground with it pretty handily across the board. 

The GeForce GTX 260 896MB card is a bit more of a story in that it wins dramatically in some areas and loses in others.  In most cases the GTX 260 can’t compete with the 9800 GX2 – it just doesn’t have the raw power that the GTX 280 has to overcome the GPU numerical deficit.  Compared to the 9800 GTX though the GT200-based part does pretty well – it doesn’t win them all but when it does it usually wins considerably.  The WiC and Lost Planet results are indicative of that.

For its part, SLI does pretty well with the pair of GTX 280s we had to test it with.  We’ll be trying to get a third in very soon for some 3-Way action – though we will DEFINITELY be upgrading our test beds to accommodate.

NVIDIA GT200 Revealed - GeForce GTX 280 and GTX 260 Review - Graphics Cards  2

One other important thing to note is that though we are comparing the GTX 280 and the GTX 260 to cards like the 9800 GX2 and the HD 3870 X2 from AMD, the new GT200-based parts are both single-GPU cards; that means no potential SLI or CrossFire headache.  You will get 100% of your hardware’s performance 100% of the time and will not likely have to wait on any driver hacks or patches to get the technology you paid for.

The GT200 for Folding@Home and Video Encoding

We have a separate piece up on the GT200 GPU’s ability to encoding video at blazing speeds and also how it can help boost the performance of the PC Perspective Folding@Home team – read how the GT200 will bring parallel computing to the masses. 

Read more about the GT200 and general purpose parallel computing in our separate article: Moving Away From Just a GPU.

Pricing and Availability

One area where NVIDIA might be faltering is in how they are pricing these new parts.  When the GeForce 9800 GTX first was released we were impressed by its price/performance value coming in at around $300 at the time.  This time around I can’t say I feel the same: the GeForce GTX 280 1GB has an MSRP of $649 and the GTX 260 896MB will sell for around $399.  That puts the GTX 280 well over next lowest priced enthusiast card: $130 or so more than the HD 3870 X2.  Don’t get me wrong – the GTX 280 is definitely the fastest card on the planet – but is worth $130 more for that speed? 

The GTX 260 is in a more interesting spot – priced about the same as the 3870 X2, $20-70 less than the 9800 GX2 but about $100 more than the 9800 GTX is falls in a pretty comfortable spot.  At this price range the GTX 260 should get a lot of attention for enthusiasts looking for a top performing card but also like the benefits of a single GPU solution rather than the various dual-GPU cards. 

Both the GTX 280 and GTX 260 should be available starting tomorrow at all your favorite online vendors.

Final Thoughts

NVIDIA’s GT200 is a big, powerful processor that is capable of handing out the best gaming performances we have seen, ever.  The GeForce GTX 280 1GB card is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to pushing the top gaming titles to super HD resolutions like 2560×1600 and is able to best both NVIDIA’s and AMD’s previous flagship dual-GPU cards.  Just be prepared to pay top dollar for those bragging rights and performance gains.  The GeForce GTX 260 896MB is a much more price conscious card that is still a fantastic performer when compared to its direct competition in the market.  I foresee the GTX 260 making the rounds as one of the better price/performance cards on the market as prices stabilize and come down a bit – $349 would really be the sweet spot.

Overall, the GT200 launch is a success though anyone looking for a GT200-based $200 part will be waiting for quite some time.  Have no worries though, the summer is going to be a busy one for us, and an interesting one for you.  Stay tuned!!

Read more about the GT200 and general purpose parallel computing in our separate article: Moving Away From Just a GPU.


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