EVGA GTX 260 FTW Edition Review

ccokeman - 2008-02-21 18:19:08 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: July 7, 2008
Price: $429.99

Introduction:

This year has been one to remember for video card enthusiasts. On the red side of the fence there have been the three series X2 models, the release of the 3400 series that can be used in hybrid Crossfire X with the added HTCP benefits. Just recently, the red camp released the 4xxx series to the world. The green side of the fence has been far from idle during this time as well. First was the launch of the 9xxx series cards, the 9600GT, 9800GX2 and the 9800GTX. Now, the GT200 series cards are in the pipeline with the GTX 280 and GTX 260 video cards. With the performance delivered by the GTX 280, the question has to be asked, just how far down the ladder does the GTX 260 fall? That's something we will find out.

The EVGA GTX 260 FTW (For The Win) Edition is the top factory overclocked model in EVGA's GTX 260 arsenal. Most people are aware of the superclocked cards the company makes. This series goes even further. EVGA has pushed the GPU core clock speed to 666MHz (It's the "debil" I say to quote a movie phrase), the shader clock speed to 1404MHz and the memory is overclocked by 107MHz to bring the speed up to 1107 MHz on the 898MB of GDDR3 memory. Normally, cards from the factory are not leaned on this hard. Is there something special here or is this maxed out with little left in reserve?

The GTX 260 uses 192 stream processors, 898MB of GDDR3 memory, 1.4 billion transistors all tied up in one huge 65nm core to deliver jaw dropping video performance. By using Nvidia's CUDA technology, the GTX 260 can be put to work with video transcoding and complex scientific simulations. Let's find out if the GTX 260 is just a neutered version of the GTX 280 or if it has the same performance potential as its big brother!

Closer Look:

Sweet simple basic black with a little flash for effect. The packaging shows that EVGA is the #1 seller of Nvidia based products in the U.S.A. The only features of the FTW GTX 260 that are prominently featured on the front panel are the amount of GDDR3 memory and the fact that the card is PCI-E 2.0 compliant. The rear panel lists the features of the GTX 260, the lifetime warranty (with registration of course) and the contents of the package. The window in the panel allows the end user to compare the serial numbers so that there is no doubt about what is inside.

 

 

Once inside the box, it looks as though EVGA is taking no chances when it comes to protecting the goods within by putting everything into a foam enclosure. Front to back and side to side, the GTX 260 is protected. This is a huge improvement over the last EVGA cards I have used.

 

 

There is always a bundle of accessories shipped with video cards nowadays. Of course, the number of items ranges from as little as a driver disc to as much as every connector and cable you could ever need. The EVGA falls right into what I would call the standard package. Documentation for the GTX 260 FTW includes an installation guide, a quick start guide, the driver disc and a bubble type sticker with the EVGA logo. The accessories include two 2x4 pin to 6-pin PCI-E power connections, the HD Video dongle and two D-sub to DVI adapters. Pretty much everything you need to run the video out to dual monitors or your HDTV.

 

 

Now let's get a look at this beast!

 

Closer Look:

Much like its big brother the GTX 280, the EVGA GTX 260 FTW Edition is built upon the GT 200 core. This card is for use in a x16 PCI-E 1.0 or 2.0 slot on the motherboard. The stock speeds for the FTW Edition model from EVGA are quite a bit higher than the stock GTX 260 specifications. The GPU core speed on the FTW edition is 666MHz versus the 576MHz stock setting, the memory is at 1107MHz versus 1000MHz on a 448 bit bus, and the shader clock takes a leap from 1296MHz to 1404MHz. The cooling solution is the standard reference cooler for the series and is a two-slot solution. Are the flames on the back end of the video card indicative of just how hot this card gets or is the performance smoking hot? Read on!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The connections available on the FTW GTX 260 include two dual link DVI connections as well as an HD video out port that can be used with the supplied dongle to connect to a composite video cable. Above the HD video port is an LED that changes color based on the power connections. Red means you just don't have the connectors in all the way or just didn't put them in. The rear view has the air intake for the cooling fan. This opening is needed when running this and the 9 series in SLI as the video cards are literally on top of each other and this is the only clean inlet. Across the top of the card are the power, HDMI sound and SLI connections.

 

 

The power connections are located on the top of the GTX 260. This makes installing the card in a case with marginal clearance a possibility since the power connections are located up top. The HDMI sound connection is right next to the front 6-pin power connection and is used when an HDMI to DVI converter is used to send HD audio along this connection. The SLI bridge connections are located in the standard location. You will note that there are two bridge connections on the GTX 260 instead of the usual one. This means that yes, this card as well as the GTX 280 are indeed Tri SLI capable for increased video card performance.

 

Configuration:

With the hardware part of the installation completed, the next step is to install the drivers and utilities that make the GTX 260 work. Without the correct drivers, the video card will be detected and setup as the default VGA display offering little in the way of GPU performance. Many manufacturers include a proprietary utility to monitor and/or overclock the video card(s). EVGA is no exception and has included the "Precision" utility.

Start off by inserting the driver/utility disc into the optical drive of your computer and choose to run the application. From that point on you will need to choose the items to run for your particular system. The drivers, Fraps, DirectX 9 and 10, the precision utility and Adobe Reader are included.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The installation gives you several choices to make. Since the drivers and utility were all that were needed for my system, that is the path I took. The drivers install just the way they do if downloaded from the manufacturer's website. Follow up the installation with a reboot to let the driver installation process complete.

 

 

The Precision utility is an overclocking as well as monitoring tool. Adjusting GPU core, memory, shader clocks and fan speeds can all be done from within this handy little utility. The left panel takes care of the monitoring, while the right is where the adjustments are made. Setting and saving profiles can be done to keep specific settings when pushing the overclocking limits.

 

 

If the level of performance or visual quality is not what you demand, you can always make adjustments to change the way the display looks through the use of the Nvidia control panel. The settings can be set to predefined levels ranging from performance to quality, as well as game specific settings. With the installation of the nTune utility, you can access more detailed options to further increase the overclocking performance.

 

 

Specifications:

GPU
GTX 260
Fabrication Process
65 nm
Number of Transistors
1.4 Billion

Graphics Clock (Including dispatch, texture units, and ROP units)

 
666 MHz
Processor Clock (Processor Cores)
1,404 MHz
Processor Cores
192

Memory Clock (Clock rate / Data rate)

1,107 MHz / 2,214 MHz
Memory Interface
448 bit
Total Memory Bandwidth
123.9 GB/s
Memory Size
896 MB
ROPs
28
Texture Filtering Units
64
Texture Filtering Rate
36.9 GigaTexels/sec
HDCP Support
Yes
HDMI Support
Yes (Using DVI-to-HDMI adaptor)
Connectors
2 x Dual-Link DVI-I 1 x 7-pin HDTV Out
RAMDACs
400 MHz
Bus Technology
PCI Express 2.0
Form Factor
Dual Slot
Power Connectors
2  x 6-pin
Max Board Power
182 watts
GPU Thermal Threshold1
105° C

 

Features:

Testing:

At OverclockersClub, we use a series of benchmarks to stress the graphics card. We will use a series of newer gaming benchmarks, as well as some that are more seasoned, to show how well the EVGA GTX 260 FTW Edition compares to some of the other enthusiast video cards on the market.  All driver settings and clock speeds will be left at factory defaults for both the CPU and GPU, in an effort to minimize or eliminate any variables that could impact the results. The test system used in this review is listed below. After testing the card at stock speeds, I'll overclock it to see what kind of performance can be gained. All testing is done with the default settings in the respective Control Panels, as well as default settings in the BIOS of the motherboard used in this test.

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

With a factory overclocked video card there is usually not too much left on the table for the enthusiast to gain on top of the speeds the manufacturer has pulled from the silicon. The stock (If you can call it that) speeds of the FTW edition GTX 260 are 666MHz on the GPU core and 1107MHz on the memory. These "Factory Overclocked" speeds are already 90 and 107 MHz higher than the "stock" specifications. It looks as though EVGA left a little on the table when it came to the clock speeds. I was able to ratchet the GPU core up another 96MHz and the memory another 101MHz. This brings the total overclock from the stock settings on the GPU core to 186MHz and 208MHz on the GDDR3 memory. Both of these clock speed increases are huge. By comparison, I was only able to pull 110MHz out of the GPU core and 147MHz out of the memory on the GTX280 I recently reviewed. I guess the EVGA GTX 260 earned its FTW wings today!

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Call of Juarez
  7. Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional

 

Testing:

Crysis is a new addition to the gaming benchmark suite used at OverclockersClub.com. This game is one of the most anticipated and system intensive games to be released to the gaming community. The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor and video card.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The EVGA FTW GTX 260 really shows off in the Crysis testing, outperforming every card but the PowerColor 4870 at 1680 x 1050. The fact that the FTW GTX 260 is overclocked shows the potential of this card.

Testing:

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features its own proprietary graphics engine currently in development. The game is a combination of Real Time Strategy and Simulation. You have the ability to control the entire crew or just a single member. Play as the German, Russian or Allied navies, and prove your mettle on the open seas.

 

Video Settings:

 



  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The FTW GTX 260 from EVGA just about keeps up with the GTX 280. When overclocked, the scores are even closer. The ATI 4xxx series cards can't keep up the pace.

Testing:

BioShock is one of the newest games on the market. It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

In Bioshock, the GTX 260 was beaten by the HD4870 at 1024x768 and 1920x1200. Again surprisingly, the FTW edition came close the the scores of its bigger brother.

Testing:

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the successor to the Call of Duty crown. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a US Marine or British SAS trooper. Since this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps 2.9.3.

 

Video Settings:

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The only real competition for the FTW GTX 260 is the GTX 280. The ATI offerings again fall flat in comparison.

Testing:

World in Conflict is a newly released DX10, Real Time Strategy game that simulates the all-out war the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical "generate wealth and build" type of game. Instead, you advance by conquering your foe.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The EVGA FTW Edition just continues to mow through the competition. It's amazing what an overclocked card can achieve when done right.

Testing:

Call of Juarez is a DX10, first-person shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800's. The game is inspired, in part, by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played in both single player and multiplayer modes. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GTX 260 finally falls to something other than its big brother. The HD4870 was just too much in the Call of Juarez testing.

Testing:

Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII. The mission is Operation Market Garden, the first allied attempt to break into the Third Reich. Play as the British or Germans. This Real Time Strategy game is brought to us by Relic Entertainment.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, the FTW Edition shows just how strong the bottom of the GT 200 series can be when pushed.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of those benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest breaks out. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the lower resolutions, the ATI based HD4870 comes close to beating the FTW GTX 260! As the resolution scales upward, the GTX 260 shows that it has more in the tank than the HD4870.

Extras:

Folding@Home is a distributed computing project run out of Stanford University. This project uses the spare CPU cycles (GPU Folding has been available on the red side of the fence with ATI cards for a while), as well as GPU cycles to simulate the folding of proteins. When the proteins in our bodies misfold, things can go horribly wrong and result in many diseases that are not yet curable. Examples include Alzheimer's, Mad Cow (BSE), CJD, ALS, Huntington's, Parkinson's Disease and many cancers and cancer-related syndromes. This project has been going on for some time now. With the performance increases in CPU and GPU computing technology seen in the past few years, the time to run the simulations has dramatically dropped. For more information on the F@H project, visit the F@H main page - and don't forget, Team 12772 is the one you want to fold for! While monitoring the F@H client, I was amazed at the speed at which it completed the assignments - five work units in less than two hours at stock clock speeds! Running the SMP clients took about a day to process one+ unit with a quad-core CPU. There is definitely a substantial performance increase with the CUDA technology and the GTX 260's 192 processor cores. Some things I found out while playing with the client - when the client is run in the viewer, the CPU usage skyrockets. As soon as it is minimized back to the system tray, the CPU usage drops dramatically. Because the demands to render the image back to the screen are high, the client's performance does decrease, but there's an easy fix - just minimize the client!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The processing power and processor design of the GTX 200 series GPU allows the video card to be used for things that people do not normally associate with the GPU's functionality. Using Nvidia's CUDA technology to harness this power, things such as distributed computing and video transcoding can be accomplished in much less time than it would take a high-end CPU. The Folding@Home client is just one of these examples. Elemental Technologies has a transcoding application called BadaBoom that harnesses the massive parallel computing potential of the GTX 200 series GPU. CPU usage between the BadaBoom app and the one used for testing showed that CPU usage was fairly close, but the GPU-specific BadaBoom version did the work in less than half the time it took the CPU to complete the task.

 

 

Just to see how well this works, a sample film clip of 184MB in size was transcoded first with the CPU, and then again with the GPU, and the results were pretty astonishing. The measurement is in seconds, and best quality was selected. Hey, it really does work!

 

 

Conclusion:

To have a lower model video card challenge the current single GPU King of the Hill in its performance speaks volumes about the capabilities of that video card. The GTX 260 features 48 fewer stream processors but still brings the heat due to its highly overclocked status. In the 32 benchmark tests run, the EVGA GTX 260 FTW edition was beaten by the GTX 280 in most of the tests (as expected). In 6 out of 32, the HD4870 beat the GTX260. Not bad performance with all things considered. Since the EVGA GTX 260 model I have tested is its top of the line FTW (For The Win) model, the expectation was that it should have incredible performance. It met and exceeded that expectation. When it came time to overclock this already highly overclocked video card, I found that EVGA had still left a substantial amount of head room so that peformance could be increased even further. I was able to gain an additional 96MHz on the GPU core and 101MHz on the memory. By overclocking even further than the "factory" overclock, the performance of the EVGA FTW edition even eclipsed the performance of the GTX 280 in some of the benchmarks. Serious performance potential. With increased load comes an increase in temperatures. By letting the drivers control the fan speeds, I never saw higher than 69 Celsius during my testing. By manually setting the fan speed to 100 percent, temperatures stayed in the mid to low 50s when monitored.

With 192 streaming processors, a fair amount of work can be done with the GPU. The parallel computing capabilities open up a whole new world of options. Crunching for a cure for many heinous diseases as well as offloading the load from the CPU when encoding video are all things that can now be done. With the latest drivers, Nvidia has incorporated a Physx driver to offload the CPU DLLs to the GPU instead of a dedicated PPU (Physics Processing Unit), changing where the work is done rather than the work itself. This capability should help immensely when Physx heavy games begin to appear later this year. If one of these gems is not enough, the ability to go to or even three is there since the GTX 260 supports dual and Tri SLI, making the gaming experience that much more enjoyable. That performance comes with a price tag though. $429 dollars a piece to be exact. Somewhat high when the ATI solution is almost as fast and costs far less. Performance does sell though. One thing that the GTX 260 is capable of is saving you some cash. How, you ask? Well, when running in 2D mode, the GPU core, shader core and memory speeds drop well down from the clocks used in 3D performance mode. The side effect is that energy consumption is reduced, saving the end user some cash. Bottom line on the EVGA GTX 260 FTW is that you get awesome performance that compares favorably with a video card costing $200+ more, the GTX 280. Even with the price premium that the EVGA FTW Edition has over the stock speed cards, the performance speaks for itself.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: