Nvidia GTX 295 Review

ccokeman - 2008-03-20 23:21:57 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: January 8, 2009
Price: $500

Introduction: 

Are you looking for the the best performing video card that money can buy? Maybe you are looking for this card for the simple fact that you want to get some great frame rates for your favorite games or you are just trying to get some of the best benchmarking scores out there to gain some bragging rights; Nvidia may just have the right product for you with the release of their newest card, the GTX 295. Well, I am very interested in seeing exactly how well this card is going to be able to perform when it is compared to the other cards that are out on the market. 

Closer Look: 

The Nvidia GTX 295 is a very large looking black card, with a very distinctive design on its outer casing to make it stand out from the other cards that it will likely be compared to. At the top of the card is where you will find the SLI connectors to allow for more than just one monster card to be utilized and make your system fly as fast as possible. The bottom of the card is where the PCI-E connector is located to install the card. The front of the Nvidia GTX 295 is where you are going to find the two DVI ports for connection to your monitor; there is also a HDMI port that allows you to install your TV and turn your rig into a HTPC.

 

 

 

 

Now that we know exactly what the Nvidia GTX 295 looks like, it is time to take an even closer look at the card along with the cooling solution that Nvidia has installed.  

Closer Look:  

The cooling solution that Nvidia has installed on the Nvidia GTX 295 is a large full coverage air cooler that has a nice large array of aluminum fins that are visible from the top view. If you take a closer look at the cooler, you can see that there are copper heat pipes that connect from the GPU Core and connect to the fins of the cooler to allow for direct transfer of the heat being produced by the very powerful core. When you pull the card apart, you can see exactly how the base of the cooler is designed inside of the casing, along with how the exterior shell is designed to force the air to move through the cooler and cool the components quickly and effectively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is one connector for the SLI bridge that is located at the top, it is hidden behind the metal casing to keep it protected and make sure that sleek look of the card is maintained. The top of the card at the rear is where the power connectors are located, there is one eight pin PCI-E power connector and one six pin PCI-E connector. The PCB can handle a total of 289Watts, which is considerbably less power than the HD4800 cards.

 

 

Now that we know what the card looks like, it is time to continue on to the specifications of the card itself and see how it compares to the other cards that I have tested.

Specifications:

Fabrication Process
 55 nm

Core Clock (texture and ROP units)

576 MHz

Shader Clock (Stream Processors)

1242 MHz

Memory Clock (Clock rate / Data

rate)
1000 MHz / 2000 MHz
Total Video Memory
1792 MB
Memory Interface
448-bit per GPU
Total Memory Bandwidth
224 GB/s
Processor Cores
480
ROP Units
28
Texture Filtering Units
160
Texture Filtering Rate
92.2 GigaTexels/sec
Connectors
2 x Dual-Link DVI-I
1 x HDMI
RAMDACs
400 MHz
Bus Technology
PCI Express 2.0
Form Factor
Dual Slot
Power Connectors
1 x 6-pin
1 x 8-pin
Max Board Power (TDP)
289 watts

Testing:

At OverclockersClub.com, we use a set of benchmarks to stress the graphics card. We will use a series of gaming benchmarks, some that are more seasoned, to show how well the GTX 295 really compares to some of the other enthusiast video cards on the market. I will be using both single and multiple GPU models to compare the performance of the GTX 295. 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. In the Past our test systems have been run at the default clock speeds of the installed processor but with the latest video cards, showing little improvement when run with the CPU and memory at the stock settings. We have done just we should have a while back. That is to overclock our processor to a safe achievable overclock with our new test setup. Going forward all of the testing will be run on this platform. The Processor is an Intel Core I7 920 that has had a little bump up to 3.0GHz with 6 gigabytes of system memory. All testing is done with the default settings in the respective control panels. For this round of testing, our drivers have been updated to 180.87 for the Nvidia cards and Catalyst 8.12 for the ATI video cards used in this review. The exception being the testing done with the GTX295 that is using the latest 181.20 driver.

 

If you would like to take a look at the results for this card using the old system setup, the Intel Core2 Q9450, you can take a look at the Nvidia GTX 295 Performance Preview

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

Just because there are two cores does not mean that overclocking the GTX 295 is any harder than overclocking a single GPU core video card. The stock clocks of 576MHz on the GPU cores and 1000Mhz on the memory were easily exceeded by a large margin. I just kept bumping the core and memory clocks up until I showed some visual artifacts and then backed it down until these were gone. I was able to reach 683 MHz on the core and 1197MHz on the memory. These represent overclocks of 20% on the GPU cores and 25% on the memory at 107MHz on the GPU cores and 198MHz on the memory. Both pretty sick on air.

  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty World at War
  5. Dead Space
  6. Fallout 3
  7. Left For Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage

 

 

Unfortunately our testing at 2560x1600 was not accomplished in time for this review. The monitor was setup and ready to go when I powered it up she was just a kaleidoscope of colors. The monitor appeared to have had a nice bit of hidden damage in shipping and was just not replaced in time for this article. Look for a followup with testing at 2560x1600.

 

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

"Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation first person shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

The GTX 295 just makes the performance of the rest of the cards in this review look sub par in terms of the frames per second generated by the two GPU behemoth.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the Island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and Aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the Cryengine 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crysis is typically the card killer and continues to do so in this test. The settings are aggressive but it shows what kind performance the card can deliver. As strong as the GTX 295 is it still cannot tame this game at aggressive settings.

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. The building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddys" 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. The environment as well as the story line will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even the Sapphire HD4870x2 cannot keep pace in Bioshock. The GTX 295 just crushes the single cards as well as the Dual GPU setups.

Testing:

Activision's Call Of Duty World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30 inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GTX 295 is again easily out distancing the rest of the cards in this comparison. The GTX 260 SLI keeps pace quite well but the HD4870x2 just falls off after 1680x1050.

Testing:

In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse as starting with the crash landing and seemingly silent and "Dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional over the shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.  In one frame a Necromorph is visible right before an attack from behind.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GTX 295 and GTX 260-216 are both the class of the field. The difference in performance between the HD4870x2 and GTX 295 is 89 FPS.

Testing:

Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the Vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is not really a large difference in performance here. The difference is 4 fps between the HD4870x2 and the GTX 295.

Testing:

Left For Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie 'I Am Legend' comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: Survival!

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dual GPU cards are the class of the field and outperform the single GPU cards by a wide margin.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one weakness in performance that I saw was in the 3DMark06 testing. In all three resolutions the GTX 295 fell behind the HD4870x2.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The performance of the GTX 295 and GTX 260- SLI go hand in hand and just leave the rest of the cards in the dust.

Conclusion:

Much like in the preview of the GTX 295 its performance on the I7 platform is just phenomenal. It far outstrips the performance of the HD4870x2 and Core I7. The performance is so far superior in all but two benchmarks that it just makes sense to go with the GTX 295. One thing that I had concerns about but could not speak about in the preview was the temperatures that the GTX 295 delivered under load. Sandwiching two GT 200 GPUs on a dual slot cooling solution could be a recipe for disaster but Nvidia has pulled off the cooling of the GTX 295 using a heatpipe based solution. Under load with the drivers manually controlling the fan the temperatures never got out of hand at 74 Celsius. When the fan speeds are manually controlled the temperatures were even better at 65 Celsius. Price wise the GTX 295 and HD4870x2 are swimming in the same pond and are in the $500 range. But couple in the superior performance and cost really does not become a concern. If you absolutely want the best card out then the GTX 295 is it when running the latest games. Its only weakness is the 3Dmark 06 testing. This could be remedied with something as simple as a driver update. Couple this card with a second GTX 295 and Nvidia's 3D Vision and you have a gaming rig that just wont be topped. I never thought that one card could provide this level of performance.

Pros:

Cons: