NVIDIA GTX 275 Review

ccokeman - 2009-03-29 09:30:36 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: April 2, 2009
Price: $249

Introduction:

It's spring time and most people are looking to get out of their houses after being cooped up inside for the winter, while others are thinking about April Fools' and what kind of weird and BS stories will be told. Well, that is not the case today with a new war being fought between nVidia and ATI with the release of their new cards. While people are looking to go outside, nVidia and ATI are looking to keep you inside for another season of game play. With the economy going the way it has, a lot more people are watching their wallets than before, so pricing vs performance is a very hot topic. Pretty much everyone knows about the battle between the nVidia GTX 260 and the ATI 4870 was a back and forth battle for top performance and pricing. Today that battle looks to heat up again with two new releases.

nVidia has been very very aggressive with its drivers by trying to offer great performance before a game is launched or on game day launch whereas ATI has not been as successful. With the launch of the GTX 275, where does it fall performance wise in nVidia's lineup and how does it stack up against ATI's latest release? Well read on to find out.

 

Closer Look:

The GTX 275 is a card the combines the attributes of the GTX 285 (GPU core with 240 shader processors) with the memory sub system of the GTX260 (896MB on a 448-bit bus) so essentially you have half of a GTX 295! The clock speeds on the GTX 275 come in at 633MHz on the GT200 core, 1404MHz on the shader processing cores and 1134MHz on the 896MB of memory. The card uses the reference design cooler to keep the GTX 275 alive and well.

 

 

Connectivity on the GTX 275 is via two Dual Link DVI ports. There is no other method for connecting to this card unless you use an adapter to go from the DVI to either an HDMI or D-Sub VGA port. The rear of the card is open allowing airflow in over the heatsinks on the lower circuits and discharges air through the heatsink via the port on the mounting bracket.

 

 

The GTX 275 needs two PCI-E 6-pin power connectors to supply power to the card, so a power supply with the appropriate power connectors is the best solution as using adapters is the the second and less desirable option to feed this card. Next to the power connections is the S/PDIF high definition sound input port that carries the sound from either your sound card or on-board sound solution. The GTX 275 can be used in a Tri SLI setup if multiple graphics cards are used in your system. This is the obvious upgrade path with the performance delivered by the GTX 275.

 

 

As this is a reference card there were no accessories included, so let's see what the GTX 275 has to offer.

 

Closer Look:

Just because you put that shiny new GTX 275 into your computer does not mean that it will work as intended. For that to happen you need to install the drivers to make it work correctly. To do this insert the supplied driver disc, or better yet, go on over to nVidia's website to download the latest drivers for your specific operating system and hardware. Start the install by chosing the autorun feature if using the disc or double clicking the file you downloaded from nVidia and it will run. Make the choices that are applicable and then click finish and you will need to restart the computer to finish the installation process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the drivers are installed you have access to the nVidia control panel. Here is where you can adjust the performance and visual quality settings to the level you like. The first tab is labeled "3D Settings." The first section "Adjust image settings with Preview" offers pretty granular adjustments for performance vs quality. The second section allows for fine adjustments by and adjusting by application. A new feature in this section is Ambient Occlusion. This feature is added with the 185 series drivers. What this feature does is simulate shadows where ambient lighting should be blocked by an object. Something as simple as a pay phone on a wall will have its shadow cast on the wall when rendered with this option enabled. You can see examples of this in use on the Extras page. The last part of this section is the option to enable or disable PhysX.

 

 

The second section is strictly about managing the display. Setting the resolution, flat panel scaling, custom resolutions and managing the color profiles are all done here.

 

 

 

Last in line on this installation is the video and television settings. If you had the Geforce 3D Vision installed on your system this option would be available to you.

 

 

There are a few technologies that can be used with nVidia graphics cards to take advantage of the massive performance potential designed into the company's cards. First off there is CUDA, a programming language that takes advantage of the parallel computing power of the nVidia GPU. There are already many applications that take advantage of this technology. Badaboom from Elemental Technologies uses the technology to reduce the time it takes to convert media files between different formats. There is Arcsoft's Total Media Theatre that uses CUDA technology to upscale video to HD levels by leveraging the performance of the GPU to increase the frame rate to a steady 30 plus FPS. When run in the compare mode, CPU usage peaks in the high 80+ percent range and offers reduced performance. When using CUDA technology to get the GPU to do the work, the CPU load drops to the 2 to 3% range, resulting in far superior performance.

 

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One of the other application that uses the technology is one that is near and dear to our hearts, Folding@Home. What this program does is use the parallel computing power of the nVidia GPU to simulate protein "folding." What is this, you ask? Well, when proteins don't fold correctly the result is some really heinous diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, BSE (Mad Cow), and Cystic Fibrosis. By simulating how chains of amino acids fold or misfold, researchers hope to find cures for these diseases and more. You can find more information here. If you decide to join the ranks of the people looking for a cure, make sure you select team 12772.

 

One enhancement that nVidia has had success with is PhysX technology. This technology is used to enable a more realistic gaming experience. Glass that shatters and stays in the environment instead of just fading away into the floor, curtains and cloth that move realistically and react to impacts and the wind, realistic smoke and bullet fragments and ricochets that do more than just flash on a wall. All of these things are visual enhancements that PhysX acceleration brings to the table. As of the end of 2008, there were three major game manufacturers commited to developing games using PhysX technology. These manufacturers are Take Two Interactive, Electronic Arts and THQ. One PhysX heavy title already out is Mirror's Edge

 

 

Specifications:

GPU
GTX 275
Fabrication Process
55 nm
Number of Transistors
1.4 Billion

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

633 MHz
Processor Clock (Processor Cores)
1,404 MHz
Processor Cores
240

Memory Clock (Clock rate / Data rate)

1,134 MHz / 2,268 MHz
Memory Interface
448 bit
Total Memory Bandwidth
127 GB/s
Memory Size
896 MB
ROPs
28
Texture Filtering Units
80
Texture Filtering Rate
50.6 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
219 watts
GPU Thermal Threshold1
105 C

 

Features:

Testing:

To test out this latest video card from nVidia, I will run it through a series of game tests and synthetic benchmarks to see just how the performance compares to that delivered by similar video cards, as well as its direct competition from the red camp. The OverclockersClub test system will be run as listed with the processor at 3.0GHz. The respective video card settings that will be used are the driver defaults with settings made in game as noted to provide as few variables as possible.

 

Testing Setup:

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

When it came time to overclock the GTX 275, I used RIvaTuner 2.24 as my tool of choice to increase the fan speed and clock speeds on the GTX 275. I started out with what I thought was a pretty aggressive jump in clock speeds to 700MHz on the core and 1200MHz on the memory and the GTX 275 did not flich and passed through several stress tests, including Furmark and looping 3DMark06. After this point I went a little conservative and went up in 10MHz increments on the GPU core until it failed stability testing at 740MHz. I dropped the core speed down 5MHz at a time to find out the point I was stable at and finished up at 729MHz. I used the same method increase for the memory but was not able to get much more than the 1217MHz I finally called it stable at. During the overclocking phase I kept the fan speed at 100% to keep the card as cool as possible with the increase in clock speeds. The final core clock speed of 729MHz is a 96MHz overclock with the memory increase at 83MHz over stock. Not monster increases, but good enough to offer increases in the frames per second delivered in each game tested.

 

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

 

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially 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 maximum performance differential between the HD 4890 and GTX 275 is four frames per second at 2560x1600. That 4 FPS is roughly a 10% improvement over the latest from ATI.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It looks like the HD 4890 pulled ahead in all four resolutions and actually performed better than all of the cards at every resolution. The GTX 275 comes in behind the 280 by 1 FPS at the 2560x1600 resolution.

 

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:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Usually ATI cards are strong in this benchmark, but the GTX275 is ahead of the HD 4890 in all four resolutions. When overclocked, the performance differential increases even further.

 

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 the 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 275 has a field day with the rest of the cards in this comparison. At no point is it in danger of being outperformed. When overclocked, it gains anywhere from two to seven frames per second.

 

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 starting with the crash landing and the 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 main character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Dead Space the GTX 275 just out-muscles the HD 4890 and the HD 4870 cards, stock and overclocked. The frame rates delivered by the GTX 275 are close to or better than the GTX 280 in this test.

 

Testing:

Left 4 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! Below are several screenshots to show some in-game action.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Left 4 Dead the GTX 275 only leads the HD 4890 by 3 FPS at 1280x1024 and leads by 6 FPS at 1920x1200. When the GTX 275 is overclocked, the performance increase at 2560x1600 is 8 FPS. That could make the difference between playable or not at a lower frame rate but at the highest resolution the frame rate never falls to a point where it is unplayable.

 

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GTX 275 is faster than the HD 4890 and all of the HD 4870 cards. The only time the GTX 275 is faster than the GTX 280 is at the 2560x1600 resolution. Kind of a surprising result.

 

Testing:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance wise the GTX 275 performs better than every card in this benchmark, hands down.

 

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 GTX 275 from nVidia just flat out outperforms the field in 3DMark Vantage. The HD 4890 is just covered from the lowest to the highest resolution and is not the answer to the GTX 275.

 

Extras:

I wanted to show the Ambient Occlusion effects in a full size images to show the full impact of the benefits of its use. The images cycle between Ambient occlusion ON and OFF

 

First up is Half Life 2

 

Next up is Mirrors Edge

 

World In Conflict

 

World Of Warcraft

 

All in all a pretty interesting addition to the shadowing. A current listing of games that have this technology enable includes the titles listed below.

 

In addition to all of the programs that use nVidia's technologies, you can check out the latest Power Pack for even more Extras for your nVidia GPU at www.nvidia.com/powerpacks.

Conclusion:

It looks like nVidia brought a gun to a knife fight when you compare the performance of the latest cards from both ATI and nVidia. The GTX 275 just outperformed the HD 4890 at every turn, with the exception being Crysis Warhead where the GTX 275 was beaten in all four resolutions. In the GTX 275 you have what equates to half of a GTX 295. You get the 240 shader processor cores of the GTX280/285 with the memory subsystem from the GTX 260. Surprisingly, this combination offers exceptional performance across just about every game tested with this card. In fact, out of 36 tests run, the GTX 275 outright won the resolution in 30 out of 36 tests and was equal to or better than the HD 4890 in 32 out of 36 tests. Pretty much a big win for the GTX 275. The cooling on the GTX 275 is the reference cooler from nVidia. It does an admirable job of keeping the big GT200 core relatively cool when the drivers are controlling the cooling with load temperatures of 88 degrees Celsius under load. Turn the fan speeds up and you are welcomed with some noise to let you know the fan is there but it isn't nearly as loud as the ATI cooling solution. When the fan is spooled up the load temperatures take a drop down to 64 degrees Celsius. Easily a zone I am comfortable with. If you adjust the fan speed to 60% the fan noise almost disappears while still keeping the GPU in the mid 60's Celsius.

There is more to the GTX 275 than just the gaming uses for the card, There are the CUDA based applications that increase productivity by decreasing the time it takes to complete tasks we do frequently such as video editing and encoding, cleaning up photos and video with programs such as Motion DSP's vReveal software that really is amazing to watch at work. Additionally, you have applications like Badaboom that allow you to convert video to formats usable on portable media devices like iPhones, iPods and even the Blackberry (look for reviews on both of these applications shortly). You can use the GPU acceleration features in Photoshop CS4 to help speed up your photo editing. You can use the GTX 275 to help search for a cure for cancer and other devastating diseases with Folding@Home or go on a search for aliens with Seti@Home. Getting back to the gaming uses for the GTX 275, it can be used with nVidia's Geforce 3D Vision 3D goggles to give you a complete 3D experience. Then you add PhysX effects and now the ambient occlusion effect on top of the 3D gaming and you get closer to a more realistic experience with the whole family of technologies. So where does pricing put the GTX 275? As you might imagine, it falls right between the GTX260-216 core in the 170 to 300 dollar range and the GTX 285 in the 340 to 360 dollar range and is going to be offered at $249 at launch. This compares favorably with the pricing on the HD 4890, which will also launch with the $249 price tag. When you look at price vs. performance, the GTX 275 is the winner hands down when it comes to decision time. Performance that comes close to the GTX 280 for the price of an overclocked 260 puts this card as the one to get if a single GPU card is in your future. If looking to upgrade from a GTX 260, you could save some money and go with the GTX 275 instead of the higher end 285. The price is right, the performance is right, how could you go wrong with the GTX 275? Easy, you can't!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: