Palit GTX 260 Review

ccokeman - 2008-07-23 05:21:40 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: August 20, 2008
Price: $254

Introduction:

It's a video card bonanza right now. New video cards have been flying out of the doors from both ATI/AMD and Nvidia, from the 3870 X2 and 48XX series from ATI to the 9-series, and now the latest from Nvidia - the GTX 200 series. The GTX 260 is really nothing more than slightly de-tuned GTX 280; the GTX 260 uses 192 stream processors, 898MB of GDDR3 memory running at 1000MHz, and 1.4 billion transistors on the 65nm core that is clocked at 576MHz. With those credentials, the GTX 260's performance should be able to hang close to it big brother, the GTX 280. With the massive parallel computing capabilities of the Palit GTX 260, it is able to use Nvidia's CUDA technology to perform complex scientific calculations (Folding@Home), as well as offload the burden of video transcoding from the CPU to the GPU. After seeing the performance of the GTX 280, and an overclocked GTX 260, you have to wonder just how a stock clocked card will perform.

If the performance of the Palit GTX 280 is any indication of the performance potential of the GTX 200 series video cards, then this looks to be another high performing example. Will the Palit GTX 260 be able to match the overclocking capabilities of the EVGA FTW edition that OverclockersClub recently reviewed? Will it be able to be pushed farther? I will have to find out.

Palit is still a newcomer to the North American market, and is still not well known by many - but this does not mean that they are a new company. They have been manufacturing motherboards and video cards for 10 years now. Palit is known for the overclocking potential of their non-reference design video cards, and providing innovative cooling solutions on the cards they build. Let's see if the Palit GTX 260 can step out from the crowd, or see if it hides in the shadow of its more powerful sibling, the GTX 280.

Closer Look:

The front panel of the box shows the Palit mascot, the Frobot (Frog Robot), along with product identification, basic specifications and the "Gamers Choice" splash logo. The rear panel elaborates on some of the specifications, including support for DirectX 10, Open GL2.01, and what drivers are included on the driver disk. This information is included in 12 different languages, and considering the global availability of Palit's products, this is needed. The side panels list very little additional information, but Windows Vista compatibility and the Frobot are shown prominently.

 

 

 

Popping open the hood provides little excitement. The insides are partitioned to allow the GTX 260 to stay in place, locked in a box of its own, while the bundle takes up the rest of the space.

 

 

The bundle that comes with the Palit GTX 260 is pretty slim, but what is there will allow the end user to get the card installed and functioning in just about any case. The documentation includes a quick start guide, a generic driver disk, a DVI to D-sub adapter, and last, but not least, a DVI to HDMI adapter. Unfortunately, there is not an HDMI cable provided, making this feature unavailable until you purchase the 2-pin cable.

 

 

Now, let's take a look at the GTX 260 and see what it has to offer.

 

Closer Look:

The Palit GTX 260 looks exactly like its bigger brother. Same dimensions, almost the same power connections, same dual-slot cooling solution - externally it is the same. The GTX 260 is a big video card; it comes in at 10.5 inches in length. One thing you may want to check - before you spend your hard earned greenbacks - is if the card will fit in your chassis. On a whim, I decided to find out just important this is. Out of the twelve cases in my farm, I found that the card would only fit in four. Just make sure you have the room, and if not, I can't think of a better reason for a case upgrade! Under the hood is where the differences lie. Instead of the 240 processing units the GTX 280 features, the GTX 260 sports 192. On the memory front, the GTX 260 falls short of the 1GB of GDDR3 memory on the GTX 280, sporting 898MB running through a 448-bit bus, instead of the 280's 512-bit bus. GPU clock speed is 576MHz, Shader clocks are set to 1242MHz, and the 898MB of GDDR3 runs at 1000MHz on that 448-bit memory bus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The business end of the GTX 260 is where you will connect the card to the display of your choice. For connections there's what amounts to standard fare on higher-end cards. Two dual-link DVI+ ports and one HDTV port are used to send that signal out to the display. The exhaust from the heatsink assembly is directed through the expansion slot bracket outside of the chassis. This means that there should be a minimal impact to the temperatures inside of the chassis. The rear end of the card is one big intake for the blower fan. Why there you ask? Because when two GTX 260s are run in an SLI configuration, there's only about 1/8 of an inch between the cards to allow airflow into the primary card. This helps alleviate any overheating problems.

 

 

Power requirements for the GTX 260 include two 6-pin PCI-E connections; Nvidia's specifications show this card using 182 watts. Without these connections, the card just does not work as intended. Next to the power connections sits the HDMI sound input from your motherboard. By using this connection, which is tied to the digital audio S/PDIF output on your motherboard, you can have 7.1 Channel sound run through an HDMI cable to that plasma HDTV.

 

 

 

Up along the top front of the GTX 260 are the SLI bridge connections. Nvidia and Palit have chosen to cover these connections with a rubber cap to protect the underlying contacts when they're not use. This can prevent damage that would prevent you from running a pair of these in SLI.

 

 

Configuration:

The proper setup of any new hardware begins with the installation of the drivers. Without the drivers, the full functionality of this high-end card is lost. So rather than lose out on the immense capabilities of the Palit GTX 260, start out by inserting the supplied driver disk into any optical drive in your computer and wait for the Autorun process to start. Once started, the Installation GUI gives you several options to choose from.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first option is to install the drivers. By choosing this option, the process starts with DirectX installation, then moves to the Nvidia driver installation GUI. After both items are in place, the program requires a reboot to complete the installation.

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Other options are available, excluding the Exit feature. The Browse Disk option allows the user to look through the Read Me files, and allows for a manual installation. The Help feature is there if you have installation issues, or need help with troubleshooting problems.

 

 

Once the installation is complete, you can modify the performance or visual quality of the signal sent to the display. Under 3D Settings, you can adjust the video quality via a preview that offers three options, or you can manually set up a general profile, and set up individual profiles for many of the games on the market today. Setting the Multi GPU mode can be used to turn off multi GPU mode (SLI), so that multiple monitors can be utilized. This, of course, only can be used when two GTX 260 video cards are installed on a motherboard supporting that function. Each subsection allows for adjusting certain parameters, and can be explored and manipulated to give the best viewing experience.

 

 

The question is, just how much of a performance drop will I see with the lower clock speeds, fewer processing cores, and reduced memory when compared to the GTX 280? I can't wait to find out!

 

Specifications:

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

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

 
576 MHz
Processor Clock (Processor Cores)
1,242 MHz
Processor Cores
192

Memory Clock (Clock rate / Data rate)

1,000 MHz / 2,000 MHz
Memory Interface
448 bit
Total Memory Bandwidth
111.9 GB/s
Memory Size
898 GB
ROPs
28
Texture Filtering Units
56
Texture Filtering Rate
40.3 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.com, 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 Palit GTX 260 compares to some of the other enthusiast video cards on the market. We'll be using single GPU models exclusively to show the performance that the Palit GTX 260 brings to the table. 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:

After seeing the headroom still left on EVGA's GTX 260 FTW card, I was expecting big things from the Palit GTX 260. Initially I was slightly disappointed that I could not match the overclocking ability of the EVGA card, but when you sit back and think, you realize that this is not a factory overclocked card. As such, it is binned a little lower, and costs a little bit less as well. What I did get from the card was 128MHz on the GTX 260 core, 112MHz on the memory, and 276MHz on the Shader clocks. As a percentage, the increases equal out to an 18% jump in the GPU core speed, 10% on the memory, and almost 20% on the Shader clocks. All of these increases are pretty substantial, and provide a serious performance boost when the CPU does not bottleneck the system's performance.

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 has been out for quite some time now. In that time, there has yet to be a single or multi GPU setup that can fully showcase the graphics performance of the game. Just how well will the GTX 260 from Palit fare? The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor and video card.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Palit GTX 260 does quite well until the 1920x1200 resolution, where it falls to the newer cards in the comparison. This is expected from a stock clocked video card. The overclocked numbers show improvement across all four resolutions

 

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 GTX 200 series cards are at the top of the heap here. The Palit GTX 260 stays right with the overclocked GTX 260 through all four resolutions. The performance is not that bad, and keeps close to the marks that the GTX 280 laid down. The HD 48XX cards are mauled at the highest resolution.

 

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games out the wild, chronicling the building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong, with its inhabitants driven mad by 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 Daddies." 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 storyline, will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The stock Palit GTX 260 started to show its true colors in BioShock. Performance at this level puts it between the HD 48XX cards in three out of the four resolutions tested.

 

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 GTX 200 series cards are the top of the food chain in COD4. The Palit GTX 260 stays ahead of the HD 48XX cards in all four resolutions, while only falling about 10 FPS shy of the overclocked GTX 260.

Testing:

World in Conflict: Released last year, World in Conflict is a 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 with limited opportunities to replenish your troops.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 
 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Performance in World in Conflict shows the Palit GTX 260 ahead of the HD 48XX series cards, and falling slightly behind the performance of the GTX 280 and overclocked GTX 260.

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ATI cards just chew up the competition in Call of Juarez. Even the HD 4850 gets into the game, beating the GTX 260 until the highest resolution, where the performance between the two is equal.

 

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. You can play as the British or Germans. This Real Time Strategy game is brought to us by Relic Entertainment.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Performance again shows the non-overclocked nature of the GTX 260. Its performance is just slightly better than the HD 4870 until 1920x1200, where they are equal. The 9800 GTX had a strong showing, and out gunned the HD 48XX cards in all four resolutions.

 

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:

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The HD 48XX series cards only beat the Palit GTX 260 in one resolution, 1024x768. In the rest of the resolutions, Palit is ahead of the ATI offerings, and comes close to the overclocked version of the GTX 260.

 

Extras:

Folding@Home is a distributed computing project run by Stanford University. This project uses the spare CPU cycles, as well as GPU cycles (GPU Folding has been available on the red side of the fence with ATI cards for a while), to simulate the folding of proteins. When the proteins in our bodies fold improperly, 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, 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 required 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 with which the Palit GTX 260 completed the assignments, initially completing five work units in about two hours. The units are currently running about a minute per step, so you will see at least one completed unit every two hours. 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. Stanford has recently introduced a console GPU client for people running Vista-based systems. This takes away the graphic overhead issues, and helps speed through the work units, hopefully pushing the scientific discoveries even faster!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 -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:

Performance is what we all want from the hardware purchases that we make - at least an increase in performance over the current setup that we have. This is what the Palit GTX 260 will do for you. It's not going to beat out the GTX 280, but it does hang with it at the lower resolutions. As the lower performing card in the GTX 200 deck, the GTX 260 pulls out better performance than the ATI HD 4870 in 21 out of 32 - or roughly 65% - of our benchmarks. It did tie in one, so you could say the tie goes to the runner, and make it 66% for that 2/3 majority. As a stock clocked card, the Palit GTX 260 could not be expected to win a head to head match with the GTX 280, and was beaten in just about every benchmark and resolution. It fared quite well against the overclocked GTX 260, but was still beaten in most of the benchmarks, as expected. Price-wise, the Palit GTX 260 is competitively priced at $299, but can be had for as little as $255. This price is lower than the any of HD 4870 video cards I found for sale, so this Palit GTX 260 video card even wins in the price for performance war. Something I did not think I would hear myself say, due to the aggressive pricing structure of the AMD/ATI video cards. Sweet!

When pushing the clock speeds on the Palit GTX 260, I was able to gain 128MHz on the GPU and 112MHz on the memory. Both respectable numbers in anyone's book, but I was expecting a little bit more. At those speeds though, the performance was boosted, and proved to be rock stable through an all-night Call of Duty 4 frag fest. The only way to gain more performance from the Palit GTX 260 would be to resort to extreme cooling, or you could just purchase another one or two cards to run them in an SLI configuration. Yes, I did say two more! The GTX 260, much like the GTX 280, is Tri-SLI capable, so the performance only scales up as additional cards are introduced. Of course you need a Tri-SLI capable motherboard to take advantage of this ability.

With 192 stream processors, more can be done with this graphics card than just viewing an image. The parallel computing capability of the GTX 200 series from Nvidia opens up an array of possibilities. First, you have the ability to run scientific calculations to help search for a cure for many devastating diseases. Then, there's the ability to push the load from the CPU to the GPU when encoding video, greatly reducing the time needed to complete the operation. Nvidia has steadily been releasing PhysX drivers to help increase the performance of the GTX 200 video cards. Once the really heavy PhysX-based games begin to appear, the GTX 260 will be ready. To save power, the drivers kick the card clocks way down, which in turn produces a power savings to the end user - something all of us can use in this day of outrageous energy costs. When the drivers are controlling the fan speed, the fan on the heatsink is barely audible from my chair that's two feet from the chassis. Once you ramp the speeds up to 100% manually, the fan does get quite loud. Not as loud as the hair driers on the 1900XTs I have in a drawer, but loud enough to let you know it is on and running full bore. If the case were further away or under a desk, the sound might not be as loud, but noise tolerance is always subjective. With the fan controlled by the drivers, temperatures were rarely out of the low 60's Celsius in my 21 degree Celsius cave. All things considered, the Palit GTX 260 is a winner. With the current pricing structure, it beats out the best single GPU cards in over 60% of our benchmarks, and can be purchased for less than the HD 4870. The performance for the price makes buying the Palit GTX 260 a no brainer.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: