XFX GTX260 Black Edition Reviewccokeman - November 4, 2008
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Getting that shiny new graphics card to do what you need it to do, is not just an "install and go" affair. You need to have the instruction set - or drivers - to control the video card and tell it when, how, and why, so it does things in the most efficient way possible. In addition, there are utilities that help manage the performance of the video card. If these tools are not used, the money you spent on that performance GPU upgrade was just wasted.
Start out by inserting the driver disk into the optical drive, and let the Autorun feature bring up the installation GUI. Once the GUI is up, you have just a couple of options - install the driver for you specific OS, register your card and look through the bundled software. The full game Far Cry 2 comes with this bundle, but is on a separate disk.
Choosing the Install Driver box will start the installation of the Nvidia drivers for this specific card. Follow through with the installation, choosing the options best suited to your system, and then reboot to finish the installation.
One thing Video card manufacturers have been doing as of late, is including newer games with the bundle that comes with the video cards. XFX will be including Far Cry 2 with this bundle, as well as including the Far Cry 2 bundle with an assortment of 9 series cards. Even though Assasins Creed was included, this was due to the timing of the game release. In the extras section of this review, you can see just how this card performs.
If the default level of performance or visual quality is not what you want, you can use the Nvidia Control Panel to manage performance and visual quality. There are many different tabs where adjustments can be made, but I will show just a few that are important to the gamers among us. The Manage 3D Settings tab allows the Global (all situations) settings to be tailored to your liking. Under this tab are the game specific settings as well. There are pre-built profiles that can be adjusted to get all the eye candy to work, or to minimize the settings to get higher frames per second. The choice is yours.
Folding @ Home is a distributed computing project run by 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 in which it completed the assignments . Running the SMP clients took about a day to process one plus unit with a quad-core CPU. While now the same work can be done in roughly 130 minutes on this GPU. There is definitely a substantial performance increase with the CUDA technology and the GTX 260's 216 processor cores.
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.
Now that the final steps of the installation have been completed, I can't wait to see what kind of performance increase the Black Edition delivers with the increased clock speeds and 24 additional processing cores.