XFX GTX260 Black Edition Review

ccokeman - 2008-10-24 18:32:01 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: November 4, 2008
Price: $299-309

Introduction:

"Back in Black I hit the sack I've been too long I'm glad to be back...." oops wrong story! It was just the first thing that hit me when I saw this card From XFX. Black can be good or bad, in this case its good. The Black Edition GTX260 from XFX is something a little special. This card is the revised version that gets an increase in the amount of shader processor cores from 192 to 216, an increase of 24 that puts it just 24 cores short of the amount used in the GTX280. Not only do we have the increased shader core count, but this card is factory overclocked to 666MHz on the GT200 core - yes 666MHz - just a little dark humor right before Halloween it seems. The 896 MB of GDDR3 memory gets a bump to 1150MHz with the shaders moving to 1404MHz. All of these clock speeds are significant increases from the factory stock settings. The increase in shader cores, the increase in clock speeds hhmmmm ... this all should add up to a package that offers a pretty stunning improvement in performance over the overclocked EVGA FTW and the stock cards we have looked at.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Closer Look:

The Black Edition packaging is dark. The front is almost entirely black with the backdrop being a "Black Hole". The Black Edition lettering looks like it was from a 70's game show and detracts from the overall impact. Other than that, the front panel highlights the 666MHz core clock speed, the model designation, amount of GDDR3 memory, and the inclusion of a DVI to HDMI adapter. Assassins Creed is the game sent with this card. For the retail versions, the Bundle will include Far Cry2 as the game that is included. XFX Did supply OCC with a copy once it was available. The rear panel highlights the feature set and talks in greater detail about the physx and HD aspects of the GTX260 216 core Black Edition.

 

 

 

Regardless of the outside artwork, XFX is consistent with their internal packaging. The Lime green box is always there and lets you know just who's product you are working with. Flipping the lid you will find the product documentation. Under this, a layer of foam is pulled back to reveal the GTX260 and the accessory bundle. Each of the video cards I have looked at were protected much better than some of their competitors.

 

 

The accessory bundle included with the "Black Edition" GTX260 includes the Quick start guide, manual, connection diagram, do not disturb door tag, game and driver disks, S/PDIF cable, DVI to D-Sub adapter, DVI to HDMI adapter and a 7-pin HDTV out dongle. The Black Edition is a Special card and comes with its own club. The price of admission to this elite club is the Black Edition video card. Members receive Priority technical support, special members only product offers and invitations to members only special events as well as a Black Edition case badge and membership card.

 

 

 

Let's see just what this card looks like and how it performs.

 

Closer Look:

So what makes the Black Edition GTX260(216) so special that you can belong to an exclusive group that gets priority technical support, a special case badge and special product offers, invitations to special events and more? Could it be the Limited status of the card? It could be the clock speeds of 666MHz on the GPU core, 1150 MHz on the 896MB of GDDR3 memory or the 1404MHz on the shader clocks. It could be the increase in the shader processing cores increasing to 216 from the standard 192. From the outside, the card looks just like all of the video cards from the 9800GTX on up. It's what's under the hood that's different. The only indication that this card is a little something special from the outside is the "Black Edition" moniker displayed on the front of the card.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connectivity is pretty much unchanged from the standard GTX260. 2 Dual Link capable DVI ports that are HDMI capable with the correct and included adapter, as well as a 7-pin HDTV out port. The rear is also unchanged from the standard cards. The cut-out in the rear helps feed air to the fan, especially when you have three of these cards in an SLI or TRI SLI configuration.

 

 

The GTX260 (216) Black Edition card is capable of running in SLI mode with both standard 192 core and 216 core GTX260 models. Nvidia and XFX have a cover installed over the SLI bridge connections on the card for that added bit of protection.

 

 

The power requirements of the "Black Edition" GTX260 from XFX still do not warrant the need for an 8-pin power connection to feed the card. It is rated at the same 182 watts at maximum load that the standard GTX 260 uses. The small socket next to the power connections is the D/PDIF sound input from the motherboard, so that the high definition video can be carried out to the display device (television). The included DVI to HDMI adapter allows for that signal to be carried via the HDMI interface.

 

 

Closer Look:

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.

 

 

Specifications:

GPU
GTX 260 216 core
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)
1,400 MHz
Processor Cores
216

Memory Clock (Clock rate / Data rate)

1,150 MHz / 2,300 MHz
Memory Interface
448 bit
Total Memory Bandwidth
128.8 GB/s
Memory Size
896 MB
ROPs
28
Texture Filtering Units
72
Texture Filtering Rate
47.95 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 set 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 XFX Black Edition GTX260 compares to some of the other enthusiast video cards on the market. We'll be using single GPU models with the exception of the HD4870X2 from Sapphire to to find out just what the 216 core overclocked GTX260 Black Edition has to offer in the way of performance. 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 performed with the default settings in the respective control panels, as well as default settings in the BIOS of the motherboard used in this test. For this round of testing, our drivers have been updated to the 177.79 for the Nvidia cards and the Catalyst 8.8 for the ATI video cards used in this review. The XFX GTX260 Black edition is a pre-overclocked card, so its performance should be a step up from the standard GTX260. Additionally, this card has had an increase in the amount of processing cores to 216, just 24 less than the GTX280.

 

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

This Black Edition video card from XFX comes pre-overclocked. That's a good thing for the folks who either don't know how to overclock or the people who just want something better than the normal cards. Manufacturers know this since the bulk of the market is not this crowd. Now you have the gamers, enthusiasts and hardcore benchmark junkies that will make the card scream for mercy. Overclocking abilities on the factory clock speeds are many times a good indicator that the card will do well when the cooling is improved and the voltage mods have been put into place. So how well does this card from XFX do on air? Pretty well actually. On the Core speed only the EVGA GTX260 FTW had a higher GPU core and shader clock speed. When you add in the additional processing cores, the performance of the XFX Black addition is almost as good as the well clocked GTX280 in the comparison list. I was able to coax an additional 76MHz out of the GPU core,111MHz more out of the memory and 121MHz more from the shader cores. Add the additional clock speeds to a card that is already almost as fast as the GTX280 and you have a lot of performance to play with. This translates into additional frames per second for the gamer, additional points per day for the people running distributed computing projects and last but not least, reduced time to compress video when using the GPU.

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
  9. 3DMark Vantage

 

Testing:

Crysis has been out for quite some time now. In that time, there's yet to be a single or multi-GPU setup that can fully showcase the graphics performance of the game. The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor and video card.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As well as the Zotac GTX280 does perform, the Black Edition GTX260 from XFX keeps right up with it and stays within two FPS of the GTX280 and beats the HD4870 1GB model in all four resolutions tested.

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would have to say that the Black Edition GTX260 has got some game. Beating the GTX280 in three out of four resolutions is really a surprise. Considering the fact that both cards are pretty well overclocked, they both have a field day with the HD4870 1GB from ATI.

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games out in the wild, chronicling 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 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 GTX260 Black Edition stays ahead of the GTX280 in three out of four resolutions and finally falls behind at 1920x1200. Still not up to the task of competing with the HD4870x2, it does perform substantially better than the 1GB HD4870.

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 GTX260 Black Edition from XFX is again close to the performance of the GTX280, although in this benchmark, it is slower than the GTX280 by 10 FPS at 1920x1200. The GTX280 and 4870X2 just are more capable on the top end.

 

Testing:

World in Conflict was released in late 2007 and is a Real Time Strategy game. 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:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance equal to and at times, surpassing the GTX280. Pretty surprising performance. In this game, crossfire does not seem to scale well with the 4870x2 as the 4870 with 1GB of memory and GT200 based cards perform above the level of the card, that so far, is the higher performing card.

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no denying the performance of the 4870x2 is huge in this game. The XFX GTX260 Black Edition performs on average two frames per second slower than the overclocked GTX280 and aasingle frame per second slower than the HD4870 1GB card.

 

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GTX260 Black Edition is performing as well as the GTX280 and significatly better than the HD4870 1GB model from ATI.

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is not a single GPU card that is going to keep pace with the performance of the HD4870X2. The GTX260 Back edition is not an exception to that statement. However, the performance of the Black Edition is very similar to that of the overclocked GTX280 and significantly higher than the 1GB 4870. The only stronger single GPU card in this comparison is the GTX280 Amp Edition from Zotac.

Testing:

Just added to the OverclockersClub suite of benchmarks is the newest from Futuremark, 3DMark Vantage. 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 best ATI has to offer is the HD4870x2 and it shows why. It outperforms all of the single GPU cards as it should. When the Extreme preset is run, it's all about the graphics card and the performance falls to where the cards fall on the performance scale 4870x2, GTX280, GTX260/216, 4870 1GB, GTX260 with the balance of the cards in tow.

Extras:

Far Cry 2:

While I have not run all of the cards in the comparison list through the Far Cry2 benchmarking, I will add the GTX260 Black Edition to the list of cards I have run through the testing. Our testing is not yet complete but you can look for Far Cry 2 to become part of the Overclockersclub benchmark suite. 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:

 

 

 

 

 

Even though this sample did not come with Far Cry 2, all of the retail versions of the GTX260 Black Edition will carry the full game. In fact, XFX has even added some of the 9 series cards to the list of cards that will carry the Far Cry 2 bundle. Considering the cost of new games, the inclusion of this game is a nice added bonus, and you do not have to get the top cards to get it.

Conclusion:

The XFX GTX260 Black Edition video card does exactly what it is supposed to do. It beat the HD4870 1GB model at the video performance game while still competing on the price point. This it does quite well. In every game tested except Call of Juarez, the Black Edition's performance was superior to the ATI HD4870 1GB card. The only other time the red camp offering was close, was in World in Conflict. In this benchmark, the performance differential was only 1 frame per second better than the Black Edition GTX260. The additional 24 shader processing cores and higher clock speeds allow for performance in the GTX280 range from this card. The comparison GTX280 in this review is an overclocked model and this offering from XFX still comes close to equaling the performance laid down by the Zotac GTX280 AMP! Edition. This is really a pretty strong performance from the card. The Special Edition nature of this package shows when the chips are down, it has the power to run just about any game out there as a single GPU gaming solution. If you put two of the Black Edition GTX260 216 core cards in a standard SLI or better yet a TRI SLI setup, the performance should make games such as Crysis and Far Cry 2 playable at all but the highest resolutions with plenty of eye candy. As a pre-overclocked card, the Black Edition is supposed to offer better than stock performance, and it does. Now, when you push the clock speeds even further, the performance scales nicely. Clock speed increases were in the neighborhood of 11+% on the GPU core from the stock 666MHz to 740MHz and an increase of almost 10% on the memory to 1261 MHz from 1150MHz. Once the CPU limitation is eliminated, the performance soars.

With this kind of horsepower, the additional capabilities of the GT200 series cards are further improved. Reductions in the time needed to transcode video, so you can spend more time watching your collection, than preserving it. For the distributed computing junkies (myself included), this results in a reduced time to submit results which long term will hopefully find cures for the wicked diseases that afflict us humans, things such as cancer, mad cow disease, Alzheimers and more. With the purchase of a Black Edition video card, you are offered membership into the Black Edition membership club. After registering your card, you are eligible for membership only offers and invitations to membership only events. While Assassins Creed was supplied with this card, retail versions will get Far Cry 2 as the supplied game. The GTX260 216 core "Black Edition" from XFX has it all - performance at the right price, with a great bundle of accessories! Now back to my song.....

 

Pros:

 

Cons: