The Games of Christmas '08: GPU Performance Part 1

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     December 8, 2008

The Competition: Nvidia Cards

Many will erroneously state that Nvidia has spent most of this year playing catch-up to a surging ATI but we have to remember that before the release of the HD 4800-series of cards, Nvidia was leading at every price point. Cards like the GTX 260 and GTX 280 were the first to be able to properly play such demanding games as Crysis at reasonable framerates even though their initial price points were astronomical. That being said, this holiday season brings with it less expensive Nvidia cards and bucket loads of performance so let’s take a look at the Nvidia cards we will be using in this article.


When the GTX 280 was released it was met with guarded enthusiasm since while it was able to perform at amazing speeds, its price of nearly $700 here in Canada brought many people up short. Since that time, pricing has come down significantly to the point where you can purchase Nvidia’s flagship card for about the same price the GTX 260 was retailing for a few months ago. It is still considered the top dog in Nvidia’s lineup even though its status as the fastest card on the planet has been taken over by the HD 4870 X2. In this review we will be using a stock-clocked card from EVGA.

EVGA GTX 260 Core 216 Superclocked

The GTX 260 with 216 Shader Processors is the new kid on the block in Nvidia’s lineup since it was released in order to answer ATI’s HD 4870. In our review of this card, we found that it was able to compete with and in many situations beat the HD 4870 512MB. All in all, I would call that a successful launch especially since it would eventually replace the older GTX 260.

Start the hate mail folks because I have decided to use a card in this article which sports slightly overclocked specifications. While the overclocks may be considered insignificant, they do provide a very slight performance boost which you should take into the account when reading any further in this review. Why did I choose to use this card? Well it is the only 216 shader GTX 260 I have and I am unwilling to underclock to achieve the desired clock speeds. Underclocking is a dangerous game which can sometimes result in lower performance than a stock card so what you see here is what you get.


It was a while after release when we got our first look at a stock-clocked GTX 260 but nonetheless, the card proved to be a godsend for Nvidia since it competed quite well against ATI’s HD 4870. Granted, it lost out more often than not which is why the “unlocked” version with 216SPs was eventually released but through careful retail price cuts, it stayed competitive for months in the face of adversity. Even though this card is becoming harder and harder to find, I find it is still relevant to this review since there are plenty of people out there who still have one or who can get a great deal on it considering its discontinuation. In this review we will be benching with the stock clocked BFG version.

EVGA 9800 GTX+

We can all remember when the original 9800 GTX was released and we were stunned to find that it wasn’t too much of an improvement over the 8800 GTS 512MB. However, with ATI’s release of the HD 4850, Nvidia suddenly found itself battling over ground it thought was safely locked up. After the 9800 GTX was soundly beaten in the price / performance battle by ATI’s new wunderkind, Nvidia knew they needed something else. Enter the “+” version of that same 9800 GTX which is now sporting a brand new 55nm core as well as increased clock speeds. When we first looked at this card its benefits were clear as day and not a thing has changed since then. However, it will be interesting to see how it performs in all of these new applications we will be putting it through today.

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