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Nvidia GeForce GTX 275 896MB Review

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     April 2, 2009

Conclusion


In order to maintain transparency, we would like to note that due to time constraints (ie: receiving the drivers 2 days before this review was posted) we weren’t able to use the 185-series drivers with the GTX 285 and GTX 260. According to Nvidia, these drivers will give between 2% and 10% framerate increases at certain resolutions in selected games. While the performance increases would be negligible, the gap between the GTX 285 and GXT 275 may increase slightly but only in a few isolated cases. Thus, our conclusion still stands.

It seems odd to start a conclusion about a modern graphics card with a blast from the past but... does anyone remember the famous 7900 GTO? To refresh your memory, it was basically a 7900 GTX with slightly slower memory speeds and offered much of the same performance as the higher-end card even though it retailed for a fraction of the cost. We have to bring this card back from the dead again because it serves as a perfect analogy for the card that is the GTX 275: in its time, the GTO was great card at an unbelievable price that ended up competing with Nvidia’s high-end offering. The exact same can be said about the GTX 275.

From where we stand, there is a lot to like about the GTX 275 considering it offers incredible performance for its supposed asking price and it is quite efficient to boot. Believe it or not, the GTX 275’s closest competitor isn’t even the HD 4890 it is supposed to wipe the floor with. Rather, for some reason Nvidia may have unwittingly targeted their own GTX 285. They needed to thread a very fine needle when trying to find a happy medium between the GTX 260 216 and GTX 285 and considering how close this card comes to the GTX 285’s performance; we think they missed their mark. Don’t get us wrong, offering performance which is merely 10-15% less than a GTX 285 at a price that is potentially up to 25% less means the GTX 275 is a stunningly great buy in its category. Unfortunately, one has to wonder what this will end up doing to sales of the GTX 285. Has Nvidia cannibalized the sales of their high-end SKU just to compete on a somewhat level playing field with ATI? Only time will tell.

We can talk all we want about the GTX 275’s performance versus the GTX 285 but its real competition is suposed to be the HD 4890. When we look at the hard numbers, they seem to tell an intersting story: Out of 19 tests at 1680 resolution, the GTX 275 wins 10, at 1920 it wins 9 and it blows the HD 4890 out of the water by winning 16 of 19 tests at 2560 resolution. Even if we took its DX10.1 wins into consideration, the HD 4890 still manages to loose to the GTX 275 in 32 of 57 in-game benchmarks. What this tells us is that performance between the two cards is quite close under 30" resolution but the GTX 275 is almost unbeatable at extreme resolutions. What actually shocked us the most was how it was able to trounce the 1GB-equipped HD 4890 at ultra high resolutions. All in all, it seems the determining factor between these two cards will be price.

To level with you, even though both the HD 4890 and the GTX 275 are being released on the same day, there is a reason we chose not to take the “easy way out” and provide you guys with the stereotypical one versus one review. We feel that both cards deserve their time in the spotlight and considering pricing for the GTX 275 in particular is far from set, we can’t even be sure both cards will end up competing with each other in the same price category. Indeed, Nvidia may be in a spot of trouble since we hear that ATI’s pricing for the HD 4890 1GB may be even lower than they first reported to reviewers. If that is the case, the GTX 275 may be left out in the cold without a significant drop to both its price and the price of the GTX 285 as well. It will be definately interesting to see what kind of pricing both cards settle upon.

While performance in spades will surely win over the majority of buyers, there are a few wrinkles in the fabric of perfection. First of all, I hate paper launches with a passion so I just can’t stand the fact that Nvidia has sacrificed their record of successive hard launches just so they can rain on ATI’s parade. We reviewers can laud the GTX 275 until our faces go blue but if customers can’t put their hands on one, reviews do nothing but pimp an unavailable product. Then there is the small speed bump when it comes to the load temperatures the GTX 275 displays. While we can understand that silence is indeed golden, in this case it comes at the price of 89°C temperatures so one has to bite the bullet and increase the fan speed. Performance per watt is also very much in ATI's favour.

While there are a few faults with the GTX 275, they don’t stop it from being one hell of a card. It simply smokes the HD 4890 in the majority of the high resolution tests we conducted which means that we could finally have a sub-$300 card on our hands that can give playable framerates on 30" monitors. That in itself is an achievement. Indeed,, if this card does fall into the $250USD price bracket it will simply be the best bang for your buck available. So much so that Nvidia’s saviour against the HD 4890 onslaught could throw a live hand grenade into their entire pricing structure. Trust me, it is a great time to be in the market for a new graphics card.


Pros:

- Excellent high resolution performance
- Efficient under idle conditions
- Quiet
- Good memory overclocking headroom


Cons:

- Paper launch
- Runs hot
- Paper launch
- Inefficient when compared to the competition
- Did we mention this is a paper launch?


 
 
 

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