Nvidia GeForce GTX 280 Hands-On

Find out about Nvidia's next-generation GeForce GTX 280 GPU and see how it performs!

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The PC gaming industry is undergoing a transition period, but that isn't slowing down the pace of graphics innovation. The industry is shifting from retail to digital distribution, and the current generation of consoles have adopted many features previously available only on the PC, such as HD graphics and pervasive online multiplayer support. The current consoles are much stronger competition in this time around, but the PC platform is up to the challenge. Industry heavyweights including Microsoft, Activision, Intel, Nvidia, and AMD have formed the PC Gaming Alliance to reinvigorate PC gaming by making it easier and more accessible to gamers. The PC still has its greatest advantage, a steady stream of new CPUs and GPUs that ensure that the PC platform's computational power is always several generations ahead of the consoles. Nvidia has increased the PC graphics lead one step further with today's release of the first GeForce 200 series GPU, the GeForce GTX 280.

The GeForce GTX 280 takes over for the GeForce 9800 GTX as Nvidia's latest and most powerful DirectX 10 GPU. The new GeForce GTX 280 actually compares best with the GeForce 9800 GX2 which has two GeForce 9800 GTX processors on a single card. The GeForce 9 series might be the most short-lived Nvidia GeForce generation we've ever seen, but the GeForce 9's brief life span makes sense when you consider that the GeForce 9800 GTX GPU was basically a die shrink of the GeForce 8800 GTX with some minor memory-interface revisions. Shrinking the die is an efficiency play that moves an existing chip design to a newer manufacturing process and results in smaller chips. The die shrink reduces costs because more chips can fit onto each silicon wafer, and it can often increase GPU performance because smaller chips can achieve higher operating speeds.

GeForce 9800 GX2 owners might want to avert their eyes.

The GeForce GTX 280 has 240 stream processors, almost double the number of processors on the GeForce 9800 GTX, and Nvidia has optimized the new chip architecture to squeeze even more performance out of each processor. Nvidia bumped up the onboard memory to 1GB for a single GPU and widened the memory interface to 512-bit to improve performance at high resolutions with antialiasing enabled. The performance doesn't come cheap--the GeForce GTX 280 comes with a very top-of-the-line $649 MSRP. However, the GTX 280 is only half of the GeForce GTX 200 launch. Nvidia plans to release the slightly less powerful, but much more affordable GeForce GTX 260 next week on June 26, 2008. The $399 GeForce GTX 260 will have 192 stream processors, 896MB of memory, and a 448-bit memory interface.

The GTX 280 continues Nvidia's commitment to evolving the video card into a more consumer-friendly product. The entire dual-slot card is encased in a glossy, molded shell, and the new design hides the card's SLI connector and audio port beneath rubberized covers. It's really only a matter of time before a designer extends out the shell to hide the PCI Express connector, the last exposed portion of the card's PCB shame.

GPU GeForce GTX 280 GeForce GTX 260 GeForce 9800 GX2 GeForce 9800 GTX
Current price $649 $399 $499 $269
Processor cores 240 192 256 128
Processor clock 1.3GHz 1.24GHz 1.5GHz 1.69GHz
Core Clock 602MHz 576MHz 600MHz 675MHz
Memory 1GB 896MB 512MBx2 512MB
Memory Clock 2.2GHz(DDR) 2GHz(DDR) 2GHz(DDR) 2GHz(DDR)
Memory Interface 512-bit 488-bit 256-bit 256-bit

Nvidia added more open space around the 8-pin and 6-pin power connectors to accommodate larger power plugs. The GeForce 9800 cards had less clearance around the power connectors, which forced users to either find a power adapter or snap off the extra plastic to get power cables to seat properly. Nvidia recommends using a 550W power supply with at least 40A on the 12V rail for a single GeForce GTX 280. Cards will work in 2-way and 3-way SLI, provided you have an SLI-enabled motherboard with the appropriate number of PCI Express slots.

Rear Bracket Power and Audio SLI Connector Card Back

The card has two dual-link, HDCP-compliant DVI-I outputs and a 7-pin analog connector that can output S-Video as well as composite and component with the appropriate cable dongle. HDMI output comes via a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, but you'll need to jack a SPDIF audio feed to the top of the card if you want to get sound integrated into the HDMI-out. As with all recent Nvidia GPUs, the GeForce GTX 200 series has PureVideo support that provides full decode acceleration for all popular HD file formats.

The GTX 200 GPUs also have smarter power management features that can automatically detect and throttle the chip's power depending on how much 3D-performance the system needs. According to Nvidia, the GeForce 280 GTX will only consume 25-35W when running in desktop mode or while playing a Blu-ray movie, but it can ramp up to full power, approximately 236W, when it's time to fire up Call of Duty 4. The GTX 200 GPUs also support Nvidia's HybridPower feature that can switch all graphics work over to the motherboard graphics chip for low-intensity, nongaming applications provided you have a motherboard with an nForce 780a or 790i chipset.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650, EVGA 780 SLI motherboard, 2GB Corsair DDR2 (1GBx2), Seagate 7200.11 750GB Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista 32-bit SP1. Graphics Cards: GeForce GTX 280 1GB, GeForce 9800 GX2 1GB (512MBx2), GeForce 9800 GTX 512MB. Graphics Drivers: Nvidia ForceWare beta 177.26, Nvidia ForceWare 175.16.

The performance tests show us that the GeForce GTX 280's 240 stream processors are very capable of taking on 256 processors from the previous generation. The GeForce GTX 280 only has a slight lead over its competition in Call of Duty 4 and Team Fortress 2, but the newest GeForce shows what it can do in our most challenging tests, Crysis with high-quality settings and the new 3D Mark Vantage. Crysis has been the most graphically demanding game in our benchmark suite since its release late last year. Most cards struggle to maintain playable framerates at higher resolutions at the best image quality levels, but GeForce GTX 280 handles high-quality, 1600x1200 without a problem and actually makes antialiasing a viable option. The card does particularly well in the 3DMark Vantage Extreme test which sets the resolution to 1920x1200 and increases all shaders to “extreme” levels.

The video card isn't just about gaming anymore, either. Nvidia is currently working on expanding the video card's usefulness outside of graphics applications. The process started in the last generation with the launch of the CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) initiative with the GeForce 8 series. CUDA opens up the GeForce GPU's processing power to non-graphics applications such as video transcoders, image manipulation programs, or any other work that can benefit from parallel processing. CUDA-enabled consumer applications are still rare, but there are a few promising programs on the horizon.

Software start-up Elemental Technologies is developing video transcoding software that uses the GPU to accelerate transcode times 10 to 20 times faster than CPU transcoding, and users participating in the Folding@Home program will soon be able to use their CUDA-enabled GPUs to start racking up the points at an incredible rate. If these two programs are a sign of things to come, it's not difficult to imagine a time when everyone will need to take non-gaming software support into account when buying a new video card.

The GeForce GTX 280 is your only choice if you're looking for the most powerful single-GPU available today. The GeForce GTX 280 matches up well against the dual-GPU GeForce 9800 GX2 in current games, but it seems like many of the 280's engine improvements won't become apparent until games start adopting 3DMark Vantage-level graphics workloads. The card also has plenty of non-gaming upside with its pending CUDA applications, but that also applies to all CUDA-enabled GeForce 8 and 9 series cards. The GeForce GTX 280's primary downside is its hefty $649 MSRP--pretty steep considering that you can get a GX2 for just under $500. For what it's worth, the GeForce 280's advanced power options will make the card more affordable to operate when you're not gaming.

Discussion

525 comments
moscowputin9
moscowputin9

its a dream Video card but i dont have any Financial capability to get that huhuhuhu!!

chandu83
chandu83

i am using a 260gtx, and it works like a charm

Ryans273
Ryans273

iam gonna try SLi with 2 9800 gt? has any one tred this any good?

Dynamo11
Dynamo11

I'll stick with my SLi 9800 GTX+ for now

FrenchLlama
FrenchLlama

As soon as I upgraded to GX2 they released this. Dammit....

ba3cool
ba3cool

Great GPU, but not a smart buy anymore. The next generation of cards are right around the corner, they would be out in a couple months and they would destroy the GTX 2xx series on virtually every benchmark available. So if you guys have a couple months to live, wait for the GTX 3xx. If (for some insane reason) you choose to buy a few of these today, you'd be kickin' your own ass to kingdom come, once the next gen arrives (bear in mind this card is already a year old).

tntgrunge5
tntgrunge5

im in love with stream procesors so i adore this gpu, it totally worth it, recommended

Crunk_Dog
Crunk_Dog

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

BeckMall
BeckMall

im thinking of what kind of video card i should use...is this good?

olddog56
olddog56

I run a nvidia 9800 gtx+ and thats all I need, I don't run games on the highest settings and I get a beautiful picture, my concern is also how much power I would be using and the upper end cards produce alot of heat and power consumption which to me is alot of waste. but for you high end user go for it if thats is what you like !!!!!!! My mother board will handle 3 GPU and may be in the furture I might run 2 GPU in SLI but I don't see any need right now.

devilman539
devilman539

Got my GTX285 with Farcry 2 for 349.00. Good enough for me, I feel bad for those guys that paid 500+ for a GTX280.

r08_m
r08_m

HA....no thanks.....im stickin with my 9800GTX+ SLI......just as good....less price

RereKeren
RereKeren

Bought a GTX 280 after the price drop from the release of the 285 and 295. Managed to grab one for just over $500 excluding the shipping. Great card, very powerful

illharmonics
illharmonics

i started with an 8800gt, then stepped up to this card, now i am running a 295. They are very, very powerful cards. but, to those who question the value, it really all depends on the resolution of your monitor. anything 1680x1050 and below really just needs a gtx 260. anything higher can choose any of the upper end cards.

slayerpker
slayerpker

I'm saving up to get one.... I have a 512mb 8400GS and need an upgrade to go with my new Phenom II processor...

taker254isback
taker254isback

for the money i would go for a 9800 gtx or an ol 8800 ultra

satrain18
satrain18

"Why call it the 'GTX 200' Series when it could've just been called Geforce X!" -- Ionizer23 'X' could also mean the roman numeral '10'. Great vid card, but what's wrong with the naming department?

olddog56
olddog56

I up graded from a nvidia geforce 8600 512 mb which ran me 175.00 dollars 11/2 years ago when I had my computor built, to a 9800gtx plus for 154.00 dollars after the 30.00 dollar mail in rebate through Tigerdirect. I will wait until this video card comes down below 175.00 dollars before I will buy it, until then I will get good eye candy running games on this card with out breaking the bank! Don't go broke by trying to keep up with latest and the greatest! it will only make you sick to see what this card will sale for in 12 to 16 months from now if you were to buy it today at these prices. They are not worth it! These articals you read are not just to inform you but also to invoke you to buy! What do you think that the people who bought the 8800gtx in SLI a year ago are saying to themselves today!

biggy887766
biggy887766

looks like im going to either be buying this or a gtx 295 when that comes out since i fried my 8800 gtx

larry_muhd
larry_muhd

I've just gotten my GTX 280 about 3 weeks back.. Hey,.. not bad pricing so far.. but I can't deny the fact that ATI's 4870 cost cheaper haha.. Got my GTX 280 for USD 472.. kind ok for me here.. in Singapore.

vmondude
vmondude

I want one!.. I've only got a 786mb 8800GTX :(

izhamizan
izhamizan

is the geforce 9800gtx+ better? i mean it does have more "mhz" then the 280 gtx..

pkandarkar
pkandarkar

They should add GeForce 9800 GTX+ for compare. I'm confused in between GeForce GTX 280 & GeForce 9800 GTX+, Can anyone help me out..........

pwndOo
pwndOo

8800 (128 stream procesors) IS better than 9600 (ithink 60 stream procesors), but i think 9800 is better than 8800...

vampire7255
vampire7255

i'm gonna buy a new PC so i need to know what to install as a graphic card a geforce 8800gtx or 9800 becase i heard that 8800 is better than 9800 is that right and if you can help me about the rest of the gear i'll be most thankfull

tarry_chris94
tarry_chris94

Dang!!!! Look at the price!!!! I gonna wait for it get lower then ill buy it. I see it can run crysis the best cause I have ge-force 6150 and it runs crysis fast with almost no lag but ill still upgrade!! I wonder where u can buy graphic cards cause i haven't upgraded in like 4 years. i hope they sell them at best buy or walmart.

SuperGamer911
SuperGamer911

$650?! I'm gonna get this video card when the price gets lower; at least down to $300.

guan52
guan52

Hope somebody can tradein my old graphic so i can have new, hahaha

patsy-cline
patsy-cline

I agree with Dasim64, but you need to make sure that you get regular updates on prices so you can get the latest and greatest at the best prices...........Before the graphic card is useless in about 2 years! Oh yeah and whatever you do........never buy a bleeding 8600gts........they're crap!

Dasim64
Dasim64

Why does everyone always cry about the cost when these things first come out? They are always high priced when they first come out. It will fall off pretty fast after the "gottabefirsts" all get theirs. Or just wait for the next gen of cards to come out and it will fall off really quickly and be affordable. Expecting a new high end card to be cost effective is just wishful thinking.

unreal_ll417
unreal_ll417

hey wargrad if your power supply has 36 amp or hight then yes it will work I had to buy and new power supply because my 700w only had 24 amp the gtx 260 is a power hog

virtualotaku
virtualotaku

I can't see myself upgrading until the majority of a generation of high-end graphics card can max out Crysis an run it at 70+ FPS. Needless to say, I won't be upgrading for a very long time.

Khantot
Khantot

Well, it's time to look for a second job. I hope Nvidia realized that not all of us have a second job to finance their new cards

Sam_Fisher_932
Sam_Fisher_932

GTX 280 Price/Performance Value = Fail. HD 4870 Price/Performance Value = Win.

LILSMUCK
LILSMUCK

I had 2 9800 Gx2's, real world performance the 2-8800gtx's I got rid of were better.( I know the memory bandwith stinks thats why I'm back to the 8 series. ) Know I have 2 8800 ultra's. I can't find and proof that the 280 gtx is better than the ultra so I'm staying with the tride and true. Flight simulater test and the ultra won...that is the only vs. testing I have seen.

antoss
antoss

oliverwyattkim-sure do mate as i have that same cpu with the gtx280,2gb ram,running xp and my power supply is only 550w which is minimum.and the benchmarks i get are a little better than what this page shows.go for it this card is so super quick its worth evry penny.so many haters here saying its so expensive,i say get a job to them and shut up

oliverwyattkim
oliverwyattkim

Do you think a GTX 280 could run on a Q6600 system with a 650watt Antec Trio?

FstrthnU
FstrthnU

Yikes; GTX 280 really expensive (but still has better performance than 9800 GX2.) Still, I'd wait till the price drops (unless you're getting a GTX 260.) Still, consider that the Geforce 8800 Ultra several years ago was retailing for the same price as the GTX 280.

rohan_mahdi
rohan_mahdi

well , it's great , very great, but next time they should think about prices too it's too expensive

acarrillo
acarrillo

A Real mommy! but to expensive! but is nice

chinaplayerGTA
chinaplayerGTA

It is to expensive.It is too hot.you will need a aidcondiction.

vijaynine
vijaynine

For sure nvidia is emerging as one of the best chipmaker. Still it is a solid rocker at higher frame rates my 7900 GTX is still really a marvel.i would rather upgrade to GTX 280 This year to keep up the pace.

javierkatana
javierkatana

Yes, nVIDIA can make a gtx280 x2,but only by using a double pcb which drives costs 40%+ (512bit) compared to ATI that using a single pcb, only has to pay for the chip and better capacitors all at retail for $450 aprox, pay double and still get 2 4870 x2 crossfired at gtx280 x2 price point. Dont even think that nVIDIAs dual gpu will sell for less than $800.

At most, 94 nVIDIA GT200 572mm2 die chips can be produced on a single 300mm $25000 wafer from TSMC (their outsourced world biggest chip foundry) using 65nm process, ATI gets 200+ 260mm2 4870 chips from TSMCs 300mm wafer using 55nm process, thats why nVIDIAs latest cards are so expensive, due to monstrous chip size. So you get doa at least from 7 of those 94, while ATI gets 7 dead out of 200.The result: ATI have created the new 9700 = stellar next gen performance for the masses while nVIDIA sells stellar old chips with massive discount, which helps competition but hurts in the long term when costumers realize how easily you can discount a recently launched product (-$100 9800gtx).

About next gen stuff anything that CUDA supports like Photoshop, has already been accelerated by ATI, then add INTELs HAVOK licenced physics which out numbers nVIDIAs AGEIA game support 5 to 1 (150 vs 28 ). For the record I dumped my 3870 for 2 lovely 8800gt. Ive sold the GTs and got 2 4850 with discount at newegg for $170 each. 6 years after, once again ATI won the war by reconfiguring the rules, mainstream can play at high settings at any cyber cafe while the high end gets to play in 24" lcds and laugh but alone with 3 way gtx280 sli.

varunaanatu-k
varunaanatu-k

if i'm rich i might be able to get this and raplce my geforce 7300

perfect_chao
perfect_chao

GTX 280 is a joke, my 2 8800 GT's in SLi were alot cheaper and almost the same performance. Rather buy 2x 4870's when they come out.. will beat a gtx 280 no probs