High end GPUs target a niche market. In other words, companies make these cards with a specific type of user in mind. And while price is always an important consideration, it's usually not the deciding factor when it comes to introducing these flagship parts. This is especially true when you consider the consumers who are willing to throw down $500+ for a videocard. In this world, performance is by far the biggest selling point. Time after time, we've seen how NVIDIA and ATI have gone all out to capture the performance crown, even if their grip only lasts for a few short months. Currently, NVIDIA owns the bragging rights for the best performing dual-GPU and single-GPU cards on the market. As a result, we've covered both the GTX 295 and GTX 285 extensively since their respective launches and even had several overclocked models strut their stuff. But with a small army of manufacturing partners providing their own twists to the reference models, the question arises - who makes the fastest videocard?
Recently, BFG's GTX 285 OCX impressed us by beating out two other overclocked cards in our GTX 285 round up. While the numbers were very close, they did show measurable performance increases over reference settings that translated into more frames per second in the latest games. And if that wasn't enough, 3DMark Vantage provided further benchmarking bravado thanks to a triumvirate of higher core, shader, and memory clock speeds. But using the stock heatsink to cool a smoking hot GPU running at higher than normal speeds does have limits. In order to squeeze every last ounce of performance from a videocard, enthusiasts and modders will usually take cooling to another level. But sometimes, manufacturers will do it for them.
Watercooling has seen greater mainstream acceptance in recent years. As a result, manufacturers have acknowledged the trend and expanded their product lineups to include these more exotic parts. But what's the big draw for videocards, motherboards, or memory pre-installed with liquid cooling options? Simply put, increased cooling potential nets higher overclocking headroom which translates into higher, stable operating frequencies and ultimately, more performance. Yes, there's that word again. But in this particular case, performance is anchored by lower component temperatures and a quieter computing environment. Will consumers pay for the premium that these parts inherently demand? Zotac thinks so. In addition to their extensive roster of NVIDIA based graphics cards, they've unveiled the fastest single-GPU based card almost on the market. Zotac's GTX 285 Infinity Edition pushes the envelope by replacing the stock heatsink with a solid copper water block and raising clocks speeds extensively. Let's find out what makes this card so unique and how well it performs...