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XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition
Date: Jan 21, 2009
Author: Jeff Bouton
Introduction and Product Specifications
When first evaluated in June of 2008, we concluded that the GeForce GTX 260 and 280 series offered the most raw power of any gaming graphics cards available at that time.  This premium performance, however, came with a hefty price tag, making these models too costly to justify for some folks.  A week after their introduction, ATI unveiled the Radeon HD 4850 and 4870 which proved to be decent competitors to the GeForce GTX 260 while attempting to steal NVIDIA's thunder with a lower price as well.  Not to be outdone, NVIDIA quickly followed up by introducing price cuts of their own and upping the ante further with their next iteration of GTX 260, dubbed the GeForce GTX 260 (216).  The GeForce GTX 260 (216) bumped up the stream processor count from 192 to 216, giving it a performance edge over competitive Radeon offerings.  In typical fashion, NVIDIA was ready for the fight. 

Today, we're going to take a look at an XFX version of the GTX 260 (Core 216) with their XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition.  The Black Editon takes the GeForce 260 (216) reference design to the next level by giving the GPU and Memory speeds a significant boost for added performance potential.  Along with its complete retail package, the XFX version of the GTX 260 (Core 216) is clearly out to make an impression, and from what we've seen, they are off to a good start.

XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition
Specifications and Features
Processor Cores:  192
Graphics Clock (MHz):  666 MHz
Processor Clock (MHz):  1440 MHz

Memory Clock (MHz):  2300 MHz
Standard Memory Config:  896 MB
Memory Interface Width:  448-bit

Feature Support
NVIDIA SLI®-ready-2-way/3-Way
NVIDIA PureVideo® Technology-HD
NVIDIA PhysX™-ready
NVIDIA CUDA™ Technology
HybridPower™ Technology
GeForce Boost    
Microsoft DirectX 10
OpenGL 2.1
Bus Support:  PCI-E 2.0 x16
Certified for Windows Vista    yes
Display Support
Maximum Digital Resolution:  2560x1600
Maximum VGA Resolution:  2048x1536
Standard Display Connectors:  Dual-Link DVI
HDMI-Via adapter
Audio Input for HDMI-SPDIF

Standard Graphics Card Dimensions
Height:  4.376 inches (111 mm)
Length:  10.5 inches (267 mm)
Width:  Dual-slot

Thermal and Power Specs
Maximum GPU Tempurature (in C):  105
Maximum Graphics Card Power (W):  182
Minimum System Power Requirement (W):  500
Supplementary Power Connectors: 6-pin x2

The XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition comes with as complete a retail bundle as we've seen.  With respect to hardware, the XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition is delivered with complimentary 6 Pin PCI-Express power adapter, DVI-to-VGA adapter, DVI-to-HDMI adapter, HDTV Component Adapter and SPDIF cable.  The package also came with an installation CD and complimentary Assassin's Creed gaming title with FarCry 2 also available through Steam. 

The package also came with a Quick Installation Guide, a Tips and Techniques document which offers suggestions to follow during installation and a Black Edition Membership overview.  The XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition qualifies buyers for a free Black Edition Membership which offers registrants several benefits including Priority Technical Support, Special Case Badge, Personalized Black Edition Membership Card, Members-Only Product Offers and Invitations to Members-Only Special Events.  For more details, click here. (Note:  the address listed on the card is www.BlackEdition.XFXforce.com, which returned a bad hostname request unfortunately).

The XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition Up Close
The most notable characteristic of the XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition, aside from its Black Edition graphic, is its size.  While the GTX 2xx series may be powerful, they are huge as well.  The dual slot design measures 10.5" inches in length, which may be an issue for some.  Even when installed into a premium case such as the Thermaltake Tai Chi case, the card came precariously close to the hard drive connections, but it did ultimately clear them. 

With respect to clock speeds, XFX pushes the GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition to its upper limits.  The GPU is clocked at 666MHz, 90MHz over stock, while the 896MB of DDR3 memory runs at 1150MHz (2300DDR), whereas reference design is spec'd at 999MHz (1998DDR).  The Shader clock is also set measurably higher, at 1404MHz, whereas reference models typically run at 1242MHz.  While it's not uncommon for a manufacturer to offer an overclocked version of a graphics card, the XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition appears to be clocked fairly aggressively in our opinion.

From a features standpoint, the XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition supports everything you would expect from a GTX 260.  This model is equipped with two DVI ports which support a maximum resolution of 2560x1600 simultaneously across two monitors through Dual-Link Technology.  The card also supports PhysX and CUDA technology as well as HybridPower for pairing with integrated graphics.  The XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition is naturally SLI ready and requires two PCI-Express power supplies for proper operation.

For HDTV connectivity, the card can be connected through its HDTV port when married with the included HDTV component adapter or the card can connect via HDMI when using the DVI-to-HDMI adapter included in the bundle.

HH Test System and 3DMark Vantage

HotHardware's Test Systems
Intel Powered

Hardware Used:
Core 2 Duo X6850 (3GHz)

Intel DX48BT2 (B)
(X48 Express)

Asus EN9800 GT Matrix
Radeon HD 4850
Asus EN8800GTX

2048MB Kingston DDR3-1333
(2 X 1GB)

Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Western Digital "Raptor" 74GB
(10,000RPM - SATA)

Relevant Software:

Windows Vista Ultimate SP1
DirectX June 2008 Redist

NVIDIA Forceware v180.48
ATI Catalyst v8.11

Benchmarks Used:
3DMark Vantage v1.0.1
Cryis:  Warhead
Unreal Tournament 3
Half Life 2: Episode 2*
FarCry 2

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DirectX Gaming

3DMark Vantage

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which y isn't available on previous versions of Windows.  3DMark Vantage isn't simply a port of 3DMark06 to DirectX 10 though.  With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the latest PC hardware.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's Default Settings

We're not surprised that the XFX GeForce GTX 260 topped all of the comparison graphics cards used in this mid-range round-up of reference numbers.  Scores are presented here as more as a frame of reference than an apples-to-apples comparison.  In overall performance, the XFX GeForce GTX 260 trumped all of the other models by hefty margins and was the only card to come close to 12000 3DMarks.  In the GPU 1 and 2 tests, the framerates were approximately 3FPS higher than the ATI Radeon 4870. 

Crysis: Warheard and Half-Life2: Episode Two

Crysis:  Warhead
DirectX Gaming Performance

Crysis:  Warhead

Crysis Warhead is the recently released standalone expansion pack to the wildly popular first person shooter, Crysis.   The game engine used for Crysis Warhead, Cry Engine 2, employs some of the latest 3D rendering techniques like Parallax Occlusion Mapping, Subsurface Scattering, Motion Blur and Depth-of-Field effects.   And like the original Crysis, Warhead's complex visuals are a difficult proposition for even today's high-end graphics cards.  We ran the game with all of its visual options set to High Quality to put a significant load on the graphics cards being tested.  We ran a custom test at 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with no AA or Anisotropic Filtering enabled.

The XFX GeForce GTX 260 performed nicely on our 3GHz test system, posting 40FPS at 1280x1024 and 37FPS at 1600x1200.  The next closest competitor in this test was the ATI Radeon 4870 which trailed by roughly 10FPS in each resolution tested. 

Half Life 2: Episode 2
DirectX Gaming Performance

Half Life 2:
Episode 2

Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life was one of the most successful first person shooters of all time. And courtesy of an updated game engine, gorgeous visuals, and intelligent weapon and level designs, Half Life 2 became just as popular.  Episode 2 - the most recent addition to the franchise - offers a number of visual enhancements including better looking transparent texture anti-aliasing. These tests were run at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with 4X anti-aliasing and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.  Color correction and HDR rendering were also enabled in the game engine as well.  We used a custom recorded timedemo to benchmark all cards for these tests.

With Half-Life 2:  Episode 2, the XFX GeForce GTX 260 posted the best scores again, dropping a mere 5FPS when shifting from 1280x1024 to 1600x1200.  The ATI Radeon 4870 nearly matched the XFX GeForce GTX 260's results at 1280x1024 but dropped 14FPS when raising the test resolution to 1600x1200.

Unreal Tournament 3 and FarCry2

Unreal Tournament 3
DirectX Gaming Performance

Unreal Tournament 3

If you're a long-time PC gamer, the Unreal Tournament franchise should need no introduction.  UT's fast paced action and over the top weapons have been popular for as long as Epic has been making the games.  For these tests, we used the latest addition to the franchise, Unreal Tournament 3.  The game doesn't have a built-in benchmarking tool, however, so we enlisted the help of FRAPS here.  These tests were run at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with no anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled.  All graphical options set to High Quality with color correction enabled.

Unreal Tournament 3 was another test that was steady at both resolutions tested.  The same held true with the Radeon 4870.  Clearly the XFX GeForce GTX 260 had room to go higher if higher testing resolutions were available.

FarCry 2
DirectX Gaming Performance

FarCry 2

Like the original, FarCry 2 is one of the more visually impressive games to be released on the PC to date.  Courtesy of the Dunia game engine developed by Ubisoft, FarCry 2's game-play is enhanced by advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, high resolution textures, complex shaders, realistic dynamic lighting, and motion-captured animations.  We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a fully patched version of FarCry 2, using one of the built-in demo runs recorded in the "Ranch" map.  The test results shown here were run at various resolutions with 4X AA and No anisotropic enabled concurrently.

In FarCry 2, the XFX GeForce GTX 260 performed beautifully, breaking 62FPS at 1280x1024 and 56FPS at 1600x1200, nearly matching the ATI Radeon 4870's 1280x1024 results. 

Performance Summary and Conclusion

Overclocking the XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition
Raising the bar even higher
As many of our readers are interested in overclocking their hardware, we took a few moments to see what extra horsepower we could uncover with the XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition.  Since the card was already aggressively overclocked to start, we lowered our expectations which proved wise.  Starting with the GPU, we raised the 666MHz default speed up to 679 before the card became unstable, a gain of 2%.  With the memory, very little extra headroom was found, raising the speed from 1150 (2300DDR) to 1170GHz (2340DDR) before the card would lock up.  Not surprisingly, the 2% gain in GPU speed resulted in virtually no measurable performance gains.  With XFX already clocking the card significantly higher than specified by NVIDIA's reference specifications, we don't see any reason for users to attempt overclocking, as the rewards simply are not going to be there for the effort.

Performance Summary:  In every test we ran, the XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition topped all other mid-range cards in our benchmark suite.  This wasn't a surprise since the comparisons were not intended to be an apples-to-apples evaluation but more to show how much you can expect to gain if you were to upgrade to a model like the XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition.  While the Radeon HD 4870 may have been a competitor for the first GTX 260s, with the added stream processors of the core 216 and the amped up clockspeeds implemented by XFX, the XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition is a tough act to follow.

At times, when evaluating a component like a graphics card, it can be difficult to argue whether the piece of hardware should be considered over others in its class.  This is especially true when its performance and features doesn't necessarily help the product stand out from the rest.  With respect to the XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition, however, the overclocked GeForce 260 (216) stands out in a number of ways.

First, from a performance standpoint, the XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition offers excellent performance across the board.  The card easily beat the Radeon HD 4870 and made the once dominant GeForce 8800GTX look like old hat.  Granted, those looking for more performance, especially when resolutions over 1600x1200 are planned, it may be wise to consider a GeForce GTX 280.  Otherwise the XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition offers a lot of bang for the dollar.

When we compare the XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition from a pricing perspective, it continues to grab our attention.  We've seen this model retail in the area of $280 with rebates dropping the price to $250.  When we compare that to the Radeon HD 4870, which we've seen ranging from $239-275, the XFX GeForce GTX 260 (216) Black Edition stands out as a solid buy for its price and performance profile.

  • Quiet while idle or under load
  • HDMI
  • Raw Performance
  • Price/Value
  • Dual-Slot Cooler
  • Very Long
  • No Further Overclocking Potential

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