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EVGA GeForce GTX 295 Plus Dual-GPU Powerhouse
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Date: Feb 10, 2009
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Intro, Specs and Bundle

A few weeks back, we took an in-depth look at the dual-GPU powered NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295. Just to recap a bit; the GeForce GTX 295 is NVIDIA's current flagship graphics card that couples a pair of 55nm GT200 GPUs with 1792MB of frame buffer memory, culminating in what is ultimately the fastest, single graphics adapter on the market at this time. It appeared after about 5 months of work and fine tuning, NVIDIA was sick and tired of letting AMD's Radeon HD 4870 X2  lead the pack as the fastest single graphics card in the market.

In our launch article, we also gave you a glimpse of the EVGA GeForce GTX 295 Plus, but due to time constraints, we weren't able to benchmark and fully evaluate the card. We have since, however, given the EVGA GeForce GTX 295 Plus a good once over, and are ready to shine the spotlight on it here. Although it is, at its core, a straight-up reference design, EVGA worked a bit of their mojo and tweaked the GTX 295 Plus' clock speeds slightly to boost the card's performance over stock models. Take a second to check out the specifications and bundle below, and then we'll move on to the fun stuff and evaluate the card itself and its performance...


EVGA GeForce GTX 295 Plus

EVGA GeForce GTX 295 Plus
Specifications and Features
GPU:
Fabrication Process: 55nm
Processor Cores: 480
ROP Units: 56
Texture Filtering Units: 160
Core Clock (MHz): 594 MHz
Shader Clock (MHz): 1296 MHz
Texture Filtering Rate: 92.2Giga Texels/s

Memory:
Memory Clock (MHz DDR): 2052 MHz
Total Memory Config: 1792 MB
Memory Interface Width: 448-bit per GPU
Total Memory Bandwidth: 229.8GB/s

Display Support:
Maximum Digital Resolution: 2560x1600
Maximum VGA Resolution: 2048x1536

Standard Display Connectors:
2 x Dual-Link DVI-I, 1 x HDMI
Feature Support:
NVIDIA SLI-ready: Quad-SLI
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

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 Temperature (in C): 105
Maximum Graphics Card Power (W): 289
Power Connectors: 6-pin x1, 8-pin x1


   

EVGA kept the GeForce GTX 295 Plus' bundle simple and strightforward. Included with the card itself, EVGA has thrown in a pair of PCI Express power adapters (one 6-pin, one 8-pin), a DVI-to-VGA adapter, an S/PDIF digital audio pass-through cable to compliment the card's HDMI output, a driver CD, a case badge, and a user's manual.  Sorry, no full version games here, but EVGA's excellent Precision graphics tuning utility is offered with the card as well, which is a nice plus. 

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Inspecting the Card

As we mnetioned in our article covering the launch of the GeForce GTX 295, the GPU used on the cards is built using a 55nm manufacturing process and the reference specifications call for 576MHz core, 1.24GHz shader, and 2GHz (1GHz DDR) memory clock frequencies. EVGA's "Plus" offering, however, has slightly increased frequencies across the board--594MHz for the GPU core, 1256MHz for the shaders, and 2052MHz (1026MHz DDR) for the memory.


      

      
EVGA GeForce GTX 295 Plus

Each GPU on the GeForce GTX 295 is outfitted with 240 stream processor cores--for a total of 480-- the memory interface is 448-bits wide and it's got 28 ROP units per GPU.  Max board power is rated for 289 watts, which is right on par with the Radeon HD 4870 X2, and as such, the GTX 295 requires both 6-pin and 8-pin supplemental PCI Express power connectors.

The card itself is reminiscent of the dual-GPU powered GeForce 9800 GX2.  There is a perforated shroud that surrounds the entire PCB, with an air inlet at one end near the barrel type fan.  The fan pulls air into the interior of the card, where it is blown across heatsinks and then ultimately expelled from the system through vents in the card's case bracket.  Outputs on the GeForce GTX 295 consist of a pair of dual-link DVI outputs and an HDMI output, but the pictures also reveal a couple of diagnostic LEDs.  One of the LEDs indicates whether or not the board is receiving sufficient power and the other shows whether or not a monitor is properly connected and being detected.

With the GeForce GTX 295, each GPU (and its frame buffer memory) resides on its own PCB. And sandwiched in between the PCBs is a single, large heatsink and fan that cools the GPUs and RAM. The rear of each PCB features a cut-out that allows air to be pulled in from either side, where it is funneled through the center of the card and ultimately exhausted from the system. The entire assembly, with the exception of the backside of the second PCB, is encased in a perforated, metal shell that not only protects the components inside, but also helps dissipate heat.  EVGA adorns the front side of the shell with a custom decal and a bracket on the back side features the EVGA logo as well.

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3DMark Vantage

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEMS: We tested all of the graphics cards used in this article on an Asus Striker II Extreme motherboard powered by a Core 2 Extreme QX9770 quad-core processor and 4GB of Corsair RAM. The first thing we did when configuring these test system was enter the system BIOS and set all values to their "optimized" or "high performance" default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 was installed. When the installation was complete we fully updated the OS, and installed the latest DX10 redist and various hotfixes, along with the necessary drivers and applications.

HotHardware's Test Systems
Intel and NVIDIA Powered


Hardware Used:
Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (3.2GHz)

Asus Striker II Extreme
(nForce 790i SLI Ultra chipset)

Radeon HD 4870 1GB
Radeon HD 4850 X2
Radeon HD 4970 X2
GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 OC
GeForce GTX 280 OC
GeForce GTX 285
GeForce GTX 295
EVGA GeForce GTX 285 SSC

4096MB Corsair DDR3-1333 C7
(4 X 1GB)

Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Western Digital "Raptor" 150GB
(10,000RPM - SATA)


Relevant Software:

Windows Vista Ultimate SP1
DirectX November 2008 Redist

NVIDIA Forceware v180.87
ATI Catalyst v8.12b

Benchmarks Used:
3DMark Vantage v1.0.1
Unreal Tournament 3 v1.3*
Crysis v1.21*
Left 4 Dead*
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars v1.5*
FarCry 2
Fallout 3*
Mirror's Edge

* - Custom Benchmark

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 Extreme preset option, which uses a resolution of 1,920x1,200, with 4x anti-aliasing an 16x anisotropic filtering.




As expected, the EVGA GeForce GTX 295 Plus' increased core, shader, and memory clocks give it a slight edge in performance over the reference GTX 295, which in turn makes it the fastest card of the bunch according to 3DMark Vanatge.

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Unreal Tournament 3

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 1,920 x 1,200 and 2,560 x 1,600 with no anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering enabled, but with the UT3's in game graphical options set to their maximum values, with color correction and motion blur enabled.



The EVGA GeForce GTX 295 Plus is the top performer in our custom Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark.  The card bests the reference GTX 295 by a couple of frames per second and it outpaced the Radeon HD 4870 X2 at both resolutions.

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Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
OpenGL Gaming Performance


Enemy Territory:
Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is Based on a radically enhanced version of id's Doom 3 engine and viewed by many as Battlefield 2 meets the Strogg, and then some.  In fact, we'd venture to say that id took EA's team-based warfare genre up a notch or two.  ET: Quake Wars also marks the introduction of John Carmack's "Megatexture" technology that employs large environment and terrain textures that cover vast areas of maps without the need to repeat and tile many smaller textures.  The beauty of megatexture technology is that each unit only takes up a maximum of 8MB of frame buffer memory.  Add to that HDR-like bloom lighting and leading edge shadowing effects and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars looks great, plays well and works high end graphics cards vigorously.  The game was tested with all of its in-game options set to their maximum values with soft particles enabled in addition to 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.



We saw more of the same in our custom Enemy Territory: Quake Wars benchmark.  Here, the EVGA GeForce GTX 295 is slightly faster than the reference GTX 295 and about 8% to 10% faster than the Radeon HD 4870 X2.

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Crysis v1.21

Crysis v1.21
DirectX 10 Gaming Performance


Crysis

If you're at all into enthusiast computing, the highly anticipated single player, FPS smash-hit Crysis, should require no introduction. Crytek's game engine produces some stunning visuals that are easily the most impressive real-time 3D renderings we've seen on the PC to date.  The engine employs some of the latest techniques in 3D rendering like Parallax Occlusion Mapping, Subsurface Scattering, Motion Blur and Depth-of-Field effects, as well as some of the most impressive use of Shader technology we've seen yet.  In short, for those of you that want to skip the technical jib-jab, Crysis is a beast of a game.  We ran the full game patched to v1.21 with all of its visual options set to 'Very High' to put a significant load on the graphics cards being tested  A custom demo recorded on the Ice level was used throughout testing.



We know this is getting repetitive, but the performance is what it is.  As we've seen in every other test thus far, the slightly increased core, shader, and memory clocks of the EVGA GeForce GTX 295 Plus give it a boost in performance over the reference GTX 295, which propels the card to the head of the pack in Crysis--we, at least at the highest resolution.  The X2 wins out at 1920x1200 by a fraction of a frame per second.

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FarCry 2

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.



Hey, what do you know!?!  The EVGA GeForce GTX 295 Plus wins yet another one.  The FarCry 2 benchmark also shows the EVGA GeForce GTX 295 Plus out in front of the competition at both of the resolutions we tested.

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Fallout 3

Fallout 3
DirectX Gaming Performance


Fallout 3

Fallout 3 is an action role-playing game released by Bethesda Game Studios. It is the third major game in the Fallout series, and it has received a positive response from critics who have praised its open-ended gameplay and flexible character-leveling system. fallout 3 has been compared to the 2007 game BioShock for its setting and use of elements from mid-twentieth century American culture. We tested the game at resolutions of 1,920 x 1,200 and 2,560 x 1,600 with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled and all in game graphical options set to their maximum values.



There's not much to see here.  The demands of Fallout 3's engine in conjunction with the games dynamic LOD adjustments results in some fairly similar results across al of the high-end cards tested here, with the exception of the 9800 GX2, which is held back by its smaller frame buffer (512MB per GPU).

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Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead
DirectX Gaming Performance


Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead is a co-operative, survival horror, first-person shooter that was developed by Turtle Rock Studios, which was purchased by Valve part-way into development. Like Half Life 2, the game uses the Source engine, however, the visual in L4D are far superior to anything seen in the Half Life universe to date. The game pits four Survivors of an apocalyptic pandemic against hordes of aggressive zombies. We tested the game at resolutions of 1,920 x 1,200 and 2,560 x 1,600 with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled and all in game graphical options set to their maximum values.



The EVGA GeForce GTX 295 Plus performs very well in my current favorite time-sink, Left 4 Dead.  Once again, the card's higher clocks give it an edge over the reference GeForce GTX 295 and it handily outpaces the Radeon HD 4870 X2.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: Summarizing the EVGA GeForce GTX 295 Plus' performance couldn't be any easier--it was the fastest, single graphics card we have ever tested.  It outpaced the reference GeForce GTX 295 across the board and edged the Radeon HD 4870 X2 in almost every test, occasionally by a significant margin.


 


When we first took a look at the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295 last month, we declared it the "fastest graphics card on the planet" in our conclusion.  That still remains true today for the GeForce GTX 295 in general.  More specifically though, that title belongs to the EVGA GeForce GTX 295, which is currently the highest clocked GTX 295 on the market.  We shoud note that some other companies have announced GeForce GTX 295 products with higher memory clocks, but we have yet to see them for sale.  Regardless, EVGA's offering is currently the cream of the crop.

The EVGA GeForce GTX 295 Plus' status also means the card commands a hefty price premium and availability is limited.  According to our price search engine, the EVGA GeForce GTX 295 can be had for about $529 - $539, a full $30 to $40 more expensive than reference GeForce GTX 295 cards.  And it was only being offered by two retailers.  If you don't plan to overclock on your own, the extra investment will yield some guaranteed increases in performance, and we can't forget EVGA's excellent lifetime warranty.  However, for a card that's already pricey, an extra 40 bucks can be a tough pill to swallow.

Ultimately though, the EVGA GeForce GTX 295 Plus offers killer performance and stands out in a sea of stock reference cards.  If you've got the funds and are looking for a graphics card in its class, do yourself a favor and check out the EVGA GeForce GTX 295 Plus.

     
  • Great Performance
  • Factory Overclocked
  • Excellent Warranty
  • CUDA, PhysX, PureVideo HD
  • HDMI Output
  • Expensive
  • Limited Availability



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