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GeForce GTX 285 Graphics Card Round-up
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Date: Apr 06, 2009
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Shane Unrein
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Introduction, Features and Specs

NVIDIA launched the GeForce GTX 285 about three months ago, and in our launch article, we found it to be a very strong product. As you are no doubt aware, the GTX 285 is a replacement for the GTX 280. The GT200B GPU at the heart of the GTX 285 is nearly identical to the GTX 280's GT200 GPU. The most significant difference between the two GPUs is that the GT200B is manufactured using a 55nm fabrication process while the GT200 is built on a 65nm process. Our testing showed that the GTX 285 performs only slightly better than the GTX 280 in some scenarios. At first, it seemed a little disappointing, but hey, the GTX 280 is good company to be in. Furthermore, the GTX 285 was the fastest single-GPU video card available then, and it still is today.  Then consider that this new revision of the GPU also of course offers lower power consumption and a smaller die size that will afford a lower cost structure down the road and things start to look even better.

nvidia geforce gtx 285

We take our GTX 285 coverage further in this article as we round up three factory-overclocked cards and pit them against each other. As enthusiasts, we think overclocks are great, but factory provided overclocks covered under warranty are even better. Components that offer more bang for the buck are always welcome in our systems. Recall that the reference NVIDIA GTX 285 clocks speeds are 648 MHz for the core GPU, 1,242 MHz for the GDDR3 memory and 1,476 MHz for the shader clock. The first card in this round-up is the ASUS ENGTX285 TOP, which sports clocks of 670 MHz, 1,300 MHz and 1,550, respectively. Next up, we have the BFG Tech GeForce GTX 285 OCX, the overall fastest card of this bunch, rocking at 702 MHz, 1,332 MHz and 1,584 MHz, respectively. Finally, we have the Zotac GeForce GTX 285 AMP! Edition, which boasts clock speeds of 702 MHz, 1,296 MHz and 1,512 MHz, respectively.

As you can see, this should be an interesting battle to see unfold. We are going to put these cards through their paces in our benchmark suite, and along the way, we'll compare them to a reference GeForce GTX 285, a reference GeForce GTX 295 and a reference Radeon HD 4870 X2. To make it even more intriguing, we're throwing in GTX 285 SLI benchmarks in dual and triple configurations. Keep reading to find out which of the three overclocked GTX 285s comes out ahead in the end and to see how they all compare to the other high-end cards.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285
Specifications and Features
ASUS ENGTX285 TOP/HTDI/1GD3
 
more info
BFG Tech GTX 285 OCX
more info
Zotac GTX 285 AMP! Edition
more info
NVIDIA GT200B Graphics Processing Unit (GeForce GTX 285)
670 MHz GPU Clock Speed 702 MHz GPU Clock Speed 702 MHz GPU Clock Speed
240 Stream Processors
1,550 MHz Shader Clock Speed 1,584 MHz Shader Clock Speed 1,512 MHz Shader Clock Speed
1 GB GDDR3 Memory
512-bit Memory Interface
1,300 MHz Memory Clock Speed 1,332 MHz Memory Clock Speed 1,296 MHz Memory Clock Speed
166.4 GB/s Memory Bandwidth 170.5 GB/s Memory Bandwidth 165.9 GB/s Memory Bandwidth
Shader Model 4.0 (DirectX 10) Support
PCI Express 2.0 Interface
2 x 6-pin PCI Express Power Connector
Supports 2-Way and 3-way SLI Configurations
Dual-Slot Cooling System (Reference)
HDCP Ready
2 x Dual-Link DVI, 1 x HDTV/S-Video Outputs
Warranty: 3 year limited warranty Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty (USA) for original buyer if registered within 30 days of purchase Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty (USA) for original buyer if registered within 14 days of purchase
Current Price: $399.99 Current Price: $379.85 - $392.99 Current Price: $362.91-$369.99


If you look closely over the table above, you can see that the GeForce GTX 285 features some impressive specs, including 1GB of memory and a 512-bit memory interface. Additionally, the card sports 240 stream processors and Shader Model 4.0 / DirectX 10 support. 2-way and 3-way SLI is also supported.

We won't go into the details of the technology behind the GTX 285 in this article, since we've already covered those previously. If you would like to learn more about the GeForce GTX 285 and the GT200/GT200B architecture, we recommend perusing one or more of the following articles:

In these articles, you will find detailed explanations of the features and technologies behind NVIDIA GT200 family of GPUs. Now, let's get to the fun stuff and start taking a closer look at the three GTX 285 cards on the test bench today.

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Unboxing and A Closer Look

Unboxing Asus, BFG and Zotac GeForce GTX 285 Graphics Cards


The ASUS ENGTX285 TOP, BFG GTX 285 OCX and Zotac GTX 285 AMP! look very similar to NVIDIA's reference GTX 285 card. The only physical difference is the sticker each company chose to apply to the cooler, and the only technical difference (clock speeds) are as we've noted on the previous page. All three cards, of course, feature 1GB of GDDR3 memory, two dual-link DVI connectors, and an HDTV-out connector. Additionally, they all require two 6-pin PCI Express power connections from your system's power supply.

ASUS ENGTX285 TOP

ASUS packs the ENGTX285 TOP in a black and green box. The box and the card are adorned with a horse-riding warrior. Like NVIDIA's reference design, the PCB and the fan shroud are black. Of the three GTX 285 cards, the ENGTX285 TOP has the slowest GPU clock speed at 670 MHz, but it has the second fastest memory and shader clocks at 1,300 MHz and 1,550, respectively.

In addition to the ENGTX285 TOP, ASUS fills the box with various CDs and accessories, including a SpeedSetup installation guide, a SPDIF cable connection guide, a driver CD, a multi-language manual CD, a CD case, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, a SPDIF audio cable, a dual Molex to single 6-pin PCI Express power adapter, and a dual 6-pin PCI Express connector to a single 8-pin PCI Express power adapter. We aren't sure why ASUS includes that second power adapter since the GTX 285 doesn't even have an 8-pin power connector.

BFG GTX 285 OCX

The BFG GTX 285 OCX box touts BFG's free 24/7 tech support and its lifetime warranty. Like the ASUS card, the imagery on the card and the box match. In this case, that imagery is a tattooed, energy-ball wielding fighter. It's a good-looking card with great specs and its clock speeds are the highest of the three cards in this round-up. The GPU clock is 702 MHz, the memory clock is 1,332 MHz, and the shader clock is 1,584 MHz.

The BFG GTX 285 OCX is accompanied by a handful of accessories: a card installation guide, a SPDIF cable installation guide, a driver CD, two BFG case badges, a SPDIF audio cable, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, an HDTV/component cable, and a dual Molex to single 6-pin PCI Express power adapter.

Zotac GTX 285 AMP!

Zotac bucks the warrior trend and rocks a dragon on its box and card. The GTX 285 AMP! Edition card has the most interesting set of clocks of the three cards. Although it ties with the BFG GTX 285 OCX for fastest GPU clock at 702 MHz, it falls behind with the slowest memory and shader clocks at 1,296 MHz and 1,512 MHz, respectively. We appreciate that Zotac pushed the GPU so far but wonder why it couldn't have bumped up the other clocks as well to complement that high GPU clock better.

We were beginning to wonder where the games were in these bundles, but then we opened up the Zotac package and were greeted by a full-version of GRID. Zotac also throws in a copy of 3DMark Vantage. In addition to the software, the bundle includes a quick installation guide, a user's manual, a driver CD, a Zotac case badge, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, a DVI-to-HDMI adapter (not pictured), a SPDIF audio cable, and two power cables.

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Test System and 3DMark Vantage Results

HotHardware's Test System
Intel Core 2 Quad Powered


Hardware Used:
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 (3 GHz)

EVGA nForce 790i SLI FTW Digital PWM
(nForce 790i SLI chipset)

Intel DX38BT
(Intel X38 Express chipset)

ASUS ENGTX285 TOP
BFG GTX 285 OCX
Zotac GTX 285 AMP! Edition
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295
ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2

Crucial Ballistix DDR3 PC3-16000
(2 X 1GB)

Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

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


Relevant Software:

Windows Vista Ultimate (32-bit)

NVIDIA Forceware v182.06
ATI Catalyst v9.2

Benchmarks Used:
3DMark Vantage
Left 4 Dead
Far Cry 2 v1.02
Crysis v1.21
ET: Quake Wars v1.5
Unreal Tournament 3 v2.0



Let's start our round-up battle by examining the test results from Futuremark's latest 3D test suite, 3DMark Vantage. This benchmark does a good job of setting the tone of the relative performance of all the cards we are comparing in this article.


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 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 1920x1200.

Based on the clocks speeds of the three factory-overclocked GTX 285's, we expected the BFG GTX 285 OCX to perform the best amongst the bunch, followed closely by the Zotac GTX 285 AMP! and then the ASUS ENGTX285 TOP. That's exactly what our results show. All three of the cards offer a nice boost over the reference GTX 285.

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Unreal Tournament 3 Results

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 1920 x 1200 and 2560 x 1600 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.

Once again, the three featured cards in this round-up fall in the order expected based on their clock speeds. What surprised us here was how all three cards outshined the GTX 285 SLI, GTX 295 and Radeon HD 4870 X2 at 1920x1200. This is possibly due to the increased CPU overhead of SLI and CrossFire transactions and the fact that the Unreal engine is relatively CPU-limited at this resolution. As you can see, though, the same can't be said for 2560x1600.

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Enemy Territory: Quake Wars Results

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
OpenGL Gaming Performance

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is based on id's radically enhanced 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 extremely large environment and terrain textures that cover vast areas of maps without the need to repeat and tile many small 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.

All of the NVIDIA-based cards compared here perform very similarly at 1920x1200 while the Radeon HD 4870 X2 soars. Of the three overclocked GTX 285's, the Zotac card manages to pull off the victory at 2560x1600, which didn't quite line up with our expectations. Still, it makes this comparison that much more interesting we suppose.

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Crysis Results

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 visuals are easily the most impressive real-time 3D renderings we've seen on the computer screen 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. We ran the full game patched to v1.21 with all of the game's 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.

Crysis brought things back in line with our expectations, as the BFG GTX 285 OCX tops the other two overclocked GTX 285's. All three cards offer a nice bump in performance over the reference GTX 285, especially at 2560x1600.

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Far Cry 2 Results

Far Cry 2
DirectX 10 Gaming Performance

Far Cry 2
Like the original, Far Cry 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, Far Cry 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 Far Cry 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 anti-aliasing and no anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we weren't surprised how this set of tests turned out among the three overclocked GTX 285's.  Here, BFG's GTX 285 OCX took the win, thanks to it having the fastest overall clock speed of the group, and it was followed next by the Zotac GTX 285 AMP! and then the ASUS ENGTX285 TOP. We have to admit that we were surprised by how close the ASUS, BFG and Zotac GTX 285's came to the GTX 295 and the 4870 X2. The three cards actually offer nearly the same or slightly better performance than the Radeon HD 4870 X2 in this game engine.

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Left 4 Dead Results

Left 4 Dead
DirectX Gaming Performance

Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead is a cooperative, 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 visuals 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 1920 x 1200 and 2560 x 1600 with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled and all in game graphical options set to their maximum values.

In this benchmark, we see more of the same between the GTX 285 cards. When compared to the GTX 285 SLI, GTX 295 and the 4870 X2, they all fare well at 1920x1600 though not as well at 2560x1600.  Regardless, all frame rates recorded here would obviously appear very fluid with lots of extra headroom actually.

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Tri SLI Performance Results

We just know some of you out there are wondering what it would be like to combine all three cards in a triple SLI configuration. We don't like to disappoint our curious readers, and we were admittedly quite curious ourselves. So, we threw the ASUS ENGTX285 TOP, BFG GTX 285 OCX and Zotac GTX 285 AMP! into our system, and re-ran several benchmarks, focusing on ones we knew would scale in a tri-SLI configuration.

Running the GeForce GTXs in Tri SLI
Triple the Fun!!!

In the graphs below, you can see how the tri-SLI setup compares to all the other cards we tested. You can see that 3DMark Vantage and Crysis can definitely benefit from a third card in SLI while Far Cry 2 doesn't scale quite as well.  This is likely a driven optimization issue more than anything else.

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Summary and Final Thoughts

Performance Summary: Out of the gate, we expected all three of the overclocked GTX 285 cards to offer a nice performance advantage over the reference NVIDIA GTX 285, and they all met that expectation. Thanks to its overall fastest clock profile, the BFG GTX 285 OCX performed the best by a small margin in most tests. The Zotac GTX 285 AMP!, with the second fastest clocks overall, offered the second best performance. That leaves the ASUS ENGTX285 TOP, which took a close third place but not by a significant spread. In a few cases, all three cards even performed quite favorably when compared to dual-GPU single card configurations like the Radeon HD 4870 X2 and GeForce GTX 295.

ASUS ENGTX285 TOP:
We are fans of factory overclocks, and ASUS consistently offers overclocked cards with each new product launch. For that, we are grateful, but we would have liked to see ASUS push the ENGTX285 TOP a bit further in all clock speed areas. With its rather sparse bundle and the lowest clock speeds of the three cards in this round-up, we were hoping it would be the least expensive card of the bunch. With the $30 mail-in manufacturer rebate being offered through 4/30/09, you can pick this card up for right around $370 (Newegg and ZipZoomFly had it in stock at the time of this publication, but it is strangely not showing up in our price search engine). This makes it the second cheapest card here, but that price relies on a rebate process, which isn't as appealing as just paying $370 off the bat. We hope the price is lowered after the rebate offering expires.

With all that said, we have to admit that we are fans of ASUS's products. The quality and craftsmanship of ASUS products is typically very good, and the ENGTX285 TOP is no exception. We have rarely had issues with ASUS products in the HotHardware labs. For these reasons, if you are leaning towards the ASUS ENGTX285 TOP, you most likely won't be disappointed. Sure, it's not the fastest GTX 285 on the market, and it doesn't have a "lifetime" warranty, but it's a solid product nonetheless.

•  Great performance
•  Factory overclock
•  2-way/3-way SLI support
•  DirectX 10 support
•  3-year warranty (could be better though)
•  Dual-slot card
•  3-year warranty instead of lifetime like other two cards
•  Sparse bundle
•  Most expensive card in round-up without the rebate


BFG GTX 285 OCX:
Because of its high clock speeds, the BFG GTX 285 OCX really delivers on performance. Some of you may worry about stability with these high overclocks, but BFG has been offering factory-overclocks for quite some time now. The company knows what it's doing when it comes to delivering what enthusiasts want. We had no stability issues during our benchmark and play testing. BFG also backs this card with its lifetime warranty and free 24/7/365 tech support, which we think says a lot about BFG's confidence in its products. All this goodness doesn't come cheap unfortunately. Like the ASUS ENGTX285, you can get the BFG GTX 285 OCX for around $370 after a mail-in rebate that expires on 4/30/09 from some e-tailers (Newegg and ZipZoomFly had it in stock at the time of this publication). For those of you who like to shop around more or prefer different stores, the BFG card seems to have the highest availability of the three cards in this round-up (our price search engine reveals at least three more stores that offer the card for $380-390).

The bundle that BFG offers with this card isn't really much to get excited about, though it's practical and includes all the essentials. The case badges are a nice, little touch, but there is no software at all. When it comes down to it, though, we have to put performance first since that's what you'll likely care most about down the road. For its top-notch performance and lifetime warranty, we are awarding the BFG GTX 285 OCX our Editor's Choice.

•  Best performance in this round-up
•  One of the highest overall overclocks around
•  2-way/3-way SLI support
•  DirectX 10 support
•  Lifetime warranty
•  Dual-slot card
•  Sparse bundle
•  2nd most expensive card in round-up without the rebate


Zotac GTX 285 AMP! Edition:
The Zotac GTX 285 AMP! Edition proved to be a great card, grabbing second spot on the podium in most of our tests. We were happy to see Zotac up the GPU clock to 702 MHz but were frankly a little baffled as to why the company didn't crank the shader and memory clocks up a bit more. In addition to being the second best performer in the group, the GTX 285 AMP! Edition is complemented by the best bundle of the group, thanks to its included software. Add the performance and the bundle to the fact that this card is the least expensive of the three tested (around $362-370 without having to rely on rebates), and you can see that the GTX 285 AMP! Edition offers the best value of the bunch.

The one thing that frustrates us about the Zotac card is that its availability seems to be a bit thin currently. When we first searched for the card online, we could only find it in one store. A week or so later, it was available at two stores. While Newegg does offer the standard Zotac GTX 285, it does not currently offer the AMP! Edition reviewed here. Nevertheless, we highly recommend the Zotac GTX 285 AMP! Edition if you find it to be an interesting option. We  also hope you can find it in stock and encourage the Zotac sales team to get a bit more aggressive with retail distribution and stocking efforts.

•  Excellent performance
•  Factory overclock
•  2-way/3-way SLI support
•  DirectX 10 support
•  Best bundle value in this round-up
•  Lowest price in this round-up
•  Lifetime warranty
•  Dual-slot card
•  Not as readily available as other two cards



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