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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275 Unleashed
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Date: Apr 02, 2009
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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The GeForce GTX 275

This will no doubt be an exciting day for graphics card aficionados. As we've shown you here, AMD has literally just launched a brand new more powerful, single-GPU based Radeon, dubbed the Radeon HD 4890. However, arch rival NVIDIA has something on tap as well, in the form of the GeForce GTX 275. And wouldn't you know it, the GTX 275 is positioned right alongside AMD's latest offering.

As its name suggests, the new GeForce GTX 275 is based on NVIDIA's 55nm GT200b GPU, which is also employed on the GeForce GTX 295, GTX 285 and some GTX 260 Core 216 cards. The new GTX 275's performance level--as you have probably guessed--is expected to fall somewhere in between the GTX 260 and GTX 285. Where exactly it falls on the performance scale, we plan to show you on the pages ahead...


NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275
Specifications & Features


The core GPU technology employed in the GeForce GTX 275, is essentially identical to the GeForce GTX 280, save for the fact that the GT200b GPU used on the 275 is manufactured at 55nm. As such, we won't rehash the same information we've covered in the past again in this article. If, however, you'd like to learn more about what the GT200, and the GT200B by extension are made of, be sure to check out our coverage of the original GeForce GTX 280 and GTX 260 launch from June of last year. While you're at it, our coverage of the recently released GeForce GTX 295--which also uses the same GPU--is available right here. Reading those two articles will lay all of the foundation necessary to understand what's at the heart of the GeForce GTX 275.

As you can see in the list above, the GeForce GTX 275's reference specifications call for a 633MHz core clock and a 1404MHz shader clock, with 896MB of GDDR3 memory running at 1134MHz (2268MHz DDR). The card sports a 448-bit memory interface and at the clocks mentioned here, it offers total memory bandwidth of 127GB/s. The number of shader cores enabled in the GTX 275 is unchanged from the GTX 285 (240).  The card's ROP units, however, have been reduced, from 32 to 28 which will reduce the card's AA and blend processing throughput a bit. The number of texture filtering units enabled remains at 80. Max board power is 219 watts and the card needs a pair of 6-pin PCI Express power feeds to operate.  No 8-pin feeds are necessary.

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The Card, Rel 185, and Ambient Occlusion

The new GeForce GTX 275 looks essentially identical to the GeForce GTX 285 that was released a few months ago--at least on the surface. There are some differences between the two cards, however, that aren't visible without removing the cooling solution.

   

   
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275

As you can see, the GeForce GTX 275 has a very similar appearance to the GeForce GTX 285. There are some differences under the hood worth noting, however. The GeForce GTX 275, for example, has a 448-bit memory interface whereas the GeForce GTX 285 has a full 512-bit interface. As such, the GeForce GTX 275 is outfitted with two less memory chips for a total frame buffer size of 896MB, instead of the 1GB available on GTX 285 cards.

The GTX 275's dual-link DVI outputs and HDTV output are unchanged from the 285, and like the GeForce GTX 285 the 275 has an array of ventilation holes alongside the DVI outputs, that run almost the full length of the bracket. There is also a slight curve at the front of the GTX 275's fan shroud where it meets the case bracket, just like the GTX 285.

Looking at the card, you can also see that it is still has a dual-slot form factor and a pair of SLI connectors reside along the top edge of the card. Like the GTX 280 and GTX 285, the new GeForce GTX 275 supports 2- and 3-way SLI configurations.

A Look At Ambient Occlusion:
NVIDIA is also using today's occasion to announce a new feature being implemented in their Release 185 series graphics drivers--Ambient Occlusion. NVIDIA explains what ambient occlusion is thusly:
"Standard lighting models compute the color of a surface based on its properties and the lights in a scene. Objects that are in the path of a light cast shadows; otherwise, their presence does not affect the lighting of other objects. Ambient occlusion improves this model by accounting for the dimming caused by objects that block out ambient light. An example of this is the junction where a wall and a ceiling meet; while no direct shadows are cast, the corner nevertheless appears darker. Ambient occlusion simulates this phenomenon, along with all other cases where objects are close enough to block out ambient light."





Ambient Occlusion In Action... (click for high res images)

The two screenshots above show ambient occlusion in action. The top shot is from World in Conflict and the bottom shot is from Half Life 2. In the WiC image, the newly introduced shadows in the grass are immediately apparent. And in the HL2 shot, the shadows along the edge of the ceiling and in the corner by the payphone are the result of ambient occlusion being enabled. The lighting / shadow differences vary from subtle to dramatic, but they definitely enhance the realism of the scene. We should point out, however, that enabling ambient occlusion does have a performance penalty of about 20% - 40% depending on the complexity of the scene, and currently the feature is only supported in DirectX titles.

In addition to ambient occlusion, the Release 185 drivers will offer some performance benefits as well. The Release 185 drivers feature improved texture management in DirectX 10, along with improved Z-culling efficiency, AA compression performance, and enhanced SLI scaling, especially in Valve Software Source-based game engines.

If you'd like to experiment with the new Release 185 drivers, a beta version will be made available on the company's website sometime later today (April 2).

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Our Test System and 3D Mark Vantage

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM: We tested the graphics cards in this article on an Gigabyte GA-EX58 Extreme motherboard powered by a Core i7 920 quad-core processor and 6GB of OCZ DDR3 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
Now Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Core i7 920 (2.66GHz)

Gigabyte GA-EX58-Extreme
(X58 Express Chipset)

Radeon HD 4890 OC (EAH4890 TOP)
Radeon HD 4890 (EAH4890)
Radeon HD 4870 1GB
GeForce GTX 285
GeForce GTX 275
GeForce GTX 260 Core 216

6GB OCZ DDR3-1066 C7
(3 X 2GB)

Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

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

Relevant Software:
Windows Vista Ultimate SP1
DirectX March 2009 Redist

ATI Catalyst v9.3b
NVIDIA GeForce Drive v185.63

Benchmarks Used:

3DMark Vantage v1.0.1
FarCry 2
Crysis*
Left 4 Dead*
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars v1.5*

* - 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 Performance preset option, which uses a resolution of 1280x1024 no anti-aliasing and trilinear filtering.



The NVIDIA powered cards sweep the top three spots in our 3DMark Vantage tests, besting all of the AMD offerings. NVIDIA's latest Release 185 drivers give the cards a nice boost in performance here, that allows even the GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 to pull ahead of the brand new Radeon HD 4890 in 3DMark Vantage.

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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.

The NVIDIA powered cards had another strong showing in our Enemy Territory: Quake Wars testing. Here, the Radeon HD 4890 overclocked edition is able to pull ahead of the GeForce GTX 260 Core 216, as is the reference clocked card at 2560. But the reference GeForce GTX 275 is able to pull ahead of both--the margin of victory at 2560x1600 is exactly 1FPS.

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Crysis

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.

Score one for AMD here, sort of. In our custom Crysis benchmark, the Radeon HD 4890 OC bests the GeForce GTX 275. The reference clocked Radeon HD 4890 also outpaces the new GTX 275, but only by the smallest of margins. The Radeon HD 4890 and GeForce GTX 275 couldn't be more closely matched then they are in Crysis.

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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.

Score one for AMD here, sort of. In our custom Crysis benchmark, the Radeon HD 4890 OC bests the GeForce GTX 275. The reference clocked Radeon HD 4890 also outpaces the new GTX 275, but only by the smallest of margins. The Radeon HD 4890 and GeForce GTX 275 couldn't be more closely matched then they are in Crysis.

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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.

Although the framerates at both resolutions are somewhat higher, the results of our Left 4 Dead testing look very similar to those of FarCry 2 on the previous page. Once again, the GeForce GTX 275 outpaces the Radeon HD 4890 overclocked and reference clocked editions here.

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Power Consumption and Noise

We'd like to cover a few final data points before bringing this article to a close. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test systems were consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the motherboards alone.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet

We had somewhat surprising results with regard to the GeForce GTX 275's power consumption. At idle, it consumed slightly less power than the GTX 285,which is to be expected considering the GTX 275 is clocked a bit lower and is outfitted with fewer memory chips. Under load, however, the GeForce GTX 275 consumed slightly more power than the GTX 285. This is likely due to inevitable variations during the manufacturing of the GPUs, and higher utilization of the GTX 275's 448-bit memory bus.

We'd also like to mention that the GeForce GTX 275 remained nice and quiet throughout testing. While idling, the card wasn't audible over the other components in our test system. Under load, the GTX 275's fan does spin up somewhat, but never would we consider the card loud. Noise is not a concern at all with the GTX 275.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The new GeForce GTX 275 performed exactly as expected in comparison to NVIDIA's other current GTX-series offerings. As its name suggests, the GeForce GTX 275's performance should fall somewhere in between the GeForce GTX 285 and GTX 260, and that is exactly what our benchmark results proved out. In comparison to AMD's newly released ATI Radeon HD 4890, more often than not, the GeForce GTX 275 finishes ahead of the Radeon HD 4890. In Crysis and at higher resolutions in ET:QW, however, the Radeons had a slight edge.

 

With its MSRP of $249, the new GeForce GTX 275 is an attractive product. At that price, it's a good $60 to $90 less expensive than most GeForce GTX 285 cards, despite offering about 85% to 90% of the performance of NVIDIA's current flagship single-GPU powered card. $249 is also a fair price in light of the latest information we have on AMD's pricing of the ATI Radeon HD 4890, which should fall somewhere in between $229 and $249 for reference cards, depending on the board partner and the availability of mail in rebates.

We're also compelled to mention that the GeForce GTX 275's ultimate value is also enhanced by its support for PhysX and CUDA. Support for DX10.1 remains a nice feather in AMD's cap of course, but NVIDIA has been pushing hard to advance support for PhysX, and it is paying dividends will multiple game developers. NVIDIA is also releasing a new free PhysX pack which showcases many of the PhysX implementations currently on the market or coming soon. A number of applications that take advantage of the GPU courtesy of CUDA are also available or are coming down the pipeline, like MotionDSP's vReveal, Cyberlink PowerDirector 7, Pegasys TMPGEnc 4, and others--some that we can't talk about just yet--that offer significant performance gains over similar applications that use the CPU alone. Support for GeForce 3D Vision is also a plus, if you're intrigued by the possibility of true 3D gaming and have the necessary monitor to exploit the technology.

In the end, we think the GeForce GTX 275 is a solid offering from NVIDIA. If you're in the market for a high-performing graphics card and don't have an unlimited budget, the GeForce GTX 275 has plenty to offer for 250 bucks. Unfortunately, cards may not be widely available in every region for a couple of weeks. NVIDIA expects consumers in some regions to be able to purchase cards today, but it won't be until April 14 that cards become widely available.

     
  • Great performance
  • Quiet
  • PhysX and CUDA Support
  • Priced Competitively
  • New Rel 185 Drivers

 

  • Limited Availability For Now

 



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