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Zotac GeForce GTX 285 Infinity Edition
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Date: Apr 20, 2009
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Mathew Miranda
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Introduction, Features and Specs


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...

 

Zotac GeForce GTX 285 Infinity Edition

Zotac GeForce GTX 285 Infinity Edition
Specifications and Features

Fabrication Process
55 nm
Core Clock (texture and ROP units)
722 MHz
Shader Clock (Stream Processors)
1584 MHz
Memory Clock (Clock rate / Data rate)
1350 MHz / 2700 MHz
Total Video Memory
1 GB
Memory Interface
512-bits
Total Memory Bandwidth
159.0 GB/s
Processor Cores
240
ROP Units

32

Texture Filtering Units

80

Texture Filtering Rate
51.8 GigaTexels/sec
Connectors
2 x Dual-Link DVI-I 1 x 7-pin HDTV Out
RAMDACs
400 MHz
Bus Technology
PCI Express 2.0
Form Factor

Dual Slot

Power Connectors
2 x 6-pin
Max Board Power (TDP)
183 watts
GPU Thermal Threshold
105° C



Zotac's Infinity Edition GTX 285 provides higher clock speeds than any other GeForce GTX 285-based graphics card you can currently buy. At 722MHz core, 1584MHz shader, and 1350MHz memory, this GPU is overclocked 11%, 7%, and 9% beyond reference frequencies. How much this translates into increased frame rates will be revealed on the following pages. But first, we'll take a closer look at the card and included bundle.


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Zotac GTX 285 Infinity Edition

Most users are accustomed to the large, black plastic shroud covering the stock GeForce GTX 285's heatsink and fan assembly. Here, on Zotac's liquid-cooled offering, the heat exchange apparatus used is a copper waterblock that's ready to be added to an existing cooling loop.



   

  
Zotac GeForce GTX 285 Infinity Edition

Cognizant watercooling buffs will recognize the GPU block used on the Infinity Edition GPU. Zotac adopted Danger Den's GTX 285 block to cool off their product. This particular block is designed specifically for reference GTX 285 GPUs and provides cooling to all heat generating points on the card, including the GPU, RAM, voltage regulators, and display I/O chip. And at 2.2 lbs, the block is relatively heavy as its made of copper with a translucent lucite top. Moreover, there is one inlet and outlet coolant path that provides low flow restriction and minimal pressure drop. For those interested in finding out how to remove/install the block, Danger Den's instructions can be found here

The videocard does not take up much more room than a standard GTX 285. In fact, the GPU block is thin enough to make this a single slot card. Unfortunately, the card comes with the same dual slot PCI bracket found in the reference design. We hope future revisions offer single slot brackets as it would free up an expansion slot on the motherboard. This becomes even more of a concern for those who connect two or three of these cards in SLI.       



Zotac includes a hefty bundle in order to get things started. It ships with three disks consisting of a driver CD, 3DMark Vantage, and the Race Driver GRID PC game. Furthermore, you will find a DVI to HDMI adapter, DVI to VGA adapter, S/PDIF audio cable, and two molex to 6-pin power cables. To round out the bundle, Zotac provides a user's manual, quick installation guide, and a small case badge.

The card comes with a two year warranty covering parts and labor. But if you register the card with Zotac within 30 days of purchase, they will provide a lifetime warranty. This is on par with other manufacturers who require registration before activating lifetime coverage.

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Test System, 3DMark Vantage

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEMS:  In order to provide comparable results, each graphics card was installed on the same, high end test system. The components we used consists of an EVGA X58 Classified motherboard, Core i7 965 Extreme processor, and 6GB of Crucial Ballistix Tracer memory. Within the BIOS, we configured the processor and memory to their rated specifications of 3.2GHz and 1600MHz respectively. The Western Digital Velociraptor hard drive was formatted before installing a clean copy of Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit SP1. Once the installation was completed, we fully updated the OS and installed the latest drivers and applications relevant to the test system.  

HotHardware's Test Systems
Intel Core i7 Powered


Hardware:
Core i7 965 Extreme Edition (3.2GHz)

EVGA X58 Classified

Zotac GTX 285 Infinity Edition
EVGA GeForce GTX 295
VisionTek HD 4870X2

6144MB Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR3-1600

Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Western Digital Raptor 300GB

GPU Watercooling Loop:
Swiftech MCP 655 D5 Vario Pump
Thermochill PA120.3 Radiator
3 Yate Loon 120mm Low Speed Fans
EK Res400 Reservoir
1/2" Tygon Tubing


Relevant Software:

Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1
DirectX November 2008 Redist
RivaTuner v2.24

Drivers
:
NVIDIA Driver Release 182.50 WHQL
ATI Catalyst Display Driver 9.4

Benchmarks:
3DMark Vantage v1.0.1
Crysis v1.21*
Left 4 Dead*
FarCry 2

* - 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 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, with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.



Zotac's Infinity Edition GTX 285 performs well in 3DMark Vantage, but is not able to catch the HD 4870X2 or GTX 295 in this benchmark. It does show significant improvement over the reference clocked GTX 285 scores though.

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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.

FarCry2 is able to make use of the processing power of our dual-GPU comparison cards as they pull away from the single-GPU GTX 285s. But Zotac's Infinity Edition does provide are respectable showing by averaging 50.24 frames per second at 1920x1200 and 38.15 fps at 2560x1600.

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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.

Here we see the overclocked GTX 285 providing a slight edge over the stock version. Although there is a definitive performance gap between the GTX 285 and HD 4870 X2, Zotac's overclocked card bridges the difference somewhat with higher core, shader, and memory speeds. Consequently, none of the GPUs tested offers playable frame rates at the 2560x1600 resolution. 

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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.

Admittedly, you will not see the difference between 100 and 120 FPS but its still interesting to compare the performance of these high end cards. Using our L4D benchmark, Zotac's GTX 285 produced superior frame rates in both of the resolutions tested. And the results fall in line with the previous games, as the Infinity Edition finished faster than the stock GTX 285 but slower than the HD 4870 X2.

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Overclocking the Infinity GTX 285

What do you do with a watercooled, factory overclocked card sporting the fastest core frequency on the market? Overclock it even more, of course! Using the latest version of RivaTuner, we raised core clock while leaving it linked to the shader frequency. Once we found a stable core speed, we increased memory frequency to its limit and soon arrived at reliable settings that provided both stability and utmost performance.

Overclocking The GTX 285 Infinity Edition
Pedal To The Metal



With the core clock at a blazing 743MHz, 1630MHz shader, and memory screaming along at 1475MHz, we were happy to see the card with a bit of overclocking headroom left. Even though we expected a bit more with the cooling prowess available, its important to note that our initial frequencies were awfully fast to begin with. At any rate, our overclocked settings landed 3% gains over the Infinity Edition settings in both FC2 and L4D. Likewise, we saw an 11% and 12% improvement over the reference clocked GTX 285 in these two games.  

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Temperatures

Before wrapping up the article, we'll cover one of the selling points of this card. Since the aim of watercooling is to improve heat dissipation and lower operating temps, we recorded the idle and load temperatures of the GPUs during benchmarking. Our testing environment is climate controlled at 22.2C / 72F and we used RivaTuner to monitor core temps. 

GPU Core Temperatures
Monitored with RivaTuner


Its no surprise to see the watercooled Zotac GPU function at lower temps than the comparison cards. Compared to the GTX 295, the Infinity Edition GTX 285 performed its duties 12 degrees cooler under load and 9 degrees less while idle. Similarly, it achieved much lower temps than the hot running HD 4870 X2. We saw differences of 19 degrees under load and a whopping 37 degree variation in an idle state.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: Zotac's Infinity Edition GTX 285 arrived in the lab touting the fastest clocks we've seen from this class of NVIDIA-based videocard. Our benchmarks showed how it narrowed the performance gap between the stock GTX 285 and the dual-GPU Radeon HD 4870 X2. Although the GTX 285 was unable to match the graphics processing power of the dual-GPU based cards we used for comparison, it only trailed them by a few frames per second in every benchmark. Furthermore, the Infinity Edition GTX 285 consistently performed 11% faster than the reference clocked GTX 285 and it ran cooler and quieter too.


 


The advantage of buying a videocard with a pre-installed GPU water block is that you'll usually pay less for the total package than you would when purchasing the card and water block separately. While we don't have actual street prices available for Zotac's Infinity Edition GTX 285 because the card hasn't shipped just yet, we're told the price will be roughly $100 more than reference models. That's not bad considering high-end, copper GPU water-blocks for the GTX 285 typically sell for about $100 to $130 on their own. Strictly looking from the performance angle, however, it would make sense to put that extra money towards a higher performing card, like the GTX 295 for example, and call it a day. But it would be wrong to assume the target market for this videocard would follow that line of thinking. This product was made for watercooling enthusiasts who want the best performing single-GPU coupled with a preinstalled waterblock. With that in mind, there are only two other options we could find. And out of all three cards, Zotac's Infinity Edition has the highest core clock.     

To close things out, we think it's fair to say that this card is not for everyone--obviously. Remember the niche market we mentioned at the beginning of this article? Well, within that specific group of consumers looking at high end GPUs, there is an even smaller subset of people looking for a videocard with these specific features. But for those looking for a water-cooled GTX 285, we feel the Zotac Infinity Edition GTX 285 will fit the bill quite well. Maximum clocks and extraordinary cooling are the prominent characteristics of this card. Therefore, we have no problem recommending the Zotac GTX 285 Infinity Edition to anyone looking for the fastest single-GPU based videocard almost on the market. Expect availability in the next few weeks, in the later part of May.

     
  • Fastest GTX 285 We've Tested
  • Factory Overclocked
  • Cool, quiet operation
  • CUDA, PhysX Support

 

  • High Price Tag
  • Not Yet Available
  • Dual PCI Bracket




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