NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280 and GTX 260 Unleashed

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Our Test Systems and 3DMark06


HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEMS: We tested all of the graphics cards used in this article on either an Asus nForce 790i SLI Ultra based Striker II Extreme motherboard (NVIDIA GPUs) or an X48 based Asus P5E3 Premium (ATI GPUs) powered by a Core 2 Extreme QX6850 quad-core processor and 2GB of low-latency Corsair RAM. The first thing we did when configuring these test systems was enter their respective BIOSes 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 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 QX6850 (3GHz)

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

Asus P5E3 Premium
(X48 Express)

Radeon HD 3870 X2 (x2)
GeForce 9800 GTX (x3)
GeForce 9800 GX2 (x2)
GeForce GTX 260
GeForce GTX 280 (x3)

2048MB Corsair DDR3-1333 C7
(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 v177.34
ATI Catalyst v8.5

Benchmarks Used:
3DMark06 v1.0.2
3DMark Vantage v1.0.1
Unreal Tournament 3 v1.2*
Crysis v1.2*
Half Life 2: Episode 2*
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars*

* - Custom Demo

Futuremark 3DMark06
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


3DMark06

3DMark06 is a synthetic benchmark, designed to simulate DX9-class game titles. This version differs from the earlier 3Dmark05 in a number of ways, and includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests, but Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail and the shader complexity is vastly increasedl. Max shader length in 3DMark05 was 96 instructions, while 3DMark06 ups that number to 512. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.


3DMark06's overall score from the default benchmark test doesn't tell use very much, mostly because it is CPU bound - even with a Core 2 Extreme QX6850 at the heart of our test system.  The new GeForce GTX 260 puts up a score well ahead of the 9800 GTX, but behind the GX2 and Radeon HD 3870 X2. The GTX 280 fares better but is still limited due to the CPU bound circumstance of this test.





3DMark06's individual Shader Model tests tell essentially the same story.  The new GeForce GTX 260 and GTX 280 put up scores measurably better than any other single GPU, but the differences aren't very significant. Thankfully, we can now retire 3DMark06, because Futuremark's latest version, 3DMark Vantage, has hit the scene.


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