Articles: Graphics

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Announced on the 25th of January, Nvidia’s new mainstream graphics processor GF114 became the heart of one of the company’s most winning products ever. Priced at $250, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti proved to be faster than the comparably priced Radeon HD 6870 and often as good as the more expensive Radeon HD 6950 in our tests. It is just a perfect mainstream card, like the Radeon HD 4850 used to be in 2008, for example.

Today, we’ve got another story to tell you, though. AMD have been busy preparing its two-headed monster. Codenamed “Antilles”, the Radeon HD 6990 is going to dominate in the premium market sector, replacing the good old Radeon HD 5970 which itself should be given credit for having held the title of the world’s fastest graphics card up to this day. Nvidia don’t seem to be in a hurry to do anything about AMD’s supremacy in this field. As you know, they have never rolled out dual-chip products with two GF100 or GF104 processors. Of course, Nvidia’s single-chip GeForce GTX 580 is capable of meeting the demands of the overwhelming majority of users, yet the lack of a new dual-chip product isn’t good for the company’s image.

Our tests of a GeForce GTX 570 SLI configuration showed its performance to be high enough for a successor to the GeForce GTX 295 if it were implemented as a single card. However, the engineers are going to have a lot of difficulties to overcome when they get to design it. Particularly, they will have to wire two 320-bit memory buses (or even two 384-bit buses if Nvidia is that ambitious) and yet leave enough space to install as many as 24 chips of GDDR5 memory.

A dual-PCB sandwich, like the first version of the GeForce GTX 295, might be a solution, but a very costly one.

Now what if we take two GF114 cores for a perspective GeForce GTS 590?

From a purely theoretical standpoint, the technical specifications of such a tandem would be good whereas the card design would be simpler with two 256-bit memory buses. Considering the lower power consumption of the GF114, a dual-GF114 card would also be more economical than a dual-GF110 one and could be equipped with a simpler cooler. Moreover, its texture-mapping performance would be higher thanks to the higher frequency potential of the GF114 chip.

A dual-GF114 solution seems to be competitive to the Radeon HD 5970 but the Radeon HD 6990 is going to utilize two Cayman cores. If the latter are used in their full configuration and at the same frequencies as in the Radeon HD 6970 card, the dual-GF114 card wouldn’t be so appealing. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have a second Radeon HD 6970 to compare the two configurations directly.

But we do have two GeForce GTX 560 Ti cards, so we are going to benchmark this pair in SLI mode to see if it is any better than a Radeon HD 5970 or a single GeForce GTX 580.

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