The GeForce GTX 200 graphics architecture had been announced a couple of days before the ATI Radeon HD 4800. As you already know from our reviews, Nvidia’s new GPUs were developed following a different strategic concept than the competitor’s chips. While AMD’s graphics department ATI focused on simple and relatively inexpensive GPUs combining them into multi-GPU configurations when necessary, Nvidia did everything to create the highest-performance monolithic core of the new generation. That’s what the G200 is.
Each approach has its pros and cons, and we won’t repeat the arguments again here. Suffice it to say, Nvidia’s new chip came out very big and sophisticated but, as our theoretical tests showed, not always the fastest. It is mostly the consequence of the G200 having lower computing power as it has only 240 ALUs as opposed to the RV770’s 800 ALUs. On the other hand, Nvidia has traditionally put the focus on the performance of texture processors and raster operators, even at the expense of the chip’s computing capacity, and the G200 was promisingly good from this aspect in the theoretical tests
G200-based graphics cards proved to be difficult and expensive to make, particularly due to the 512-bit memory bus, but it was clear that Nvidia’s original prices on the GeForce GTX 280 and GTX 260 were too high for these cards to be competitive. Soon after the release of the Radeon HD 4800 series which showed superb performance in games notwithstanding its modest pricing, Nvidia had to step down the official price of the GeForce GTX 280 from a sky-high $649 to a more acceptable $499. The GeForce GTX 260 got a price tag of $299 instead of $399. With such price cuts it is a question how profitable GeForce GTX 200 cards are considering the high cost of manufacture. Well, this review is not about the price factor after all.
Our goal is to check out the practical potential of the GeForce GTX 200 series and find how competitive it is on the modern desktop 3D graphics market. What the end-user wants to know is what he gets for his money. So, we will benchmark GeForce GTX 280 and 260 graphics cards in 15 popular games of different genres as well as in two versions of Futuremark’s 3DMark.