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Conclusion

Having tested Nvidia’s new G200-based graphics cards, GeForce GTX 280 and GTX 260, we should acknowledge that the GTX 280 is indeed the fastest single graphics card available now. However, it doesn’t push the performance bar much higher in comparison with the previous cards notwithstanding Nvidia’s efforts. The summary diagrams show that quite clearly:

The GeForce GTX 280 is supposed to outperform the cheaper Radeon HD 4870 as well as the ex-flagship GeForce 9800 GX2 but that’s not the case:

  • The GeForce GTX 280 shows the highest speed in only four out of the 16 tests, namely in BioShock, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Tomb  _©, Hellgate London and World in Conflict.
  • The GeForce 9800 GX2 is the fastest card in five out of the 16 tests, namely in Call of Juarez, Crysis, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, and Company of Heroes.
  • The Radeon HD 4870 beats the GeForce GTX 280 in three out of the 16 tests, namely in Lost Planet and in both scenes from TES IV: Oblivion Moreover, the 4870 model is as fast as the GeForce GTX 280 in four more tests: Battlefield 2142, Call of Juarez, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, and Command & Conquer.

The junior model of the series, the $299 GeForce GTX 260, did rather well in comparison with its market opponent:

  • The GeForce GTX 260 won three out of the 16 tests, namely Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Tomb Raider: Legend, and STALKER.
  • The GeForce GTX 260 is as fast as the Radeon HD 4870 in seven out of the 16 tests, namely Battlefield 2142, BioShock, Call of Duty 4, Command & Conquer, Crysis, Hellgate London, and World in Conflict.
  • The Radeon HD 4870 is ahead of its market opponent in five out of the 16 tests: Call of Juarez, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Lost Planet, and The Elder Scroll: Oblivion (in/out).

Thus, both cards deliver similar performance but the 4870 model is better in terms of consumer properties such as PCB dimensions, integrated audio core, hardware support for VC-1 decoding.

Few people buy $300 and more expensive cards to play at 1280x1024, so high resolutions are going to be the most representative.

The GeForce GTX 280 and its opponents, the 9800 GX2 and the Radeon HD 4870, are not much different at a resolution of 1600x1200:

  • The GeForce GTX 280 is still the fastest in only four out of the 16 tests: BioShock, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Tomb Raider: Legend, Hellgate London, and World in Conflict.
  • The GeForce 9800 GX2 wins four out of the 16 tests: Call of Juarez, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Crysis, and Lost Planet.
  • The Radeon HD 4870 is as fast as the GTX 280 in six tests: Battlefield 2142, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Command & Conquer, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, and World in Conflict.

Notwithstanding its advanced memory subsystem with a 512-bit bus and its 32 raster back-ends, the GeForce GTX 280 has rather modest results for a would-be leader.

The GeForce GTX 260 compares well enough with its opponent. There is no definite leader between them:

  • The GeForce GTX 260 wins in five out of the 16 tests: Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Tomb Raider: Legend, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Hellgate London, and Company of Heroes.
  • The GeForce GTX 260 is as fast as the Radeon HD 4870 in seven out of the 16 tests: Battlefield 2142, Command & Conquer, Crysis, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, World in Conflict, and The Elder Scroll: Oblivion (in/out).
  • The Radeon HD 4870 beats its opponent in four out of the 16 tests: BioShock, Call of Juarez, Call of Duty 4, and Lost Planet.

The 1920x1200 results are not good for the GeForce GTX 280 because the Radeon HD 4870 gets closer, especially in Hellgate: London. Here is the comparison for the highest tested resolution:

  • Being more expensive than the Radeon HD 4870, Nvidia’s new flagship outperforms it greatly in only seven out of the 16 tests: Battlefield 2142, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Tomb Raider: Legend, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Hellgate London, Company of Heroes, and Half-Life 2: Episode Two.
  • The GeForce GTX 280 is as fast as the ATI Radeon HD 4870 in five out of the 16 tests: BioShock, Crysis, Command & Conquer, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, and World in Conflict.
  • The Nvidia GeForce GTX 280 lost to the ATI Radeon HD 4870 in three tests: Call of Juarez, Call of Duty 4, and Lost Planet.
  • The saddest thing for the new flagship is that it wins only six out of the 16 tests (BioShock, Call of Juarez, World in Conflict, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Tomb Raider: Legend, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars) from its predecessor GeForce 9800 GX2. In the other tests the dual-chip card is either faster than (Call of Juarez, Call of Duty 4, Lost Planet) or equal to (Battlefield 2142, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Hellgate London, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion (in/out), Company of Heroes, Command & Conquer) the new flagship product from Nvidia.

That’s not the performance you might expect from a graphics card that had been intended to come at a price of over $600. It is hardly worth its new price of $499 even. It is a serious blow for the whole concept of top-performance monolithic GPUs because it is clear that two RV770 cores won’t leave a chance to the G200 if multi-GPU technology works correctly.

The GeForce GTX 260 looks better than the flagship:

  • It is ahead of the ATI Radeon HD 4870 in four tests: Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Tomb Raider: Legend, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Company of Heroes.
  • But it is also slower than the opponent in five tests: BioShock, Call of Juarez, Call of Duty 4, Lost Planet, Crysis.
  • The two cards have similar speeds in six out of the 16 tests: Battlefield 2142, Command & Conquer, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, World in Conflict, The Elder Scroll: Oblivion (in/out), and Hellgate: London.

So the choice between the GeForce GTX 260 and the Radeon HD 4870 will depend on the games you intend to play. Our tests don’t show an advantage of either card.

 
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