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The GeForce GTX 280 and GTX 260: A Quick and Dirty Analysis

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June 17, 2008 6:15:23 AM

From what I've read so far, the new Nvidia cards have been receiving mixed reviews. A trend I noticed was that professional hardware review sites tended to praise the new GTXs' raw single GPU power, while the hardware forum community tended to malign the cards for their high price and (in some people's opinion) lackluster performance.

I set out to do a quick and dirty analysis of my own, based on numbers gleaned from the following sources:

- Tom's Hardware GTX 260/280 Review
- Tom's Hardware Desktop VGA Charts: Overall all games fps

The methodology I used was to add up every single frame rate measured in the GTX 260/280 review, normalize these numbers as a percentage and compare that with the normalized "overall all games fps" numbers from the VGA charts. While this mode of analysis is certainly less than perfect, it will allow us to compare multiple generations of Nvidia cards.

The results are shown in the following chart:




Some interesting results include:

- The GTX 280 beats the 9800 GTX by 4% more than the 8800 GTX beat the 7900 GTX
- The 9800 GX2 beats the 9800 GTX by 16% more than the 7950 GX2 beat the 7900 GTX
- The GTX 280 beats the GTX 260 by almost exactly the same as the 8800 GTX beat the 8800 GTS (640 MB, G80)

What I take away from this is that the GTX 280 really isn't that bad of a card performance-wise. In the single-GPU arena it does a better job than the venerable 8800 GTX at taking out its previous-generation opponent. A possible reason for the apparently poor performance of the GTX 280 stems from the fact that the 9800 GX2 is a much better dual-core graphics card than the 7950 GX2 was. Had the 7950 GX2 put up a lasting fight (after driver issues were worked out with the 8800), the 8800 GTX might not have been seen in quite the same light. One last intriguing result is that the high-end card of the G80 generation (GTX) beats its high-mid counterpart (GTS) by the same margin as the high-end of GT200 generation (280), beats its high-mid brother (260).

You may have noticed I haven't discussed price at all. In my opinion, the market and competition will set the price in the next several weeks; the GTX 280 pricing may come to rest slightly above the 9800 GX2, and depending on ATI's performance on June 25th, the prices of both new Nvidia cards could fall even more.
June 17, 2008 6:33:35 AM

260 GTX is such a better value. I can't wait till CUDA is supported on G92 so I can take advantage of my 8800GT. 9800GX2 kicks butt in SLi optimized games at lower res like 1920x1200 but the GTX 280 takes the crown at that resolution with AA/AF and at 2560x1600 with AA/AF. ET game the GTX 260 a 4.5/5 stars and recommends it, while it game the GTX 280 a 3.5 stars. I can't wait till similar performing cards reach the $300 price point, then I will just have to buy a new gfx card.
June 17, 2008 6:37:46 AM

From 7 series to 8 series it brought lot more than just speed. At the time Geforce 8 gave far superior image quality and load of features not seen with G80 to GT200. Not to mention developers increasing shader count as G80 was about to release and sometimes 2x 2.5x faster than 7900gtx. It won't be for a long time before shader increase dramatic that would make GT200 see the same kind of results.

Face it. GT200 is a nice card but for the price it's crap.
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a b U Graphics card
June 17, 2008 6:39:51 AM

Excellent compilation. Exactly as how I see it also. People complaining its performance vs the x2's, yet as Ive pointed out, and youve determined, sli has grown up a little. One thing tho, the 9800GTX isnt completely the better card over the 8800GTX, and certainly not the Ultra. There may be a Ultra type G280, who knows, but one things for sure, it wont be cheap nor run cool
June 17, 2008 6:45:09 AM

JAYDEEJOHN said:
One thing tho, the 9800GTX isnt completely the better card over the 8800GTX, and certainly not the Ultra.


Very good point, but I suppose I really just wanted to see the GT200 generation versus the G80 refresh (G92) compared with the G80 generation versus the G70 refresh (G71). I could have included the 8800 Ultra numbers, but that's just more work for me. ;) 
June 17, 2008 6:46:02 AM

I cannot wait till a 1GB card 45nm fits into a single slot design or a 9" long dual slot design, that would certainly be good for the mainstream market.
a b U Graphics card
June 17, 2008 6:58:39 AM

Yea, this isnt a no pain no gain situation here. Ive gained alot from your work, thanx
a b U Graphics card
June 17, 2008 7:14:47 AM

Very nice comparison. Thanks for your hard work!

I am inclined to agree. The GTX 280 is a rockin card, nVidia just shot them selfs in the foot with the GX2. If said GX2 had not been released or was not as cheap as it is now, I think everyone would be seeing the GTX 280 in a completly diffrent light.
a c 169 U Graphics card
June 17, 2008 7:28:18 AM

Nice comparison
Also about 9800GTX VS 8800GTX/ULTRA, actually in higher resolution the 8800GTX/ULTRA wins due to its 384bit and more memory

GTX 280 VS 9800GTX, 33.5% Dont u think thats a little low for a new gen card?
a b U Graphics card
June 17, 2008 7:38:28 AM

Add 10% or so to that number, which is gained not because of the 280s weakness, but SLI's strength, something not found 2 gens ago
a c 169 U Graphics card
June 17, 2008 7:42:35 AM

I meant 9800GTX sorry :D 
June 17, 2008 8:05:43 AM

Yeah, this is some really good information.

People think we're getting less of a performance increase in this generation, but they forget that our SLI/Crossfire is a lot better than it used to be, so it's not as easy to compare the top of the line cards.

Despite all of this, the GTX280 is still not worth it, simply because nvidia screwed itself with the 9800GX2. The GTX 280 is about the same performance for more money.

So while the performance leap may be inline with other generation changes, the current market and price make the GTX 280 unjustifiable.
June 17, 2008 8:19:29 AM

If I had to make an educated guess, I would say that Nvidia will eventually have to lower the price on the GTX 280 to roughly match that of the 9800 GX2.

With GX2s as cheap as $450 right now on Newegg, the GTX 280 is suddenly starting to sound much more attractive if the Green Team does indeed slash the price.


Edit: Actually, I just found a PNY GX2 on Buy.com for $410. Wow, GTX 280-class performance for around $240 less.


Here's the link if anyone wants it:

http://www.buy.com/retail/product.asp?sku=207534756&SearchEngine=PriceGrabber&SearchTerm=207534756&Type=PE&Category=Comp&dcaid=15890
June 17, 2008 8:32:05 AM

Yeah, but I think I heard that they were going to discontinue the 9800GX2.

And that is a very good price. Just think. the 8800gts 640 used to be that price not too long ago.
a b U Graphics card
June 17, 2008 8:37:21 AM

So, in the end, who leads in process/progress? ATI. They saw this coming before they were bought by AMD. Now its better to get 2 lower/mid cards and XF/SLI them than it is to get one top card. nVidia is behind in this process, its plain to see, and if they cant do what ATI can potentially do with their 4870x2's, theyre in trouble. Thats only if the bridge cf port works, or even exists
June 17, 2008 9:23:39 AM

bluesguitar007 said:

What I take away from this is that the GTX 280 really isn't that bad of a card performance-wise. In the single-GPU arena it does a better job than the venerable 8800 GTX at taking out its previous-generation opponent. A possible reason for the apparently poor performance of the GTX 280 stems from the fact that the 9800 GX2 is a much better dual-core graphics card than the 7950 GX2 was.


Nice to see some balanced opinions too in these forums!
The biggest questions are. Can Nvidia make something to the prize of 280? It's very expensive to produce, so is there room for prize manouvers?
What happens to 9800gx2? Soneone said that it will be discontinued, but if it's popular, why Nvidia would do that? Will it be more expensive in the future, bacause the shops don't try to dump it any more for low price, because the customers try to get these cards instead 280's?
HOT GPU sumer ahead!
June 17, 2008 9:58:47 AM

Hey Jaydee, you have any predictions on when we will see a 4870x2 benched? (I would search myself but I am on a super-slow web connection in Iraq right now) I wanted to go with the red team last build, but the g80's out at the time were just too good to be ignored. I might even do my first dual card solution this gen if the 4870's play nice in CF. I could CF 2 of those for cheaper than one of these GTX 280s!

Pete
a b U Graphics card
June 17, 2008 10:50:31 AM

Nope, but I had a 4870 doing 182xx in 3D06 with a amd 4400 at 3.1xx Hope that helps, cant find that link again, but thats the numbers for the single
June 17, 2008 11:27:36 AM

I dont think people are complaining about the actual performance of the GTX280, people are complaining about the price you need to pay for that same performance you can get with $150 less.

Most of the people doesnt care how much GPUs there is in the card or how its manufactured as long as it plays the games well. Not to mention that the new 280 is EXTREMELY noisy (~70db).
Thats also need to be considered when you buy a Video card

In my opinion nVidia released the card $650 because in the first month they hope most of the entusiast and doo daddy shoppers will buy it and then when they release the shrink down they will lower the price. They can do that from the position of the N1, while ATI cant afford to make such moves. In business there is always advantages to be N1. And that crown is VERY difficult to take. Even if ATI release a better product that doesnt mean people will run to buy it.
When nVidia have been on the top for a long time they create fan clubs and customers that are just addicted to the brand. You can see it everywhere in the world. Sony people, Nokia people, Cola people, BMW people and on and on and on. Even if ATI crush the nVidia with their product this time , it will take at least 1 - 2 years untill the numbers show that they have bigger share of the customers (I can probably even raise that to 2-3 years in case nVidia doesnt catch up). Anyway I believe this time ATI will have the better products. If you can match a 280GTX with 2 4850 in crossfire for $400 I would call that a BIG win. But we will see ;) 
a c 171 U Graphics card
June 17, 2008 12:28:26 PM

I must be reading your chart wrong. You have the 280 normalized at 1, and the GX2 is 6% slower? There were so many times the GX2 came out on top, often by a large margin, in the Toms review that I find this a bit hard to believe.

The 280 is simply to expensive for what you get. You might choose to ignore price, but it makes up half of the price/performance ratio. I'm sorry, but $600 is simply to much for that level of performance. The 260 isn't bad, but I wasn't very impressed by it either. I haven't put them into a graph yet, but the 260 didn't seem to be that much faster then a 9800GTX, which is currently more then $100 cheaper then the 260. Whats worse, the GX2 is much more powerful, and only ~$50 more then 260. Again, you chose for some reason to ignore price, but both of these cards need to come down A LOT before they look attractive.

Nvidia of course could also remove the compitiion. If they stop making GX2's, then that changes everything. (same thing applies if they stop making the 9800GTX, causing their price to raise.) In time, the 260/280 will look a lot better, but they are no 8800GT/GTS (512MB version that is.)
June 17, 2008 12:32:12 PM

There is no excuse for having such shoddy drivers available on the day of release of a premium US $600 product IMO.

These products have been months in development, and the resources should be put into ensuring that a fucntional, stable and well-performing driver set is available at release stage.

CUDA looks awesome, and once there are maturing developments for it, then it will come into its own. However at the moment using it as a major selling point for Nvidia is pretty much akin to selling some magic beans and saying what they will grow into (I have some magic beans by the way if anyone is interested - they can grow into whatever you want).

You wouldn't buy a car if the upholstery was going to be finished in 2 weeks time, or if there wasn't any oil for the engine for a month. Consumers need to get over their childish excitement and actually look at what they're buying, and more importantly when.
June 17, 2008 1:00:04 PM

lack of DX10.1 is the sour note in my eyes, in less then year both the GTX 280 and 260 will need to be replaced anyway. I like to get a few years running time for that price.
June 17, 2008 1:41:21 PM

maximiza said:
lack of DX10.1 is the sour note in my eyes, in less then year both the GTX 280 and 260 will need to be replaced anyway. I like to get a few years running time for that price.


Even if DX10.1 started to roll out in full force, which by the way...would require alot of people to move to vista that havent yet. It would have an effect large enough to go as fas as to say the 280/260 would "need" to be replaced.

Best,

3Ball
June 17, 2008 2:09:59 PM

@bluesguita r007

Not sure how you made your chart but a 8800 GTX is more than twice as fast 7900 GTX card. If memory serves correct it's twice as fast as the 7900x2. The 280 GTX is not twice as fast a 8800 GTX.

Nice card but about 50% too pricey. This card should have been 50% faster than it is for $600+
a c 171 U Graphics card
June 17, 2008 2:11:37 PM

Nevermind, I take it back. The new cards do so much better then the GX2 in Crysis, Mass Effect, and Grid, that they come off as faster. I don't think this paints a complete picture however, as in crysis the GX2 loses to the 8800U/9800GTX, even though it should be a faster card. Meaning there are some driver issues at work here, not that its a slow card. Due to the three games I mentioned, the 260~9800GX2, and the 280 is better by between 10-20%. (19% faster if you look at all games at 2560x1600, 10% faster if you toss out the highest and lowest scores for the 280.)

The nice thing about these new cards is you have the power of the older 8800W/9800GTX +20%, and they are at least as powerful, or more so for the 280 compared to the GX2. Yes, they didn't up the performance crown by leaps and bounds, but they did mange to get the power of an SLI card, onto one PCB. With only one chip. Can't comment at this point on price until they've settled, but I'm more then happy to give up 25% performance if I get to save $200. (comparing to the 280 obviously here...)

Sorry for the ramblings, hopefully this will make more sense after I get some sleep.
June 17, 2008 2:16:30 PM

DX 10.1 is the best part of DX10, the part that was meant for better performance... It's a shame that nvidia isn't using it because that means it will be less likely that devs will use it. However, I do hope that some games use it, I'm looking at you HL:2 Episode 3.
June 17, 2008 2:38:01 PM

The new GTXs are superb cards.

You cannot say they suck just because the 280 doesnt always beat the 9800 GX2, while the 8800 GTX trashed the 7950 GX2... the 7950 was the first dual-GPU card and not that well thought out, while the 9800 is a bit more advanced and simply uses a much faster (in comparison) core than the 7950.

The GTX 260/280 is MASSIVELY faster than the 3870 X2 and even 8800 Ultra, while trading blows with the in-house dual-card 9800 GX2.
The very high bandwidth will pay off in near future.

Plus, it also offers "very attractive" power draw, consuming less than the 9800 GX2 and 3870 X2 and thus making it an awesome perf/watt. Only catch is that they have a somewhat strange HSF that keeps GPU temp. at 80°C while 90 would be easily OK.

Prices are high, but noone is forced to buy now =)
June 17, 2008 2:47:17 PM

SLI 280's beat the 9800 GX2 there are tests on evga.
June 17, 2008 2:48:40 PM

Ycon said:
The new GTXs are superb cards.

You cannot say they suck just because the 280 doesnt always beat the 9800 GX2, while the 8800 GTX trashed the 7950 GX2... the 7950 was the first dual-GPU card and not that well thought out, while the 9800 is a bit more advanced and simply uses a much faster (in comparison) core than the 7950.

The GTX 260/280 is MASSIVELY faster than the 3870 X2 and even 8800 Ultra, while trading blows with the in-house dual-card 9800 GX2.
The very high bandwidth will pay off in near future.

Plus, it also offers "very attractive" power draw, consuming less than the 9800 GX2 and 3870 X2 and thus making it an awesome perf/watt. Only catch is that they have a somewhat strange HSF that keeps GPU temp. at 80°C while 90 would be easily OK.

Prices are high, but noone is forced to buy now =)


MASSIVELY faster than 3870x2 ?

I dont think so.

From the reviews I saw from at least 10 sites it seems the 280GTX is about 10-40% faster than 3870x2 that is not MASSIVELY when you take into account that 3870x2 is half the price. Also some of the benchmarks clearly show that drivers are not optimized and only one of the GPU's is used.

I agree that a single GPU card is better than x2 in terms that you can always expect somewhat similar performance and dont count so much on drivers and support but new ATI cards will also be single GPU (4850/4870)

And if you get about 10-15% more from nVidia than ATI (4850vs260 and 4870vs280) for half the price, well then who do you think is the winner ;) ?
June 17, 2008 3:12:14 PM

"And if you get about 10-15% more from nVidia than ATI (4850vs260 and 4870vs280) for half the price, well then who do you think is the winner ? "

What I meant is:

When you get 10-15% more from nVidia than ATI (4850vs260 and 4870vs280) for double the price, well then who do you think is the winner ?


-----------------------------
And the answer : ATI
June 17, 2008 3:39:08 PM

hannibal said:
Nice to see some balanced opinions too in these forums!
The biggest questions are. Can Nvidia make something to the prize of 280? It's very expensive to produce, so is there room for prize manouvers?
What happens to 9800gx2? Soneone said that it will be discontinued, but if it's popular, why Nvidia would do that? Will it be more expensive in the future, bacause the shops don't try to dump it any more for low price, because the customers try to get these cards instead 280's?
HOT GPU sumer ahead!


Considering 2900xt was almost big as Nvidia's chip and slashed prices. I think Nvidia can definitely slash prices and still make out. But I don't think they are going to and milk it for all its worth. Not now anyway when R700 isn't even around.
June 17, 2008 3:49:00 PM

rawsteel said:
MASSIVELY faster than 3870x2 ?

I dont think so.

From the reviews I saw from at least 10 sites it seems the 280GTX is about 10-40% faster than 3870x2 that is not MASSIVELY when you take into account that 3870x2 is half the price. Also some of the benchmarks clearly show that drivers are not optimized and only one of the GPU's is used.

I agree that a single GPU card is better than x2 in terms that you can always expect somewhat similar performance and dont count so much on drivers and support but new ATI cards will also be single GPU (4850/4870)

And if you get about 10-15% more from nVidia than ATI (4850vs260 and 4870vs280) for half the price, well then who do you think is the winner ;) ?


Winner? In what? Performance, well you said it yourself. 10 - 15% faster would make the 280/260 the winners of their class. Price/Performance ratio then the ATI would win. Remember that not everyone lives their life by price/performance ratio. I still dont understand why when talking about the absolute high end people talk about how high the price is. First release high end cards are always overpriced...this is nothing new! Tell me im wrong, but prove it! I paid $620 for my X1900XTX when I bought it a few years ago. Before that I had an X850XT that I paid $550 for... it just continues.

P.S. I am not saying that the 280 performs how I thought it would, but it is pretty close to what I thought it would do at release and 40% over the 3870x2...that is a very large increase in performance. The noise of the card is what is a problem for me at this point...I may wait for the new process refresh and hopefully new cooler that will be quieter. I dont mind a loud cooler, but if it is excessive or high pitched I cannot take it.

Best,

3Ball
June 17, 2008 4:30:39 PM

The thing I find most interesting is that all of these cards are benched with resolutions of 1920 x 1080 and greater. How many people actually use those resolutions?

I bet if you tested these cards at 1280 x 1024 up to 1600 x 1200 (which I am sure what the vast majority uses) all of these cards perform at well over 30 FPS, with the exception of Crysis.

This is why I think the GTX 280 is a great card but terrible deal (as with other pricey graphics solutions). It makes absolutely no sense to spend $600 on a card when you will see relatively the same performance using a $150 to $200 card (assuming you are at a "normal" resolution")

June 17, 2008 4:36:58 PM

To add to my previous post: Even if you want to game at the high resolutions that I mentioned, that means you need to get a very good monitor that will cost $300 or maybe even more. That means we are really talking roughly $1000 (include shipping, tax, even more money for monitor) if you really want to see that performance to make it "worth while".

At $1000 for graphics card and monitor, is it worth while anymore? Wasn't one of the major points of building you own computer to not shell out tons of money on computers?
June 17, 2008 4:40:48 PM

njalterio, these cards are EXACTLY for such resolutions.

If you are using 1280x1024 or 1600x1200 you dont need such card, ot at least not now. Even a normal 8900GTX or a 8800GT will be enough for everything.
a c 169 U Graphics card
June 17, 2008 4:49:32 PM

rawstell,u meant 9800GTX right ? :D 
Yeah i agree with u about it but dont forget 8800GTS 512 too its a solid card

Guys i still have a question and i am receiving many different answers.

Can someone compare 3 WAY 8800GTX VS 3 WAY GTX 280 VS 2 9800GX2s?

thanx
June 17, 2008 4:52:17 PM

Take Crysis on high?

Probably would have to be the GTX 280 or a tri/quad SLI/CF solution.

The point is though, the amount of money it would take to play at those resolutions or run Crysis on high with no stuttering would cost way to much money for it to be worth it. Maybe I can see if you have lots of money, but from the business standpoint it makes me wonder how Nvidia can think they will remain ion top when only a very small margin of people will enjoy performance gains (which are already minimal).

June 17, 2008 4:55:21 PM

Maziar said:
rawstell,u meant 9800GTX right ? :D 
Yeah i agree with u about it but dont forget 8800GTS 512 too its a solid card

Guys i still have a question and i am receiving many different answers.

Can someone compare 3 WAY 8800GTX VS 3 WAY GTX 280 VS 2 9800GX2s?

thanx


3 way GTX 280 would be the fastest. The quad SLI 9800GX2 setup is buggy and doesnt scale well and I dont believe that 8800GTX's have the ability for 3 way SLI. Either way it would be slower than 3 way SLI with 280's.

Best,

3Ball
June 17, 2008 4:56:27 PM

Maziar: Obviously the GTX 280 combo will perform best, followed by the 9800 GX2s, followed by the 8800GTX combo.

None of it is worth while or practical!
June 17, 2008 4:57:53 PM

actly SLI of GTX280's would beat 2 9800'S gtx2's evga proved it in specs on the fourm
June 17, 2008 4:59:40 PM

What this looks like is some of the Nvidia boys trying to spur their sick pony into a race horse.
June 17, 2008 5:00:15 PM

^^ Agreed
June 17, 2008 5:09:57 PM

To bad Nvidia didn’t release the 280 killer….. The 9800x2 with 2 gigs of ram.
I wondered at the time, why aren’t they releasing a 9800x2 with more memory?
Guess I know now.
Poe
a c 169 U Graphics card
June 17, 2008 5:15:23 PM

njalterio said:
Maziar: Obviously the GTX 280 combo will perform best, followed by the 9800 GX2s, followed by the 8800GTX combo.

None of it is worth while or practical!


thanks for the answer njalterio and 3dball
yes i know its not worth it i just wanted to know :) 

It isnt even worth it to upgrade my 8800GTX to GTX 280 or 260 according to the benchmarks, 33.5% isn't something special IMO and my 8800GTX still handles everything well @ 1680x1050
what do u think
June 17, 2008 5:18:45 PM

JAYDEEJOHN said:
So, in the end, who leads in process/progress? ATI. They saw this coming before they were bought by AMD. Now its better to get 2 lower/mid cards and XF/SLI them than it is to get one top card. nVidia is behind in this process, its plain to see, and if they cant do what ATI can potentially do with their 4870x2's, theyre in trouble. Thats only if the bridge cf port works, or even exists

Not to mention the IMC which will see the two GPUs share the 1GB frame buffer. I'm looking forward to that card.
:cry:  Sorry Nv fanbois!! not this time :cry: 
June 17, 2008 5:30:12 PM

3Ball said:
3 way GTX 280 would be the fastest. The quad SLI 9800GX2 setup is buggy and doesnt scale well and I dont believe that 8800GTX's have the ability for 3 way SLI. Either way it would be slower than 3 way SLI with 280's.

Best,

3Ball


Good luck finding a PSU to power 3 280's.
June 17, 2008 5:40:20 PM

uguv said:
Good luck finding a PSU to power 3 280's.


Haha indeed. You would need a large case that has two PSU slots! Thats if you wanted to have the rest of the system as well of course... lol
June 17, 2008 5:42:44 PM

A power supply with at least 1 kW should do it. Right?
!