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Nvidia GeForce GTX 275 Preview: A Well-Timed Retaliatory Strike?

Before the GeForce GTX 275 even arrived here at the lab, I was finishing up my first look at ATI’s Radeon HD 4890. My conclusion was that, while the re-timed RV790 core did in fact facilitate higher clock speeds and consequently more performance, the extra $70 to $80 dollars it’d cost to get 10% more performance simply was not worthwhile. Should the HD 4890’s price drop to $200 or so (which it very well might in light of this new competition--Update: In fact, it looks like ATI is aiming for $220 with mail-in-rebates, which gets us a little closer), we’d be much more likely to step up from the Radeon HD 4870 1 GB to a retail HD 4890 and try our hand overclocking the 4890 even farther.

In short, the $180-ish Radeon HD 4870 1 GB and GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 are priced too attractively to warrant such a high premium on a few extra frames.

And now we’re faced with the GeForce GTX 275—a card that Nvidia coyly suggests will cost $249 and will be widely available by April 14th. It’s tempting to apply the same logic here, since the GTX 275 represents an incremental performance increase versus the GTX 260 Core 216. But Nvidia’s lineup is a little different, requiring a fresh perspective.

Instead of bridging a gap between the $180 HD 4870 to $430 HD 4870 X2, like ATI’s $249 HD 4890 does, the GeForce family has a $340 GeForce GTX 285 wedged between its dual-GPU GTX 295 and this new GTX 275. That GeForce GTX 285 does open the door to a higher resolution or additional eye-candy feature beyond what you could enable with a GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 down at the $180 price point.  I know—that’s a mess of models and prices, but there’s sense to be made of it.

The GeForce GTX 275 sports the same core configuration as Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 285. And while its memory sub-system is handicapped in comparison, your most playable frame rates are going to be 1680x1050 and 1920x1200—resolutions that aren’t as affected by memory as 2560x1600.

The bottom line is that, as our Sum charts indicate, the GeForce GTX 275 looks a lot like a GeForce GTX 285 at those two lower resolutions. The GTX 275 is generally a little faster than the Radeon HD 4890, too. And if Nvidia’s pricing projections turn out to be accurate, the GTX 275 will be priced similarly as well (at least right out of the gate, until The Market adjusts prices to correspond with relative performance).

With that said, the lower-cost GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 and Radeon HD 4870 1 GB are still mighty compelling for less than $200. If you were looking to step up to the GTX 275 from one of those boards, I’d hold off.

But if you were thinking about buying a GeForce GTX 285 at $340, the GeForce GTX 275 looks to be an impressive value, offering much of the same performance for $100 less.

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