The GeForce GTX 285 consumes less power on average while producing better performance than the GTX 280, and its smaller die allows Nvidia to produce more parts per wafer at a reduced cost. It would appear that everybody wins.
The only problem for consumers is that because the GTX 285 performs better than the GTX 280, Nvidia can charge more for it. An average performance increase of around 6% for the base card (8.75% for our mildly-overclocked test sample) has been met by a price difference of around 10%. It’s up to buyers to decide whether or not they’d like to quibble over a 4% reduction in value, but there’s one thing we can say with certainty: if you already own a GeForce GTX 280, an upgrade to the GTX 285 isn’t practical. GTX 280 owners who want a reasonable performance improvement would be better advised to purchase a second matching card and use the pair in SLI.
Better news for value seekers is that today’s GeForce GTX 285 graphics cards are cheaper than GTX 280 cards were only a few weeks ago. Rather than create a new price class for the GTX 285, Nvidia lowered the price of the GTX 280. SLI upgrades were just given a big value boost for current GTX 280 owners.
But if the GTX 280 is a slightly better value, why would anyone choose the GTX 285? With so small a performance increase, we’d instead consider the card’s improved efficiency. Furthermore, we expect that GTX 280 inventory to be depleted within a few months, making the GTX 285 a better choice for buyers who might be considering an eventual upgrade to SLI.
Noticeable improvements make the GTX 285 a good solution for new systems, but its value as an upgrade part is purely dependent on the inadequacy of the part it will replace.