We began today’s 3-way GTX 260 Core 216 versus 2-way GTX 280 comparison with our $2,500 System Builder Marathon machine, substituting two EVGA part number 01G-P3-1280-AR graphics cards for the 2-way test.
For a price-per-performance 3-way versus 2-way shootout, the only challenge this configuration faced was that the GeForce GTX 260 graphics cards came from EVGA pre-overclocked by 8.68% for the GPU core and 5.4% for the memory. To make the comparison fair, we overclocked the GTX 280 cards by the same amount, resulting in a 654 MHz GPU core and 2338 MHz GDDR3 data rate. The new clock speed is comparable to EVGA's part number 01G-P3-1284-AR.
|Test System Configuration|
|CPU||Intel Core i7 920 (2.66 GHz, 8.0 MB Cache)|
|Overclocked to 4.00 GHz (BCLK 200)|
|CPU Cooler||Vigor Monsoon III LT|
|2x 2000 RPM 120 mm Fans (Stock)|
|Motherboard||EVGA X58 3X SLI (P/N: 132-BL-E758-A)|
|Intel X58/ICH10R Chipset, LGA-1366|
|RAM||3.0 GB Super Talent DDR3-1333 CAS 8|
|Overclocked to DDR3-1600 CL 9-8-8-16|
|3-Way SLI Graphics||3x EVGA GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 S.E.|
|626 MHz GPU, GDDR3-2106|
|2-Way SLI Graphics||2x EVGA GeForce GTX 280 (Overclocked)|
|654 MHz GPU, GDDR3-2338|
|Hard Drives||3x Samsung Spinpoint F1 HD103UJ RAID 5|
|1.0 TB, 7,200 RPM, 32 MB Cache|
|Sound||Integrated HD Audio|
|Network||Integrated Gigabit Networking|
|Case||Cooler Master Stacker 830 Evolution (Black)|
|Power||Silverstone OP1000 Evolution|
|ATX12V v2.2. EPS12V, 1000 W, 80 A +12 V Rail|
|Optical||LG GGC-H20LK 6X Blu-ray/HD DVD-ROM, 16X DVD±R|
|Additional Fans||2x Scythe S-FLEX SFF21F 120 mm 1,600 RPM|
|OS||Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit SP1|
|Graphics||NVidia GeForce 180.48|
|Chipset||Intel INF 220.127.116.116|
Some of our graphics benchmarks have been handicapped by CPU rather than GPU limitations, so we left our $2,500 PC’s overclock in place to shift this limitation by the greatest amount possible to the graphics cards.
We also repeated the full benchmark suite from our System Builder Marathon, including encoding and productivity benchmarks, to check for any additional CPU overhead that might have been caused by using three graphics cards in the GTX 260 Core 216 configuration.
|Benchmarks and Settings|
|Crysis||Version: 1.2.1, Video Quality: Very High Details, Demo: CPU-Benchmark + Tom’s Hardware Tool|
|Supreme Commander||Version: 1.5.3599, Video Quality: Highest Settings, Demo : WallaceTX_006_006, Benchmark: Fraps 2.9.4 - Build 7037|
|Unreal Tournament 3||Version: 1.2, Sound and DirectX10, Texture Details: 5, Level Details: 5, Demo: vCTF-Reflection_bot, Time: 12/60|
|World in Conflict||Version: 18.104.22.168, Video Quality: Very High details, Demo: Game-Benchmark|
|iTunes||Version: 22.214.171.124, Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min, Default format AAC|
|Lame MP3||Version: 3.98 Beta 3 (05-22-2007), Audio CD ""Terminator II" SE, 53 min, wave to MP3, 160 Kb/s|
|TMPEG 4.5||Version: 126.96.36.199, Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes), Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9|
|DivX 6.8.3||Encoding mode: Insane Quality, Enhanced Multi-threading, Enabled using SSE4, Quarter-pixel search|
|XviD 1.1.3||Display encoding status=off|
|Mainconcept Reference 1.5.1||MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 KHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kbp/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS), Profile: Tom’s Hardware Settings for Qct-Core|
|Reference H.264 Plugin Pro 1.5.1|
|Autodesk 3D Studio Max 9||Version: 9.0, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)|
|Adobe Photoshop CS 3||Version: 10.0x20070321, Filtering from a 69 MB TIF-Photo, Benchmark: Tomshardware-Benchmark V188.8.131.52, Filters: Crosshatch, Glass, Sumi-e, Accented Edges, Angled Strokes, Sprayed Strokes|
|Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 8||Version: 8.0.134, Virus base: 270.4.5/1533, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files|
|Winrar 3.80||Version 3.70 BETA 8, WinZIP Commandline Version 2.3, Compression= Best, Dictionary= 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)|
|Winzip 11||Version 11.2, Compression=Best, Benchmark: THG-Workload (139 MB)|
|Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings|
|3DMark Vantage||Version: 1.02, GPU and CPU scores|
|PCMark Vantage||Version: 1.00, System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks, Windows Media Player 10.00.00.3646|
|SiSoftware Sandra XII SP2||Version 2008.5.14.24, CPU Test=CPU Arithmetic/MultiMedia, Memory Test=Bandwidth Benchmark|
I thought that the only problem was that one of the builds performed less than the last one at the same price point. But then again I am used to the comments section of such articles being full of whinners and idiots so its not much of a surprise...
285 SLI is looking interesting
This was a good review, it pointed out to us that buying 3 260s is not so beneficial, Crysis is a great game, but it is not the deciding factor for the purchase of my next video card.
If I really want SLI I would choose as fewer cards as possible. The driver mess and inefficient scaling makes no sense to get more than two cards. GTX 295 > GTX 280 x2 > GTX 260 x3 > 9800GT x4.
Better to notice the fact the 280x2 consistently beats the 260x3 except in the one game that sets the standards for erratic performance results.