Nvidia GeForce GTX 260/280 Review

Over a year and a half – that’s how long the GeForce 8800 GTX remained in the position of what could be called Nvidia’s high-end GPU. Oh of course, six months after its release and – just a coincidence – just before the arrival of the R600, we did get an 8800 Ultra with slightly higher clock speeds, but it was nothing revolutionary. Then two and a half months ago, the arrival of the 9800GTX awakened hopes of substantial performance increases, but in the end the card offered only limited gains over the good old GTX, and was behind the Ultra version. For owners of these cards to be really happy with their investment, it was high time for Nvidia to offer more than a few extra megahertz or to rely on pairing two GPUs on the same card.

gtx 260 280

Finally Nvidia has heard our pleas: The GTX 280 is the first real reworking of the G8x architecture. And, yes, breaking with tradition, "GTX" is a prefix for this new architecture. Now we know the company’s modus operandi: Introduce a new architecture on a proven engraving process. Due to the often very high number of transistors, the chip is expensive to produce and the cards that use it remain expensive, but it stakes out the territory. Then during the ensuing years, Nvidia develops its architecture on all segments of the scale, using finer engraving, but it is less optimized for high clock speeds. Finally, when the new process is under control, Nvidia moves it into the high end, which then becomes much more affordable. We saw it with the G70/G71 and the G80/G92, and now history repeats itself with the GT200 – a true killer with 1.4 billion transistors engraved at 0.65 µm.

See our video of the GTX 280 (running) and the GTX 260 (shown).

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  • BadMannerKorea
  • Lunarion
    what a POS, the 9800gx2 is $150+ cheaper and performs just about the same. Let's hope the new ATI cards coming actually make a difference
  • foxhound009
    woow,.... that's the new "high end" gpu????
    lolz.. 3870 x2 wil get cheaper... and nvidia gtx200 lies on the shelves providing space for dust........
    (I really expectede mmore from this one... :/ )
  • thatguy2001
    Pretty disappointing. And here I was thinking that the gtx 280 was supposed to put the 9800gx2 to shame. Not too good.
  • cappster
    Both cards are priced out of my price range. Mainstream decently priced cards sell better than the extreme high priced cards. I think Nvidia is going to lose this round of "next gen" cards and price to performance ratio to ATI. I am a fan of whichever company will provide a nice performing card at a decent price (sub 300 dollars).
  • njalterio
    Very disappointing, and I had to laugh when they compared the prices for the GTX 260 and the GTX 280, $450 and $600, calling the GTX 260 "nearly half the price" of the GTX 280. Way to fail at math. lol.
  • NarwhaleAu
    It is going to get owned by the 4870x2. In some cases the 3870x2 was quicker - not many, but we are talking 640 shaders total vs. 1600 total for the 4870x2.
  • MooseMuffin
    Loud, power hungry, expensive and not a huge performance improvement. Nice job nvidia.
  • compy386
    This should be great news for AMD. The 4870 is rumored to come in at 40% above the 9800GTX so that would put it at about the 260GTX range. At $300 it would be a much better value. Plus AMD was expecting to price it in the $200s so even if it hits low, AMD can lower the price and make some money.
  • vochtige
    i think i'll get a 8800ultra. i'll be safe for the next 5 generations of nvidia! try harder nv crew
  • cah027
    Looks like ATi might have a fighting chance of catching up to Nvidia. Hopefully this will help AMD out as a company.
  • I am fairly Dissapointed I thought Nvidia would go for the High end Market with great performance and a lot of money, but it's only a lot of money
  • baracubra
    Finally!!! woot
  • sailormonz
    I don't believe quad sli with the 9800GX2 works too well, therefore these cards may be best suited for a person with tons of money to waste and wanting a SLI system with top of the line cards. These results were rather disappointing however.
  • Annisman
    My 9800GX2 looks like it's gonna be staying in my case for at least another month or two. (4870x2 anyone?)
  • RaZZ3R
    what a pice of s***, nVidia what hapend to you, are you going the same path like AMD ???. and about the review: wher is the info about the integrated Ageia PhsyX in the GTX280 and 260 ... more info god dame it, and dont tell me about CUDA because that is software. I want hardware info and capabilities and some screen shot for god sake.
  • neodude007
    Boooo I want more power.
  • mr roboto
    I've had my 8800GTX for almost a year and a half and it still owns. My card was $499 when I bought it and was the most expensive card I'll ever buy. However, it's looking more and more like a great investment. This GTX280 is disappointing to say the least. I would love to see ATI jump back in the game!

    What's funny is they might actually compete with this card with out even meaning to.
  • zarksentinel
    this card is not worth the money.
  • dragoncyber
    Dear Nvidia,

    I am obviously not the first one to state that they are entirely angered by the results of the recent GTX280 benchmarks. I have been an Nvidia customer since the original Geforce series, always trusting the reliable green team to be at the forefront of the graphics race.

    Instead this time I am completely thrown for a loop as Nvidia expects us to pay 600.00-650.00 for a (New Generation) graphics card release that performs in most cases lower than a 9800GX2 which at the time of this report is actually 150-200 dollars cheaper,and once released will most likely drop even further.

    Not to mention the 9800GTX which is basically on par with an 8800 ultra is down below 300.00!! Tri-SLi anyone?? Three 9800GTX's would out perform "Quad Sli 9800GX2's" and this has already been proven on several sites (AnandTech..Hello???)WTF is wrong with Nvidia?? Tri has already been posting great numbers!!

    So obviously knowing this going into a release you would want to put something on the table that would blow the doors off your current best configurations. Instead we are handed mere 15-20% gains in some situations, and actually being beat in others. And of course they didn't post SLI tests here for this report.

    The next thing that really gets my goat is selling a GTX260 card for 200-250 dollars less, and it has only an 18-20% decrease in performance as compared to your new shiny Top-Of-The Line. With a little over clocking and some good cooling it's the same card in performance tets. What gives??

    Now the biggest embarassment for Nvidia is that they are pushing CUDA technology and folding at home client CRAP!! These cards are designed for gaming!! Who gives a crap about how fast they can cure cancer or render 3D medical images and scans of the human body. Maybe 10% of the cards produced will be used for this purpose..the rest will be for GAMING!! What in the hell are we even talking about that junk for in this article?? Does that even matter when really what everyone cares about is will it beat the crap out of Crysis!!?? Will it Provide me solid gaming for the next 2 years?? Is it worth my hard earned money??

    So far I am in AWE...yes..but not the good AWE, the bad one, the I can't believe this is happening here comes the BIG RED DRAGON(ATI)breathing fire and brimstone , I'm a scared little peseant in a village AWE!!
    I am this close to throwing away my 790i board, putting my 8800GT SLi'd on Ebay, and switching over to a crossfire platform.

    Again I cannot state again how utterly disappointed I am at this turn of events, and the worst part is that there will be no way they could do a GTX280 X2 card because the manufacturing process and die size are too huge, and too hot to combine them. They would literally have to redesign the entire thing, basically doing a new release all over again.

    I'm afraid to say it but I think this will be like one of those boxing matches where, the underdog is in the corner getting punched on left and right...Then something clicks, and he decides enough is enough, and he throws a BIG left that hits the other guy right in the jaw. He doesnt see it coming, and has he hits the mat he thinks.."This guy still has some fight in him". Personally I hope ATI comes out on top with the 4870 X2. That will make Nvidia realize thay can't sit around in their offices all year playing Nerf Hoops, and living off the fat of their successes over the last 4 years.They have gotten fat and lazy, and this card shows it all over the place.

    I am however going to wait, and see if the driver improvements make any difference at all in the upcoming weeks to a couple months. I have a 8800GT Sli system, and I'm sitting pretty as far as I am concerned. I Still consider the 8800 GT 512mb to be one of the best graphics cards ever made, and a combo of them is hard to beat. So I will wait and see what happens.

    Best of Luck to any who choose to buy it upon release, I think soon you will wish you had waited just a bit longer. the price will drop drastically once all the Tech sites get there reviews out.
  • eaglesfan
    Not nearly the leap in performance I was hoping for. I seriously hope that there is a driver issue that Nvidia hasnt seen yet. The 260 pricewise wont be enough of a performance gain to justify spending money on for the larger core and wafer. The 4850 should match up extremely favorably, and hopefully keep prices down a bit.
  • Completely waste as usual, instead of doing stupid little increments so as to gain as much cash as available or as I think, it's a bit like football teams changing their football strips every 6 months, has nothing to do with the customer but more to do with revenue.
    Why am I going to waste even more money on a card that only gives me a certain performance increase and cost me another £350, although I know one chap who will probably buy 10 of them...Maxxxxxxiiiii!!!!!
  • It is not 'engraving'; It is 'etching'. 'Engraving' is incorrect, and if you noticed, not used by anyone else whring about the photolithography process. Writing 'engraving' is no different than writing 'plastering'. It is nonsense.
  • razor512
    nvidia has really gone down hill, what ever happened to their classic upgrade path where the newer card was always twice as fast as the older one?

    before they used to double the performance of their cards, but now it is just marginal improvements and they espect people to pay $500-600 for the crap

    and then game developers make impossible to run games where the 100% latest top of the line just barely runs it that way people have to settle for a 10-18% performance boost to play the game

    nvidia is just finding ways to make more money by rapidly releasing cards

    gamers need to boycott new cards unless the card offers twice the performance of their card, boycott it

    the only reason why we get crappy cards like this is because some people accept only having a 10% improvement at the cost of $600