Skip to main content

Value In SLI? GTX 260 Core 216 Vs. GTX 280

Test Settings

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
CPUIntel Core i7 920 (2.66 GHz, 8.0 MB Cache)
Overclocked to 4.00 GHz (BCLK 200)
CPU CoolerVigor Monsoon III LT
2x 2000 RPM 120 mm Fans (Stock)
MotherboardEVGA X58 3X SLI (P/N: 132-BL-E758-A)
Intel X58/ICH10R Chipset, LGA-1366
RAM3.0 GB Super Talent DDR3-1333 CAS 8
Overclocked to DDR3-1600 CL 9-8-8-16
3-Way SLI Graphics3x EVGA GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 S.E.
626 MHz GPU, GDDR3-2106
2-Way SLI Graphics2x EVGA GeForce GTX 280 (Overclocked)
654 MHz GPU, GDDR3-2338
Hard Drives3x Samsung Spinpoint F1 HD103UJ RAID 5
1.0 TB, 7,200 RPM, 32 MB Cache
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
CaseCooler Master Stacker 830 Evolution (Black)
PowerSilverstone OP1000 Evolution
ATX12V v2.2. EPS12V, 1000 W, 80 A +12 V Rail
OpticalLG GGC-H20LK 6X Blu-ray/HD DVD-ROM, 16X DVD±R
Additional Fans2x Scythe S-FLEX SFF21F 120 mm 1,600 RPM
OSMicrosoft Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit SP1
GraphicsNVidia GeForce 180.48
ChipsetIntel INF

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
3D Games
CrysisVersion: 1.2.1, Video Quality: Very High Details, Demo: CPU-Benchmark + Tom’s Hardware Tool
Supreme CommanderVersion: 1.5.3599, Video Quality: Highest Settings, Demo : WallaceTX_006_006, Benchmark: Fraps 2.9.4 - Build 7037
Forged Alliance
Unreal Tournament 3Version: 1.2, Sound and DirectX10, Texture Details: 5, Level Details: 5, Demo: vCTF-Reflection_bot, Time: 12/60
World in ConflictVersion:, Video Quality: Very High details, Demo: Game-Benchmark
Audio Encoding
iTunesVersion:, Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min, Default format AAC
Lame MP3Version: 3.98 Beta 3 (05-22-2007), Audio CD ""Terminator II" SE, 53 min, wave to MP3, 160 Kb/s
Video Encoding
TMPEG 4.5Version:, Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes), Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
DivX 6.8.3Encoding mode: Insane Quality, Enhanced Multi-threading, Enabled using SSE4, Quarter-pixel search
XviD 1.1.3Display encoding status=off
Mainconcept Reference 1.5.1MPEG2 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 9Version: 9.0, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Adobe Photoshop CS 3Version: 10.0x20070321, Filtering from a 69 MB TIF-Photo, Benchmark: Tomshardware-Benchmark V1.0.0.4, Filters: Crosshatch, Glass, Sumi-e, Accented Edges, Angled Strokes, Sprayed Strokes
Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 8Version: 8.0.134, Virus base: 270.4.5/1533, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files
Winrar 3.80Version 3.70 BETA 8, WinZIP Commandline Version 2.3, Compression= Best, Dictionary= 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
Winzip 11Version 11.2, Compression=Best, Benchmark: THG-Workload (139 MB)
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.02, GPU and CPU scores
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.00, System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks, Windows Media Player
SiSoftware Sandra XII SP2Version 2008.5.14.24, CPU Test=CPU Arithmetic/MultiMedia, Memory Test=Bandwidth Benchmark
Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.