NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295 Preview - Performance King Returns
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A change of holiday plans
Introduction to the first 55nm consumer GT200
If it seems like it has been forever since NVIDIA has released an extremely high-end consumer graphics card, you'd be partially correct. The last release that NVIDIA aimed for the flagship spot with was the GeForce GTX 280 based on the GT200 architecture back in mid-June. Six months might seem like an eternity compared to some previous GPU release cycles and with the AMD Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB firmly taking the performance crown back in mid-July, NVIDIA has actually been off the top spot for enthusiast graphics for quite a while.
NVIDIA is hoping that all of that will change with the New Year as a new flagship graphics card makes it way to the scene in the form of the GeForce GTX 295. In the same lineage as the GeForce 9800 GX2 and 7950 GX2, this new card is in fact utilizing a pair of GT200-based GPUs on two PCBs all contained on a single dual-slot card. The core of these GPUs is based on the GT200 architecture of course, though these new parts are first consumer cards to see the new 55nm cores on them. (The underlying technology is the same though - see my first GT200 review for the full break down on this GPU's inner-workings.) This was no doubt a requirement as getting a pair of the very hot and power hungry 65nm GT200s was a difficult task.
The specs on the new GTX 295 are impressive:
- 480 stream processors (240 per core)
- 576 MHz core clock
- 1242 MHz shader clock
- 1000 / 2000 MHz GDDR3 memory clock
- 1792MB total frame buffer (896MB per core)
- 448-bit memory interface per core
- 56 total ROPs (28 per core)
- 160 texture units (80 per core)
What is interesting about these specs is the mix between GTX 260 and GTX 280 heritage. The 480 stream processors indicate that the GTX 295 is basically a pair of GTX 280 GPUs (since the GTX 260s have either 192 SPs or 216 SPs depending on your place in time) on a single board while the clock rates are exactly like those reference clocks on the GTX 260 GPU. Also, the 448-bit memory bus and 896MB of memory per core are also indicative of the GTX 260 product. NVIDIA has obviously created a hybrid part here that properly balances GPU performance and power efficiency.
Let's take a look at the physical product and see what else we can learn about it.
The NVIDA GeForce GTX 295 1792MB
The new GeForce GTX 295 is a heavy, beefy graphics card; it even outweighs the previous champ the Radeon HD 4870 X2 which is quite a feat. Because NVIDIA's dual-GPU graphics boards require a unique design, with two physical PCBs and a cooler sandwiched between them, the design of the GTX 295 is completely new yet very familiar.
You can also see the digital audio input next to the 6-pin plug for passing audio through the included HDMI output.
You can see here how similar the GTX 295 (top) and 9800 GX2 designs really are.
you can see that each GPU has its own separate PCB that is connected via a ribbon cable along the bottom of the card that acts as the physical SLI bridge. The double sided heatsink between the two GPUs is pretty weighty as you would expect and allows for the air from the fan to be passed from the back of the card out the exhaust. There is definitely a LOT of technology crammed in a small space with the GeForce GTX 295.