Beyond Gaming - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280 1GB GDDR3

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280 1GB GDDR3

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280 1GB GDDR3

Clad in black with NVIDIA's logo embossed on its heatsink enclosure, the reference board that we received from NVIDIA seems to have gone through a lot, with its scratched surface. But of course, we couldn't care less and quickly plugged it into our test system for a run.

At 10.5 inches, the new GeForce GTX 280 is the 'standard' length for high-end graphics cards.

Just to repeat again, the core is at its stated default of 602MHz, while the GDDR3 memory runs at 2214MHz. Its 240 stream processors meanwhile are at 1296MHz. The GeForce GTX 280 has a 512-bit memory interface, with 1GB of memory made up of 16 Hynix memory modules (rated at 0.8ns). There's also an external chip to handle the display I/O, presumably because the core is already so huge that it would be pushing it to squeeze that portion of silicon within. This same approach was also used on the original G80 core.

Removing the heatsink took quite a while, with many screws to overcome. But this allowed us to see the board layout, like the eight Hynix memory chips orbiting the huge GTX 280 GPU on the forward face of the board.

To give you an idea of the size of the GPU, we placed the largest CPU we could find in our labs, AMD's Phenom X4 CPU, beside it.

With the size of that die, it's no surprise that NVIDIA chose to use an external chip (more commonly known as the NVIO chip) to handle display I/O, like in the original GeForce 8800 GTX.

When running, the smart fan is relatively quiet and we couldn't distinguish it from the heatsink of the CPU. However, this was at around 40% fan speed. When we manually pushed it to 100% in NVIDIA's Control Panel, it was quite loud so if you're planning to do that for overclocking purposes, take note of the potential din. The board itself is rated by NVIDIA to be operating within its thermal threshold as long as it's under 105 degrees Celsius and according to them, it should be around 80 degrees under typical conditions.

The GTX 280 requires a 8-pin and a 6-pin power connector while the GTX 260 requires 2 x 6-pin. In terms of power requirements, a single GTX 280 will need at least a 550W PSU and for the 260, 500W. You can also see the audio input header slot here in the background.

Despite its ability to adjust clock speeds dynamically in order to conserve energy during idle periods, you'll still need quite a decent PSU for a single GTX 200 GPU based board. Besides having the right connectors (6-pin and 8-pin for the GTX 280), the PSU should be able to provide at least 40A on the 12V rail for the GTX 280 and 36A for the GTX 260. We'll be looking at some numbers from actual testing of the power consumption of the GTX 280 later.

The usual dual-link HDCP compliant DVI outputs and a 7-pin mini-DIN output. No DisplayPort is found on the reference board, though it is supported and may be found on some vendors' offerings. Importantly, the GTX 200 can output 10-bit color (up to a billion colors), an improvement from 8-bit before.

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