GeForce GTX 280 with QX9650 at 4GHz

We strap the new ZOTAC GTX 280 AMP! Edition into a 4GHz water cooled IBuyPower rig and see how it fairs.

Manufacturer: none
6 minutes & 45 seconds read time


Feeling a little underwhelmed with the initial GTX 280 results, I took the time to make my way over to the IBuyPower Australia bunker to let the card have a bit more breathing room. While our 3GHz test bed is quite modest and a good indication of performance for the everyman or woman, there is of course people out there who are a bit more hardcore and do have a few more dollars to splash about.

Since the card has just been released, we thought it was the perfect time to really see what the card was capable of in a very nicely overclocked QX9650 rig carrying with it a 10 x 400MHz FSB combination.

At this speed we had a Swiftech water cooling setup attached which caused the CPU to stay below 47c on all four cores. We had found our rig, and now it was time to see what kind of performance increase we get when we move to something that carries with it faster RAM, a faster HDD and of course a faster CPU.

Let's not delay the results; since we've already looked at the ZOTAC GTX 280 in full detail, we're just going to get straight into the benchmarks. Let's go!

Test System Setup and 3DMark06

TweakTown Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)
Cooling: Corsair Nautilus500 (Supplied by Corsair) with Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound (Supplied by Arctic Cooling)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE X48-DQ6 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Kingston PC6400 DDR-2 3-3-3-10 (KHX6400D2ULK2/2G) (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk(s): Seagate 250GB 7200RPM SATA-2 7200.10 (Supplied by Seagate)
Operating System: Windows Vista SP1
Drivers: Forceware 175.16 (9 Series) 177.34 (GTX 280)

IBuyPower Australia Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad QX9650 @ 4GHz (400MHz x 10)
Cooling: Swiftech Apogee GTX Block (CPU) 3x 120mm Radiator, MCP655-B Pump
Motherboard(s): EVGA 780i SLI
Memory: 2 X 2GB OCZ Reaper X 1066MHz DDR-2
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital Velociraptor 150GB 10,00RPM SATA
Operating System: Windows Vista SP1
Drivers: Forceware 175.16 (9 Series) 177.34 (GTX 280)

As you can see above, the upgrade to the 4GHz system is quite the jump. Let's not carry on though, it's time to get stuck straight into it.


Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
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3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.

Straight away we can see that 3DMark06 absolutely loves the massive CPU clock and really gives us some huge numbers. Our single card is well and truly on its way to 20k.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
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3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

It seems that Vantage doesn't benefit as much from the big overclock; we have about 10% more with the performance run, but no real change with the Extreme setting.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
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PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.

Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.

Moving to PT Boats, we continue to see big gains from the new setup. We move from a 26 FPS minimum at 2560 (which we would consider the absolute minimum) to 37.3FPS which is absolutely fantastic.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10


Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
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CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).

We can see CINEBENCH doesn't really benefit from the extra CPU power.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict

World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used:
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
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World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.

While the minimums don't move much, we can see that the averages are way up across the board. Playing WIC at 2560 x 1600 on a 4GHz system is going to be doable.

Benchmarks - Crysis


Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demo
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From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.

Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE™ 2 offers. The CryENGINE™ 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE™ 2 Sandbox world editing system.

It's clear that Crysis isn't starved for CPU, rather GPU. Hopefully we start to see significant gains in our SLI/Tri-SLI testing.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3

Unreal Tournament 3

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
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Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.

We see big gains from the 4GHz rig when compared to the stock 3GHz testbed at the lower resolution. At 2560 x 1600 the system seems to take a bit of a hit with a low 60 FPS average.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.


Back to 3DMark06; we again see big gains with the 4GHz IBP rig.

World In Conflict

WIC is another game that doesn't seem to benefit so much from the extra MHz on offer when AA and AF are enabled.

Final Thoughts

It was good to take the time to go visit IBuyPower Australia and see what the GTX 280 was capable of when placed in a higher clocked environment. For the most part the overclocked QX9650 processor used here did manage to breathe a bit more life into the card.

It's nice to see the card get a significant boost in some situations, but as you can see some games aren't always a matter of simply adding more CPU power. It's clear that some games want more graphics card power, and for that reason we will be diving into SLI multi GPU setups later on tonight, so keep an eye out for some 4GHz SLI love.

Has my opinion changed on the GTX 280 from earlier in the night? - No, not really; it still feels a bit lack luster and flat. What we hope to see though is that the GTX 280 really begins to shine in an SLI environment. The only problem I can see is that if the card begins to really shine in SLI, we're looking at $1200+ USD or $1500+ AUD setup costs, which is far from cheap.

There is no doubt that the GTX 280 does love the extra GHz that is on offer from the IBP system, and for the most part we do see some excellent gains in applications. We can see that when running PT Boats at 2560 x 1600, the difference between the two setups was that the game would be playable at 2560 on the IBP system while you would probably be a bit disappointed plodding along on the 3GHz system.

Keep an eye out for some SLI testing and we will really see what the 4GHz beast from IBP is capable of.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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