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ZOTAC GeForce GTX 280 AMP! Edition

NVIDIA has launched a new card today and ZOTAC decide to go all out by turning the AMP! dial to 11.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Sun, Jun 15 2008 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: ZOTAC

Introduction





Word on the GT200 has been floating around for a while now, and we've seen a number of leaked benchmarks all over the world wide interweb. With the NDA being lifted, it's time to check out what exactly is going on with the new card.

The particular card we're looking at today is from ZOTAC and is the AMP! Edition, which as you may have guessed is an overclocked model. Speculation on the GTX 280 has been all over the place with word that performance is up to 50% faster than the 9800 GX2.

What we will be doing today is checking out exactly how much faster the new GTX 280 is when compared to the 9800 GX2, along with seeing how it compares against the top of the range AMD offering; the HD 3870 X2. For further good measure, we'll also try it against one of the better valued for money NVIDIA cards at the moment; the 9800 GTX.

Before we get into the benchmarks, we will check out exactly what ZOTAC has done with the GTX 280 package along with a look at the specifications of the card and how it differs to the higher end 9800 offerings from NVIDIA at the moment.

The Package




Straight away we can see that ZOTAC has moved the box to a portrait style one as opposed to the standard landscape design we normally see. Across the top of the box we see mention that it's made by ZOTAC, and at the bottom of the box we can see the model mentioned, which is of course the GTX 280. It's also highlighted here that the card is an AMP! Edition.



The upper right of the box makes mention of 1GB GDDR3 memory, 512-bit memory interface, two Dual Link DVI connectors, overclocked and a few other key features. The left of the box makes mention that a full version copy of GRID is included in the package.



Turning the box over, we have a picture of the card along with a bit of a blurb about the card and its advantages. We also see some of the main features explained along with a feature table that shows what is needed for a Tri-SLI setup.



Moving inside the package, we have a manual, quick install guide, a sticker making mention of the power connectors, ZOTAC Driver CD and like we saw on the front of the box, a full version copy of GRID.



The cable department doesn't show anything out of the ordinary. We have two power convertors (one for 8-pin and the other for 6-pin), component/s-video out dongle, DVI to VGA connector, DVI to HDMI connector and a loop back cable so you can get sound through the HDMI convertor.

The Card




With the package out of the way, it's time to check out the card. Having a look over it, there isn't anything too out of the ordinary going on with the cooler design. The cooler takes up the whole card which is pretty common for higher end cards these days, and the design is very similar to the 9800 GTX with the main difference being a square design.



We also see a sticker on the cooler that lets us know the brand, model and the fact that the card is again an AMP! Edition.



Checking out the back of the card, we see a similar design to the 9800 GX2 where the entire card was covered with a shroud. Along the back of the card we also have some vents where some of the hotter components have a bit of room to breathe.





Moving around the card, towards the back and across the top we have our power connectors which out of the box are covered with a warning sticker. Underneath the sticker we find two connectors, an 8-pin and a 6-pin. To the right of the connectors we also have the port for our loop back cable if you want to get sound through the HDMI convertor included in the package.





Continuing along the top of the card, we have two SLI connectors which out of the package have a cover over them. Two connectors' means that we have support for up to three cards, meaning if you have a compatible motherboard, you could have Tri-SLI.



Finally we check out the I/O panel, and like most high-end cards we have two Dual Link DVI connectors and a single TV-Out port. As you would have probably already guessed, the card does take up two slots.


Specifications

Out of the box, a stock clocked GTX 280 is coming with a 600MHz core, 1300MHz shader clock and 2200MHz DDR memory clock on the 1GB of GDDR3. Compared to the 9800 GTX, this is 75MHz lower on the core and 388MHz lower on the shader clock. Both cards carry the same memory speed, though the 9800 GTX has only 512MB of GDDR3.

Compared to the dual GPU wielding 9800 GX2, we have the same core speed, a shader clock that is 200MHz higher and a memory clock that is 200MHz DDR lower. However, both the GTX 280 and GX2 sport 1GB of GDDR3.

While the GTX 280 might not sound that impressive when compared to the 9800 GTX, there are some big improvements in some of the more important areas. Instead of a 256-bit interface, we have a 512-bit one. Stream processors are also up from 128 to 240.

The new GTX 280 also includes PhysX and CUDA technology which is something we will go into more detail on when the drivers become available in the near future.

With all that said Zotac has upped the ante on their version of the card pushing the core to 700MHz the shader to 1400MHz and the memory clock to 2200MHz DDR.

Test System Setup and 3DMark06


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 XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista SP1
Drivers: ForceWare 175.16 (9 Series) 177.34 (GTX 280)


As mentioned in our intro, we will be comparing the card against the last generation single GPU chAMP!ion; the 9800 GTX, along with its more powerful brother, the twin GPU 9800 GX2. What we've also done is include the HD 3870 X2 which is AMDs current flagship card.

Being the latest flagship card from NVIDIA, we have also upped the ante by including benchmarks at 2560 x 1600 to really test out not only the GTX 280, but the other cards we have here. We have also included Vantage for the first time which will now be making a regular appearance with it being added to our lineup. We were waiting for the right time to add it into the lineup and we thought the release of the GTX 280 was the perfect reason to do so.


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here





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.




In our first test, what we can see is that the HD 3870 X2 still comes out on top thanks to the ATI driver teams' great dedication to the synthetic benchmark that is 3DMark06. We can see the GTX 280 AMP! from ZOTAC just trailing behind the older Dual GPU 9800 GX2.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage


3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here




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.




Checking out Vantage for the first time, we can see the GTX 280 does manage to come out ahead of everyone at the performance setting. When we move to Extreme, the gap only gets bigger. Unfortunately this is still only a synthetic test and doesn't paint the whole picture.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea


PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage: http://en.akella.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/





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.






Under PT Boats we see that the GTX 280 AMP! Edition performs once again very close to the Dual GPU 9800 GX2 offering. Compared to the 9800 GTX, the best gains are seen at the higher resolution.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10


CINEBENCH R10

Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net




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).




Firing up CINEBENCH, the GTX 280 AMP! Edition offers the highest score out of the lot here with the closest card being the 9800 GTX OCX from BFG Tech.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict


World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com





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.






Moving to our first real world benchmark, we can see again that the performance of the GTX 280 is very similar to the 9800 GX2. So far we're not seeing anything revolutionary which is a bit disappointing.

Benchmarks - Crysis


Crysis

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/
Buy It Here





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.




With the settings cranked up on Crysis, we continue to see the GTX 280 and GX2 score very similarly to each other. While the GT200 based card does fix up the 2560 x 1600 performance issue in Crysis, even with a 600% increase in performance it's still extremely far from playable.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3


Unreal Tournament 3

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/
Buy It Here





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.




At the lower resolution we can see that the GX2 comes out ahead. As we start moving up at 1920 x 1200, both cards are scoring very similar and at 2560 x 1600 for the first time in a real world benchmark we really see the GTX 280 get a useful increase in performance.

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.


3DMark06



Cranking up the AA and AF under 3DMark06, we can see again that the GTX 280 does slightly trail the 9800 GX2 with it scoring pretty much on par with the HD 3870 X2.


World In Conflict





Here we can see the GTX 280 really begin to shine with these intensive settings. 2560 x 1600 with AA and AF and a minimum of 19 FPS is very impressive.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - XP


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here





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.




With Vista out of the way, it's time to see what's going on in XP. Our first test here pretty much shows us what we saw in Vista with the GTX 280 just trailing the Dual GPU 9800 GX2.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10 - XP


CINEBENCH R10

Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net




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).




Unlike Vista, the HD 3870 X2 actually comes out in front here and the GTX 280 falls to the back of the pack.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict - XP


World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com




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.





Like our Vista tests, we see the 9800 GX2 and the GTX 280 perform very close to each other.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3 - XP


Unreal Tournament 3

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/
Buy It Here





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.




Unreal Tournament also finds the two top cards perform very close to each other.

Temperature and Sound Tests


Temperature Tests



With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).

There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.




With the shroud around the card and not being able to pull a temp directly off the core, compared to the GX2 it is a cooler running card.


Sound Tests



Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).




Noise levels are pretty standard with low 60dB readings.

Power Consumption Tests






Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.




NVIDIA had been trying to push the green thing for a while; load draw is significantly better then the GX2 along with idle. It sits similar to the 9800 GTX as far as power ratings go.

Final Thoughts




So, that's the GTX 280. There is no doubt that you're probably left as underwhelmed as myself at the moment. The rumors that the card was going to be 1.5x faster than the 9800 GX2 were clearly un-true, which is disappointing. But at the same time, it's probably a bit optimistic.

There are definitely some good things about the card; the performance we got in World in Conflict with AA and AF on is extremely impressive and does show that the card has massive potential.

The other thing that is worth noting is that we still don't have a PhysX driver for the card, which is a bit of a joke I must say. It seems that NVIDIA these days is so rushed to get the cards out the door that the drivers aren't yet ready to make full use of the card. This was also seen with the release of the GX2 were the Quad SLI driver wasn't available at launch.

The other thing is that unlike the 9800 GX2 we tested with today, the GTX 280 is overclocked out of the box from ZOTAC, making the card a little faster than the stock clocked offerings that we will no doubt see.

So what are my actual thoughts on the card? - Okay, yes it's nice that we've got the performance of two GPUs on one card that takes less power, but at the moment an immature driver doesn't give us the gains that we probably expected to see with a 512-bit memory interface and an increase in stream processors. Do I think that the GTX 280 is going to be performing significantly better in a months' time? - Absolutely! Will it be too late? - We're not too sure.

The other thing I have to say before I wrap this all up is that I've tested the HD 4850, and I've tested it in Crossfire. Now, if I hadn't tested those cards I may have been more impressed with the GTX 280, but I have. I've seen the performance figures the cards put out. We also know the price on a pair of HD 4850s is going to be under $600 AUD, while the new GTX 280 in stock form seems to be launching at the absolute cheapest in Australia in the low $700 AUD area. Ouch.

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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.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.
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