GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card

If you want to get in on the GTX bandwagon but still find the 280 too expensive, the GIGABYTE 260 might be your answer.
| Aug 12, 2008 at 11:00 pm CDT
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction

GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
IntroductionLike the GTX 280 which has dropped in price over the last few weeks, the GTX 260 has followed suit. Whether you're a fan of ATI or not, the release of the HD 4800 series and their performance to price ratio has forced NVIDIA to cut margins on the new GTX line-up of cards and give us an extremely powerful card for what now resembles a fair price.To date we've only had a look at one GTX 260 which came with a massive out of the box overclock; what this means is it hasn't really given us the ability to completely come to terms with what the GTX 260 offers in its cheapest form; the stock form.Today we will have a look at how the GTX 260 sits in the current line-up of high-end NVIDIA cards which of course includes the more expensive GTX 280 along with seeing how it compares against the new 9800 GTX+ which is beginning to show up in the retail world.Before we get stuck into all the numbers, though, let's have a look at package GIGABYTE has given us along with a closer look at the actual card.

The Package

The PackageUsing the new box design, we can see the GIGABYTE logo across the top of the box along with the NVIDIA one in the other corner. The middle of the box is taken up mostly by a picture of a woman holding a gun.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
The bottom of the box gives us the model along with how much memory comes with the card. In this case, it's that very weird amount of 896MB of GDDR3. Below this, we see the extended name of the graphics card.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
Turning the box over, GIGABYTE go into some more detail on some of the features the card offers. We also have a small list of some of the main features, a bit of info about SLI and what's needed along with the model across the top again and a bit of a blurb on the card.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
Getting inside, there isn't a whole lot going on in the paperwork world. We have an installation guidebook alongside a manual and driver CD.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
The cable department is pretty similar with only the necessities included. Inside we have a break-out box that has component and S-Video on it along with two dual molex to 6-Pin PCI Express power convertors and two DVI to VGA connectors.

The Card

The CardWith the package out of the way, it's time to check out the card. Really, there isn't a whole lot going on that we haven't seen before. With most companies choosing to currently use the reference heatsink fan combination, there isn't a whole lot to look at thanks to it completely covering the card from top to bottom and around the back.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
As you would expect, the only thing GIGABYTE has done with it is place a sticker on the main bit of the card showing us the model and the brand along with another sticker on the fan that lets us know what brand the card is again.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
Looking around the card, we have two 6-Pin PCI Express connectors located at the back which differs to the GTX 280 with its single 6-Pin and 8-Pin connectors. Across the other end of the card we also have our SLI connectors which let us have up to three of these cards running together in a Tri SLI setup.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
The I/O department is really very similar to that of the GTX 280. Along with the TV-Out port we have two Dual-Link DVI connectors and in the second slot a bunch of vents that help let the hot air escape the card and move out the back of your system.SpecificationsFollowing on with the whole reference design, the card does of course come with reference clocks. This puts the core at 576MHz, the shader clock at 1242MHz and the 896MB of GDDR3 memory at 1998MHz DDR.

Test System Setup and 3DMark06

Test System SetupProcessor(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 SP1Drivers: ForceWare 177.41 (GTX Series), ForceWare 175.19 (9 Series)As we mentioned in the introduction, we will be looking at the GTX 260 against the more expensive GTX 280 in stock form along with seeing how it competes against the overclocked 9800 GTX and overclocked 9800 GTX+ from BFG and ASUS respectively. 3DMark06Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests.3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
In our first test we can see that the overclocked 9800GTX+ and GTX 260 score quite close together.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage

3DMark VantageVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct 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.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
Putting more load on the cards; we see the GTX 260 offer quite a healthy jump over the 9800GTX+ while coming in a fair bit behind the more expensive GTX 280.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

PT Boats: Knights of the SeaVersion and / or Patch Used: Benchmark DemoDeveloper 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.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
At the higher resolution we can see the GTX 260 is able to get a good jump on both 9800 GTX offerings. The GTX 280 just offers that little bit more performance.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10

CINEBENCH R10Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10Developer 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).
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
Under CINEBENCH we can see that most cards sit quite close together with the only card really falling behind being the original 9800 GTX.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict

World in ConflictVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper 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.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
At the higher resolution we continue to see the GTX 260 get a bit of a jump on the 9800 GTX+ with the GTX 280 coming out ahead a little bit more again at the higher resolution.

Benchmarks - Crysis

CrysisVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.2.1Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demoDeveloper 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.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
At the ultra high resolution we can see under Crysis that the GTX 260 gets a big jump on the 9800 GTX+. With that said, though, at these settings the game isn't playable on any of these cards.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3

Unreal Tournament 3Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1Timedemo 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.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
Like all our other tests have really shown us, at the higher resolution the GTX 260 is able to stand out from the 9800 GTX+.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AFOur 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
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
With AA and AF turned on under 3DMark06 we see the GTX 260 sitting in between both the GTX 280 and 9800 GTX+, as you would expect.World In Conflict
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
Under these high settings we can see that the GTX 260 is able to pull out way ahead of the 9800 GTX+, with it not being all that far behind the GTX 280.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - XP

3DMark06Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests.3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
Here we can see that most of the cards sit quite bunched up. The GTX 280 has a bit of a lead over the GTX 260, while the GTX 260 has a bit of a lead over the 9800 GTX+. The whole time, though, the gaps aren't massive.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10 - XP

CINEBENCH R10Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10Developer 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).
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
CINEBENCH again puts most of the cards quite close to each other with the new 9800 GTX+ coming out the fastest by about 12%.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict - XP

World in ConflictVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper 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.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
Under WIC we can see that all the cards are bunched up quite close together for the most part. The only time we see much of a difference is at 2560 x 1600 with the GTX 280 pulling a minimum of 28 FPS.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3 - XP

Unreal Tournament 3Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1Timedemo 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.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
UT3 paints a similar picture to what we've seen all along with the GTX 260 really shining against the 9800 GTX+ at the higher resolution.

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.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
The GIGABYTE GTX 260 comes in as one of the coolest cards, but the difference between the lot is only a small 4c.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).
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
Noise levels between most of the new cards are quite similar with the older 9800 GTX being the loudest.

Power Consumption Tests

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.
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 260 Graphics Card
While the GTX 260 is faster than the 9800 GTX+ TOP, we can see that it actually draws less power at both idle and load.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsWith the GTX 260, NVIDIA really have managed to tie up most of the price brackets. Working in AUD, the under $150 bracket has the 9600 GT, $150 - $200 you can pick up a 9800 GT, $200 - $300 will get you a 9800 GTX+, over $300 can get you the GTX 260 while at the $500+ mark you can get yourself a GTX 280.Really, the only price bracket that isn't covered is around the $400 mark. We're sure NVIDIA have something up their sleeves, though. The current price on the GTX 260 is pretty attractive these days, thanks to recent price drops and its performance against the other NVIDIA cards giving us a good idea of where the card sits on the market.If you do have the money and you're happy to spend it, we would probably suggest the GTX 260 over the 9800 GTX+; this for a few reasons, mainly. We have some more memory, it's built on newer technology and it's the most recent NVIDIA release which makes us tend to think that NVIDIA are going to be working hard to increase performance on these cards more so then the older models through the means of driver updates.While the GIGABYTE card doesn't offer us a huge bundle or anything, it does what it's supposed to do; give us a good performing graphics card for a decent price. By avoiding all the extras like HDMI convertors and games, GIGABYTE can keep the price down.The GTX 260 is definitely a good card in this price bracket and for people on SLI based motherboards we know that two of these cards are just going to absolutely fly along for only slightly more than a single GTX 280.
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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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