We’ve made no secret of the fact that we love the pulse-pounding speed that ATI’s Radeon 4870 X2 boards deliver, but there’s a new speed king in town—the GeForce GTX 295. On paper, the two GPUs on the 295 fall somewhere between the GTX 260 and GTX 280, but this board delivers a crushing performance blow to ATI’s fastest part.
The GTX 295’s GPUs feature 896MB of GDDR3 memory and the full complement of 240 shader cores previously seen only on GTX 280 boards (current GTX 260 boards have just 216 shader units). However, the core and memory clocks are a touch below those of the single-GPU GTX 280 boards—576MHz and 999MHz respectively. Additionally, the new GPU is Nvidia’s first to step down from a 65nm to a more efficient 55nm process. The benefit? Mega-speed in one double-wide card. Even with the process-size shrink, the card requires a new mid-mounted cooler—that’s right, the heatsink/fan is sandwiched between two boards, each with its own GPU and memory.
Naturally, the card is outfitted with all the accoutrements we’ve come to expect, including a pair of dual-link DVI ports and a single HDMI port. Like the rest of the cards in the GeForce G200 series, the GTX 295 also supports general-purpose GPU computing, using both the open OpenCL platform as well as Nvidia’s proprietary CUDA platform. While we’re optimistic about the promise of general-purpose GPU computing, we don’t see any proprietary API gaining enough traction with consumers and developers to make a long-term impact. The same is true for Nvidia’s PhysX accelerated physics API. With just a handful of games supporting PhysX acceleration, and then only for superficial eye candy, we’ll continue to base our purchasing recommendations on performance in popular games rather than proprietary APIs that may or may not gain mainstream popularity.
So where does that leave the GeForce GTX 295? With this board, Nvidia has shown that it can build kick-ass technology and doesn’t need to hide behind proprietary APIs to protect and expand its market. The GTX 295 is demonstrably faster than the Radeon 4870 X2 in every benchmark we use. And that makes our recommendation easy, without even considering PhysX or CUDA. Expect a street price of around $500.