The spring update to the GTX 280 delivers a touch more speed
Last month, we reviewed Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 295, a dual-GPU GT200-based board that benefited from a die-shrink from 65 nanometers to 55 nanometers. This month, we’re testing the GTX 285, which uses the same silicon as the GTX 295, in a clocked-up single-GPU design. Unfortunately, the paltry clock-speed improvements that the die shrink allowed don’t deliver enough of a performance boost to make this board worth recommending, especially for folks who already own a GTX 280 board.
When you compare the GTX 285 to the GTX 280, you can see what the problem is. The GTX 285’s GT200 core is clocked at 648MHz, up from 602MHz for a stock GTX 280. The 1GB of GDDR3 memory runs at just 621MHz on a 512-bit bus—the GTX 280’s memory runs at 550MHz. The upshot is that this new card delivers less than a 10 percent performance increase over the GTX 280 parts in most benchmarks. The only big gains over the 280 are at lower resolutions with very high antialiasing and anisotropic filtering levels. The big gain is in power consumption. The 285 features a TDP of about 183W, while the 280 drew a massive 236W. That means that the 285 will actually run in a system that’s equipped with just a pair of 6-pin PCI-E video connectors—you don’t need the 6-pin and 8-pin combo that’s been de rigueur for the last few months.
Nvidia's new GeForce GTX 285 is the fastest single-GPU board we've tested, but it's roundly smacked by ATI's dual-GPU 4870 X2.
Looking at the benchmarks, it’s clear that this isn’t a good upgrade for anyone with a GTX 280, Radeon 4870 X2, or even a GTX 260 Core 216. Who is this card for? In short, anyone who’s still running a last-gen card. That means G92-series for Nvidia, or a 4850 or slower board from ATI. However, it’s not a particularly good deal, even though it’s the fastest single-GPU board we’ve tested. When you compare its performance to ATI’s 4870 X2 boards, it gets spanked. With a street price of about $380 at press time, it’s significantly outperformed by ATI’s dual-GPU 4870 X2 boards, which cost just $30 to $80 more, depending on vendor and bundle.
Other than the die-shrink and clock-speed increases, the GTX 285 offers exactly the same feature set as the GTX 280. It supports HDMI, including audio pass-through, accelerated video decode, support for accelerating CUDA and PhysX apps, and a host of features designed to make rendered video look fantastic. When the price of these boards come down some, they’ll be worthy upgrades. Until then, you’re better off saving a few more pennies and buying a much-faster dual-GPU board.
Asus GeForce GTX 285
Fastest single-GPU card we've tested. Much lower power consumption than the GTX 280.
Slower than a 4870 X2, but about the same price. Negligible speed increase over a GTX 280.
GeForce GTX 285
ATI Radeon 4870 X2
GeForce GTX 280
Crysis 4x AA / Very High
Crysis noAA / Very High
Call of Duty
Vantage Game 1
Vantage Game 2
Far Cry 1920x1200 (High Quality, No Physics, No AI)
Far Cry 1680x1050 (High Quality, No Physics, No AI)
Best scores are bolded. Benchmarks are run on an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9770 Extreme, with 4GB of memory running Windows Vista. Crysis, and 3DMark Vantage are run at 1920x1200, with 4x AA and 8x anisotropic filtering, unless otherwise noted. Call of Duty is run at 2560x1600 with 4x AA.