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The performance of the GTX 260, as compared to the GTX 280, is unlikely to surprise anyone - it consistently comes in around 10 - 15 per cent slower. Considering the 40 per cent difference in price, this would seem to make the GTX 260 a relative bargain and thus a card worth investing in and indeed that would reflect our overall conclusion. However, there's the little matter of ATI's HD 4870 to take into account.
This card, on average in our tests, performs better. Admittedly that's the only significant advantage it has as price, features, power comsumption, and the rest, are all close enough to be of little consequence. However, those few extra frames would have to put the HD 4870 on top.
The only caveat would be if you've already invested in a quality SLI motherboard that you don't plan on changing anytime soon. By buying one of these cards now you're only missing out on a few frames per second and have the opportunity to buy a second card in six months time and run SLI. Also, with recent 700-series based boards you can take advantage of Hyrbrid SLI. However, if you're investing in a new system we'd recommend going for the ATI card.
Also, I must once again mention the size of this card as well. With it extending nearly an inch over the end of a standard ATX motherboard it is not going to fit in many smaller cases. The HD 4870, meanwhile, is exactly the same length as an ATX motherboard. Admittedly the latter is still a big card but those extra few centimetres could make all the difference.
The GTX 260 is a decent card that delivers close to the stellar performance of the GTX 280 but for a much more manageable price. The only thorn in its side is the ATI HD 4870, which is the same price but on average delivers better performance in our benchmarks. The difference isn't much and both cards are still worth considering but we'd have to say our top choice is still the HD 4870.
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