nVidia GeForce GTX 280 - GTX 280: The Card

By Edward Chester



Our Score:


The first card we were provided with for review is made by Zotac but apart from the Zotac sticker it is the exact same design as nVidia's reference board so that's what we will be basing our assessment on. We will address the specifics of the Zotac board along with a number of other partner cards when we do a roundup soon.

The GTX280 card is 267mm long, which is roughly the same length as the 9800 GX2. Also like the GX2, it is completely enclosed by a metal shroud. This protects the delicate electronics from potential damage due to static or general knocks and scrapes and is a development we welcome with open arms.

Again like all nVidia's recent high-end cards, GTX280 uses a dual-slot heatsink/fan design that employs the slightly off-parallel fan alignment that debuted with the 8800 GTS 512. As we've come to expect, the cooler is very effective with it remaining near silent when idle and although it gets loud when under load it is a gentle whoosh rather than a high-pitched squeal or annoying buzz. The card does get very hot and will require a well ventilated case to ensure it doesn't cause stability problems but, again, this is something we would fully expect from a high-end graphics card.

As mentioned, the peak power draw is a hefty 236W. However, this is a worst case scenario and nVidia has employed some great power saving measures that result in idle power being a mere 25W and power draw during accelerated video playback will only rise to 32W. These are very impressive figures that do make you wonder about the merits of HybridPower, especially as we've found the chipsets that support this power saving feature consume significant amounts of power themselves.

Even though the card can draw very little power, it still won't work without both auxiliary PCI-Express power sockets correctly connected - something that will be made obvious by an LED on the expansion bracket, which glows red if the card hasn't enough power. nVidia hasn't gone so far as to use the glowing PCI-Express sockets it used on the GX2 but that was really more of a bling feature than a necessity.

Hidden under rubber flaps along the top of the card are the SLI connectors and an S/PDIF socket. The former enables dual- and triple-SLI configurations and the latter brings the ability to carry digital audio out through the video connections. This supports two-channel LPCM at up to 192KHz, six-channel Dolby Digital at up to 48KHz and DTS 5.1 at up to 96KHz. It doesn't cover every option, with eight-channel LPCM, Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio being obvious omissions, but it is enough for all but the most elaborate home cinema setups. A DVI-to-HDMI adapter is provided for utilising this.

Outputs are standard fare with two dual-link DVI-I connectors and a seven-pin analogue video connector that supports S-Video natively as well as composite and component via a break-out dongle. Both DVI connections support HDCP encryption so can be used to play back copy-protected HD content like Blu-ray discs.

Video acceleration is the same level as that seen on the 9000-series with H.264, VC-1 and MPEG-2 all benefitting from GPU acceleration. There's also the questionably useful image post processing, dynamic contrast enhancement, and blue, green and skin tone enhancements that were recently introduced.


June 26, 2008, 3:33 am

"What can we say about Counter-Strike: Source that hasn't been said before? It is simply the benchmark for team-based online shooters and, four years after its release, it's still the most popular game in its genre."

I would argue against that one a quick look at www.xfire.com shows COD4 at about 9 mil, COD2 at 5 mil and CSS at 2 mil minutes played today.

Otherwise a very interesting article, the only thing it makes me sad about is the size of my wallet :)


June 26, 2008, 1:19 pm

Okay, it's obviously taken a hit in recent years. I'll amend that line. still doing damn well for such an old game, though.


June 27, 2008, 6:20 am

Well call of duty is a full production game. with single player mode and many different versions of multi player... Cs is A Mod it is not a stand alone game. And there is only one mode of play (i.e. there is no capture the flag or free for all modes)


June 27, 2008, 7:17 pm

Sorry, I'm not sure what your point is Intex?


June 27, 2008, 11:16 pm

I thought this was a fantastic review Ed, very in-depth and informative. Looking forward to a GTX260 review, as there is no way I'm shelling out 400 quid on a graphics card! The 260s seem to be going for 𧶲-300 at the moment... which is still very high in my book, but tempting given the potential performance gains over my current 7900GT KO.

P.S. Ed - I think Intex was replying to Exitialis, justifying the currently lower usage stats of CS:S.

Varis Vitols

July 3, 2008, 4:25 pm

life said on 27th June 2008

In that case, why don't You have a look at Radeon HD 4870? It outperforms GTX 260 in almost every case, particularly with AA enabled - by 20 percent. In many cases it stands very close to GTX 280, with AA enabled, but costs only 185-230 pounds at online stores, depending on manufacturer.


July 3, 2008, 11:43 pm

What are your comments on the explosive heat and noise that the GTX 280 generates?

Flight Instructor

March 27, 2009, 6:49 pm

I like your reviews, in particular when they refer to games hardware, but I only use flight simulator, is it possible to include this type of game when reviewing hardware.

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