I was tempted to start this review with a full-blown rant about why it is that two manufacturers chose to launch their new products on the same day, giving me very little time to test and evaluate them. However, that's probably just my grouchy state from having been up until 4am last night doing the testing. The fact of the matter is, you don't care, and that's cool, I totally understand; both nVidia and AMD have released brand new graphics cards and all you want to know is which one to buy. So, yesterday I looked at AMD's ATI Radeon HD 4890 and now it's the turn of nVidia's GeForce GTX 275 or in our particular case Zotac's overclocked version thereof.
In a nutshell, internally this card is essentially a GTX 285 with less memory and correspondingly a cut-down memory interface. By default it also has lower clock speeds but considering so many cards are released pre-overclocked this is perhaps a moot point. At default clock speeds, though, the GTX 275 has a maximum pixel fillrate of 17.7Gpixels/sec and memory bandwidth of 127GB/s, some 14 per cent and 20 per cent lower than the GTX 285, yet 30 per cent and 5 per cent higher than ATI's HD 4890, respectively. As always, though, the true performance cannot be gleaned from these theoretical numbers but rather from how well the GTX 275 performs in real world tests, which we will be looking at later on.
The card itself is very similar to the GTX 285, being 10.5 inches long with a dual-slot cooler design, and an undeniably cool combination of matt black PCB and gun-metal grills. The extra inch in length over ATI's HD 4890 isn't just academic, though, as it translates to the card overhanging most standard ATX motherboards by an inch. For most enthusiast cases this shouldn't be a problem but it's something worth checking before you opt for this card.
Outputs are the standard selection of two dual-link DVI sockets accompanied by an analogue output for component, S-Video, and composite. Unfortunately, Zotac doesn't include the appropriate dongles for the former and latter of these, leaving just S-Video as an out-the-box analogue option.
When the card is idling, the cooler is noticeably quieter than that of ATI's latest cards and the card feels cooler as well. It's not a dramatic difference but it's definitely there, and this is despite our card coming pre-overclocked. Meanwhile when going at full pelt, they're all just as loud as each other. However, nVidia or Zotac should, perhaps have rejigged the card's automatic fan controller to run even faster because we experienced regular stability problems due to the card overheating when under heavy load.
Using nVidia's performance tool, in its drivers, to reduce the clock speeds back to default, the crashing stopped but here we were stuck with having to keep the fan at a constant speed (as that's all the tool allows when 'overclocking'). Adding a relatively slow and quiet fan blowing onto the back of the card also resolved the crashing issue so if you have good case ventilation you may not have problems but, when overclocked, this certainly isn't a card to cram inside a confined space.