Card Sharks

Double Headed Monsters

You thought the ATI Radeon 4870 X2 is was the max? Wrong. The GeForce GTX 296 now claims title of most powerful video card. Thing is about these cards is that they’re both dual GPUs in one card.

Surprisingly (for me), this isn’t a very new and revolutionary idea. Ten years ago there was a three GPU video card (the VooDoo 2), but it doesn’t outperform single GPUs of nowadays.

What do they do and what is this stuff? Videocard designers such as NVidia and ATI basically strap two GPUs together when you’ve made about the strongest GPU you can, which improves the performance. This doesn’t necessarily mean double the power. The dual GPUs are meant to work together to improve performance, like cells in organisms do.

It’s a big advantage for us, gamers. You can have one GPU core do a secondary task when you’re gaming such as anti-aliasing while the other does the major job. These cards have to be clocked slower than, for example, a GTX 280 or 285. This is to keep the heat under control, unless you want to burn a hole in your computer.

When you take these cards apart, you’ll find that it’s comprised of small mini-cores (or stream processors). So, the logical thing to do is to shove more and more together, which is when the annoying heat, size and space issues drop in.

The latest card is the GTX 295 and arguably the strongest.

It’s practically two beefed up GTX 260s in SLI. It’s overthrown the Radeon 4870 X2. The GTX 295 runs dual 576Mhz cores and an epic 1896 of GDD3 RAM. It’s also moved into 55nm fabrication processing so that heat and power levels are reduced.

The GTX 295 chucks in a lot more frames than your average gamer’s card would in high powered games such as Crysis.

If you want the top performance and you have a lot of money, then it’s worth getting this kid. In fact, if you’re that rich you might even want to buy two of these and enable them in Quad SLI for epic, extreme (but kinda unnecessary) performance.

SLI and Crossfire

SLI stands for Scalable Link Interface and is when you have your NVIDIA cards teamed up onto one motherboard. Crossfire is practically the same thing, but a few minor differences and is used by ATI.

Dual GPU videocards incorporate the SLI or Crossfire chipset onto the board, allowing both cores to communicate with the motherboard as a single unit. Thus each GPU gets is fair share of the load.

SLI uses SPR (Scalable Link Interface) or AFR (Alternate Frame Rendering), which ensures each GPU has an equal job to process and do. SFR splits the screen horizontally which feeds each section to a separate GPU while AFR speaks for itself (rendering alternate frames…).

CrossFire (by ATI) competes with SLI. Crossfire uses SuperTiling, SFR (Scissor Frame Rendering) and AFR (Alternate Frame Rendering). Yeah, SFR and AFR are the same basically. However, SuperTiling works by separating each frame into a number of small tiles, alternately sending a tile to each GPU before recombining the rendered frame.

Single Headed Fiends

Having dual video cards isn’t always the best choice because it uses a lot of electricity. That’s where the latest single headed fiends come in. They may still consume a lot of power, but compared to the doubles, they don’t really.

The leading single GPU video card is the NVIDIA GTX 285. Its stock specs has 240 processor cores, its graphics clock up to 648MHz, processor clock up to 1476 MHz and contains a memory clock of 1242MHz with 1 GB of GDD3 RAM. This GPU is basically a beefed up GTX 280. The 285 is also a bit of a power saver but still showing up its results, the card also only needs 6-pin PCI Express power feeds instead of 8. However if you slap two in SLI, it’s still going to be pretty power hungry and you’re going to need a pretty high quality PSU.

The GT200B GPU sits in the 285’s heart which is nearly similar to the 280’s GT200. Only performing slightly better than the 280 in some scenarios, the 285 still is top fastest, single GPU.

These specs are also for the stock 285. If you buy them from brands such as XFX, Asus, Zotac, etc. you’ll find it’s overclocked or better in some way.

NVidia’s recent released of the 295 and 285 put them ahead in the market by far. AMD is finally fighting back, tweaking its 4870’s core to the brand new 4890. Performance put the 4890 not too far behind the 285 in performance. The 4890 has a stock core of 850 MHz and the RAM runs at 3900MHz. I’m not sure, but I think it has 1GB of GDDR5 memory.

Yes, I know. The 4890’s specs are higher than the GTX 285’s. Normally, this would mean better performance but apparently this isn’t the case. When the 285 and 4890 were tested together in benchmark games such as COD5, Crysis, Far Cry 2, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin and even some of Left 4 Dead, the 285’s results proved to be better. It chucked in a few extra frames per second, out performing the 3890. It also proved to be better in 3rd person shooters such as Devil May Cry 4, Prince of Persia and Fallout 3.

The 4890 is also big power eater, especially when you overclock it. It, like the 285, can be overclocked easily and be enabled up to Tri-SLI/3-WAY CrossFire.

As I said, the 4890 (performance wise) sits between the 285 and 260. Though NVidia is still leading the market, it’s not going to sit back and relax. This is why they’re releasing the 275, which will be able to rival the 4890.

The 275 will mainly be a trimmed down 285, but will still support the same amount of shaders (240) as the 285.  If you got any comments, please leave them!

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Posted on June 12, 2009, in News and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Nice post. Now I’m going to wait a year or two and what will be top of the line card today will be very affordable >_>.

  2. Didnt look at the hardware market for weeks, this just bring me back to today =)

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