The fight for mid-range is going to be upped again. Last time, I reviewed the GeForce GTS 250 which was close to a rebranding of an earlier card. Well, this time around we've got a more original product though in the GeForce GTX 275. Does this new card have the goods to take the mid-range arena?
Let's go over the specs of the card. The GeForce GTX 275 is built on the 55nm process and has a graphics clock speed of 633MHz with the shader units running at 1404MHz. For memory, the GeForce GTX 275 comes equipped with 896MB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 1134MHz. Hardware wise, the card sports a 448-bit memory interface and has 240 stream processor units. You can call it a marriage between the GeForce GTX 280 and the GeForce GTX 260 because it takes the 240 stream processor amount from the 280 and combines it with the 448-bit memory interface and the memory amount of the 260. Clocks are however more than the 280 so there are some items that deviate from the two. Now, there's not too much new here and for the most part and we're getting to a year here with the technology produced by them so I'm hoping we see some new hardware technologies coming in from NVIDIA soon. Until then, the GeForce GTX 275 falls in line still with their current generation of cards in that sense.
For features, there's nothing new in terms of technology support over say the GeForce GTX 280. You're looking at support for the same things such as DirectX10, CUDA, PhysX, Lumenex, and so forth. Again, no DirectX 10.1 support but there doesn't seem to be too much these days in terms of software anyways to warrant this and I'm guessing NVIDIA would move on to DirectX 11 support future cards anyways while adding 10.1 to those cards. What we do have though is a change in speeds and thus the card is priced at a more affordable plateau. It's really meant to sit between the 260 and 280 in the GeForce line and was made to compete with ATI's Radeon HD 4890 which is being released on the same day. The card's MSRP is $249 which as we'll get into later is a pretty good price.
The card is 10.5 inches in length making it pretty average length card for these days. The reference card sent to us takes up two slots and has two six pin power connectors. The power connectors face vertically making it easier to reach in most situations. The maximum draw of the card is 219 watts and as usual, that's in extreme situations. Two Dual Link-DVI connectors are the only connections available on this card but I'm sure board partners will put in items such as TV connectors for those that want to connect this card to a TV using component connections. 2 and 3-way SLI is supported with the GeForce GTX 275 card and you can see in the pictures the SLI connectors on top of the card.
With the launch of the card comes revision 185 drivers. Besides the normal fixes and general improvements on performance, 185 drivers adds a new visual feature to toggle. Ambient occlusion is now in the NVIDIA control panel and will enable this feature on games that aren't supported natively. Two examples that were reported to me were Half-Life 2 and World in Conflict. Take a point and ambient occlusion determines how much ambient light that point receives based on various factors. In the screenshot below, you can see the effect where the walls meet as well as the soft shadow generated behind the phone. A more pronounced effect is the World in Conflict picture where you can see the blades of grass creating this effect producing a more realistic outdoor scene. All this comes at a performance cost of course as you'll get roughly a 20-40% drop in framerate depending on the resolution and features turned on of course. Some games already have this feature built in such as Crysis but the drivers are meant for games that don't have ambient occlusion as a feature of their game. The list provided by NVIDIA has 22 games enabled in the profile by default and there's a lot of current popular games on there. We'll test to see in some games how much this hurts when turning the feature on compared to it being off.
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