GeForce GTX 260 Roundup
Looking for something to spend your tax refund on? If you’re shopping PC upgrades, nothing’s more cost effective for gamers than upgrading your GPU.
Unless you’re gaming at an insanely low resolution like 800x600 or 1024x768, the GPU plays the biggest role in how well your games look and how fluidly they perform. Pair Intel’s latest Core i7 965 Extreme Edition with a GeForce 9600 GT and see how far that gets you in Crysis. Now take just $500 – half the price of a 965 EE CPU – and spend it on a Core 2 Q9400 or Phenom II 940 paired with a GeForce GTX 260 or Radeon 4870. Not only will you be able to play Crysis at higher frame rates than the first scenario, but also with higher graphics settings as well.
If you’ve already got a decent Core 2 or Athlon X2 class processor though you don’t even need to spend that much money. Keep your existing CPU and pair it with a newer GPU for maximum bang-for-the-buck.
Thanks to the cutthroat competition between ATI and NVIDIA, you can upgrade to a graphics card that’s considerably more powerful than you’d expect without having to deplete all the funds from your tax refund. GeForce GTX 260 cards can be found for less than $200; in fact older 192-shader GTX 260 cards start right around $160 after mail-in rebate! A year ago today that same $160 would have bought you a GeForce 9600 GT 512MB, which sports just 64 shaders, fewer ROPs, and a less powerful memory subsystem.
The GTX 260 has over 2.5 times the shading horsepower and a wider 448-bit memory interface, with considerably more memory bandwidth than the 9600 GT and 896MB of memory.
GTX 260 hits 55-nm
Earlier this year NVIDIA quietly introduced their third GeForce GTX 260 variant – the first two cards were built on TSMC’s 65-nm manufacturing process and contained 192 or 216 shaders. The third GPU is based on TSMC’s smaller 55-nm manufacturing process and uses the same GT200b GPU used in the GeForce GTX 285 and GTX 295.
With its smaller process, this chip consumes less power than previous GTX 260 GPUs (and therefore should also generate less heat) while delivering the same level of performance: every GeForce GTX 260 based on NVIDIA’s GT200b GPU ships with 216 shaders clocked at 1242MHz, with a 576MHz graphics core and 999MHz memory (1998MHz effective).
Thankfully, all three GeForce GTX 260 versions are 100% compatible with each other and therefore can be mixed and matched for SLI or 3-Way SLI.
For today’s article we’ve rounded up three of the best GeForce GTX 260 cards on the market right now. Two of the cards are based on NVIDIA’s 55-nm GT200b GPU (BFG and EVGA), while the third (Zotac) relies on NVIDIA’s 65-nm GT200 GPU.
All three cards are overclocked from the factory, providing a performance boost over more traditional GeForce GTX 260 cards, and all three are basic replicas of NVIDIA’s reference design. Right now all the GTX 260 cards on the market utilize NVIDIA’s reference board design.
With its 55-nm process though, cooling isn’t an issue for NVIDIA’s latest GTX 260. To see how the GPU benefits from the new process, we ran some back-to-back-to-back benchmarks with all three GeForce GTX 260 variants we’ve received over the last year.