While the GeForce GTX 295 is NVIDIAís third generation dual PCB GX2 board (fourth gen if you count the original card that started it all, the mile-long GeForce 7900 GX2
), itís board design is pretty similar to the card that preceded it, the GeForce 9800 GX2. Like the 9800 GX2 the GeForce GTX 295 relies on a dual PCB design with the PCB housing the primary GPU inverted so it faces toward the second PCB on the bottom of the card. Sandwiched between the two PCBs is a dual-slot cooler with copper heatpipes and an aluminum heatsink, as well as a single blower-style cooling fan.
The top and bottom of this cooler are outfitted with separate heatpipes reserved for each GPU. With copper cooling on both sides of the cooling unit, itís quite heavy; heavier in fact than the 9800 GX2. Youíre definitely going to want to secure this card pretty tightly to your case to prevent it from coming loose accidentally.
Unlike the GeForce 9800 GX2, the GeForce GTX 295 isnít completely enclosed in metal casing. In fact, the bottom PCB is completely exposed to air. Starting with the GeForce 9800 GX2 and continuing through the GTX 260/280, NVIDIA had adopted the practice of enclosing their cards to protect them from accidental damage during shipping as well as preventing damage from electrostatic discharge.
We have a feeling the GTX 295 is no longer protected this way because it needs the extra ventilation in order to remain as cool as possible. As you can see, the entire top and side of the card have a mesh grille, while the other side is partially exposed to air (the majority of the air from the cardís fan exhausts here rather than the cardís backplate). NVIDIA likely made this change in order to provide additional ventilation to the card.
Like the GeForce 9800 GX2, the GTX 295 is also equipped with two LEDs. One LED is used as a power LED. If the LED shines green, you know youíve connected the boardís power connectors properly, while the LED will shine red if it isnít getting enough power. The second LED is blue and denotes the primary graphics card. This is useful in SLI situations where some motherboards locate the primary PCI Express graphics slot in an odd location. In these situations an inexperienced user may hook up their monitor to the slave GTX 295 graphics card and not realize it when they donít get a response from their display. This user would then unknowingly return both cards when theyíre actually completely functional, but arenít hooked up properly. This process repeats itself until the end user finally tries to hook the card up to the other graphics card!
With the display LED in place, this situation is avoided, as the LED on the primary graphics card will shine blue, while the LED will remain off on the secondary card.
The following are a collection of shots of our exposed GeForce GTX 295 board:
Out back, the GeForce GTX 295 has two DVIs tied to the master GPU, and one HDMI output running off the slave GPU. Thanks to the latest ForceWare drivers, the two DVIs can be run simultaneously while in SLI mode, while you'll need to disable SLI in order to run all three display outputs.
PhysX is another hot topic recently. Fortunately, the GTX 295 can be configured to run PhysX on one of its GPUs, or it can run PhysX in SLI mode, with one GPU handling graphics exclusively, while the second GPU tackles a mixture of graphics and PhysX workloads.