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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

NVIDIA is launching today a new version of GeForce GTX 260 with 216 processors instead of 192 to better compete with Radeon HD 4870. In fact NVIDIA is pitching to reviewing websites that this new GeForce GTX 260 is faster than Radeon HD 4870 for the top latest games released (FarCry 2, Fallout 3, Dead Space, Call of Duty World at War and Left 4 Dead). Let’s see the performance increase brought by this new model and how it is compared to other NVIDIA products and competitors – including Radeon HD 4870, of course.

In our Radeon HD 4870 review we saw that the original GeForce GTX 260 and this ATI video card had the same performance level on most scenarios, with an advantage to Radeon HD 4870 in the games that where a difference between the two cards (the only scenario were GeForce GTX 260 was faster was on Call of Duty 4 at 2560×1600 with image quality settings maxed out). What NVIDIA wants now is to move this advantage to the new GeForce GTX 260.

This new GeForce GTX 260 is identical to its older brother, with the only difference being the number of internal processors (known by several different names, such as “streaming processors,” “SP” or “cores”). Both run at the same clock rates. That is why we are not posting any pictures, as both cards are physically identical.

To make the comparison between the new GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores and the other video cards we included in this review easier, we compiled the table below comparing the main specs from these cards. If you want to compare the specs of the reviewed video card to any other video card not included in the table below, just take a look at our NVIDIA Chips Comparison Table and on our AMD ATI Chips Comparison Table.

GPU Core Clock Shader Clock Processors Memory Clock Memory Interface Memory Transfer Rate Memory Price
GeForce GTX 280 602 MHz 1,296 MHz 240 1,107 MHz 512-bit 141.7 GB/s 1 GB GDDR3 USD 405 – 460
GeForce GTX 260 (192 cores) 576 MHz 1,242 MHz 192 1,000 MHz 448-bit 112 GB/s 896 MB GDDR3 USD 215 – 220
GeForce GTX 260 (216 cores) 576 MHz 1,242 MHz 216 1,000 MHz 448-bit 112 GB/s 896 MB GDDR3 USD 250 – 295
GeForce 9800 GX2 600 MHz 1,500 MHz 128 1,000 MHz 256-bit 64 GB/s 1 GB GDDR3 USD 285
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 738 MHz 1,836 MHz 128 1,100 MHz 256-bit 70.4 GB/s 512 MB GDDR3 USD 175 – 210
GeForce 9800 GTX 675 MHz 1,688 MHz 128 1,100 MHz 256-bit 70.4 GB/s 512 MB GDDR3 USD 178
Palit GeForce 9800 GT 1 GB 600 MHz 1.5 GHz 112 900 MHz 256-bit 57.6 GB/s 1 GB GDDR3 N/A
Radeon HD 4870 X2 750 MHz 750 MHz 800 900 MHz 256-bit 115.2 GB/s 1 GB GDDR5 USD 480 – 530
Radeon HD 4870 750 MHz 750 MHz 800 900 MHz 256-bit 115.2 GB/s 512 MB GDDR5 USD 190 – 290
Radeon HD 4850 X2 625 MHz 625 MHz 800 993 MHz 256-bit 63.5 GB/s 1 GB GDDR3 USD 410
Radeon HD 4850 625 MHz 625 MHz 800 993 MHz 256-bit 63.5 GB/s 512 MB GDDR3 USD 150 – 200
Radeon HD 4830 575 MHz 575 MHz 640 900 MHz 256-bit 57.6 GB/s 512 MB GDDR3 USD 120 – 130
Sapphire Atomic HD 3870 X2 857 MHz 857 MHz 320 927 MHz 256-bit 59.3 GB/s 1 GB GDDR3 N/A
Radeon HD 3870 776 MHz 776 MHz 320 1,125 MHz 256-bit 72 GB/s 512 MB GDDR4 USD 95 – 200

It is important to note that this table reflects the current prices for the listed video cards at Newegg.com, which are lower than the prices we published in other reviews, since prices tend to drop every day.

Some important observations regarding this table:

  • All NVIDIA chips are DirectX 10 (Shader 4.0), while all AMD/ATI chips are DirectX 10.1 (Shader 4.1).
  • The memory clocks listed are the real memory clock. Memory clocks are often advertised as double the figures presented, numbers known as “DDR clock.” Radeon HD 4870 and Radeon HD 4870 X2 use GDDR5 chips, which transfer four data per clock cycle and thus the “DDR clock” for these video cards is four times the value presented on this table (i.e., 3.6 GHz).
  • GeForce 9800 GX2, Radeon HD 3870 X2, Radeon HD 4850 X2 and Radeon HD 4870 X2 have two GPU’s. The numbers on the table represent only one of the chips.
  • All video cards included on our review were running at the chip manufacturer default clock configuration (i.e., no overclocking), except Sapphire Atomic HD 3870 X2. The official core clock for Radeon HD 3870 X2 is 825 MHz, while the official memory clock is 900 MHz. So this card was a little bit overclocked. We couldn’t reduce these clocks to their reference values and since we hadn’t any other Radeon HD 3870 X2 available we included this video card anyway.
  • Prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
  • We couldn’t find Sapphire Atomic HD 3870 X2 for sale. This model will be more expensive than cards from other vendors based on the same GPU because it features water cooling. Just for you to have an idea, prices on the regular Radeon 3870 X2 are quoted between USD 190 and USD 350.
  • We couldn’t find Palit GeForce 9800 GT 1 GB for sale. The model with 512 MB from the same manufacturer is quoted at USD 130.

Before going to our tests let’s recap the main features from GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores.

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores main features are:

  • Graphics chip: GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores, running at 576 MHz.
  • Memory: 896 MB GDDR3 memory (448-bit interface) running at 1 GHz (“2 GHz”).
  • Bus type: PCI Express x16 2.0.
  • Connectors: Two DVI and one S-Video output (with component video support).
  • Video Capture (VIVO): No.
  • Cables and adapters that come with this board: Will depend on the manufacturer (we reviewed the reference model).
  • Number of CDs/DVDs that come with this board: Will depend on the manufacturer (we reviewed the reference model).
  • Games that come with this board: Will depend on the manufacturer (we reviewed the reference model).
  • Programs that come with this board: Will depend on the manufacturer (we reviewed the reference model).
  • Minimum Required Power Supply: 500 W.
  • More information: https://www.nvidia.com
  • Average price in the US*: USD 272.50

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.

[nextpage
title=”How We Tested”]

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the video card being tested.

Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

  • Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit
  • Service Pack 1

Driver Versions

  • nForce driver version: 15.17
  • AMD/ATI video driver version: Catalyst 8.5
  • AMD/ATI video driver version: Catalyst 8.6 + hotfix (8.501.1.0, 6/21/2008) (Radeon HD 4850, HD 4870)
  • AMD/ATI video driver version: 8.520.0.0 (Radeon HD 4870 X2)
  • AMD/ATI video driver version: Catalyst 8.10 (Radeon HD 4830)
  • AMD/ATI video driver version: 8.542.0.0 (Radeon HD 4850 X2)
  • AMD/ATI video driver version: Catalyst 8.11 (FarCry 2, Fallout 3)
  • NVIDIA video driver version: 175.16
  • NVIDIA video driver version: 177.34 (GeForce GTX 260, GTX 280)
  • NVIDIA video driver version: 177.79 (GeForce 9800 GT, 9800 GTX+)
  • NVIDIA video driver version: 178.24 (FarCry 2, Fallout 3)

Software Used

Resolutions and Image Quality Settings

Since we were comparing very high-end video cards, we ran all our tests under three 16:10 widescreen high resolutions: 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600. We always tried to run the programs and games in two scenarios for each resolution, one with low image quality settings and then maxing out the image quality settings. The exact configuration we used will be described together with the results of each individual test.

Error Margin

We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

[nextpage title=”3DMark06 Professional”]

3DMark06 measures Shader 3.0 (i.e., DirectX 9.0c) performance. We run this software under three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600, first with no image quality enhancements enabled – results we call “low” on the charts and tables below –, then setting 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering. See the results below.

GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 1680×1050 – Low Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 17557 20.34%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 16729 14.67%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 16260 11.45%
GeForce 9800 GX2 15623 7.09%
GeForce GTX 280 14904 2.16%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 14589  
Radeon HD 4870 14215 2.63%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 13701 6.48%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 13355 9.24%
GeForce 9800 GTX 12759 14.34%
Radeon HD 4850 11842 23.20%
GeForce 9800 GT 11471 27.18%
Radeon HD 4830 10898 33.87%
Radeon HD 3870 10694 36.42%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 1920×1200 – Low Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 17414 31.26%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 16294 22.82%
GeForce 9800 GX2 15547 17.19%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 15489 16.75%
GeForce GTX 280 14215 7.15%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 13267  
Radeon HD 4870 13017 1.92%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 12668 4.73%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 12206 8.69%
GeForce 9800 GTX 11631 14.07%
Radeon HD 4850 10691 24.10%
GeForce 9800 GT 10253 29.40%
Radeon HD 4830 9787 35.56%
Radeon HD 3870 9454 40.33%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 2560×1600 – Low Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 15920 50.64%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 14140 33.80%
GeForce 9800 GX2 13015 23.15%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 12315 16.53%
GeForce GTX 280 11766 11.34%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 10568  
Radeon HD 4870 10159 4.03%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 9894 6.81%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 9365 12.85%
GeForce 9800 GTX 8743 20.87%
Radeon HD 4850 8077 30.84%
GeForce 9800 GT 7679 37.62%
Radeon HD 4830 7308 44.61%
Radeon HD 3870 6823 54.89%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 1680×1050 – High Score Difference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 16260 46.65%
Radeon HD 4870 X2 16134 45.51%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 14997 35.25%
GeForce 9800 GX2 13900 25.36%
GeForce GTX 280 12157 9.64%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 11088  
Radeon HD 4870 11063 0.23%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 10617 4.44%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 9391 18.07%
GeForce 9800 GTX 8981 23.46%
Radeon HD 4850 8881 24.85%
Radeon HD 4830 7943 39.59%
GeForce 9800 GT 7899 40.37%
Radeon HD 3870 6915 60.35%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 1920×1200 – High Score Difference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 15489 56.39%
Radeon HD 4870 X2 15313 54.61%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 13809 39.43%
GeForce 9800 GX2 12213 23.31%
GeForce GTX 280 10991 10.98%
Radeon HD 4870 10014 1.11%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 9904  
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 9450 4.80%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 8144 21.61%
Radeon HD 4850 7972 24.23%
GeForce 9800 GTX 7811 26.80%
Radeon HD 4830 7109 39.32%
GeForce 9800 GT 6826 45.09%
Radeon HD 3870 6114 61.99%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 2560×1600 – High Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 12479 61.92%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 12315 59.79%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 10854 40.83%
GeForce 9800 GX2 9829 27.53%
GeForce GTX 280 8704 12.94%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 7707  
Radeon HD 4870 7550 2.08%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 7285 5.79%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 6065 27.07%
Radeon HD 4850 5896 30.72%
GeForce 9800 GTX 5774 33.48%
Radeon HD 4830 5213 47.84%
GeForce 9800 GT 5045 52.77%
Radeon HD 3870 4319 78.44%

[nextpage title=”3DMark Vantage Professional”]

3DMark Vantage is the latest addition to the 3DMark series, measuring Shader 4.0 (i.e., DirectX 10) performance and supporting PhysX, a programming interface developed by Ageia (now part of NVIDIA) to transfer physics calculations from the system CPU to the video card GPU in order to increase performance. Mechanical physics is the basis for calculations about the interaction of objects. For example, if you shoot, what exactly will happen to the object when the bullet hits it? Will it break? Will it move? Will the bullet bounce back? Notice that we didn’t upgrade the PhysX to the latest version, which would make the physics calculations for CPU Test 2 to be made by the GPU instead of the CPU on NVIDIA video cards (since we aren’t considering CPU or 3DMark scores this change wouldn’t produce any increase in our results anyway).

We ran this program at three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600. First we used the “Performance” profile, and then we used the “Extreme” profile (basically enabling anti-aliasing at 4x, anisotropic filtering at 16x, and putting all detail settings at their maximum or “extreme” value. The combination of 2560×1600 resolution with extreme settings didn’t produce reliable results according to the program, so we aren’t going to add them here. The results being compared are the “GPU Scores” achieved by each video card.

GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 – 1680×1050 – Performance Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 11697 80.87%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 8050 24.48%
GeForce GTX 280 7695 18.99%
GeForce 9800 GX2 6990 8.09%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 6467  
Radeon HD 4870 6193 4.42%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 5898 9.65%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 5651 14.44%
Radeon HD 4850 4797 34.81%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 4499 43.74%
Radeon HD 4830 4220 53.25%
GeForce 9800 GTX 3805 69.96%
GeForce 9800 GT 3691 75.21%
Radeon HD 3870 2977 117.23%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 – 1920×1200 – Performance Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 9472 86.31%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 6355 25.00%
GeForce GTX 280 6106 20.10%
GeForce 9800 GX2 5379 5.80%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 5084  
Radeon HD 4870 4880 4.18%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 4582 10.96%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 4336 17.25%
Radeon HD 4850 3725 36.48%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 3370 50.86%
Radeon HD 4830 3301 54.01%
GeForce 9800 GT 2951 72.28%
GeForce 9800 GTX 2891 75.86%
Radeon HD 3870 2269 124.06%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 – 2560×1600 – Performance Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 5542 89.34%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 4197 43.39%
GeForce GTX 280 3549 21.25%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 2927  
GeForce 9800 GX2 2910 0.58%
Radeon HD 4870 2728 7.29%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 2640 10.87%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 2382 22.88%
Radeon HD 4850 2050 42.78%
Radeon HD 4830 1837 59.34%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 1815 61.27%
GeForce 9800 GT 1638 78.69%
GeForce 9800 GTX 1557 87.99%
Radeon HD 3870 1244 135.29%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 – 1680×1050 – Extreme Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 8405 66.27%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 6859 35.69%
GeForce GTX 280 6005 18.79%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 5055  
GeForce 9800 GX2 4858 4.06%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 4531 11.56%
Radeon HD 4870 4360 15.94%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 3567 41.72%
Radeon HD 4850 3445 46.73%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 3201 57.92%
Radeon HD 4830 2982 69.52%
GeForce 9800 GT 2741 84.42%
GeForce 9800 GTX 2703 87.01%
Radeon HD 3870 1855 172.51%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 – 1920×1200 – Extreme Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 6916 74.91%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 5554 40.47%
GeForce GTX 280 4732 19.68%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 3954  
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 3576 10.57%
GeForce 9800 GX2 3508 12.71%
Radeon HD 4870 3490 13.30%
Radeon HD 4850 2753 43.63%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 2669 48.15%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 2399 64.82%
Radeon HD 4830 2349 68.33%
GeForce 9800 GT 2136 85.11%
GeForce 9800 GTX 2038 94.01%
Radeon HD 3870 1439 174.77%

[nextpage title=”Call of Duty 4″]

Call of Duty 4 is a DirectX 9 game implementing high-dynamic range (HDR) and its own physics engine, which is used to calculate how objects interact. For example, if you shoot, what exactly will hapen to the object when the bullet hits it? Will it break? Will it move? Will the bullet bounce back? It gives a more realistic experience to the user.

We ran this program at three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600, maxing out all image quality controls (i.e., everything was put on the maximum values on the Graphics and Texture menus). We used the game internal benchmarking feature, running a demo provided by NVIDIA called “wetwork.” We are putting this demo for downloading here if you want to run your own benchmarks. The game was updated to version 1.6. The results below are the average number of frames per second (FPS) achieved by each card.

GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
Call of Duty 4 – 1680×1050 – Maximum Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 134.6 46.62%
Radeon H
D 4850 X2
120.0 30.72%
GeForce 9800 GX2 106.2 15.69%
GeForce GTX 280 105.3 14.71%
Radeon HD 4870 93.4 1.74%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 91.8  
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 91.0 0.88%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 75.7 21.27%
Radeon HD 4850 72.4 26.80%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 72.2 27.15%
GeForce 9800 GTX 69.1 32.85%
Radeon HD 4830 65.8 39.51%
GeForce 9800 GT 61.3 49.76%
Radeon HD 3870 43.0 113.49%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
Call of Duty 4 – 1920×1200 – Maximum Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 120.6 49.44%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 105.7 30.98%
GeForce 9800 GX2 94.5 17.10%
GeForce GTX 280 91.7 13.63%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 80.7  
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 77.1 4.67%
Radeon HD 4870 76.4 5.63%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 61.3 31.65%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 59.5 35.63%
Radeon HD 4850 59.1 36.55%
GeForce 9800 GTX 57.7 39.86%
Radeon HD 4830 52.6 53.42%
GeForce 9800 GT 50.8 58.86%
Radeon HD 3870 35.4 127.97%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
Call of Duty 4 – 2560×1600 – Maximum Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 83.8 51.54%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 70.5 27.49%
GeForce 9800 GX2 64.8 17.18%
GeForce GTX 280 64.8 17.18%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 55.3  
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 53.5 3.36%
Radeon HD 4870 48.1 14.97%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 40.6 36.21%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 39.7 39.29%
GeForce 9800 GTX 38.3 44.39%
Radeon HD 4850 36.7 50.68%
Radeon HD 4830 33.4 65.57%
GeForce 9800 GT 33.3 66.07%
Radeon HD 3870 22.4 146.88%

[nextpage title=”Crysis”]

Crysis is a very heavy DirectX 10 game. We updated this game to version 1.2.1 and used the HOC Crysis Benchmarking Utility to help us collecting data. Since we don’t think the default demo based on the island map stresses the video card the way we want, we used the HOC core demo available with the abovementioned utility. We ran this demo under three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600, first with image quality set to “low” and then with image quality set to “high.” Since all video cards achieved a number of frames per second below 10 at 2560×1600 with image details set to “high,” we are not including this test as the results aren’t reliable. We ran each test twice and discarded the first result, as usually the first run achieves a lower score compared to the subsequent runs since the game loses time loading files. The results below are the average number of frames per second (FPS) achieved by each card.

GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
Crysis 1.2.1 – 1680×1050 – Low Score Difference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 125 16.82%
GeForce GTX 280 125 16.82%
Radeon HD 4870 X2 120 12.15%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 115 7.48%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 107  
Radeon HD 4870 101 5.94%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 99 8.08%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 91 17.58%
GeForce 9800 GTX 84 27.38%
Radeon HD 4850 84 27.38%
GeForce 9800 GX2 75 42.67%
GeForce 9800 GT 75 42.67%
Radeon HD 4830 74 44.59%
Radeon HD 3870 71 50.70%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
Crysis 1.2.1 – 1920×1200 – Low Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 119 30.77%
GeForce GTX 280 115 26.37%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 115 26.37%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 108 18.68%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 91  
Radeon HD 4870 84 8.33%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 83 9.64%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 76 19.74%
GeForce 9800 GTX 69 31.88%
Radeon HD 4850 67 35.82%
GeForce 9800 GX2 63 44.44%
GeForce 9800 GT 61 49.18%
Radeon HD 4830 61 49.18%
Radeon HD 3870 58 56.90%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
Crysis 1.2.1 – 2560×1600 – Low Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 103 71.67%
GeForce GTX 280 95 58.33%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 86 43.33%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 71 18.33%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 60  
Radeon HD 4870 53 13.21%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 52 15.38%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 49 22.45%
GeForce 9800 GTX 44 36.36%
Radeon HD 4850 43 39.53%
GeForce 9800 GX2 42 42.86%
GeForce 9800 GT 39 53.85%
Radeon HD 4830 38 57.89%
Radeon HD 3870 35 71.43%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
Crysis 1.2.1 – 1680×1050 – High Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 57 54.05%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 47 27.03%
GeForce GTX 280 42 13.51%
Radeon HD 4870 37 0.00%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 37  
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 32 15.63%
GeForce 9800 GTX 29 27.59%
Radeon HD 4850 29 27.59%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 29 27.59%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 26 42.31%
GeForce 9800 GX2 25 48.00%
GeForce 9800 GT 25 48.00%
Radeon HD 4830 25 48.00%
Radeon HD 3870 19 94.74%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
Crysis 1.2.1 – 1920×1200 – High Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 47 56.67%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 39 30.00%
GeForce GTX 280 34 13.33%
Radeon HD 4870 30 0.00%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 30  
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 26 15.38%
Radeon HD 4850 23 30.43%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 23 30.43%
GeForce 9800 GTX 22 36.36%
GeForce 9800 GX2 21 42.86%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 20 50.00%
GeForce 9800 GT 20 50.00%
Radeon HD 4830 20 50.00%
Radeon HD 3870 16 87.50%

[nextpage title=”Unreal Tournament 3″]

Unreal Tournament 3 is the latest installment from this famous first person shooter franchise, supporting DirectX 10 graphics when installed on Windows Vista with a DX10 compatible card. We upgraded Unreal Tournament 3 to version 1.2 and benchmarked it with the help of HOC UT3 benchmarking utility using the “Containment” demo, maxing out image quality settings (image quality at “high” and anisotropic filtering at x16). It is important to note that we haven’t applied the PhysX mod to this game, which would transfer PhysX processing from the CPU to the GPU on NVIDIA cards. The results below are the average number of frames per second (FPS) achieved by each card.

GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores

Unreal Tournament 3 – 1680×1050 – Maximum Score Difference
GeForce 9800 GTX 112 2.75%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 109  
GeForce 9800 GX2 108 0.93%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 106 2.83%
GeForce GTX 280 104 4.81%
Radeon HD 4870 104 4.81%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 104 4.81%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 98 11.22%
Radeon HD 4850 96 13.54%
Radeon HD 4870 X2 96 13.54%
GeForce 9800 GT 95 14.74%
Radeon HD 4830 89 22.47%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 84 29.76%
Radeon HD 3870 83 31.33%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
Unreal Tournament 3 – 1920×1200 – Maximum Score Difference
GeForce 9800 GTX 108 1.89%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 106  
GeForce 9800 GX2 106 0.00%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 103 2.91%
Radeon HD 4870 98 8.16%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 97 9.28%
Radeon HD 4870 X2 95 11.58%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 94 12.77%
GeForce GTX 280 91 16.48%
Radeon HD 4850 89 19.10%
Radeon HD 4830 82 29.27%
GeForce 9800 GT 80 32.50%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 78 35.90%
Radeon HD 3870 75 41.33%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
Unreal Tournament 3 – 2560×1600 – Maximum Score Difference
GeForce 9800 GTX 92 13.58%
GeForce 9800 GX2 92 13.58%
Radeon HD 4870 X2 91 12.35%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 89 9.88%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 P
roc.)
81  
Radeon HD 4870 78 3.85%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 76 6.58%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 63 28.57%
GeForce GTX 280 62 30.65%
Radeon HD 4850 60 35.00%
Radeon HD 4830 53 52.83%
GeForce 9800 GT 52 55.77%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 51 58.82%
Radeon HD 3870 47 72.34%

[nextpage title=”Half-Life 2: Episode Two”]

Half-Life 2 is a popular franchise and we benchmark the video cards using Episode Two with the aid of HOC Half-Life 2 Episode Two benchmarking utility using the “HOC Demo 1” provided by this program. We ran the game in three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600, with quality set to maximum, x16 anisotropic filtering and 16xQCS anti-aliasing. The results below are the average number of frames per second (FPS) achieved by each card.

GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
Half-Life 2: Episode Two – 1680×1050 – High Score Difference
Radeon HD 4850 X2 158.0 26.40%
Radeon HD 4870 X2 157.0 25.60%
Radeon HD 4870 144.0 15.20%
GeForce 9800 GTX 137.9 10.32%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 126.1 0.88%
GeForce 9800 GX2 125.4 0.32%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 125.0  
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 121.0 3.31%
Radeon HD 4850 116.2 7.57%
Radeon HD 4830 101.0 23.76%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 94.0 32.98%
GeForce GTX 280 89.3 39.98%
GeForce 9800 GT 80.0 56.25%
Radeon HD 3870 68.3 83.02%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
Half-Life 2: Episode Two – 1920×1200 – High Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 157.0 49.52%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 152.0 44.76%
Radeon HD 4870 124.0 18.10%
GeForce 9800 GTX 116.3 10.76%
GeForce 9800 GX2 111.1 5.81%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 106.5 1.43%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 105.0  
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 101.0 3.96%
Radeon HD 4850 97.2 8.02%
Radeon HD 4830 85.0 23.53%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 74.0 41.89%
GeForce GTX 280 70.3 49.36%
GeForce 9800 GT 63.0 66.67%
Radeon HD 3870 56.8 84.86%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
Half-Life 2: Episode Two – 2560×1600 – High Score Difference
Radeon HD 4870 X2 130.0 103.13%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 108.0 68.75%
Radeon HD 4870 75.0 17.19%
GeForce 9800 GTX 71.3 11.41%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 64.0  
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 61.0 4.92%
Radeon HD 4850 58.4 9.59%
Radeon HD 4830 51.0 25.49%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2 50.6 26.48%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 39.0 64.10%
GeForce 9800 GX2 37.5 70.67%
GeForce 9800 GT 36.0 77.78%
GeForce GTX 280 35.5 80.28%
Radeon HD 3870 34.9 83.38%

[nextpage title=”Far Cry 2″]

Far Cry 2 is based on an entirely new game engine called Dunia, which is DirectX 10 when played under Windows Vista with a DirectX 10-compatible video card. We used the benchmarking utility that comes with this game, setting image quality to “high,” no anti-aliasing and running the demo “Ranch Small” three times. The results below are expressed in frames per second and are an arithmetic average of the three results collected.

Unfortunately we had already returned to the manufacturer several of the video cards included in the previous comparisons and that is why you are seeing less video cards being included on this bechmarking.

GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores

 

FarCry 2 – 1680×1050 – High Score Difference
GeForce GTX 280 71.7 4.94%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 68.4  
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 66.9 2.26%
Radeon HD 4870 63.1 8.27%
Radeon HD 4850 54.3 25.85%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 53.6 27.61%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
FarCry 2 – 1920×1200 – High Score Difference
GeForce GTX 280 68.8 9.57%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 62.8  
Radeon HD 4870 61.9 1.44%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 61.0 3.00%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 53.6 17.14%
Radeon HD 4850 51.1 22.97%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
FarCry 2 – 2560×1600 – High Score Difference
GeForce GTX 280 52.0 13.38%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 45.9  
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 43.3 5.93%
Radeon HD 4870 40.4 13.64%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 38.1 20.41%
Radeon HD 4850 34.4 33.35%

[nextpage title=”Fallout 3″]

Fallout 3 is based on the same engine used by The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and it is a DirectX 9.0c (Shader 3.0) game. We configured the game with “ultra” image quality settings, 4x anti-aliasing and 15x anisotropic filtering. To measure performance, we used the FRAPS running an outdoor scene at God mode, running through enemy fire, triggering post processing effects, and ending with a big explosion in front of Dupont Circle.

Unfortunately we had already returned to the manufacturer several of the video cards included in the previous comparisons and that is why you are seeing less video cards being included on this bechmarking.

GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
Fallout 3 – 1680×1050 – Ultra Score Difference
GeForce GTX 280 76.2 3.53%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 74.1 0.68%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 73.6  
Radeon HD 4850 X2 73.5 0.11%
Radeon HD 4870 69.5 5.84%
Radeon HD 4850 61.1 20.42%

GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores

 

Fallout 3 – 1920×1200 – Ultra Score Difference
GeForce GTX 280 76.1 3.82%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 73.3  
Radeon HD 4850 X2 72.4 1.26%
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 71.7 2.20%
Radeon HD 4870 64.6 13.56%
Radeon HD 4850 53.0 38.30%
GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores
Fallout 3 – 2560×1600 – Ultra Score Difference
GeForce GTX 280 68.1 11.46%
Radeon HD 4850 X2 61.6 0.77%
GeForce GTX 260 (216 Proc.) 61.1  
GeForce GTX 260 (192 Proc.) 60.9 0.41%
Radeon HD 4870 47.4 28.96%
Radeon HD 4850 35.6 71.58%

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

On the previous pages you can see a comparison between the new GeForce GTX 260 with 216 processors and a myriad of video cards. We’d like make here a summary comparing this new release to the “old” GeForce GTX 260 with 192 processors and to its main competitor, Radeon HD 4870.

The addition of 24 processing engines made the new GeForce GTX 260 to be a slight faster than the older model on several scenarios – but not on all of them. On Fallout 3 both cards achieved the same performance, on Unreal Tournament 3 the new card was faster (7%) than the old model only at 2560×1600, and on Call of Duty 4 and FarCry 2 both cards achieved the same performance level at 1680×1050, with the new model being  3% faster at 1920×1200 and 5% (CoD 4) or 6% (FC 2) faster at 2560×1600.

The new GTX 260 was up to 7% faster on 3DMark06, up to 12% faster on 3DMark Vantage, up to 16% faster on Crysis and up to 5% faster on Half-Life 2: Episode Two than its older version.

Radeon HD 4870 had the advantage compared to the old GeForce GTX 260, but now the new GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores is the one that has the advantage. Radeon HD 4870 was faster than GeForce GTX 260 with 216 processors at only one game, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, where it was between 15% and 18% faster.

GeForce GTX 260 with 216 processors was between 6% and 29% faster on Fallout 3, up to 14% faster on Far Cry 2, between 4% and 8% faster on Unreal Tournament 3, up to 15% faster on Call of Duty 4, between 4% and 16% faster on 3DMark Vantage and up to 4% faster on 3DMark06. On Crysis it was between 6% and 13% faster with no image quality enhancements enabled, but when we maxed out image quality both video cards achieved the same performance.

Then comes pricing. Both cards can be found on the same price range (USD 250-290), but some Radeon HD 4870 can be found a little bit lower at USD 230, but probably it is just a matter of time for the prices of this new release to drop a little bit as well.

Unless you can find a Radeon HD 4870 being sold today below USD 230 the new GeForce GTX 260 with 216 cores is certainly our recommendation if you have between USD 250 and USD 290 to spend on a video card.

Of course if you are looking for at more affordable price range there are several other options on the market that will give you a better cost/benefit ratio, like Radeon HD 4850 and Radeon HD 4830, depending on your budget.

In summary, it is clear to us that NVIDIA successfully “fixed” the GeForce GTX 260 to correctly compete with Radeon HD 4870.

The only question now is how they and their partners will promote this new product, since it has the exact same name of an older and slower product. We simply hate when manufacturers release different products using the same name. It wouldn’t be easy to consumers if they released this product as GeForce GTX 261 or something like that?