The GTX 280 graphics chip has an excellent foundation, boasting 240 steam processors, a 602MHZ core and a memory clock speed of 1.1GHz.

While the rest of the consumer electronics industry clamours for smaller, less power-hungry components and devices, graphics cards makers strive to fill as much of a PC chassis as possible and to populate their cards with as much electronic circuitry as they can. In nVidia's case, it's managed to cram 1.4 billion transistors on to its the GT200 series GPUs (graphics processing units).

Partly, we can attribute this to nVidia's desire to compete with Intel. Its Cuda (Compute Unified Device Architecture) makes it much easier to code applications that can tap into the GeForce's multifaceted technology – something that gamers will be able to benefit from in the longer term.

nVidia chips also need these extra transistors to take advantage of the AGEIA PhysX technology it has acquired and that allows programmers to incorporate a much greater array of effects into their games.

The GTX 280 chip therefore has an excellent foundation, boasting 240 steam processors, a 602MHZ core and a memory clock speed of 1.1GHz. The latter figure is bettered by the more modestly priced 9800 GTX, but it can't get close to the number of stream processors.

In fact, this is arguably the best performing single-chip card around. For competition you have to look to the 9800 GX2 – an inelegant but effective card that uses two GPUs to pretty much match what the 280 can do with one.

If you're willing to consider spending £350+ for such a card, you'll find it bests the GTX 280 at higher resolutions like 1,920x1,200. The difference is small though: the GX2 is about 4 percent faster on Stalker while the cards are nearly neck and neck on World in Conflict, and the GTCX 280 is just over 5 percent slower on Crysis.

These figures are still a long way ahead of the competition – but not enough to justify the almost £150 that separates this from, for example, the Radeon 4870.

See also:

Asus GeForce GTX 260 review

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MSI GeForce GTX 280 1024MB: Specs

  • nVIDIA GeForce GTX 280
  • 1GB GDDR3
  • 602MHz Core Clock
  • 1107MHz Memory Clock (2,214 DDR effective)
  • 400MHz Ramdac
  • 240 Stream Processors
  • PCI-E Interface
  • TV Out/Video In yes/no
  • DirectX 10
  • DVI
  • 1-year warranty
  • nVIDIA GeForce GTX 280
  • 1GB GDDR3
  • 602MHz Core Clock
  • 1107MHz Memory Clock (2,214 DDR effective)
  • 400MHz Ramdac
  • 240 Stream Processors
  • PCI-E Interface
  • TV Out/Video In yes/no
  • DirectX 10
  • DVI
  • 1-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

The 280 definitely isn't a must-have card just yet. Though not as expensive as in the days immediately after its launch, it's still a premium card and one that is outperformed by the GX2. Some of its technology is very exciting, but their application has yet to come into its own. For now, the GeForce GTX 280's raw specifications are relatively unimpressive and it lacks the vital applications that will really bring it into the mainstream.

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