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.
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