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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280 1024MB

Will it outperform 9800 GX2? (Updated: now also with synthetic test results.)

June 23, 2008



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Games demand more and more frames per second; users demand more and more beautiful graphics; graphics cards demand more and more power; so, cooler manufacturers will be long occupied inventing new ways of dissipating heat from chips and taking it outside enclosures. Soon graphics cards will use the same large 24-pin connectors used to connect power to motherboards. And we'll be talking about tri-slot graphics cards most likely requiring special enclosure fastening. Yes, process technology is becoming smaller, but graphics card dimensions are growing due to growing requirements.

NVIDIA released another monster, like G80 in 2006. The GPU is very expensive, this is clear. According to the first information, only a small number of cards will go on sale after the announcement, which means low chip yield. At that, to suppress demand NVIDIA skyrocketed GTX 280 prices.

But in 2006, there was a real need in new super powerful graphics cards, and G80 made a real breakthrough. Now, we are talking about another 20-30% of performance added to... 9800 GTX. Yes, not even to 9800 GX2. Still, there are some benchmarks, in which GTX 280 is an absolute leader.

If G80-based cards (8800 GTX) were selling like hot coffee in winter, this time demand will be lower. Still, considering that only a small amount of cards will go on sale initially, NVIDIA is afraid even of such low demand, so the prices reach 650 USD, which is obviously not logical, since even 9800 GX2 is cheaper.

To dilute theory with practice, let's proceed to the card. You've read the introduction and know now that one such chip measured 3x3 cm embodies NVIDIA's latest innovations that require nearly 1.5 billion transistors. Now let's see how it looks like.

Graphics Card


Reference NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280 1024MB
  • GPU: GeForce GTX 280 (GT200)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU frequencies (ROPs/Shaders): 600/1300 MHz (nominal - 600/1300 MHz)
  • Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 1100 (2200) MHz (nominal - 1100 (2200) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 512bit
  • Vertex processors: -
  • Pixel processors: -
  • Unified processors: 240
  • Texture processors: 80 (BLF/TLF)
  • ROPs: 32
  • Dimensions: 270x100x33 mm (the last figure is maximum thickness of the graphics card).
  • PCB color: black
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: in a separate NVIO chip.
  • Output connectors: 2xDVI (Dual-Link/HDMI), TV-out.
  • VIVO: not available
  • TV-out: integrated into GPU.
  • Multi-GPU operation: SLI (Hardware).

The graphics card has 1024 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in 16 chips (eight chips on each side of the PCB.)

Hynix memory chips (GDDR3) designed for the maximum frequency of 1200 (2400) MHz.



Comparison with the reference design, front view
Reference NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280 1024MB Reference NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX


Comparison with the reference design, rear view
Reference NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280 1024MB Reference NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX

Apparently, this is an absolutely new design, nothing like previous NVIDIA solutions, because this PCB bears the 512-bit memory exchange bus. Engineers had to install 16 memory chips, which required the double-sided arrangement of the chips (eight chips on each side). So the card remains long, and the PCB is quite expensive. Don't forget that NVIDIA again brought all data output units into a separate NVIO chip like in the G80 (8800 GTX/Ultra).





This GPU and NVIO are shown in the photo above. Dimensions of the die in this GPU are much smaller, of course. It's covered with a cap, but we can imagine the die surface that contains almost 1.5 billion transistors.


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