With so many options on the market right now, what makes the GTX 280 a good choice for anyone? The fact that it is the highest-performing card out there sure helps, but it’s still not for everyone. To join this club, you better hope you have one massive resolution to push.
In testing power consumption for our graphic cards, the system components are kept consistent to help keep accurate results. To capture wattage, a Kill-a-Watt is used. It is plugged straight into the wall and the PSU is plugged in directly to it. After the computer boots into Windows and is left idle for five minutes, the idle wattage is captured.
To capture the average, a run of 3DMark 2006 is run while keeping an eye on the voltage for the first two minutes. I record the value that the Kill-a-Watt reports the majority of the time. Sometimes the wattage might go higher, but scale right back down, and vice versa.
Not surprisingly, the GTX 280 is one of the most power-hungry cards in our line-up. It’s only surpassed by the dual-GPU HD 3870 X2. Interestingly, though, the card idles at a lower wattage than our 9800 GTX. No complaining here.
This card would have been a lot more difficult to conclude on a month ago when it was first released, but since the price has recently dropped, it’s a lot easier to piece together. The fact of the matter is, right now, the GTX 280 is the fastest card out there, bar none. If you have the cash and the need for such a massive GPU, it’s a good choice. It offers incredible performance from a single GPU, runs relatively quiet and should actually last a little while.
But outright recommending one to everyone is impossible. The GPU is still $500, and at that price point, you could SLI two 9800 GTX together and likely achieve similar performance in most tests… for $100 less overall. The key here is the 1GB onboard memory that the GTX 280 offers. That will come in handy at very high resolutions, and by very high, I mean only 2560×1600.
Anti-Aliasing is also where extra memory is needed, though, so if you are planning to run 1920×1200 with a very high AA, then the 1GB will come in handy again. But we are still in a middle of a pickle. Many card manufacturers out there offer 1GB cards, but on the other hand, many of them charge quite a premium. What a roller-coaster predicament!
For an amazing gaming experience, you have two choices. Get a dual-GPU setup, for around $400, or shell out $500 for the single-GPU GTX 280. The same could go for the ATI side of things, since their HD 4850 performs almost identically to the 9800 GTX, plus it has the benefit of working on any motherboard, unlike NVIDIA’s SLI.
It all comes down to wait you want. If you want to save cash, get a smaller GPU or two. Many people will -not- need a GPU this big, and though it might sound strange, I only recommend it highly to those running a 2560×1600 resolution. For anything less, a 9800 GTX-grade card will suit most people just fine. For ultra-high-end gaming though, the GTX 280 is a winner.
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