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Palit GeForce GTX 280 1GB

Date: July 10, 2008
Author(s): Rob Williams

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.



Introduction, Closer Look

Launches of new GPUs happen all the time, but it’s not that often that one so powerful, so big, and so drool-worthy exits the gate. The latest case is NVIDIA’s GTX 200 series, or more specifically, the GTX 280, which we will be taking a look at today, courtesy of Palit.

Because the card was released almost a month ago, I won’t get in-depth with regards to the specifics of what makes the GTX 200 series so great, but what you should know is that the new cards are designed for the ultimate gamers and those who need an extraordinarily fast GPU for non-gaming purposes, such as Folding or other applications that require specific calculation.

When the GTX 280 first launched, it retailed for the luxury price of $649. This coming at a time when everyone has already been in the groove of seeing killer >$300 GPUs for quite a while. NVIDIA knew it would be a hard sell, but it was a brand-new launch and one truly worthy of the “ultimate” title.

But then AMD unleashed their HD 4800, which delivered very surprising results. That immediately caused a few quiet price drops of the GTX 260 and 280, so that $649 price tag is a thing of the past. It’s unfortunate for those early adopters, because most of the cards can now be found for around $500.

Closer Look at the Palit GTX 280

What we have here is a completely new launch from NVIDIA. The 9-series was a little lackluster in that nothing was truly new, but that changes completely with the GTX 280. The core itself is larger, at 576mm2, packing in over a staggering 1.4 billion transistors. Compare that to the 820 million that Intel’s latest 45nm Quad-Cores include.

The physical die increase isn’t the only change. The GTX 280, as seen in the table below, features 240 stream processors operating at 1296MHz, with the core itself operating at 602MHz. I have to wonder why they didn’t simply clock the card at 600/1300, but hey, this is at least interesting, right?

Further down the line is an 1107MHz GDDR3 speed, running on a 512-bit memory bus width. It’s also the first gamer-oriented GPU with 1GB of memory onboard. Many graphic card manufacturers have been putting 1GB on their cards for some time, such as Palit, but this is the first to officially leave NVIDIA with that specification.

Model
Core MHz
Shader MHz
Mem MHz
Memory
Memory Bus
Stream Proc.
GTX 280
602
1296
1107
1GB
512-bit
240
GTX 260
576
1242
999
896MB
448-bit
192
9800 GX2
600
1500
1000
1GB
512-bit
256
9800 GTX
675
1688
1100
512MB
256-bit
128
9600 GT
650
1625
900
512MB
256-bit
64
9600 GSO
550
1375
800
384MB
192-bit
96
8800 Ultra
612
1500
1080
768MB
384-bit
128
8800 GTX
575
1350
900
768MB
384-bit
128
8800 GTS 512
650
1625
970
512MB
256-bit
128
8800 GTS 320/640
500
1200
800
320/640MB
320-bit
96
8800 GT
600
1500
900
512MB
256-bit
112
8800 GS
550
1375
800
384MB
192-bit
96
8600 GTS
675
1475
1000
256MB
128-bit
32
8600 GT
540
1190
700
256MB
128-bit
32

Another notable feature is 3-way SLI support. As we will soon see, the GTX 280 is the furthest thing from being a lightweight, so the thought of putting three together is simply insane. If one card can handle virtually any game out there at 2560×1600 max details, then just imagine how having more than one could future-proof a rig!

As mentioned in the intro, our card comes from Palit, a relatively new entrant into the US and Canadian market. They are by no means a new company, however, as they officially rank as the third largest graphic card manufacturer in the world. It took them a while to break into North America, but it’s now happened, and they are off to a great start.

The card follows the reference design to a T, as will all current GTX 280 cards out there, so the primary difference between them all will be the graphic on the front, the warranty and the accessories. Palit offers a 2-year warranty on all of their graphic cards. This may seem odd since some companies choose to give lifetime warranties, but Palit says that lifetime warranties are all for show. Considering that the warranties from competitors will only give you back the current value of the card you send in, it doesn’t seem that exciting.

Like the highest-end cards from AMD’s last-generation, the GTX 280 requires both a 6-pin and 8-pin connector, found on many new mid-range and higher power supplies. It’s all about stability, and a card this powerful could use as much as it can get.

As you would expect, there are two dual-link DVI ports found at the back, as well as a TV-Out. For those needing HDMI or VGA, Palit includes adapters in the box.

The last shot is to show off the SLI bridge connector, and also the unique air duct on top.

On the next page, we’ll tackle our testing methodology. If you haven’t read one of our GPU reviews before, we highly recommend you read through as we conduct testing differently than most other sites.


Testing Methodology and Test System

Regardless of the operating system or product being reviewed, there are a few conditions that are met prior to testing to assure we receive accurate, repeatable results.

Below is our testing machine, which remains untouched throughout all testing except for the graphics card. AMD didn’t coincide the HD 4000 series’ launch with a new Catalyst release, but rather released a ‘hotfix’ driver as soon as the cards began showing up in retailers. We are using that driver for all testing, but will retest when the Catalyst 8.7 releases, to see if performance at all improves.

Testing Machine

In previous GPU reviews, we’ve used Windows XP Professional due to its stability (when compared to Vista), but as Vista becomes increasingly popular and the choice for many, it makes sense for us to make the switch as well. We choose to use the 64-Bit version of the OS due to it being the logical choice for gamers who want to use more than 2GB of RAM in their machine.

Game Benchmarks

Depending on the graphic card being reviewed, we split up models into two different categories: Low-End to Mid-Range and Mid-Range to High-End. The former will see the GPUs tested using 1280×1024 and 1680×1050 resolutions, since those are the most common resolutions for gamers looking to purchase a GPU in that price-range.

For our Mid-Range to High-End category, we test GPUs at 1680×1050, 1920×1200 and also 2560×1600 to better reflect the resolutions for those looking for a solid GPU offering.

We do not use time demos in our reviews except where necessary, and in the case of our current GPU reviews, the only game to be subject to a time demo is Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. This is due to that game disallowing greater than 60FPS without the use of a time demo. But since the game is a popular choice for multiplayer gamers, it should be included in some form or another.

Manual Benchmarks

In an attempt to deliver “real-world” results, all games except the above mentioned title are played through manually, with the average FPS recorded with the help of FRAPS 2.9.4. In our personal tests, we have found that manual benchmarks are the best way to deliver accurate results, since time demos rely heavily on the CPU.

In order to deliver the best results, each title we choose is explored to find the best possible level for our benchmarking. Once a level is chosen, we play through in order to find the best route, and then in future runs, we stick to that route as close as possible. We are not robots, so we cannot make sure that each run is identical, but they will never be far off from each other. As we see in our results, scaling is good, so we are confident that our methodology is a good one.

Crysis

1680×1050
1920×1200
2560×1600



Call of Duty 4

1680×1050
1920×1200
2560×1600

Half Life 2: Episode Two

1680×1050
1920×1200
2560×1600

Call of Juarez

1680×1050
1920×1200
2560×1600



S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

1680×1050
1920×1200
2560×1600

Unreal Tournament III

1680×1050
1920×1200
2560×1600



Need for Speed: Pro Street

1680×1050
1920×1200


Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

1680×1050
1920×1200
2560×1600



Note that Need for Speed: Pro Street is not run at 2560×1600 because the game lacks the ability to run at that resolution.


Crysis

Each graph for our benchmarking results are labeled with the resolution that the game was played at, while omitting secondary settings such as Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, texture quality, et cetera. To view all specific settings that we used, please refer to our testing methodology page, where screenshots show the exact settings used.

Crysis

It’s not often that a game comes along that truly pushes our hardware to the utmost limit. Crysis is one of those few games, and that will be the case for at least the next year. Don’t believe me? Boot up your top-end machine, max out your resolution and set the graphics to “Very High”. I guarantee tears will be shed within a few seconds of loading a level.

The level we chose here is Onslaught, also known as level five. We begin out in a tunnel, but what’s important is that we are in control of a tank. What could be more fun? Our run through consists of leaving the tunnel and hitting the other side of the battlefield, killing six or seven enemy tanks along the way.

It goes without saying that any level in Crysis would make for a great benchmark, but this one in particular is gorgeous. Using the “Medium” settings, the game looks spectacular and is playable on all of our graphic cards, so we stick with it. Throughout the level, there is much foliage and trees and also large view-distances. Explosions from the tanks is also a visual treat, making this one level I don’t mind playing over and over, and over.

Settings: Due to the intensiveness of the game, no AA is used at any resolution, and the secondary settings are all left to Medium.

As with most high-end GPUs, the excelling-point is to be seen at the highest of resolutions. There are no two-ways about it… the GTX 260 or GTX 280 are not for those running low resolutions. It simply doesn’t make sense. You will indeed see increases, but it’s actually more cost-effective to simply by a 24″ monitor and pick up a ~$200 GPU.

Back to the GTX 280. At our 1920×1200 setting, rather noticeable differences were seen over the GTX, but the gap widened much further at 2560×1600. This chart proves just how beefy this game is, because even with this state-of-the-art GPU, we can still only manage 40FPS at “Medium” settings. There might be a reason for that 3-way SLI GTX 280 setup after all…


Call of Duty 4

Each graph for our benchmarking results are labeled with the resolution that the game was played at, while omitting secondary settings such as Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, texture quality, et cetera. To view all specific settings that we used, please refer to our testing methodology page, where screenshots show the exact settings used.

Call of Duty 4

While Crysis has the ability to bring any system to its knees with reasonable graphic settings, Call of Duty 4 is a title that looks great no matter what setting you choose, even if you have it running well! It’s also one of the few games on the market that will benefit from having more than one core in your machine, as well.

The level chosen here is The Bog, for the simple fact that it’s incredibly intensive on the system. Though it takes place at night, there is more gunfire, explosions and specular lighting than you can shake an assault rifle at.

Our run consists of proceeding through the level to a point where we are about to leave a building we entered a minute before, after killing off a slew of enemies. The entire run-through takes about four minutes on average.

Settings: High details are used overall throughout all tests, although 4x AA is used for our 1920×1200 setting. That AA is removed in our 2560×1600. As we can see in the graphs below, both of those settings are quite similar in performance.

Our results here pretty-well mimic what we saw on the last page, with Crysis. At our higher resolutions, the GTX 280 surpassed all others by a long-shot, including the dual-GPU HD 3870X2, AMD’s current top-end card.


Half-Life 2: Episode Two

Each graph for our benchmarking results are labeled with the resolution that the game was played at, while omitting secondary settings such as Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, texture quality, et cetera. To view all specific settings that we used, please refer to our testing methodology page, where screenshots show the exact settings used.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

If there is one game in our line-up that most everyone has played at some point, it would be Half-Life 2. The most recent release is Episode Two, a game that took far too long to see the light of day. But despite that, it proved to be worth the wait as it delivered more of what fans loved.

We are using the Silo level for our testing, which is a level most people who haven’t even played the game know about, thanks to Valves inclusion of it in their Episode Two trailers during the year before its release. During our gameplay, we shoot down a total of three Striders (their locations are identical with each run, since we are running a saved game file) and a barn is blown to smithereens.

Overall it’s a great level, but the Strider’s minions can prove a pain in the rear at times – most notably when they headbutt you. Nothing a little flying log won’t solve, however! This levels graphics consist mostly of open fields and trees, although there is a few explosions in the process as well, such as when you blow the Striders apart with the help of the Magnusson Device.

Settings: High graphic settings are used throughout all three resolutions, with 4x AA and 8xAF.

Despite the fact that HL2 is built on an older game engine, it’s been upgraded many times over to still put our new GPUs to good use. This was the first time I have ever felt the game perform absolutely smoothly at 2560×1600. Even the 70FPS of our HD 3870X2 was good, but the GTX 280 gave an even more silky-smooth experience. For whatever reason, Half-Life 2 is one game that thrives on 60FPS+, so any increases are appreciated.


Call of Juarez

Each graph for our benchmarking results are labeled with the resolution that the game was played at, while omitting secondary settings such as Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, texture quality, et cetera. To view all specific settings that we used, please refer to our testing methodology page, where screenshots show the exact settings used.

Call of Juarez

Western FPS games are not common, so when one hits, people notice. Luckily for FPS fans, Call of Juarez delivered great graphics, solid gameplay and a very high difficulty. It’s a great game to benchmark due to its ability to run in DX10 mode, under Windows Vista. This mode is far more demanding than the DX9 mode, but the results are better.

We take the role of Billy Candle in the level we chose, which is rather simple in concept. We begin out at the end of a linear path that we must follow in order to reach a ravine that we must cross.

The goal of the level is to sneak through a farm and ride off with a horse in order to make the jump, but since that process takes far too long, our run through consists of following the exact same path each time, which ends up on the opposite side of the farm near an edge with water below.

Settings: Very high graphic settings are used here, although AA is never used. The fact that the game uses DX10 is enough to drag performance down.

Like our Half-Life 2 results, the GTX 280 continued to impress with Call of Juarez. With this card, it was the first time ever (minus dual-GPU setups) that the game ran at a playable level at 2560×1600. Before, the lag was too much to be considered for actual gameplay, but the GTX 280 pretty much fixed all those problems.


S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

Each graph for our benchmarking results are labeled with the resolution that the game was played at, while omitting secondary settings such as Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, texture quality, et cetera. To view all specific settings that we used, please refer to our testing methodology page, where screenshots show the exact settings used.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

Post-apocalyptic FPS games have been done over and over, but S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl was unique in many ways. First was the fact that the story was loosely based off of a real-life tragedy, the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion, with the player starting out post-disaster working to survive in the now very brutal world.

One of the areas where the game excelled was with the depth. It was an open world with non-linear gameplay. AI was not top-rate, but reacted in a mostly realistic way, so it’s pretty much impossible to just stroll through the game and not expect to die. Coupled with the ability to keep an inventory and sell artifacts you find along your journey makes this game an immersive experience.

The level we use for our testing is a “Thumb Drive” mission that occurs earlier in the game. The premise is simple… walk into a small camp that’s being inhabited by enemy Stalkers, wipe them out and go deliver a thumb drive to a lone Stalker huddled around a campfire. The entire quest takes between four and five minutes from our starting point.

Settings: Static lighting and medium quality is used for our lowest resolution here, while 1920 and 2560 use full dynamic lighting along with high quality settings.

Similar to CoJ, STALKER is another title that is very graphic-heavy with higher settings. The GTX 280 again performed quite well here, and so far it, and the HD 3870 X2 have been the only two GPUs to handle the game reliably at that resolution with our chosen settings.


Unreal Tournament III

Each graph for our benchmarking results are labeled with the resolution that the game was played at, while omitting secondary settings such as Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, texture quality, et cetera. To view all specific settings that we used, please refer to our testing methodology page, where screenshots show the exact settings used.

Unreal Tournament III

The Unreal series has always been one that’s pushed graphics to the next level. Surprisingly, though, as the graphics improve, the game still remains playable on a reasonable machine, with good FPS. How often is that the case?

“Gateway” is our level of choice for a few different reasons. The first and most notable is the fact that it’s a great level, and chock-full of eye-candy. The entire level consists of three different areas that can be accessed through portals, or “gateways”. The area we begin out in is a snow-filled wonderland, similar to Lost Planet’s winter levels, with a futuristic city and waterfall area also being accessible.

Settings: All in-game settings are maxed out, with physics and smooth frame rate disabled.

As gorgeous as UT III is, you don’t need a massive GPU to enjoy the game at 2560×1600. Both our 9800 GTX and HD 4850 could handle the game at that resolution without a hitch. Where a card like the GTX 280 would come in handy is with serious online gamers, where lag can potentially decrease your average FPS. It would also help where there is a lot of action on the screen.


Need for Speed: Pro Street

Each graph for our benchmarking results are labeled with the resolution that the game was played at, while omitting secondary settings such as Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, texture quality, et cetera. To view all specific settings that we used, please refer to our testing methodology page, where screenshots show the exact settings used.

Need for Speed: Pro Street

Electronic Arts is one of the largest game publishers in the world, and because of that, they have plenty of fans and plenty of enemies. Even if you don’t like them, it’s hard to dispute the fact that many of their games are solid, one being anything from the Need for Speed series.

“Pro Street” received rather poor reviews upon launch, and for mostly good reason. It removes the freedom of being able to explore a city at your leisure, which to many, is a huge step backwards. But despite that fact, it’s still a great game if you enjoy the series and want an offering that’s a little more realistic than previous versions (in terms of money and damage).

Our run through consists of racing through two laps at the Chicago Airfield, something that takes about three and a half minutes to accomplish from the moment we begin recording frames. The beginning of each race shows an automated camera fly-by over the cars in the race – we begin recording our FPS as soon as this clip begins.

Settings: Our lowest resolution uses fully default settings, while the 1920 resolution ups the AA to 4x and enables Anisotropic texture filtering.

Compared to both the 9800 GTX and HD 4850, the GTX 280 races home. Bad pun, I apologize. It’s just too bad this game doesn’t support 2560×1600, because something tells me that the GTX 280 would show even better real-world gameplay benefits there. In this particular title, anything from the HD 4850 and 9800 GTX upward will handle the game with ideal performance at our chosen settings.


Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Each graph for our benchmarking results are labeled with the resolution that the game was played at, while omitting secondary settings such as Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, texture quality, et cetera. To view all specific settings that we used, please refer to our testing methodology page, where screenshots show the exact settings used.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

The last game we will be using in our benchmarks is ET: Quake Wars. This is also the only game in our testing that’s executed as a time demo, as opposed to the manual play through like the rest of our games. The reason for this is twofold.

The first reason is that we like to include at least one time demo, despite its CPU-boundedness, in order to see how our cards scale when run in such a situation. The second is the fact that this game caps its FPS at 60, except during time demos.

Our time demo takes place in the Area 22 level, with the main goal to destroy the jamming generator. The actual play through took around five minutes, but the time demo goes far quicker, as is the case with most time demos.

Settings: Maxed settings are used here for the most part. Our 1680 resolution uses 2x AA while 1920 and 2560 use 4x.

Though I personally dislike timedemos, results like these show us a clear-cut view of the potential performance gains from the GTX 280. That card becomes the first to break the 100FPS barrier at our 2560×1600, much less come close.


Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

3DMark doesn’t need to be explained to most anyone, because if you’ve been benchmarking or PC gaming for a while, you have no doubt heard of Futuremark and their tools. Vantage is the newest of the bunch, and its tests are as hardcore as they come. The benchmark properly stresses a GPU, and spits out an overall score for you to munch on.

The overall use of these scores is constantly debated, because real gameplay matters far more than canned benchmarks. However, they are still fun to use for the sake of competition. In no way should they be the sole factor of your GPU purchasing decision, however.

NVIDIA was out to set records with the GTX 280, and they’ve no doubt accomplished their goal. It’s become the first GPU to break the 10,000 mark in the Performance setting, with our runner-up sitting at just over 7,000. Bear in mind that no dual-GPU results are here, else we’d see a bit more competition from an FPS/$ standpoint.

As I mentioned earlier, bigger GPUs thrive on higher resolutions, and that’s well-evidenced in our Extreme test. It nearly doubled the 3DMark score of the HD 4850!


Overclocking, Pushing our Games to the Limit

Defining a “Stable Overclock”

If you’ve read any of my processor reviews, you are probably aware that I don’t much care for an unstable overclock. As far as I am concerned, a high overclock is only good if it’s stable, because realistically, no one purchases a new GPU for the sake of only finding the maximum overclock. That is why I focus on finding the max stable overclock, rather than an overclock that can barely pass a benchmark run.

To find a max stable overclock, I first find an overclock that I believe could be stable. Once I do that, I’ll run a single loop of 3DMark 2006 to test for stability and to look for artifacts. If that run passes successfully, I’ll jump into a game quickly to see if the same results are exhibited in real-world gameplay. If that proves successful, I then run a loop of 3DMark 2006 for 4 – 8 hours at 2560×1600 2xAA to stress the card to its limit.

If after that point, the card is deemed stable (as in, no crashes occurred and there are still no artifacts), then I will proceed with benchmarking four select titles again: Call of Duty 4, Crysis, Half-Life 2: Episode Two and also Unreal Tournament III.

All overclocked testing occurs at 2560×1600 for the simple fact that it’s such a strenuous resolution. For comparisons sake, I also include results from a card that’s a step up from our overclocked model.

Palit GTX 280 1GB

Does it even make sense to overclock such a massive GPU? Of course it does, are you nuts? With the performance so high to begin with, I was unsure how much further it could be pushed, but I was left impressed. While stock speeds are 602MHz Core, 1,296MHz Shader and 1,107MHz Memory, our stable maximum overclock was 700MHz Core, 1400MHz Shader and 1,275MHz Memory.

It might seem a bit odd that our max overclocks were such even numbers, but I found it to be the case. Even at 710MHz, instabilities arose, and so I consider 700MHz to be a safe bet. Likewise for the Shader clocks. Overall though, impressive boosts to the clocks all-around. But what real-world boost can be seen?

Compared to the 9800 GTX, there’s no comparison. That in a way is upsetting, because just two months ago, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance from it. Tis how technology goes, though. Overall, the increases seen are negligible considering how fast the card is to begin with, but any boost is nice. Might as well push the PC to the limit, right?

Pushing Our Games to the Limit

Some of our tests don’t do the GTX 280 justice, because we share the same settings between all of the mid-range to high-end cards we test. After the basic testing was completed, I revisited all eight of our games to see just how much further the in-game settings could be pushed before the card could no longer handle them. All testing was done at 2560×1600, which is currently the highest consumer resolution on the market, weighing in at 4.1 megapixels. By comparison, 1920×1200 is 2.3 megapixels. So it goes without saying, if you are running any resolution lower than 2560×1600, you will be laughing.

In the end, almost every-single game in our roundup could be maxed out and still run at an extremely playable FPS. Half-Life 2 was one example. With everything maxed, including 16xAA and 16xAF, the game ran like a freakin’ dream. It ran amazingly, and in all seriousness, there’s no way I could believe it could run any better, at least at a noticeable real-world level. Call of Duty 4 was another example. Even totally maxed out, it ran swimmingly.

With Crysis, the game played well with everything maxed, however I did decrease Texture and Object Quality to Medium, as it did become too much for the GPU after a while. This is one of the few games where a second GTX 280 would actually come in handy. For those who want the absolute most from this game, there is really only one option.

In the end, the only other game to not run perfectly maxed out was Call of Juarez. The furthest it could be pushed was 4xAA, along with our chosen options as seen on the methodology page. Anything higher for Anti-Aliasing and the game begins to slow down fast. Again, this might be another example where a second GPU would do well, but I’m doubting many people like this game that much.


Power Consumption, Final Thoughts

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.

Final Thoughts

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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