|ZOTAC GeForce GTX 280 AMP! Edition Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Tuesday, 01 July 2008|
Page 19 of 19
ZOTAC GTX 280 Conclusion
When Benchmark Reviews tested the GeForce 9800 GX2, the box-like NVIDIA reference design was not incredibly appealing to me. Apparently I just needed to wait for the 9800 GTX design before I would see curves influence an NVIDIA product appearance. When we launched NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 280 last week, a new king greeted the public wearing clothes but they aren't exactly new. While I never really considered the entire pre-G92 GeForce 8800 series to be very attractive as a whole, primarily because of the awkward half-covered products, the GTX 280 has finished what was started. One particular favorite of mine is the tilted blower fan, which corrects the functional flaws of the parallel blower fan found in the 9800 series. Unlike the past generation of products, this GeForce video card does not offer LED lights for cosmetic accents because they are now utilized for functional indication of hardware status.
In the not so distant past I have had to replace my GeForce 8800 GTX because of an errant SATA cable swiped off one of the capacitors. At that moment, I felt that NVIDIA definitely should have done something more to protect the electronics on their product. Unlike the higher-end 8800 series GeForce products, the GTX 280 leave nothing exposed to potential damage to sensitive electronic components. NVIDIA has engineered the GeForce GTX 280 to sustain above-average abuse, which also means you'll have very little change of having to RMA this product because it falls apart on you. The plastic shell covering the GTX 280 will work very well in cramped environments where the video card will be in contact with cables and components, just so long as it can fit.
In regards to performance and functionality, NVIDIA has redefined the graphics card space. Beginning with 240 processor cores, the GeForce GTX 280 is everything that previous products has not been: parallel-computing ready. Without question, the GeForce GTX 280 has earned the top position for NVIDIA's video card product lineup. The core, shader, and memory clocks are at the launch-date reference level, so it might be a short while before drivers are stable enough to gain stable overclocks. Optimized post process compression combined with a future-proof 1024 MB of video frame buffer will make this the must-have card for extreme gamers for the foreseeable future (*see intro). A long-overdue 512-bit memory bus calls upon the PCI-E 2.0 bandwidth opportunities, and opens the design to GDDR4 components as the product line matures. Additionally, full HDMI audio and video output is available for HTPC builds and viewing high definition copyright protected material. Unfortunately though, there is no DisplayPort functionality in the new GTX 280.
At the time of this writing ZOTAC's ZT-X28E3LA-FCP GeForce GTX 280 AMP! Edition video card has just been sent out to distributors, so you can expect to see them available at retail locations very soon. I expect NewEgg to keep in-line with prices for other GTX 280 products around the $629 price point. Some enthusiasts have started to complain that these products have become too expensive, but I am reminded that the GeForce 8800 GTX and GTS launched with nearly identical price tags almost two years ago. So let's see, count for inflation and a US dollar in decline, then add in 100% graphics performance improvement, 240 compute-ready cores, and a very power efficient architecture, and you might begin to see the value a little more clearly. Helping to blur the line of value is GeForce 9800 GX2, which might not offer the same level of compute power but can play video games at nearly the same level of performance. As of December 2008, the Zotac GTX 280 AMP! Edition was found on NewEgg for $399.99 with a $40 rebate for a limited time.
In summary, the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 280 AMP! Edition compute-ready GT200 video card has proved itself to be the long-overdue solution to intensive graphics applications for far too long. To describe performance, you have to think of more than just video game frame rates, because now transcoding, rasterization, and graphics ripping will occur in thin percentiles of the time it previously took. With the power of CUDA technology and the new CUDA runtime for Windows Vista, intensive computational tasks can be offloaded from the CPU to the GPU making this the first GeForce product worthy of Enterprise computing environments.
The GT200 processor is a remarkable achievement that NVIDIA should be proud of, and for once I find myself giving an expensive premium product my highest recommendation; but it's not without some reservations. It's nice that the GTX 200-series offers HDMI video output (via adapter) along with digital audio output through the attached S/PDIF audio cable, but I think that a product of this level should also be looking at native DisplayPort connectivity to fully secure the idea of future-proof hardware. If multimedia transcoding is a selling point, than connecting to the equipment that cutting-edge professionals will be using should be just as important.
ZOTAC includes the CodeMasters PC video game RaceDriver GRID with the GTX 280 AMP! Edition, and I have to personally confide with all of you that this became a secret obsession of mine for at least a week straight. With games like Crysis and World in Conflict being replaced later this year, the newest titles are beginning to revolve around features like PhysX and higher post-processing effects. Expect the GTX 280 to shine in upcoming titles like FarCry 2 which uses the Dunia game engine and will place real demand on the 1 GB video frame buffer; even Shadow Harvest and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky should make this product worth while. The future of gaming might let you play the game with an older graphics solution, but it doesn't make any promises on enjoyment. So if you're a competitive hardcore gamer on with an appetite (and disposable income) for the absolute best, ZOTAC's GTX 280 AMP! Edition in the undisputed champion of graphic cards. If you're not so extreme, than the ZOTAC GeForce 9800 GX2 still performs just as well.
+ Outstanding AA/AF performance from demanding games
- Cooling improvements would be desirable
- Large footprint full ATX form factor VGA space
- Expensive enthusiast product
- Lacks DisplayPort interface
Final Score: 9.25 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.
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