|ZOTAC GeForce GTX 280 AMP! Edition Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Tuesday, 01 July 2008|
Page 8 of 19
ZOTAC GTX 280 Closer Look
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280 comes in one color: black. All GTX 280 and GTX 260 products are currently identical to NVIDIA reference versions, with manufacturers simply branding their allotment of video cards with a decal. Although it is uncertain, NVIDIA may eventually offer their add-in card partners (AIC's) the engineering information necessary to create working modifications so that unique varieties of the GT200-based graphics card can be independently designed.
Utilizing a glossy piano-black shell to encase the GT200 GPU, the delicate electronics inside are kept safe from accidental impact damage. I still feel the sting of a past incident where an accidental snag loosened a critical electronic component from the PCB of our older GeForce 8800 GTX in-between benchmark tests, which resulted in flawed results and some nasty fan mail. Thanks to the new well-conceived design those worries are all behind us now. The blower fan is angled so that the line of airflow will draft directly against the graphics processor.
The NVIDIA GTX 280 graphics card is a performance optimized high-end graphics card on each and every level. Power is taken from the PCI Express host bus as well as from one 8-pin and another 6-pin PCI Express power connector. Without any auxiliary power provided to the GeForce GTX 280 graphics card, an LED on the header bracket will shine red and the graphics card will not boot. In addition, the connector that is not adequately powered will turn red. Together this new functionality offers immediate feedback for enthusiasts concerned about providing adequate power to the GPU. In the past, low/no auxiliary power situations sounded a piezo buzzer which was so loud you could often mis-located the origin of the alarm.
The underside (top actually, once installed) of the new GTX 280 shown above is made from metal, and acts as a heat-dissipating device similar to a heatsink with a few vents allowing for a small amount of air circulation. The entire row of ventilation slots is 1.75" wide by 8.25" long, however only about 3.25" of that length is actually an open vented slot. This metal piece gets very saturated with residual heat, so perhaps all of the vents seen in the image below will be opened up for better cooling performance in future retail models.
At the upper-right corner of the GeForce GTX 280 shown above you would be keen to notice the rubber cover that is hiding two SLI connections. NVIDIA has designed the GeForce GTX 280 to operate in a 3-way SLI configuration. For many of the extremely demanding applications and video games, a GeForce GTX 280 placed into a 3-way SLI set will be much faster than a set of Quad SLI GeForce 9800 GX2's. The big question gamers and hardware enthusiasts will need answer for themselves is if their configuration is will support this functionality in terms of power supply, case, and cooling.
While the angled blower fan is going to help do a better job of cooling the GT200 GPU, and the contoured design will assist in bringing an unrestricted supply of fresh air, but the ventilation is not exclusively exhausted outside of the case. In my testing, I found that a tremendous amount of heat radiated from the video card itself, making it very hot to the touch, and that an additional fan needed to be added inside the case to cope with the added exhaust air.
This concludes our skin-deep look at the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 280 AMP! Edition video card, which has revealed several interesting discoveries about the hardware design and the cooling process. In our next section, Benchmark Reviews gives a detailed look at the factory-overclocked ZOTAC ZT-X28E3LA-FCP product.