EVGA GeForce GTX 275 Review

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  • Pros

    Pros

    • Good fan choice means that it runs quiet (for a video card)
    • Solid performance
    • Low idle power draws
  • Cons

    Cons

    • Physically large; users without a full tower case may have issues
    • Superclocked variant provides questionable value for the cost

It seems like the graphics card war heated up just a couple of years ago with the introduction of NVIDIA’s GeForce 8800 and ATI’s eventual reply.  Since then there’s been a constant level of tension between the two discrete graphics card giants as new cards are released and new market segments are stratified.  It’s the latter that has led to the introduction of the GeForce GTX 275; like its model number implies, it sets between the updated GTX 260 Core 216 and the GTX 285.  With the price all but matching the model number, is this a good choice for your system?  Read on for our full review.  

Specifications

  • GPU: 55nm GT200
  • Core clock: 648MHz (633MHz standard)
  • Processing cores: 240
  • Memory: 896MB GDDR3 @ 1188MHz (1134MHz standard)
  • Digital output: 2 x DVI-I
  • Analog output: 1 x S-video
  • Power: 2 x 6-pin PCI Express
  • Interface: PCI Express 2.0 x16
  • Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty

The EVGA 896-P3-1171-AR Superclocked GTX 275 carries a suggested retail price of $269.99.  The standard EVGA GTX 275 goes for $249.99, while the 1792MB version is being sold for $299.99.

Build and Design
EVGA has become a darling of the graphics card world in recent years.  Due in no small part to their step-up policy, which allows a certain amount of leniency to users who buy a new video card only to cry as a new model comes out, they’ve also become known for class-leading lifetime warranties on certain products.  Their version of the GTX 275 comes solidly built, though it weighs less than it looks.  The EVGA circuit board is black, with a large black fan assembly and heatsink cover sitting on top.  The cylindrical multi-blade fan on the right works admirably to keep the card cool without being too loud.

The GTX 275 is something of an odd duck, warring for consumer attention with NVIDIA’s two other high-end cards, the GTX 285 (with the 280 being set EOL) and the GTX 295, their dual-GPU solution.  That means that the GTX 275 is now the second highest single GPU solution that NVIDIA offers.  As such, it’s worth briefly comparing the three cards, especially given that they share such similar architectures, GPU, etc. 


NVIDIA uses the GT200 GPU in all three of its high-end cards; while the 295 is clocked slightly lower (most likely due to the cooling requirements two high-powered GPUs command) the second GPU more than makes up for it.  In fact, given the shared attributes, it might be said that the GTX 295 is similar to two GTX 275s in much the same way that the Radeon 4870X2 is similar to HD4870s. 

One thing to be cautious about is the sheer size of the card.  While it’s obviously a dual-slot solution like most other high-end video cards, it’s also pretty long, coming in at almost eleven inches.  While most full tower cases won’t have any problem making room, anything smaller might not be able to fit it in without at least rearranging hard drives or cables.

Performance
The model name of the GTX 275 suggests that it falls between the GTX 260 and the GTX 285 in terms power and performance, and that’s largely what results.  It’s interesting to note that NVIDIA has been able to compete effectively against ATI’s higher end offerings even though they use the cheaper GDDR3 memory as opposed to the GDDR5 on some of big red’s Radeon cards. Where ATI uses the faster memory to achieve the bandwidth they need, NVIDIA chooses to use a wider memory bus; the GTX 275 in this review possesses a 448-bit bus.  The recently released ATI 4890 uses a 256-bit bus. 

Our test system for this review uses a Phenom II X4 955 CPU clocked at 3.7GHz, 4GB of DDR3 Corsair XMS3 memory, an ASUS M4A79-T Deluxe motherboard and an OCZ Vertex solid state disk in addition to the EVGA GTX 275 graphics card.  The standard or reference version of this card’s GPU is clocked at 633MHz, with a shader clock of 1404MHz and memory tuned to 1134MHz (effectively 2268, thanks to the DDR).  The Superclocked GTX 275 variant being looked at in this review is only slightly overclocked to 648MHz, with a shader clcok of 1458MHz and memory running at 1188MHz.  The truly overclocked FTW card is available for an extra thirty dollars and offers a GPU running at 713MHz, shaders working at 1512MHz and memory clocked to 1260MHz.  There’s also a fourth variant which runs at reference clock speeds but includes twice the memory for a total of 1792MB of GDDR3 RAM.

3DMark Vantage results:

Category 3DMark Vantage score 3DMark06 score
Overall score P11705 15226 3DMarks
GPU subscore 11496
CPU subscore 12381

Here, let’s take a look at how the EVGA GTX 275 compares with what is essentially a rebadged performance champ of the last generation.  The difference between these two cards is what a user with an older card might expect to achieve with an upgrade.

Bioshock results:

Settings

Minimum framerate Maximum framerate Average framerate
GTS 250 GTX 275 GTS 250 GTX 275 GTS 250 GTX 275
1680×1050, settings maxed 66 fps 82 fps 192 fps 265 fps 103.8 fps 146.5 fps
1920×1200, settings maxed 61 fps 73 fps 145 fps 188 fps 84.9 fps 123.9 fps

Bioshock is getting on in years, but it still manages to scale well.  The GTX 275 pulls in around 150% of the performance of the GTS 250, which is how it should perform.  If nothing else, it shows that if the GTX 275 is going to be used to play slightly older games, detail and resolution would be no problem whatsoever.  Go ahead, max everything out, crank up the resolution and it’ll be smooth as silk.

Call of Duty: World at War results (4x AA/AF):

Settings Minimum framerate Maximum framerate Average framerate
GTS 250 GTX 275 GTS 250 GTX 275 GTS 250 GTX 275
1680×1050, settings on auto 40 fps 64 fps 82 fps 94 fps 62.6 fps 83.7 fps
1920×1200, settings on auto 38 fps 45 fps 68 fps 93 fps 53.6 fps 79.4 fps

The fifth Call of Duty game also poses no problem for the GTX 275.  What’s nice here is that even at higher resolutions, the minimum framerate always stays above forty frames per seconds, meaning that gamers won’t see slowdowns in the game, even during scenes where soldiers and grenades are blowing up left and right.

Left 4 Dead results (8xAA/no AF):

Settings Minimum framerate Maximum framerate Average framerate
GTS 250 GTX 275 GTS 250 GTX 275 GTS 250 GTX 275
1680×1050, settings maxed 48 fps 62 fps 135 fps 215 fps 87.1 fps 138.4 fps
1920×1200, settings maxed 34 fps 69 fps 103 fps 165 fps 68.7 fps 122.2 fps

Left4Dead isn’t exactly graphically intensive, but that doesn’t stop it from being an incredibly popular game; everyone knows how carthartic killing zombies can be.  With an average of over 100 frames per second, gamers can twitch and take out hunters without worrying about the game not performing as fast as they need.

Crysis v1.2 results (no AA/AF):

Settings Minimum framerate Maximum framerate Average framerate
GTS 250 GTX 275 GTS 250 GTX 275 GTS 250 GTX 275
1920×1200, all settings medium 18 fps 23 fps 60 fps 82 fps 39.5 fps 46.9 fps
1680×1050, all settings high 17 fps 23 fps 46 fps 54 fps 29.1 fps 38.4 fps
1920×1200, all settings high 14 fps 22 fps 39 fps 64 fps 26.4 fps 36.6 fps

Crysis has been a defining benchmark for video cards for months and months now, due in no small part to how much power it requires.  Whether it’s because of the game’s fantastic detail or Crytek’s inefficient development doesn’t really matter, as it doesn’t change the fact that a really robust graphics card is needed to drive this game at anything but the loweast settings.  In this case, we ran the game with no anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering, at both high and medium settings (three and two out of four possible detail levels).  At high, even the GTX 275 struggles a little bit, with framerates dropping as low as 22 frames per second during really active scenes.  Thirty frames per second is really the minimum before it becomes too noticeable. 

Fortunately, the average is well above that minimum level at 37 fps, and that’s with a pretty high level of detail in the game.  There isn’t a huge difference between the slight downgrade in resolutions; the real change comes with changing the settings down to medium.  It must be said that even at medium settings with AA and AF turned down, the game still looks great.

Crysis Warhead results (no AA/AF):

Settings Minimum framerate Maximum framerate Average framerate
GTS 250 GTX 275 GTS 250 GTX 275 GTS 250 GTX 275
1920×1200, all settings mainstream 20 fps 27 fps 55 fps 83 fps 40.7 fps 54.6 fps
1680×1050, all settings gamer 14 fps 21 fps 44 fps 54 fps 29.8 fps 37.3 fps
1920×1200, all settings gamer 12 fps 18 fps 35 fps 50 fps 24.8 fps 33.2 fps

When Crysis Warhead originally came out, it was said that it would perform better than its predecessor on the same graphics hardware, though we haven’t really found that to be the case.  While some tests have it doing better and some worse, in the end it’s essentially a wash.  At a guess, the gamer (equivalent to Crysis’s high) settings show the same or slightly more detail than Crysis, while the mainstream (medium) settings show slightly less.

Power, Heat and Noise
Modern graphics cards require a fair amount of power, and thus a relatively hefty power supply.  The EVGA Superclocked GTX 275 is no different in this regard, with our test bed idling at 145 watts.  Maxing out the GPU with applications such as the OpenGL FurMark benchmark ramped the power draw all the way up to 399 watts at full load.  It’s good to know that while the GTX 275 is a powerful card, it’s pretty easy on the electricity bill when users aren’t pushing it to its limits.

One of the really great things about this card is how quiet it is.  At idle, the card rests at around 48 degrees Celsius, which is a little warm, but equivalent to many other cards today. Fortunately, the fan that EVGA uses in the GTX 275 glides through the air without too much fuss, and as the GPU temperature ramps up, so does the fan: gently, not in loud, staccato bursts.  Pushed to its limits for 20 minutes or so, the card got all the way up to 92 degrees Celsius, so it’s important to have good airflow in a case before this card is installed.  At that high temperature the fan is definitely noticeable but it’s still not loud, and manages to be quieter than most of the high-end video cards we see push through here.

Conclusion
The EVGA GTX 275 is an excellent card and manages to push through modern games at high resolutions while delivering some promising results.  The only hard decision potential buyers must make is whether to get the stock, Superclocked, FTW or double memory card variants.  The latter two cards are the same price at $300 and the extra memory will likely only deliver at really high resolutions.  The Superclocked version comes in at $280, a $30 premium over the base model, but I can’t help but wonder at the utility of it.  The clocks are just barely higher than the stock card: yes, there will be performance gains, but it’s probably nothing users couldn’t do on their own, if they felt like taking the plunge. For those who don’t like the idea of messing with something as expensive as a video card and just want to play games, however, the overclocked cards are certainly an option.

For a while, it seemed like NVIDIA was struggling to remain as competitive as ATI’s recent offerings, doing so only by introducing massive price cuts on some of their product lines.  They’re really back in the game, so to speak, with solid cards at several different price points, and great value adds like the recent GPU accelerated CUDA software, some of which our sites have looked at in the past.  ATI really needs to increase their presence in the GPGPU arena with their Stream initiative, and soon.

In short, the GTX 275 is a good card if you’re willing to pay the price, and will power through most games at most resolutions without a problem.  Combined with a lifetime warranty and EVGA’s limited-time Step-Up programs, it’s hard to go wrong.

Pros

  • Good fan choice means that it runs quiet (for a video card)
  • Solid performance
  • Low idle power draws

Cons

  • Physically large; users without a full tower case may have issues
  • Superclocked variant provides questionable value for the cost


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