Asus ENGTX275 Review

Author: Kevin Spiess
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, July 2nd, 2009
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/asusengtx275review/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

For some people, the GTX 275 might be like the stolen porridge in that fairy story about the three bears. The GTX 260 too slow? The GTX 285 too fast? Perhaps you looking for something in between. Something just right. For you.

Today we will be looking at a GTX 275 from Asus. As per Asus's standard operating procedure, they have added a suffix, and named this card the Asus ENGTX 275. As always, we'll be putting it up against its primary competition these days -- the HD 4870, HD 4890, and the GTX 260 and GTX 285 -- and seeing if the bang is good for the buck.

According to recent rumours, we are still a good amount of time away from the next generation of GPUs. The GTX 275, including today's Asus ENGTX 275, promises optimum gaming performance for some time to come -- even after this next new batch of video cards arrives.

When the GTX 275 was first introduced, it garnered some very positive reviews. How does it hold up now, a few months after release, now that the dust has settled?

General observations on the GTX 275

The GTX 275 was introduced to stop a growing ATI threat: cheap HD 4870's, and the new (at the time) HD 4890. But even with ATI cards out of the picture, NVIDIA did have a bit of a gap between their GTX 260 and GTX 285 video cards in their product line-up. So, they came up with the in-between step of the GTX 275.

Just as the HD 4890 is a HD 4870 with a few tweaks and a RV770 with high clock speeds, the GTX 275 doesn't bring any fundamental design changes to the GPU. The GT200b GPU powering the GTX 275 is pretty much the same as the GPU heart found in the GTX 295, but just set to run at higher clock speeds. And of course, the GTX 295 features two of these GT200b GPUs, whereas the GTX 275 speeds along fine with just one.

This video card sells for about $250 USD -- now a days, the HD 4890 price has fallen beneath the GTX 275, on average, but we'll wait until the benchmarks to say how they stack up against one another.

Impressions of the Asus ENGTX275

The ENGTX275 is a fairly standard GTX 275 -- but not completely so.

Generally Asus saves the custom coolers for the overclocked models (such as this nice ENGTX 260 Matrix we reviewed a few weeks ago), and this time around, it is no exception to find a reference design cooler on the ENGTX275.

You are probably familiar with this cooler by now -- we here at Neoseeker certainly are! It has been the same cooler that has been on the majority of NVIDIA's gaming video cards this generation, including the GTX 260 (version 1 and version 2), the GTX 280, and the GTX 285. The design can be traced back to the 512MB version of the 8800 GTS.

But NVIDIA hasn't changed the cooler design yet, because there hasn't been much need to. All the PCB's of their gaming cards are the same length, feature the same dimensions of GPU, and besides all this, the cooler keeps things sufficiently cool, and is not that noisy, which are the two fundamental things a cooler should do.

However, even with the standard cooler,  what does differentiate the Asus rendition of the ENGTX275 from other reference board designs is the quality of components used on the board. AsusTek advertises "Ultimate Armanments" for the ENGTX 275, which include superior solid capacitors, low RDS(on) MOSFET, and better chokes for improved power stability. 

Specifications of the Asus ENGTX275

The GTX 275 has impressive specs that should put it within arm's reach of the top of the benchmarking charts.

Compared to the GTX 260 (216 core version), the GTX 275 has higher core clock, shader clock, and memory clock speeds. In comparison with the GTX 285, the GTX 275 has slightly less memory, with 896 MB's, instead of 1GB. (But this small amount of memory should not make much of a difference at all.) Versions of the GTX 275 with 1792 MB of memory are available, but as our testing in the past has shown, the extra memory makes less a difference than you might guess.

The GTX 275 also trails slightly behind the GTX 285 with 28 ROPS, (the GTX 285 has 32), and a 448-bit memory interface (the GTX 275 uses a 512-bit memory interface). 

As with other members of the current generation of NVIDIA gaming video cards, the Asus ENGTX275 has HybridPower technology support for power savings (with motherboards that support this feature), support for OpenGL 2.1 and DirectX 10.0, PureVideo technology (which improves and performs HD video playback), PhysX support, and NVIDIA's CUDA technology.

 

 

GTX 280

GTX 260

GTX 285

 GTX 295

HD 4850

HD 4870
 HD 4890 HD 4870 X2 GTX 275

Processing Cores

240

192

240

480*

800

800 800 1600* 240

Core Clock

602

576

648

576

625

750 850 750 633

Shader Clock

1296

1240

1476

1242

625

750 850 750 1404

Memory Clock (effective) 

2214

1998 2484

1998

1986

3600 3900 3600 2268

Memory Interface

512 bit

448 bit

512 bit

896 bit*

256 bit

256 BIT 256 bit 512 bit*  448 bit

Memory Type

1024MB GDDR3

896MB GDDR3

1024MB GDDR3

1792MB GDDR3*

512MB GDDR3

512MB
GDDR5
512MB GDDR5 2048MB GDDR5* 896MB GDDR3

Fabrication Process

65nm

65nm

55nm 55nm

55nm

55nm 55nm 55nm 55nm

* denotes cumulative effective efforts coming from 2 GPU's (i.e GTX 295: two GPUs with 240 cores equal 480) 

Let's overclock this beast next.

Box and bundle

 

The Asus ENGTX 275 shares the same art on the card as it does on the box: a big, well-armored scary death-knight dude riding a horse with horns. Pretty cool!

The bundle includes the following: a driver CD, a multi-language quick start color illustrated guide manual, a CD with the full manual written in 24 different languages, a S/PDIF cable and DVI-to-HDMI adapter, a molex-to-PCIE power adapter, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, a 10% off coupon for games through NVIDIA's nzone.com, an ad pamphlet for Xonar audio cards, and a composite video cable.

If I could only choose one word to describe this bundle, it would be 'complete.' It certainly has everything you need to jump right in to high-end gaming performance.

Overclocking

 

This ENGTX275 isn't Asus T.O.P edition or anything -- it is set to the default clocks. Judging from other GTX 275's that have been released, it is certainly clear that the GTX 275 can raise above it's already great standard performance to some nice new levels with a bit of the ole overclocking.

We used RivaTuner for our adventures, but the bundle-included Asus SmartDoctor would work out just as well.

To test the limits of the GPU we set the fan to run at 100% power, to keep things cool. Keep in mind at this level, the fan goes from not that noticeable, to pretty noisy.

After a long stretch of clock-raising, we had some terrific results with this card. The default clock speeds are 633 / 1404 / 1134 (core / shader / memory, in MHz). We were quite happy to settle on an overclock of 734 / 1628 / 1282. This is an overclock of about 15% for the core, 15% for the shader clock, and 12% for the memory. We felt we could have gone even a little further with a bit more tweaking.

While we don't recommend running it near your maximum overclock, you should be fairly safe running this card with a 10% overclock, while leaving your fan in auto-mode. Good stuff!

Hardware

Video cards used in the benchmarks include, from roughly most powerful and expensive to less powerful and less expensive: the BFG GTX 285, the Asus ENGTX 275, a NVIDIA GTX 280, Leadtek GTX 260 Extreme+, PowerColor Plus HD 4890, VisionTek HD 4870, ATI HD 4830.

 

Software

For the drivers, all the ATI cards used the Catalyst 9.6 drivers, and all the Nvidia cards used Forceware 186.18 drivers.

Here is our current line-up of benchmarking programs:

3DMark06 and 3DMark Vantage: These popular synthetic benchmarking programs were used at a resolution of 1280x1024. Vantage was run in 'Performance' mode, and only the two GPU tests were used.

Bioshock: For this benchmark, all of the Detail settings were set to 'High'. All of the graphic option switches were set to 'On', with the exception of the following three settings: Vsync, Windowed mode, and Force Global Lighting. We used FRAPS to measure frame rate performance. The FRAPS run was 138 seconds, triggered from pulling the switch in the sub at game's beginning. The sub's dive involves many big models moving around, which should strain the GPUs and be a good measure of the game's engine.

Crysis: Warhead: Games don't get much more demanding than Crysis. We used the 'Gamer' pre-set level of details, which is the middle level setting out of 5 options. We ran the benchmark on the 'avalanche' map, using the FrameBuffer Crysis benchmarking tool, version 0.29, in DX10 mode.

Devil May Cry 4: This Capcom action game runs well on most systems; but at 'Super High' detail settings, even the fastest systems get taxed. This is built-in benchmark.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars: We use this id FPS benchmark to test out higher resolutions. We used the highest possible detail settings. We tested the resolutions at 4x AA as well as at 8x AA. 16x AF was also used.  

Far Cry 2: This open-world FPS is great looking game that really puts the strain on a gaming rig. We used the built-in benchmarking tool, and the overall 'Very High' quality setting was used.

Furmark: This intensive, synthetic benchmark models a ring of fur. We benched at 1680x1050.

Street Fighter IV: You have probably heard of this famous fighting game. It has 3D graphics, but generally does not require much GPU horsepower to run well. We used Capcom's stand-alone PC benchmarking tool for our tests, and ran everything at its highest possible settings, using 4xAA, and the 'Watercolor' setting.

Unreal Tournament 3: We tested the game using a fly-through of the vehicle capture-the-flag map 'Suspense.'ShangriLa (map) running for 90 seconds. Details were set to 'High', and a AF setting of 16x was used.

World In Conflict: We used the built-in benchmark of the demo version of this game. We ran the benchmark in DX9 rendering mode, with a 'High' level of quality. For the AA testing, we used a setting of 4x, and a setting of 16x for AF.

If you would like any further information about our benchmark settings, feel free to ask us in the forums.

According to Vantage, the ENGTX275 has some real horsepower and certainly play with the big boys.

While perhaps faltering a bit on the Vertex feature test, on the rest of the 3DMark06 tests, the ENGTX275 scores well.

Anti-aliasing and Furmark don't mix very well, in the GPUs of NVIDIA cards. Without AA engaged though, the ENGTX275 falls almost precisely right between the GTX285 and GTX260 levels of performance, with the HD 4890 handling the test the best, overall.

If you were playing Unreal Tournament 3 on a massive 30" inch LCD screen like us lucky folk here at Neoseeker, then might be able to spot a performance difference between the HD 4890 and the GTX 275. However with much more common, lower resolutions, the two video cards put in a strikingly similar performance. 

Interesting!

Here in World In Conflict, the ENGTX275 scores a very solid victory over the PowerColer Plus HD 4890 -- a card that is even slightly overclocked.

You know you are working with some fast video cards when even the HD 4870 looks a touch slow in comparison to the rest of the bunch.

Bioshock generally runs smoother on NVIDIA cards as it does ATI cards, but even still, the ENGTX275 zips by the HD 4890 by a large margin, again offering a logical point of performance between the GTX 260 and GTX 285.

The PowerColor HD 4890 claws a victory back here -- but just by a few rendered eyelashes worth of performance.

The ENGTX275 continues to look good against the backdrop of the HD 4890, and HD 4870, almost touching the 100 frames-per-second mark in Devil May Cry 4.

The race is quite close here, amongst all the contenders: the ENGTX275 and HD 4890 put in a virtually identical performance, and the GTX 260 keeps up the pace. The HD 4870 however, falls a notch behind the rest.

Our new Street Fighter IV benchmark shows that NVIDIA cards tend to pick up more frames in the game's smooth running, well-optimized engine.

You can consider the battle between the HD 4890 and ENGTX275 settled -- for this round at least -- with the GTX 275 again getting the jump on the HD 4890.

Temperature

To measure core GPU temperature, we used the hardware monitoring program in RivaTuner 2.24. The idle temperature was taken after leaving nothing running, on Vista's desktop, for a minute. The load temperature was taken after a 100,000ms run of Furmark at 1680x1050 with no AA.

With the lowest idling temperature we recorded in this benchmark, and an average (but reasonable) load temperature, Asus shows quality workmanship with the ENGTX275 -- while NVIDIA shows it has no reason to change up the design of the reliable cooler they have been using this generation. 

Power Usage

To measure power usage, we used a Kill A Watt P4400 power meter. Note that the above numbers represent the power drain for the entire benchmarking system, not just the video cards themselves. For the 'idle' readings we measured the power drain from the desktop, with no applications running; for the 'load' situation, we took the sustained peak power drain readings at the end of 200,000ms run of Furmark at the maximum resolution.

Not only did the ENGTX275 out-perform the Powercolor Plus HD 4890 in the majority of our benchmarks, it also requires less power to keep the frames moving. We are starting to really like this video card! 

Of course, this isn't exactly green gaming, but for the performance it offers, the ENGTX275 compares well to the competition -- both NVIDIA and ATI cards.

Asus recommends a 550W or greater PSU for the ENGTX275, and it also requires two 6-pin PCIE power connectors.

Conclusion

This was our first GTX 275 we have reviewed here at Neoseeker, and we were quite impressed with it. The video card handled itself like a pro, pulling ahead of the HD 4890 in our benches with regularity, and had good power usage and thermal performance. Our overclocking experiments were a resounding success as well.

When it comes down to dollar and cents, the GTX 275 is at a slight disadvantage because ATI recently price cut the HD 4800 series of video cards. However, the ENGTX275 is still at a very reasonable price, currently selling for around $250 USD. Prices change from week-to-week as well, so we wouldn't not be shocked to see if NVIDIA follows suit and the GTX275 receives a similar discount. 

With the ENGTX275, Asus once again shows how it has managed to prosper for so long: by offering, once again, a solid build with good components, a complete bundle (including the useful Asus SmartDoctor software), at a fair price.

 

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