Gigabyte GTX 260 Super Overclock Review

Author: Kevin Spiess
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/gigabytetgx260superoverclockreview/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Today we'll be taking a look at the GTX 260 Super Overclock, from Gigabyte.

Since from almost the very beginning, Nvidia's GTX 260 has been an attractive candidate for overclocking. Especially once Nvidia raised the shader core count from 192 to 216 (to better battle ATI's HD 4870), overclocked GTX 260's have been a regular fixture in conversations on maximizing gaming performance for the best prices. Some heavily overclocked GTX 260's have really pushed the threshold of the performance you'd expect from the mid-range video card -- even at times encroaching into GTX 280 territory.

Gigabyte has sent us their latest: this Super Overclock version of the GTX 260. We intend to find out if the "Super" is a superlative or not. The video card market is crowded with all sorts of nice cards -- so let us see if this baby has enough of an overclock to keep pace with the competition.

Impressions

On the surface, the Gigabyte GTX 260 Super Overclock looks the same as many other GTX 260's we have seen since they started arriving on the scene about a year ago now. In the case of Gigabyte's S.O.C, all the interesting stuff is going on under the hood.

This cooler is Nvidia's all-purpose, primary double-slot cooler they employ across much of their gaming cards for the last while. First appearing on the 8800 GTS 512MB, Nvidia has made some tweaks and changes since. To save production costs the same cooler is used for the GTX 260, GTX 280, GTX 285.

These days, video cards are just plain big. The Gigabyte GTX 260 Super Overclock is no exception -- it will hang about a half inch off of a standard ATX motherboard. If you have an older case with a big HD bay in it, you might have a tough time squeezing it in there.

Unlike the usual standard for this generation, the Gigabyte GTX 260 Super Overclock has three display ports: an HDMI, a DVI, and a VGA. This is nice change of pace.

Currently, the primary competition for the GTX 260 is OC'ed HD 4870 and HD 4890 cards on the ATI side, and on the NVIDIA side is the  GTX 275. Coming in a bit slower than this video card should, you might find the GTS 250 / 9800 GTX from Nvidia, and from ATI, you could go for a HD 4850 or HD 4770.

Specifications

As per the usual Gigabyte style, the GTX 260 Super Overclock is built with 'Ultra Durable VGA' components. From prior time spent testing Gigabyte video cards we can say that this not just empty marketing claims -- as advertised, Gigabyte does indeed utilize higher quality Japanese solid capacitors and Ferrite Core chokes, which help stabilize power distribution to the GPU, potentially extend the life the card, and aid overclocking. Additionally, Gigabyte incorporates a solid 2 oz. of copper into the PCB, to enhance conductivity.

As part of the NVIDIA technology arsenal, the GTX 260 features HybridPower technology 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. Not a bad feature set.

As GTX 260 overclocks go, Gigabyte's SOC can make a fair claim to having a strong overclock. Just take a gander at the chart below and you'll see what a huge increase in clock speeds the Super Overclock has been subjected to. GTX 260's running at this level of performance are almost in a different performance class than standard-clocked GTX 260 cards. Gigabyte reports that they have done extensive testing of chips to find the absolute top-performing silicon -- and they need the best chips made, to support these high factory overclocks:

 

 

GTX 275

GTX 260 (216SP)

GTX 285

 GTX 295

HD 4850

HD 4870
 HD 4890 HD 4870 X2 GTX 260 Super Overclock

Processing Cores

240

216

240

480*

800

800 800 1600* 216

Core Clock

633

576

648

576

625

750 850 750 680

Shader Clock

1404

1240

1476

1242

625

750 850 750 1500

Memory Clock (effective) 

2268

1998 2484

1998

1986

3600 3900 3600 2500

Memory Interface

448 bit

448 bit

512 bit

896 bit*

256 bit

256 BIT 256 bit 512 bit*  448 bit

Memory Type

896MB GDDR3

896MB GDDR3

1024MB GDDR3

1792MB GDDR3*

512MB GDDR3

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

Fabrication Process

55nm

55nm

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)

Box and bundle

The GTX 260 Super Overclock comes in straight-forward box -- you can take one look at it, and know right away what it contains:

Inside, beside the card itself, you'll also find the following: a DVI-HDMI adapter, two molex-to-PCI power adapters, a VGA-DVI adapter, a SPDIF audio cable, a manual and a driver CD. This is a good bundle for this price point.

Overclocking

Sure, the GTX 260 Super Overclock is already overclocked. But that doesn't stop us from seeing if the clock could be pushed even a bit more beyond the default overclock of 680 / 1250.

With the fan running full-bore, we were able to find stability (in an hour of looped Far Cry 2 runs) with an even higher overclock of 716 MHz for the core, and 1300 MHz for the memory. This is a really good overclock; though, in the hall of champions, can not beat the extremes we found with the Asus ENGTX260 Matrix (a more expensive card, that could handle some voltage raising.) Probably, for most gamers, the Super Overclock will be fine running at its default speeds -- you don't want to burn anything out for a slight gain that you most likely won't even notice in gaming sessions.

 

 

Hardware

Video cards used in the benchmarks include a BFG GTX 285, a MSI N275GTX, a Nvida GTX 280, a PowerColor Plus! 4890, a Leadtek GTX 260 Extreme+, VisionTek HD 4870, and a PowerColor HD 4770.

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.

Even with the big overclock, Vantage rates the mildly-overclocked PowerColor HD 4890 a bit higher than the S.O.C. We'll see if this holds true in the upcoming games tests.

On the features tests, the S.O.C does fairly well, coming in the middle of this tough line-up of competition.

The S.O.C does quite well here, in Furmark, coming in much closer to the GTX 275 than it does the other GTX 260.

That overclock certainly goes a long way with the S.O.C -- it continues to really outpace the other GTX 260 in our lineup. Let's see if this keeps up.

Wow -- at the top resolution tested, the S.O.C even outpaces the two GTX 275 cards here. Very nice.

Again the Gigabyte S.O.C edges out a GTX 275 -- even though it's just by a hair here, that is still impressive.

The PowerColor Plus! HD 4890 just doesn't have the overclocking gusto to overcome the GTX 260 S.O.C it seems.

Here, in this game, the results come in much closer. But the GTX 260 S.O.C continues to put in some good results.

The GTX 280 can't keep up with the S.O.C here, and the PowerColor HD 4890 lags behind in the dust here.

But here the tables turn -- at least for one benchmark -- and the HD 4890 comes in ahead of the S.O.C.

With the AA off, the GTX 260 S.O.C pulls far ahead of the HD 4890, and comes a few frames behind the GTX 275.

Temperatures

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.

That big overclocking comes with a price-tag of increased heat. It's nothing too crazy -- but this isn't a card that you'd want to overclock any further than the Gigabyte has, unless you want to stick a custom cooler on there. 

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.

The power usage at load levels is quite for the amount of performance provided by the Gigabyte GTX 260 Super Overclock, relative to other cards of this generation. You can probably thank the Ultra Durable assortment of higher quality capacitors and core chokes for the improved power usage. 

Gigabyte recommends a 550W PSU or better to keep the S.O.C happy.

Conclusion

The sizable overclock on the GTX 260 Super Overclock kept the card one step ahead of the most of the GTX 260 competition. Even when the first heavily overclocked GTX 260 video cards appeared, they -- for the most part -- offered good bang for your buck, giving high-end performance for a reasonable price. Again another big-time overclocked GTX 260 has caught our eye today with the S.O.C.

Right now the S.O.C is selling for $200 USD at a popular e-tailer. This is a reasonable place for the S.O.C to be at. Let's compare it to the close competition briefly. Below the S.O.C, you have  non-overclock GTX 260's that selling for as low as around $165 -- here we feel the extra $35 would be worth it, certainly. As for the HD 4890, they are often selling around $200, but we are willing to bet the S.O.C has enough horsepower to beat those out -- it certainly took out our decently overclocked PowerColor HD 4890 in our tests.

But perhaps the biggest competition for the S.O.C could be inexpensive GTX 275 video cards, which have gone as low as $200 -- but even in this case, the GTX 260 S.O.C actually beat the GTX 275 in some of our tests. While it might be tempting to bring up the HD 5870 and all it brings to the table, it will be sometime before that card is any less than double the price the of the S.O.C. So, to sum this up, while $200 USD does seem a bit high for a GTX 260, it isn't that hard to justify when considering the performance of the S.O.C. 

Besides the price and speed of the S.O.C, it benefits from good construction, and has additional display ports, which is a nice touch. All these factors combine into pushing the S.O.C over the line from average to good, and into recommended territory.

 

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