Leadtek Winfast GTX 260 Extreme+ Review

Author: Kevin Spiess
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, April 30th, 2009
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/winfastgtx260/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

It's that time of year again: the line ups for both NVIDIA and ATI video cards are well established. There won't be any more big surprises coming up in this current generation of cards, the GTX 2xx series from NVIDIA, and the HD 4xxx series from ATI.

The GTX 260 has been a significant player in the mid-budget video cards for this generation, since the very introduction of the GTX 280. Originally pitted against the HD 4870, the GTX 260 did not have the significant horsepower to break any sort of big battles in this match-up. Releasing it wasn't, NVIDIA strengthened the GTX 260 by unlocking more of the card's shader processors. While the first GTX 260's had 192 shader proc's, the revised GTX 260 had 216, and this kept in the fight against ATI's generally less expensive HD 4870. 

However, now, nearing the end of the GTX 2xx lifespan, the GTX 260 (216) shader core has arguably not been in a better position. The prices have fallen on the GTX 260 (216) substantially, ever since the NVIDIA's release of the GTX 285. Often, overclocked GTX 260 (216) cards can even beat out GTX 280 cards, yet sell for very reasonable prices. 

Today we are looking at one such GTX 260, to see what it can do. This is the Winfast Leadtek GTX 260 Extreme+. It's Extreme because it is overclocked -- let's subject this card to an inspection.

Impressions

While the Winfast Leadtek GTX 260 Extreme+ doesn't have standard clock speeds, it does have a standard cooler. It utilizes the reference cooler that adorns most GTX 280 and GTX 260 video cards.

This is NVIDIA's all-purpose, primary double-slot cooler they employ now a days. It's first appearance was on the 8800 GTS 512MB, and NVIDIA has made a couple of tweaks to it in the intervening period. To save production costs the same cooler is used for the GTX 260, GTX 280, GTX 285. This makes perfect sense though, as the cooler is effective: capable at cooling, while not being that loud. It does the necessary job without any fuss.

The Leadtek GTX 260 itself is a fairly massive card -- 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 -- just something to be aware of.

XFX GTX 285 and GTX 280 beside the Leadtek GTX 260 Extreme+

As per the usual standard these days, the Leadtek GTX 260 Extreme+ has has a pair of dual-link DVI outs, and one HDTV out.

Currently, the primary competition for the GTX 260 is the HD 4870 and HD 4890, while the next step on the NVIDIA side is the GTX 280 and GTX 285. Below the GTX 260, from NVIDIA you can get a GTS 250 / 9800 GTX, and from ATI, you could go for a HD 4850 or HD 4770.

Specifications

The LeadTek Winfast GTX 260 Extreme+ has an moderate overclock to the core, as you can see on the chart below. The core has been clocked to same level as the GTX 280, while the memory clock speed is the same as the earlier GTX 260 cards.

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.

 

 

8800GT 512MB

GTX 280

GTX 260

 Leadtek GTX 260 Extreme+ 

HD 4850

 HD 4870 HD 4890

Processing Cores

 112

240

192

216

800

800 800

Core Clock

 600

602

576

602

625

750 850

Shader Clock

 1500

1296

1240

1296

625

750 850

Memory Clock (effective) 

 1800

2214

1998

1998

1986

3600 3900

Memory Interface

256 bit

512 bit

448 bit

448 bit

256 bit

256 bit 256 bit 

Memory Type

512MB GDDR3

1024MB GDDR3

896MB GDDR3

896MB GDDR3

512MB GDDR3

512MB GDDR5 1024MB GDDR5

Fabrication Process

65nm

65nm

65nm

55nm

55nm

55nm 55nm

 

Box and bundle

The Leadtek Winfast GTX 260 Extreme+ comes in a box with a suitably quick-looking car adorning the front. NVIDIA CUDA, PureVideo HD, PhysX and SLI stamps line the right-hand side. The heatsink is also described as "silent" which is a slight exaggeration (but not much.)

Inside the box, the video card is well-protected in foam and a static-proof bag. As for the bundle it includes a driver CD, a DVI-DHMI adapter, a DVI-VGA adapter, a HDMI audio cable, a S-Video component out, a manual, and two molex-to-PCIe power connections. Oh, almost forgot one nice touch: the Leadtek Winfast GTX 260 Extreme+ also comes with the 2007 game Overlord, by Codemasters. While we haven't played this game personally here at Neoseeker, Overlord did garner some good reviews and looks to be a solid hybrid action-adventure game. 

Overclocking

Overclocking the LeadTek Winfast GTX 260 Extreme+ was fairly painless. We used Rivatuner to first run the fan at 100% power to see what overclocking limit we could reach. 

This card is overclocked already be default, but it is a fairly modest overclocking of only 26 MHz for the core, and 56 MHz for the shader core. Certainly you can push a GTX 260 a bit further than that without worrying about causing damage to your GPU, right? We thought so.

The Leadtek Winfast GTX 260 Extreme+ ran fine at 694 MHz for the core, and 1248 MHz for the memory. Any faster and we started seeing artifacts. We would not recommend running your card at these speeds for extended periods of time. A nice more modest overclock of something like 680 / 1150 should be fine however.

All-in-all, a pretty good overclocker. 

Hardware

For this review, we will be benchmarking the Leadteak GTX 260 Extreme+ against the Gigabyte GTS 250, ATI HD 4830,  MSI 9800 GT,  Palit 9800GTX,  Palit 9600 GT Sonic, and a Sapphire HD 4870 Vapor-X 1GB.

Software

For the drivers, all the ATI cards used the Catalyst 9.3 drivers, and all the Nvidia cards used Forceware 182.46 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.

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.

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.

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

It seems like there is an artificial line right above the HD 4850 on the Vantage benchmark, keeping the lower-priced cards separate from the big boys. The overclocked GTX 260 Extreme+ settles in just under the stock-clocked HD 4890. Maybe this will carry through in the game benchmarks.

For the rest of the tests, the GTX 260 Extreme+ scores sometimes better, sometimes below, the competition.

 

ATI cards definitely have a better time with Furmark. Here the GTX 260 Extreme+ scores closer to the GTS 250 then it does the GTX 285.

The GTX 260 Extreme+ plus virtually ties the HD 4890 here in Far Cry, while keeping a healthy lead on the GTS 250 and HD 4850, but not much higher than the HD 4870.

Unreal Tournament agrees well with the GTX 260 Extreme+, as it takes second position in this benchmark.

The GTX 260 Extreme+ puts in another good performance here, scoring well against the ATI cards and not coming too far behind the XFX GTX 285.

The GTX 260 Extreme+ seems to be getting the better of the stock-clocked HD 4890, as it again comes out ahead here in Bioshock.

Here the GTX 260 Extreme+ does fairly well, but doesn't gain much of a lead over the HD 4870.

This video card certainly has the horsepower to keep games moving at extreme resolutions. At more average resolutions, such as 1680x1050, here Quake Wars it doesn't however generate far more frames then the less expensive competition. This is more an exception than a rule, however.

Temperature

To measure core GPU temperature, we used the hardware monitoring program in RivaTuner 2.22. The idle temperature was taken after leaving nothing running, on Vista's desktop, for a minute. The load temperature was taken after two loops of Furmark running at 1680x1050.

This workhorse cooler does a fine job at keeping temperatures very reasonable, even while the card is overclocked. The GTX 260 certainly runs cooler than ATI's current generation, high-end cards. 

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 readings during a demanding part of 3DMark06.)

When it comes to power use, the GTX 260 Extreme+ is no miser. It takes a fair amount of juice to deliver the gaming goods. It doesn't require an unreasonable amount of power though, such as the GTX 285. 

This card requires two PCIE power connectors, and a PSU offering at least 500W. If you have many components running in your system, or a bunch of hard drives, it would not hurt to use a beefier power supply, as this video card saps a steady supply of power when gaming.

Conclusion

The GTX 260 (192 shader core) never made a huge impression on us here at Neoseeker, but as we said in this introduction the GTX 260 (216 shader core) video cards do currently offer great value for the money. 

This particular GTX 260 Extreme+ from Leadtek is no exception to this. While the HD 4890 often out-performed the GTX 260 Extreme+ in this review, when you compare the price, the GTX 260 Extreme+ often sells for 75$+ less, easily making it the better choice in that match up. 

The case is even similar when you compare the GTX 260 Extreme+ to HD 4870 cards. While you probably won't notice a huge actual gaming experience if you are playing at a 1680x1050 resolution, at a higher resolution than this, the GTX 260 Extreme+ often made the price difference worthwhile when compared to our Sapphire HD 4870 Vapor-X in our benches.

Leadtek might not be a name that you are very familar with -- the company does not have a very strong presence in North America, so you may have difficulties finding the Extreme+ on this side of the map. You are much more likely to find a Leadtek card if you live in Asia, including Australia and New Zealand.

In comparison with other available offerings today, the Leadtek GTX 260 Extreme+ is a good bet if you are looking for a powerful video card for high-end gaming experiences. If you think something like a GTX 285 or HD 4870 X2 is a bit too hardcore for you, but are looking for a video card that'll be able to keep reasonable framerates in games for a long time to come, the Extreme+ is definitely a card to consider.

If there was one flaw with the Leadtek GTX 260 Extreme+, it would be that it doesn't offer much that distinguishes itself from the other abundance of overclocked GTX 260 (216 shader core) cards on the market today. That isn't much of a flaw -- but it is something that prevents the spotlight from falling on the Extreme+ over other similar offerings. But if you can get the Leadtek GTX 260  Extreme+ for a good price, then it's a safe bet for very solid performance.

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