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Nvidia's GeForce GTX 285 and 295 graphics cards

The GT200 shrinks and steps it up

Yeah, I've been playing with the very latest video cards for weeks now, using the newest games and a screaming new test rig. Life's rough, you know. But now I have just a few hours to write an entire review that's destined to be packed with more GPU goodness than six regular ones. I've been mainlining caffeine 'til I can barely sit still to type, and each key-press seems to be registering ttthhrreeeeee tttiiimmmeesss. So let's skip the pleasantries and get down to business. The primary subjects of our attention today are the GeForce GTX 285 and 295, two cards that are both based on the new 55nm version of Nvidia's GT200 graphics processor, the 1.4 billion-transistor monster behind the GeForce GTX lineup.

The move from a 65nm fab process to a 55nm one promises additional goodness from the B-step version of the GT200, affectionately known by some as the GT200b. The goodness comes mainly in the form of reduced power consumption and heat production, but in turn, those things can lead to increased performance headroom. That is, Nvidia can turn up the clock speeds without resorting to quad-slot cooling or an external power supply. Good times, indeed.

Other than the die shrink, the GT200b is more or less unchanged from the GT200. That means it still has 240 gizzywhatchits and 512 hoozydoers or whatever, just like the old version. I dunno, man, go read my GeForce GTX 280 review if you want info on the GPU chiclets and stuff. It's all in there. What has changed is clock speeds—in the case of the new single-GPU flagship, the GeForce GTX 285—and, thanks to better thermals, the ability to shoehorn two of these GPUs into a single card—that's the GTX 295.

The GTX 285: GT200b undiluted
Let's start our whirlwind tour of the zillion graphics cards in this little roundup with the GeForce GTX 285. This puppy more or less mirrors the GeForce GTX 280 that it succeeds, with a gig of RAM onboard and an all-around resemblance to its elder sibling, right down to the 10.5" board length and the plastic cooler shroud.

Yep. Uh huh.

The 285 should outperform the 280, though, thanks to a bump in clock speeds in all three dimensions: the main GPU clock is up to 648MHz, the shaders are up to 1476MHz, and the memory is up to 1242MHz—or 2484 MT/s, since it's of the GDDR3 variety and since doing the unit conversion for you makes us sound smart. We'll talk about what the clock speed changes mean to theoretical performance capacity shortly.

Before we go there, though, we should note the other positive effect of the move to a 55nm chip: this card has two six-pin PCIe power plugs, and that's it. The GTX 280's second connector requires an eight-pin plug, an annoying requirement that, for many, would involve either a plug adapter or a new PSU.

Cards like this one should become available today, and Nvidia tells us it expects street prices to be around $379. This particular GTX 285, as you can see, comes from Asus, and it's clocked a little higher than stock with a 670MHz GPU core, 1550MHz shaders, and 1300MHz memory. The folks at Asus don't bundle their card with too many frills, but they do include a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, and happily, they provide three years of warranty coverage with no product registration required. Too many board vendors have taken to requiring online registration in order to get warranty coverage beyond a year, a trend I'm pleased to see Asus avoiding.