Asus EN GTX285 1GB Graphics Card Page: 1
Introduction

After a long wait, the re-birth of the fastest single GPU based graphics card on the planet is here, the GTX285.

Successor to the phenomenally successful GTX280, the GTX285 has received a die shrink to 55nm as well as a slightly redesigned card as we shall see later in the review. Thanks to the shift over to the 55nm process Nvidia have used smaller transistors and as a result clockspeeds have been increased along with a reduction in power usage. This has allowed Nvidia to use 2x 6pin PCIe cables rather than the 280's 6+8 pin configuration which should appeal to the wider market, especially those who don't have an 8 pin PCIe cable at their disposal.

Power requirements aside, the main attraction of the 285 is the increased clockspeeds as standard. The GTX280 had a 602MHz / 2.2GHz core/memory clockspeed. This has been tweaked slightly to 648MHz / 2.484GHz. While this might not appear to be a huge increase, especially when compared to ATI clockspeeds, there will still hopefully be plenty of overclocking headroom left in the card as with the GTX280. Overclocked editions are already in the works, and no doubt Asus have the TOP edition ready to roll. But for todays review we will be looking at the standard, stock clocked ENGTX285 from Asus.

Nvidia boldly claim that they expect to see a 10% improvement over the GTX280 in benchmarks so it will be an interesting read to see if our results back up or dispute Nvidia's claims. Let's take a closer look at the GTX285's specification...
 
Specification
 
 GTX 280
GTX 285
Fabrication
65nm55nm
GPU Size576 mm²470 mm²
GPU Frequency602 MHz648 MHz
Shader Frequency1296 MHz1476 MHz
Memory Frequency1107 MHz1242 MHz
Memory Interface512 Bit512 Bit
ROPs3232
TMU's8080
Stream processors 240240
Memory1024Mb1024Mb
Memory bandwidth140,7 GB/s159,0 GB/s
Pixelrate19.264 MP/s20.736 MP/s
Texelrate48.160 MT/s51.840 MT/s
FLOPs933 Gflops1063 Gflops
TDP236 Watt183 Watt


With frequency increases of 7.6%(GPU), 13.9%(shader) and 12.2%(memory) to the GTX285 the increase in performance should equal out to around the 10% mark when compared to the GTX280. Power consumption has been decreased by 53W, so those worried about electricity bills should feel a little more relaxed, especially those intending to use a TRI-SLI setup! This power decrease should also reduce the heat given off by those increased frequencies but all this is conjecture at the present. Rest assured we will be looking into these claims during this review.

So, impressive figures indeed from the new revision. Let's move on to the appearance and packaging section of todays review...


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Packaging & Appearance

Asus have never been a manufacturer to disappoint when it comes to packaging so I had high expectations for the GTX295. The outer packaging is nothing too fancy, in fact it is relatively basic when compared to some other manufacturers. The front of the outer box has a mystical knight on horseback kicking out at the basic features of the GTX285 which are DDR3, PhysX, Smart Doctor and Gamer OSD. The rear of the box  explores the features more deeply as well as the recommended system requirements.

Outer box front Outer box rear

Now this is more like it. Removing the somewhat budget look, outer sleeve we arrive at a luxury, ribbed matt black box with a gold Asus emblem. Opening this box we come to a further two packages in the same regalia. This now feels like an expensive package which is in contrast to my initial opinion when first seeing the outer sleeve.

Inner box  Open box
 
The main box comprises of a wallet containing driver CD as well as details on how to claim 10% off on 3 games - a nice feature but unlikely to be used in all honesty as the games will no doubt be RRP and not discounted like those found in online stores. I would have preferred to see a free copy of Vantage or a quality game but unfortunately I was found wanting on this occasion. To make up for my disappointment Asus have included a small mouse mat that while attractive, is not what I would class as a gamers mouse mat so it appears to be a little out of place here. Underneath the top boxes is the main attraction - a very well packed card in solid Styrofoam complete with anti-static bag.

accessories mat

The card itself is near identical to the 280GTX, being the same length and using the same reference cooler. The rear of the card is where we see a few changes. No backplate for a start, as all of the 1GB DDR3 is now placed uppermost on the PCB there is no longer a need to have memory cooling on the rear. While I appreciate this might aid in cooling the card I can't help feeling that it just looked odd and also does not afford the protection of its forbear.

card front Card Rear
 
side 1 side 2

Being the same reference cooler as the GTX280, the card is quiet. The noise is comparable to a light hum at idle and even under load the fan does not spin up too loud for it to become intrusive. Manually setting the fan to 100% however, does make quiet a noise but for most this will not be an issue as the fan will be left on auto setting. The I/O area features 2xDVI ports, an S-Video port and a power LED.

rear view I/O plate

A nice little touch from Asus is the inclusion of the port/slot covers. This protects the vital sections of the card from damage as well as dust intrusion. Strangely no protector was provided for the SLI tabs of which there are two signifying compatibility for Tri-SLI.

PCIe covers SLI slots

Perhaps the most significant exterior difference from the GTX280 is the change from using a 6+8 PCIe power configuration to a 6+6 configuration. This should appeal to those not wanting to plump for a new PSU to power this card and if Asus's claims are correct, the power draw should also be less.

Fan Power ports

Taking the front cover off was so much easier than the GTX280 thanks to the omission of the backplate cover. Gently prising the cover away from the card after removing the spring loaded screws took a little time thanks to the sticky memory pads and the TIM (Thermal Interface Material) on the GPU. Once the cover was removed we get to see the GTX285 in all its naked glory.

Top off Contact
 
Below we see the GPU itself which is a G200 B revision as opposed to the G200 A revision of the GTX280. The GDDR3 hails from Hynix as far as I can tell but sadly my eyesight could not pick out the actual model numbers. However, if this ram is anything like the GDDR3 on the GTX280 it should overclock well.

GPU Memory
 
Let's hope I haven't wrecked the card taking the heatsink of for your pleasure so while I put the GTX285 back together and pray to the GPU Gods head over to our test setup where we examine the temperature, power consumption and overclocking ability of the card (should it work!).


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Test Setup

To ensure that all reviews on Overclock3D are fair, consistent and unbiased, a standard set of hardware and software is used whenever possible during the comparative testing of two or more products. The configurations used in this review can be seen below:

i7 Rig

CPU: Intel Nehalem i7 920 Skt1366 2.66GHz
Motherboard: Asus P6T Deluxe 'OC Palm'
Memory: 3x2GB Corsair Dominator DDR3 1600mhz @ 8-8-8-24
HD : Hitachi Deskstar 7k160 7200rpm 80GB
GPU: ATI 4850x2 / Nvidia GTX280 / Nvidia GTX285
Graphics Drivers: Cat 4.12 / GeForce 181.4
PSU: Gigabyte ODIN 1200w
 
During the testing of the setups above, special care was taken to ensure that the BIOS settings used matched whenever possible. A fresh install of Windows Vista was also used before the benchmarking began, with a full defrag of the hard drive once all the drivers and software were installed, preventing any possible performance issues due to leftover drivers from the previous motherboard installations. For the 3DMark and gaming tests a single card configuration was used.

To guarantee a broad range of results, the following benchmark utilities were used:
 
3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• 3DMark 05
• 3DMark 06
• 3DMark Vantage

3D Games
• Crysis
• Far Cry 2
• Company of Heroes

• Race drive: GRID
• Call of Duty IV
• Unreal Tournament III


Power Consumption

Power consumption was measured at the socket using a plug-in mains power and energy monitor. Because of this the readings below are of the total system, not just the GPU. Idle readings were taken after 5 minutes in Windows. Load readings were taken during a run of Crysis.


 
In contrast to what we initially assumed, power consumption is ever so slightly up on the GTX280 according to our power monitor. I swapped cards over numerous times to check and it showed the same readings every time. Conclusive but disappointing. I felt a little like Hudson from Aliens when the editor asked if I'm reading it right. 'I'm reading it right man look!' came my reply.


Temperatures

Temperatures were taken at the factory clocked speed during idle in windows and after 10 minutes of running Furmark with settings maxed out (2560x1600 8xMSAA). Ambient temperatures were taken with a household thermometer. As we use an open test bench setup consideration should be given to the fact that the temperatures would likely increase further in a closed case environment.
 

 
Again we were wrong regarding temperature assumption as the temperatures were slightly higher than the standard GTX. Given that the clockspeeds are increased and now we know the power consumption has not decreased this does not come as so much of a surprise. 
 
Overclocking

For our overclocking tests I used Rivatuner which worked perfectly with our setup. More than can be said for the latest version of nTune which resulted in BSOD when we tried to run it. To test stability I ran 3D Mark 06 and a few runs of Crysisbench.

Stock Overclocked

Sure it uses a little more power and runs slightly hotter but it overclocks like a dream. Ever so slightly more than our test GTX280 which itself is a great clocker. Running at these clocks again did not cause the fan to spin up much higher than it did while running at stock speed which is testament to the excellent cooling offered by Nvidia.

Let's move on to our suite of benchmarks where we pitch it up against the ATI 4850x2 and the GTX280...


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3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 






 
Results Analysis

The GTX285 exceeded our expectations of 10% quicker than the GTX280 bettering this by some margin in a number of the benchmarks run. On average, the percentage differences between the GTX280 and 285 increased inline with increases in resolution size and anti aliasing quality.

Let's see if this transfers over to our real world gaming benchmarks...


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Unreal Tournament 3 is the highly anticipated game from Epic Games and Midway. The game uses the latest Unreal engine, which combines fast gameplay along with high quality textures and lighting effects. All benchmarks were performed using UTbench with a fly-by of the DM-BioHazard map. As usual, all benchmarks were performed 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 


GRID
 
Race Driver: Grid is a visually taxing game that presents a challenge to any graphics system. Results were recorded using FRAPS to log the average FPS over a 2 minute race. To ensure consistency, the same track, car and general path of travel was used in each of the 5 benchmark runs for each graphics card, with an average FPS being calculated from the median three results.
 


 
Company of Heroes is Relic's first title to make use of the "Essence Engine". This engine was designed and coded from scratch by Relic in order to make use of special graphical effects, including high dynamic range lighting, dynamic lighting & shadows, advanced shader effects and normal mapping. On May 29, 2007 Relic released a DX10 patch for Company of Heroes which was applied for this test.  Running the in game performance test 5 times, the highest and lowest scores were omitted with the average calculated from the remaining 3.



 
Results Analysis

While GRID gave mixed results, perhaps preferring the ATI card, Company of Heroes preferred the GTX285 over its competition and especially in Unreal Tournament III thanks to the PhysX processing capabilities.

Let's head over to the next set of benchmarks...


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Ubisoft has developed a new engine specifically for Far Cry 2, called Dunia, meaning "world", "earth" or "living" in Parsi. The engine takes advantage of multi-core processors as well as multiple processors and supports DirectX 9 as well as DirectX 10. Running the Far Cry 2 benchmark tool the test was run 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being omitted and the average calculated from the remaining 3.
 


 


Call of Duty 4 is a stunning DirectX 9.0c based game that really looks awesome and has a very full feature set. With lots of advanced lighting, smoke and water effects, the game has excellent explosions along with fast game play. Using the in-built Call Of Duty features, a 10-minute long game play demo was recorded and replayed on each of the GPU's using the /timedemo command a total of 5 times. The highest and lowest FPS results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 




Crysis is without doubt one of the most visually stunning and hardware-challenging games to date. By using CrysisBench - a tool developed independently of Crysis - we performed a total of 5 timedemo benchmarks using a GPU-intensive pre-recorded demo. To ensure the most accurate results, the highest and lowest benchmark scores were then removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
Results Analysis

A mixed bag of results here with Far Cry 2 this time splitting the pack but favouring the ATI card at lower resolutions. Call of Duty 4 clearly favours the ATI card which dominated in this game. This is in contrast to Crysis where it could not hold a flame to the NVidia cards, especially the GTX285 which got better as the resolution and filters were applied.

So with an interesting set of results, let's head over to the conclusion where I try to put things into perspective...


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Conclusion

Nvidia have frequently been criticised for rehashing the same product with few differences in the past but this is plainly not the case with the 285GTX. The die shrink from 65nm to 55nm has brought an increase in clockspeeds that our benchmarks have shown, increase performance significantly.

Sadly, our tests also show that despite the fabrication change, power consumption is almost the same as the GTX280, as is the heat output. In fact, rather than seeing a decrease in these areas we found the opposite. The card can be forgiven for giving out a little extra heat as the fan didn't spin up too much during our testing. This was despite the card hitting 80c before reaching a plateau during the crucifying Furmark test.

The GTX280 was already a stunning card so it was hard for Nvidia to improve vastly on this but nevertheless, they have done so - at least where performance is concerned and that's what most enthusiasts yearn for. You don't spend £300 on a GPU for a cool running, eco-friendly card. If the performance is there then anything else is a bonus when you are shopping at the high-end of the GPU market and the Asus ENGTX285 has performance by the bucket load. The card outpaced the GTX280 in all of our benchmarks and even topped the ATI 4850X2 in some of the runs despite the X2 having 2 GPU's on-board and double the memory. That said though, the X2 was the higher performer overall and with the X2's formidable bigger brother dropping in price (the 4850X2 itself is rumoured to have planned price drops) and the GTX295 now on the market, the ENGTX285 is in a very precarious position and needs to meet a keen price point if it to appeal to the performance enthusiast.

If you want trouble free, high performance gaming then there is no doubt that the GTX285 will serve you very well thanks to its uncomplicated setup. Its performance at high resolutions is exemplary and it worked without a hitch with everything we threw at it. Couple this with amazing overclocking ability and you have one stonking graphics card. However, current GTX280 owners shouldn't rush to upgrade to the GTX285 either, as both cards overclock to similar levels making the performance of the two quite comparable.

So it really comes down to the same old story. If full-on performance is all that matters, the dual core GPU's clearly have the upper hand. However, the single GPU champ has been in training, had a fabrication workout and gone a diet along with a new wardrobe. This has seen the GTX285 perform well but perhaps not the significant increase in performance we were hoping for. However, if you are looking for an upgrade from a midrange card up to hassle free, high-end gaming, I would certainly recommend the Asus ENGTX285 which for now, until the OC revisions are upon us, is the highest performing single core graphics card on the planet.


The Good
- Overclocking
- Performance
- Packaging

The Mediocre
-
Power consumption and heat output not as good as expected
- No backplate as with the GTX280
-
Price needs to drop a little for it to be competitive

The Bad
- Nothing to report



Thanks to Asus for providing the GTX285 for todays review. Please discuss in our forums.