Asus ENGTX275 896MB PCIe Graphics Card Page: 1
Introduction
 
ASUS The all conquering GTX280 has been around for quite some time now and has since been surpassed by the GTX285. Price however has always been the stumbling block for the GTX285 with many either opting to go the full hog and plump for an ATI4870x2 or drop down a notch to the GTX260. ATI exploited this gap in the market and filled it with the excellent HD4890 graphics card which for all intents and purposes performed extremely well and was very popular among enthusiasts but NVidia fans did not have this option until the GTX275 arrived on the scene.
 
The GTX275 is NVidia's answer to the ATI HD4890 plain and simple. It has been a rare occurance that both ATI and NVidia have openly squared up to one another, instead preffering to launch cards at strategic times striking blows from a distance. The mid range crown has been passed back and forth now for so long I am at a loss who now holds it, such has been to tug-o-war between the two manufacturers. Things changed however with the GTX275 and HD4890. Both cards were released within a month of each other and both cards were marketting themselves as the mid-high range card of choice. So which card should you choose and where should you hard earned cash go? We have already reviewed a number of HD4890 cards so instead I will be concentrating on todays review sample, the Asus ENGTX275. I will however be making strong comparisons to the cards biggest rival throughout the review.
 
The GTX275 nestles itself in between the GTX285 and GTX260 cards and for all intents and purposes have very similar processing units, all being based on the G200B core. The differences between the three are that the higher up the scale you go, the more stream processors, memory and rop counts you will get. All of which create an increase in the GPU's performance. Both the 285 and 275 GPU's have the benefit of a die shrunk core to 55nm, allowing higher clockspeeds but these speeds are still a far cry from the blistering speed of the ATI cards which are now hitting 1GHz as opposed to the AsusGTX275's core speed of 633MHz. Not only that but ATI are now using GDDR5 as standard but NVidia are sticking to the tried and tested GDDR3 for the time being. On the outset then, one could be forgiven for thinking the ATI 4890 is the much faster card. MHz and GHZ however are not the be all and end all of performance as we will find out...
 
 
Specification
 
The following specification was taken directly from the Asus product page:
 
Graphics Engine: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275
Bus Standard:
PCI Express 2.0
Video Memory:
DDR3 896MB
Engine Clock:
633 MHz
Shader Clock:
1404 MHz
Memory Clock:
2.268 GHz ( 1.134 GHz DDR3 )
Memory Interface:
448-bit
CRT Max Resolution:
2048 x 1536
DVI Max Resolution:
2560 x 1600
VGA Output:
Yes x 1 (via DVI to D-Sub adaptor x 1 )
DVI Output:
Yes x 2 (DVI-I)
HDMI Output:
Yes x 1 (via DVI to HDMI adaptor x 1 )
HDTV Output:
Yes
HDCP Support:
Yes
TV Output:
Yes (YPbPr to S-Video and Composite)
Adaptor/Cable bundled:
1 x DVI to D-Sub adaptor,1 x DVI to HDMI adaptor, 1 x HDTV-out cable, 1 x Power cable, 1 x S/PDIF cable
Software Bundled
ASUS Utilities & Driver
Dimensions:
4.376 inches x 10.5 inches
 
As you can see from the specification above, the Asus ENGTX275 is a reference, stock clocked GTX275.
 
Let's take a look at the package itself...


Asus ENGTX275 896MB PCIe Graphics Card Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance
 
The outer packaging will be familiar to anyone who has bought an Asus GPU recently in that it has the same black knight adorning the front of the box only this time with a green (Nvidia) instead of a red (ATI) background. Along with the knight and his steed are the Asus GTX275 features including Smart Doctor, 896MB of GDDR3, HDMI compatability and most interestingly, Ultimate Armaments (see below). Fliping the box over, the packaging affords the user further feature descriptions including GamerOSD and Video security, all neatly described in multiple languages.
 
box front box back
 
I have been impressed with Asus's improvements to packaging of late and the GTX275's is no different. Removing the outer sleeve reveals a very smart corrugated matt black cardboard box with gold Asus emblems. Flipping the lid on this box we find a further two packages with the main GPU found underneath. The accessories included with the GTX275 are pretty much complete in that there's a VGA driver disk, utilities disk, twin molex to single 6pin PCIe cable, VGA/DVI adaptor, HDMI adaptor and a TV out cable. Along with this list is the inclusion of a couple of manuals and a leaflet advertising Asus's own Xonar sound card.
 
box inner accessories
 
The card itself arrived packaged in an antistatic bag which was held in place by stiff foam packaging preventing the card from slipping around in the box. Removing this anti static bag we are greeted with a card that on the outset looks pretty much identical to both the GTX260, 280 and 285 GPU's and so it should as for all intents and purposes it's the same cooler and the same length as the GTX280/285. There are a few minor differences though, small vents along the side improve cooling and perhaps most significantly, there is no rear plate shielding the card.
 
card front card rear
 
Again, the front of the card is near identical to it's forbears with two gaping intakes for the fan which draws air in here then expells it out of the case via the vented backplate. Here is where we find two DVI ports which can be configured for VGA or HDMI connectivity using the provided adaptors. Along with the DVI ports is the TV out port allowing the card to be hooked up to a standard TV should you have the neccesary RGB ports.
 
card rear DVI
 
A nice little touch that adds to the protection of the card when not in use is the inclusion of small rubber shields which prevent antistatic shock to the card when handling. These are obviously removed come installation time but it's little touches like this that make the Asus card stand out from the crowd.
 
pcie sli
 
As with the GTX285, the 275 requires 2xPCIe 6 pin power ports. Should your PSU only have 1x PCIe 6 pin cable then Asus provide a Molex-PCIe power adaptor which, should your PSU have the required ampage of 40A on the 12v rail, will work fine. During testing the fan was just as quiet as other cards using the same cooler design. While I would like to see different coolers on NVidia cards the old adage is quite apt here in that shouldn't fix what isn't broken.
 
pcie fan
 
Throwing the card against a wall would reveal the innards that you can see below but if you are that curious then I recommend removing the screws on the rear of the card instead as there is much less chance of damaging the GPU. Both methods will however void the warranty on the card so I wouldn't do this unless you are feeling lucky.
 
The GPU was very well covered with the stock gunk most manufacturers seems to use these days. I must point out though that it was very dry, almost to the point of crumbling away from the IHS of the GTX275. The mount however was near perfect with an even coverage of the core. The remainder of the components to be cooler used thermal tape to transfer heat, including the Samsung HJ08 integrated memory chips.
 
cooler memory
 
The cooler is a mixture of a copper base plate, aluminium frame, copper heatpipes and aluminium fins. This mish-mash of cooling is all held together by a plastic frame which houses the single fan. Ugly it may well be but as our reviews have previously shown, the NVidia cooler is perhaps one of the most successfull coolers to be born out of OEM manufacturing for quite some time.
 
GPU baseplate
 
It's hard to describe anything new about a card that I feel have I have seen and handled so many times before. This is however the first time I have had the pleasure of holding a GTX275 but as it is almost identical to other cards in the NVidia range, very little can be added that hasn't already been said. I wonder if the results of our standard suite of OC3D benchmarks paint the same picture.
 
I think it's time we found out... 


Asus ENGTX275 896MB PCIe Graphics Card Page: 3
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 (@3.8 Ghz)
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Memory: 3x2GB Corsair DDR3 1600mhz @ 8-8-8-24
HD : Hitachi Deskstar 7k160 7200rpm 80GB
GPU: Asus ENGTX275
Graphics Drivers: Supplied by Asus
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
• Oblivion

• 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 Furmark.
 

 
The power consumption of the GTX275 was nothing out of the ordinary falling into the middle of the pack on both idle and load configurations. As with most of the GPU's on test, the more powerfull the card, the greater the amount of consumption.
 
 
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.
 

 
The GTX275 produced a decidedly average 50c when idling in windows but when put under a serious amount of load using the Furmark stability and benchmarking tool, the graphics card rocketted to almost 90c! Consider that this is in an 'open air' environment, temperatures could feasibly hit 100c in a closed case. Not good at all if you are in the middle of a firefight on your favourite FPS shooter. Intrigued by this blistering temp, I decided to strip the card of it's stock gunk and replace with my last smidge of Arctic Silver 5 and then tested again.
 
Temps came down to 82c under load conditions with the new paste which is still not great but a little better. Increasing the fan speed manually did drop temps further but I would have preffered the card to have controlled it's temperatures better by itself. A good point to come out of this is that the fan is silent when idle and not ear piercingly loud even when set manually to 100%. It's a shame then that the card did not take advantage of this by adjusting the fan speed accordingly when temperatures became uncomfortable. It's fair to suggest that this may just be our sample that runs hot as similar results were found with the GTX280. I know I've personally had 3 and all produced wildly varying temps.
 
 
Overclocking
 
For our overclocking tests I used the RivaTuner utility which worked perfectly with our setup. To test stability I ran 3D Mark 06 and a few runs of Call of Duty 4.
 
Overclocking the card was terrible until I had figured out that it was the temperatures that were locking the graphics card up and not a voltage limitation. With the stock paste substituted and the fan speed set to a bareable 70% I got much better success, achieving a stable 750MHz on the GPU core, 1664MHz shader speed  and a reasonable 1248MHz on the memory. It should be noted that in stock format I was not able to progress past 680MHz on the core, most likely a result to the temperature barrier.
 
 stock 
 
The results of this overclock can be seen below:
 
 
Replacing the stock gunk and spending a little time with rivatuner resulted in a worthwhile increase in frames per second at all resolutions. However, you will need to consider if this overclock and increase in FPS is worth voiding the warranty should your sample need the paste replacing.
 
After returning the card back to it's stock speed I ran our standard set of GPU benchmarks... 


Asus ENGTX275 896MB PCIe Graphics Card Page: 4


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

3DMark 05 showed average results but in 3DMark 06 and Vantage, the GTX275 gave a better showing, especially at higher resolutions with only the top end cards providing superior results. Interestingly, the GTX275 superceded the Asus GTX285 in 3DMark 05 and 3DMark 06. I guess this is a sign of the times with both these older benchmarks beginning to show their age.
 
Nevertheless it was mission complete with regards to the ATI 4890. This is even more so considering both the 4890's we have on test are overclocked models, emphasizing the GTX275's capabilities.

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


Asus ENGTX275 896MB PCIe Graphics Card Page: 5

 
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.
 

 
 
 
 
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.
 

 
 
Results Analysis
 
The GTX275 gave predictable results throughout all three of the game tests on this page. Unreal Tournament III and Call of Duty IV saw the card nestle itself in between the GTX285 and ATI 4890's while GRID, still an ATI favourite, showed the ATI 4890 to be the superior card.
 
Let's move on..


Asus ENGTX275 896MB PCIe Graphics Card Page: 6

 

 
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.
 

 
 
 

Oblivion from Bethseda is now an 'old' game by today's standards, but is still one of the most visually taxing games out there. The benchmark was run in the wilderness with all settings set to the maximum possible. Bloom was used in preference to HDR. The test was run five times with the average FPS then being deduced.
 

 
 


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.
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
Again we see the GTX275 slotting into the gap between the GTX285 and ATI 4890.The GTX275 have exchanged blows throughout this review and have done so again here with Far Cry 2 favouring the ATI card until we hit the high resolution and filters were applied.  In contrast, the GTX275 really struggled at high resolution with Crysis while it easily bettered the ATI card at lower resolutions.. The card stuttered and spluttered its way through the benchmark but managed just over 15FPS in the end which is a far from playble framerate. I did however run the benchmark again with a new coat of thermal grease and framerates improved drastically so I can only assume that the poor showing was down to temperatures, with the card lowering it's clockspeed when overheating. I have included the results of the card when in 'stock' form.
 
Let's move on to the conclusion...


Asus ENGTX275 896MB PCIe Graphics Card Page: 7
Conclusion
 
I had high expectation of the GTX275, especially as it was from Asus, one of the leading brands in PC components. The card was extremely well packaged with a very smart looking box and I seriously doubt any Asus GTX275 could be damaged accidently during transit thanks to the amount of padding the GPU has.
 
I have mixed feelings over the cards performance. On the one hand I believe it is safe to assume that the GTX275 is clearly the better card than an ATI 4890 given the results we obtained today - more so considering that the 4890's included in our results were both overclocked editions. Job done then? Well not quite.
 
The problem, and this is a serious one if all GTX275's behave the same, is that the card runs hot. Hotter than I would like. So much so that it affected both overclocking and even normal gameplay when running the card, especially at extreme resolutions. I would like to think that this was simply a result of this card being a one off, a sample with poor paste application. It happens I guess and when I re-applyed the paste the temperatures did improve and thus prevented thermal throttling. Looking around the net there are few cases of GTX275's overheating so I can only assume the sample I recieved was a one off but it is certainly worth mentioning.
 
Aside from the temperature problems, the card breezed through the benchmarks, beating it's main rival with ease in the majority of games and benchmarks. So how do the prices compare? Historically, NVidia cards have held a premium over their ATI counterpartsbut that is not the case here. The overclocked ATI 4890's retail for around the £165 mark with stock versions available for a little under £150. The Asus ENGTX275 is available for £150 on the dot. Aggressively priced it is clear NVidia are hoping the GTX275 steals some sales from ATI who up until recently have had much better results from the enthusiast market.
 
To summarise, the GTX275 is a fantastic card for the money. It's packaged very well, it certainly looks the business and can hold it's own against any card on the market. While I was slightly concerned by the poor temps our sample emmited, I do feel that this is a one off and despite this short coming, even if you do not intend to overclock the card, it's performanc is right up there with the best cards available and for a miserly £150, there is no better card on the market today at this price point.
 
The Good
- The price
- The packaging
- The performance
 
The Mediocre
- No game included
- Thermal Paste was dry
 
The Bad
- The temperature
 
 
Thanks to Asus for providing the ENGTX275 for todays review. Discuss in our forums.