XFX GTX260 896MB 'Black Edition' Page: 1
Introduction
 
Black EditionBlack is a colour that typically depicts power, stealth, death, prestige, and mystery. If you're looking for a dominating presence, you don't wear a kipper tie, you wear a black suit and black tie. From Darth Vader to Reservoir Dogs, down to your city centre doorman, all choose black attire for good reason - to instill fear into their subjects.
 
The XFX GTX260 has evolved into the 'Black Edition' which  comprises of 2nd generation unified architecture, and an increase from 192 stream processors to 216. Known throughout the world as the 'GTX260 216' because of the increase in shaders, this card is the revised edition of the already high performing GTX260. The new card should give a significant increase in performance as the clockspeed has been increased over the XFX GTX260 XXX card (reviewed here) from 640mhz to a devilish 666mhz. The card also sees an increase in shader clockspeed from 1363 to 1440. While this might not seem like a major difference in speed, one has to take into account that this is compared to XFX's previous overclocked edition of the GTX260. With a little luck and perhaps with a little help from the 'Dark Side', we will be able to overclock the Black edition even further!
 
 
Specifications
 
Specifications
 
An impressive specification indeed! Incorporating Nvidia's latest features along with 2nd Generation Unified Architecture, an increase in stream processors as well as blistering clockspeeds, the Black Edition has set the scene for some serious performance for the serious enthusiast.
 
Let's take a look at the GTX260 Black edition in its new package...


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Packaging & Appearance
 
As our past reviews have shown, XFX are masters of packaging, and the GTX260 Black Edition is no different. With a redesigned outer sleeve, the Black Edition motif dominates the front of the box. To the top right of the box are two key selling points of the GTX260 Black Edition - the included free game, Far Cry 2 and an HDMI adaptor. The rear of the box goes on to impress with the main features of the graphics card.
 
Box Front Box Rear
 
As per the norm with XFX, the inner box is a very sturdy affair, with stiff foam inserts inside ensuring the product reaches the end user in perfect condition. The accessory list is the usual array of connections, but an added extra is the inclusion of an HDMI adaptor. Also worthy of note is the Black Edition membership which, once joined, allows you access to exclusive offers, priority technical support and such. Finally, we come to the game itself - Far Cry 2. Considering this game has only just been released with an RRP of £40, it is an excellent inclusion and much better than the average, often outdated games that are occasionally included with graphics cards. Well done XFX!
 
Inner Box Accessories
 
Looking like a genetic cross between Darth Vader and the Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the GTX260 Black Edition is, you guessed it, black in appearance. No fancy elves, monsters or gladiators pollute the aesthetics of the card. No Sir, this is a much more refined look for the more discerning gentleman if you please. Oozing class yet sticking to a reference cooler, the GTX260 deserves to be in a modern art museum, not a PC.
 
Card Front Card Rear
 
The business end of the GPU is a standard affair with dual DVI ports and an S-Video port thrown in for good measure. At the opposite end of the card we see the standard intake section of the GPU.
 
Connectivity Intake
 
As with all 200 series GPU's, TRI-SLI is a possibility should your motherboard support this feature, and the GTX260 Black Edition is no different. The breakout connector reveals twin SLI tabs allowing the use of Nvidia SLI Technology, or if you only require the one card, with the tab in place, the GTX260's sleek lines are not disturbed. As with the previous generation GTX260, 2 x 6-pin PCIe power cables will be required to power the graphics card with a recommended PSU of 550w carrying 40A on the 12v rail.
 
SLI tab Power connection
 
Opening the card up we see that the GPU cooler is copper with a substantial amount of thermal interface material on both the GPU and memory chips. This ensures a good connection between components and cooling throughout. The main cooler is an aluminium affair with a copper base for the GPU itself. Paste is used on the GPU, while thermal pads are used on the memory chips and VRM's.
 
Outer Shell  Card rear
 
Card Front GPU
 
I was expecting the XFX to be top of the class in the packaging and appearance section of the review and I am happy to report that it is just that. I have yet to find any manufacturer who can hold a flame to the excellent standards XFX set with regards to the packaging and with such a stunning looking card, XFX gain full marks for packaging and appearance.
 
Let's get this show on the road and see if the XFX GTX260 can continue the very high standards it has set for itself when we test the card in the overclocking department.


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Test Setup
 
A common mistake made when benchmarking graphics cards is that the rest of the PC system isn't sufficient enough to test the GPU to its limits. This results in a bottleneck situation, where the system can only run at the speed of its slowest component. For this reason, the test configuration chosen below has been specially selected to give each of the graphics cards on test the headroom they require in order to produce the best results.
 
CPU
Intel Core2Quad Q6600 2.4Ghz @ 3.6 Ghz
 
Motherboard
Gigabyte EP45-Extreme
 
Memory
Cellshock DDR2 PC-2 6400 5-5-5-18 @ 800mhz
 
Graphics Card
XFX GTX260 'Black Edition'
 
CPU Cooling
Scythe Ninja

Power Supply
OCZ 780w ModXstream
 
Hard Disk
Hitachi 7K160 7200rpm 80Gb

Display
Dell 3007 WFP-HC 30" LCD
 
Graphics Drivers
NVidia Forceware 180.43
 
Operating System
Windows Vista 64bit SP1
 
A selection of games and benchmark suites has also been chosen to test each of the cards with several game engines. Each of the cards will be run at both low and high resolutions with varying levels of texture filtering to represent the use of the card with both small and large screen sizes.
 
3DMark06
1280x1024 / 0xAA / 0xAF
1920x1200 / 4xAA / 0xAF

3DMark Vantage
1280x1024 / Performance Mode
1900x1200 / Extreme Mode
 
Quake4
1280x1024 / Ultra / 4xAA / 4xAF
1920x1200 / Ultra / 4xAA / 4xAF
 
Unreal Tournament III
1280x1024 / DX10 / High / 0xAA / 0xAF
1920x1200 / DX10 / High / 0xAA / 0xAF
 
Call of Duty 4
1280x1024 / Max / 4xAA / 4xAF
1920x1200 / Max / 4xAA / 4xAF
 
F.E.A.R
1280x1024 / Max / 4xAA / 4xAF
1920x1200 / Max / 4xAA / 0xAF
 
BIOSHOCK
1280x1024 / DX10 / High / 0xAA / 0xAF
1920x1200 / DX10 / High / 0xAA / 0xAF
 
Crysis
1280x1024 / DX10 / High / 0xAA / 0xAF
1920x1200 / DX10 / High / 0xAA / 0xAF
 
Worthy of note is that because this card is a hot release, the latest Nvidia beta drivers (180.43) were used. This will have some bearing on the results as the older GTX260/280 were using the current official drivers. This is unavoidable as we cannot stick to the same old drivers forever, and it would be unfair to cripple a new card with incompatible drivers.
 
 
Overclocking
 
With the XFX GTX260 Black Edition is already clocked at a very respectable 666/2300mhz (Core/Memory) we were interested to see if XFX had maxed out the graphics card or if there was a little overclocking headroom left. To overclock the card, we used the latest version of RivaTuner (2.11) to examine the possibilities. To test for stability, we used 3DMark06. Here are the results we obtained:
 
 
We managed to overclock the core to 765mhz, the shaders to 1585mhz and the memory to 1311mhz. Pretty impressive to say the least. This gave us just short of a 1000 point increase in 3DMark06, which is nothing to be sniffed at for 30 minutes work. So, it's all good news so far - surely it has to come to an end soon? Let's take a look at how it faired against a group of other popular cards around at the moment...


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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.
 
 
3DMark shows us that the new GTX260 can easily keep pace with its bigger brother, the GTX280. Despite losing out once the resolution is increased, the GTX260 does put in a very respectable showing. The Black Edition however, puts its older twin firmly in the shade by beating it by quite a margin. It should be pointed out that the Black Edition is using the very latest beta drivers and the other cards were using the latest drivers at the time of review. Normally the gap would not be so large but it is still very impressive nonetheless.
 
 
We saw similar results with Vantage, except this time the XFX GTX260 Black Edition was the clear winner. This is more than likely due to the recently incorporated PhysX driver, which does have a major effect on PhysX enabled games and benchmarks.
 
Let's see how the card fairs with some real world gaming...


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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.
 
 
 
Wow. Surely the GTX260 should not be beating the GTX280? Well let me assure you it does in COD4, and by quite a margin. The extra stream processors coupled with the latest drivers have improved the Nvidia camp's frames per second dramatically. The GTX260 Black Edition, it seems, is the evolution we were hoping for. Cost per frame all are pretty much evenly matched, apart from the overpriced GTX280 which struggles to cope with the competition.
 
 
 
BioShock is a recent FPS shooter by 2K games. Based on the UT3 engine, it has a large amount of advanced DirectX techniques including excellent water rendering and superb lighting and smoke techniques. All results were recorded using F.R.A.P.S with a total of 5 identical runs through the same area of the game. The highest and lowest results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
 
Again, the GTX260 Black Edition shows its strength. If Nvidia can repeat these performances over the next few games, then ATI might need to sit up and take notice. If this refresh is anything to go by, then the mighty 4870x2 could be dethroned if rumours of a dual core GTX260 are to be believed. The GTX280 once again shows that it is massively overpriced compared to its rivals.


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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.
 
 
 
Finally, the GTX280 puts its little brother in its place. Once the resolutions were increased, the GTX260 slipped back a little -  quite possibly due to its 'lack' of memory compared to the GTX280. It is however, yet another strong showing for the GTX260 Black Edition, cutting through Crysis with relative ease.
 
 
 
F.E.A.R. is a game based on the Lithtech Jupiter EX engine. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects. All results were recorded using F.R.A.P.S, with a total of 5 identical runs through the same area of the game. The highest and lowest results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
Every card has its weakness and F.E.A.R, it seems, is where the GTX260 Black Edition begins to falter. The GTX280 is the outright winner here, besting its sibling at both resolutions. Cost per frame, however, is a different matter all together.


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Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. Benchmarking was performed using Quake4Bench and a custom timedemo recording. The benchmark was set to run a total of 5 times, with Quake4Bench automatically calculating an average result at the end of the run.
 
 

 
A mixed bag was to be had in Quake 4, with the GTX260 once again showing strength at the lower resolution, but once more losing out when the resolution was increased. It appears from these results that there is a slight advantage in owning a GTX280 if higher resolutions are desired. Once again we see the ATI HD4850 being the budget choice while the GTX280 is looking mighty expensive for what you get.
 
 
 
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.
 
 
 
As expected, the new 180.43 drivers incorporating the PhysX driver had a dramatic effect on the Unreal Tournament III results, which is one of the few PhysX games available to the mass market. Clearly dominating the pack, it is obvious that the GTX260 Black Edition is a card to be reckoned with and, coupled with new driver releases from Nvidia, the 2nd Generation Unified Architecture cards are rapidly recovering lost ground to ATI.
 
Let's head over to the conclusion...


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ConclusionXFX GTX260 Black Edition
 
Halloween may be over, but the powers of Darkness are well and truly at work with the XFX GTX260 Black Edition. From the outset I was, as always, very impressed with the XFX packaging. The included accessories are all there so there's no excuses not to be up and running straight out of the box. Once you do get the card installed, the included Far Cry 2 game should be the first thing you install (after the drivers obviously). Including a new release of such high calibre is a stroke of genius by XFX, as most who will buy a new GPU will want to buy the latest game to go with it.
 
The card oozes quality from both the cooling (the cooling fan hardly revved up at all during benchmarking), its looks and most importantly its performance. I have no doubt at all that the GTX260 Black Edition will have an effect on its bigger brother's sales and possibly ATI's HD4870 512MB cards. How it fairs against the ATI HD4870 1024MB card, I cannot say until we get one for review (watch this space), but the ATI card will certainly have its work cut out if today's review is anything to go by.
 
Would I buy one? Yes. Simply because it's hassle free, single core gaming at its best. Sure, the impending revision of the  GTX280's will no doubt better the GTX260 '216', that's a given, but when you factor in price, performance and quality, along with an excellent included game, the GTX260 Black Edition should be up there on any serious gamer's list. So until the newer GTX280's arrive or the much hyped 260GX2, I can see no reason not to recommend the GTX260 Black Edition and give it OC3D's 'Gamers Choice' stamp of approval.
 
The Good
- Performance
- Cooling
- Packaging
- Far Cry2 game
- Overclocking
 
The Mediocre
- The price (still above ATI equivalent)
 
The Bad
- Nothing to report
 
 
 
Thanks to XFX for providing the GTX260 Black Edition for todays review. Discuss in our forum.