Zotac GTX295 PCIe Graphics card Page: 1
Introduction

"It's time to play". So say Zotac. So say we all.

Well if the XFX card, bearing the same product title is anything to go by, it most certainly is time to play. Being from the same stable as the XFX card we reviewed recently, the Zotac GTX295 is the flagship model from the green team which has put paid to the ATI 4870x2 and reclaimed the performance crown. Zotac have put there own spin on the reference model with their latest release, unoriginally named Zotac GeForce GTX295.

With both the XFX and Zotac versions costing exactly the same at £419.98, it will be interesting to see what differences, if any, Zotac have in their presentation of the product as judging by the specification below there is no difference in any of the main numbers.

Here's what Zotac had to say about their product:

Experience jaw-dropping realism and unparallelled performance at extreme high-definition resolutions with the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 295. The ZOTAC GeForce GTX 295 packs the raw power of two NVIDIA GeForce GTX 200 graphics processors on a single card for unmatched 3D processing power.

Graphics Plus technology enhances your gaming experience with the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 295. NVIDIA PhysX technology enables realistic gaming effects in PhysX-enabled games while Stereoscopic 3D technology surrounds you with in-game objects and effects for an absolutely immersive gaming experience with the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 295.

Features:

CUDA

NVIDIA GeForce series graphics processors are the epitome of graphics performance, and deliver phenomenal frame rates with stunning visuals in the latest 3D games and applications.





NVIDIA SLI technology enables up to Two ZOTAC GeForce-series GTX295 graphics cards in one system for up to 280-percent performance gains.





NVIDIA PureVideo HD technology empowers ZOTAC GeForce-series graphics cards with HD playback capabilities for vivid visuals and hardware decoding of Blu-ray disk formats.




ZOTAC Firestorm allows users to fine tune their graphics card to extract maximum performance from ZOTAC GeForce 8, 9 and GTX series graphics cards by enabling users to overclock GPU engine, memory and shader clock speeds and GPU fan-speed.





NVIDIA® GeForce® GPUs with CUDA™ technology enable hyper-realistic GPU accelerated PhysX™ gaming effects such as explosions that cause dust and debris, amazing natural water and fluid effects, characters with life-like motion or cloth that drapes and tears naturally


Specification
Model: Model ZT-295E3MA-FSP
Interface: Interface PCI Express x16
Chipset: Chipset Manufacturer NVIDIA®
GPU: GeForce® GTX 295
Core clock: 576MHz
Stream Processors: 480
Shader Clock: 1242 MHz
Memory Clock: 1998MHz
Memory Size: 1792MB
Memory Interface: 589-bit
Memory Type: GDDR3
3D API: DirectX DirectX 10, OpenGL OpenGL 2.1
Ports: DVI 2, HDMI 1, TV-Out No, VGA No
RAMDAC: 400 MHz
Max Resolution: 2560 x 1600
RoHS Compliant: Yes
SLI Supported: Yes(2-way)
Dual-Link DVI: Supported Yes
Weight: 2.7 lbs - 1,2 kg
Dimensions 4.376“ X 10.5“, 111.15mm X 266.70mm
Package Contents: ZT-295E3MA-FSP, Driver Disk, User Manual, 2 x DVI-to-VGA Adapter, S/PDIF Audio cable, Grid .

As already stated, the difference between this card can the XFX version are pretty much non existent barring the extras each package provides. Going by the specification of the card itself then it appears that both cards are indeed identical. Let's move on to see how Zotac have approached the packaging of the GTX295...



Zotac GTX295 PCIe Graphics card Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance

The outer box arrives in an attractive burnt orange with honeycomb effect theme. I was initially surprised at how compact the box was but was also slightly disappointed as there is little to differentiate this box from a product costing £50, such is Zotac's method of packaging. Taking pride of place on the front of the box is a window showing a sneak preview of the product contained within, the GTX295. Flipping the box over, there is plenty to read about the card on your bus journey home from your local PC store, with all the features and an explanation this card is quad SLI compatible but sadly only contains one card, not a complete Quad SLI setup, not that one would fit in this box anyway.
 
Outer box back box
 
The side panels of the box go on to deliver the specifications, power requirements (680w - 12v/46A) and the key features of the card which are explained in the introduction.

side 1 side 2
 
Opening the box up we see a very well packed product. A plastic top cover protects the card from the outside world and is lovingly surrounded by black Styrofoam, holding the card in place and ensuring no damage should come to the card during transit. Our sample arrived in perfect condition all the way from Hong Kong. If the card can make it all the way to the UK in perfect condition, it should also reach you without issue.

Inside accessories
 
Stripping the product of its packaging we get to see the card and all the paraphernalia that is included with the Zotac GTX295: Dual Molex to 6-Pin, Dual Molex to 8-Pin, HDMI lead, a DVI-VGA adaptor and an S/PDIF Audio cable.

more accessoires discs
 
Completing the package is a free copy of the popular benchmark, 3DMark Vantage and Zotac have also kindly included a fantastic driving simulation in the form of Race Driver: GRID, both of which we will put to the test in our suite of benchmarks.

Card front card rear
 
The card itself is based on the Nvidia reference design with the same rubberised Matt black finish on the coolers frame that we saw with the XFX version. The main difference obviously being Zotac stickers on the cooler in place of XFX ones. Flipping the card over, we again see that no backplate has been included with this version of the GTX295 to protect the solder points and capacitors. We won't be stripping this card down as we did with the XFX as there really is no point as both cards are exactly the same but if you are intrigued to see what makes the GTX295 tick, click HERE.

Fins 1 fins 2
 
The heat sink works differently from previous generations of the 200 series by drawing in cold air from the outside of the card via the internal fan. This cold air is then passed over the heat sink cooling the GTX295's most vital components such as the GPU, memory and voltage regulators and then expelled to the sides and rear of the card via the I/O backplate. In testing we found that the GTX295 got hot but not excessively so and seemed to be pretty efficient in cooling the card down even under the most extreme load.

fan power
 
As the card is in effect a GPU sandwich, the fan has to work extra hard to cool it down but surprisingly the fan was not that loud on test, certainly not as loud as the ATI 4870x2 at least not when under load. At idle however, the tables were turned in that the GTX295 was audible over the CPU fan whereas the 4870x2 was not.

back plate HDMI
 
Finally we reach the business end of the card. With the now standard dual DVI ports, at first glance there does not appear to be anything startling about the I/O backplate. That is until you notice that Zotac have included an HDMI port which has replaced the now ageing S-Video connector. Zotac have also included a HDMI lead which trumps XFX who forgot this important factor and instead included an S-Video cable! Those keen eyed out there will also notice that the GTX295 has two LEDs next to the backplate which signify both Power (Green for good, red for bad) and selected monitor port (Blue).

Let's see how this card overclocks in comparison to the XFX version...


Zotac GTX295 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 (@3.835 Ghz)
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Memory: 3x2GB Corsair DDR3 1600mhz @ 8-8-8-24
HD : Hitachi Deskstar 7k160 7200rpm 80GB
GPU: Zotac GTX295
Graphics Drivers: GeForce 182.06
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 Crysis.
 
 

As you can see from the graph above, the GTX295 consumes up to 50w less power than the 4870x2. This is a stunning achievement by Nvidia made even greater when you consider that the card is actually 2 cards in one. As one would expect being that both the GTX295 cards are both reference designs, both cards are closely matched and consume the same amount of power.


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 see that both 295's exhibit similar results/temperatures. The card certainly did not feel as hot as the graph above shows, in fact the 4870x2 felt a lot hotter to the touch than the GTX295. 
 
Overclocking

stock overclocked



 
Sadly we could not repeat the results of the XFX GTX295, with the Zotac showing signs of instability before we reached the same clock speeds we previously achieved. Nevertheless, the Zotac GTX295 did overclock very well gaining 100MHz on the core and a massive 250MHz on the memory. This translated into some significant gains with regard to Call of Duty IV beating the 4870x2 by some margin. No doubt it may have been a different story had the 4870x2 been overclocked too but the graph above does show the effects of overclocking a card such as the GTX295 and the benefits that are there to be taken with 5 minutes of tweaking.
 
Let's move on to our suite of benchmarks where we pitch it up against the ATI 4870x2 and XFX GTX295 in our full suite of GPU benchmarks...


Zotac GTX295 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

Considering both cards are clocked exactly the same it was hardly surprising that there was very little to choose between both the XFX and Zotac Versions of the GTX295.

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


Zotac GTX295 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

Again, we see that the difference between the two GTX's are tiny. I think it would be safe to assume that given both the cards are reference version of Nvidia's latest GPU, possibly built in the same factory that, apart from the sticker on the product both are exactly the same.

Let's move on..


Zotac GTX295 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 that both GTX295 cards perform on a par with each other with very little to separate them.

Let's head over to the conclusion...


Zotac GTX295 PCIe Graphics card Page: 7
Conclusion

It was both difficult and frustrating trying to present this review in a different light to the XFX GTX295 product we reviewed earlier as this card is, apart from the branding and package, exactly the same. Same results, speed, power consumption and temperature. Even the overclock, while being slightly less than the XFX was most likely down to the Core quality and nothing to do with the manufacturer.

So then why should you choose this product over any other? Price certainly doesn't factor into the equation as both the Zotac and XFX model cost exactly the same. I wouldn't use the overclocking results to distinguish one over another either as that side of things is pot luck whether you get a good core or bad core. In this case both cards overclocked well. So all there really is to choose between the two is the packaging.

The Zotac card was very well packaged and included every accessory you need to get you going, including both 6 and 8 pin adaptors should your PSU not carry those. The Zotac package also included an HDMI cable which seemed to be an oversight on the XFX version. Both cards give you a great game, Zotac - GRID and XFX - Far Cry 2, to help sway your decision and both cards include a copy of 3DMark Vantage.

While both cards approach packing the cards in different ways, both cards are very well packed. XFX however, still hold all the aces as there is much more protection surrounded the card than in the Zotac version. This isn't to say the Zotac's packaging is bad, it's just XFX go that 'extra mile' to ensure you not only receive the package in perfect condition but also feel like you have purchased a top end product. Finishing off the overall package, I should note that Zotac offer an extended warranty of up to 5 years (3 years over the standard warranty) should you register within 14 days of purchase which is an amazing deal and gives the end user piece of mind. XFX at present 'only' offer the standard 2 year warranty.

When all is said and done, these two cards are pretty much identical. Each has minor differences in the overall package but under the skin, both cards are exactly the same and which ever card you decide to pour your money into, I can assure that you will not be disappointed.

The Good
- Unrivalled Performance
- Great Packaging
- Fantastic looks
- Good overclocking
- HDMI Connector.

The Mediocre
- Watercooling might be problematic
- Audible when idle
- Price could be cheaper

The Bad

- Nada



Thanks to Zotac for providing the GTX295 for todays review. Discuss in our forums.