NVIDIA GTX 280 Performance Revealed - MSI N280GTX
Packaging & Appearance
Packaging & Appearance
As we've seen in previous GPU reviews, a lot of manufacturers seem to be engaging in a willy-waving war on just how big they can make the packaging on their latest graphics cards before e-tailers start to moan about their lack of storage space and increased shipping fees. MSI seem to have joined in this war with the release of their N280GTX, and as we can see from the images below, the box is simply huge.
Displayed on the outer packaging is all of the usual information and specifications you'd expect to see on a product of this type, and yet another feature that's becoming quite a favourite among manufacturers is the 'further information flap'. Lifting this flap reveals even more information about card along with some more detailed information on its main features.
Contained within the box is everything you need to get up and running, including an S-Video to Phono cable, S-Video to S-Video cable, Molex to 6-Pin PCI-E cable, DVI to VGA converter and last but not least a DVI to HDMI converter (pictured above-right).
The N280GTX also comes with an obligatory driver disk and two free games: Colin Mcrae DiRT and Lord of the Rings: Shadows of Angmar (14 day trial). It is a bit of a shame that MSI didn't include any games that could give the GTX 280 more of a run for its money, but hey, they're free so who are we to complain.
On the surface there really is very little to distinguish the GTX 280 from its elder brother, the 9800GTX. Both cards are exactly the same length, have a cooling fan in roughly the same place and have vents at the back of the card. However, as the GTX 280 features memory chips on both sides of the PCB (pictured further down the page), NVIDIA have fitted a steel cooling plate to the back of the GTX 280 in order to help heat dissipation. This alone makes the card feel quite a bit heavier than its predecessor, but still nowhere near the realms of the hefty 9800GX2.
At the front of the card is a fairly standard assortment of two DVI connectors, an S-Video connector, a power LED (top-left) and 13 wave-shaped vents all mounted on a dual-slot blanking plate. Also, as we can see from the image above-left, the GTX 280 still requires both 6-Pin and 8-Pin PCI-E cables to be attached before the card will function.
Whoa! Would you look at the size of that chip! Without a doubt, the GTX 280 is one of the largest NVIDIA GPU's to date and totally dwarfs the likes of the G92. Interestingly, there is also two sets of mounting holes around the GPU area, possibly indicating that the GTX 200 series may well work with some existing G80/G92 cooling solutions. Also featured bottom right is the NVIO chip responsible for all data that enters the GPU over an interface that isn't PCI Express, such as the dual-link DVI outputs, S-Video and SLI connectivity.
Stock cooling on the GTX 280 is extremely similar to that found on the 9800GTX with a combination of copper, aluminium, heatpipes and fins being used to cool the GPU and memory IC's. The blower-style fan used on the GTX 280 is slightly larger than that of the 9800GTX - but only by 10-20mm.
During the testing of the card, we found it to remain cool and quiet even when under stress from benchmarks such as 3DMark Vantage. Firing up Rivatuner showed the fan to be running at about 40% speed and although temperatures were being reported at around 45c, these were certainly to be taken with a pinch of salt as Rivatuner was unable to correctly identify the card.
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