Preliminary Thoughts

With a board power of 289W, this thing isn't going to be cheap to run. Plugging two in a system is going to push the envelope, but 3-way GTX 280 will still consume more power. It is likely that NVIDIA made the changes to memory bandwidth in order to save on a couple hundred megs of RAM that would draw too much more power. Making such a move is definitely sensible, but it is at the highest end (2560x1600 with tons of blur (I mean AA, sorry)) where tons of RAM are needed to push performance.

Of course, with two cards (especially if a game is capable of alternate frame rendering (AFR)), memory limited performance issues will be mitigated quite a bit, and opening up the shader power of two GTX 280 cards in a single slot is big for games that use a lot of compute. The way future games tackle the balance of compute and memory has yet to be seen, but NVIDIA has been saying for years that the future continues to be increasing the compute ratio.

We like hard launches. This isn't one. While that's disappointing, we do really want to get our hands on this hardware. The GTX 295 definitely looks like it will best the Radeon HD 4870 X2 in terms of raw power. Beyond that, it is clear that AMD hasn't taken driver development seriously enough and CrossFire just isn't as robust as SLI. Relying on a CrossFire based solution for their highest end part means it is necessary to provide reliable performance and stability across all games, new and old, and on all platforms. Making user defined profiles that allow the forcing of different CrossFire modes on certain games would go a long way to helping, but the real relief will come when AMD decides to fix their broken driver development model.

As it stands, SLI is a better solution than CrossFire and the GPUs on the GTX 295 will really put the screws to RV770. We will very likely see NVIDIA take back the crown in terms single card performance.

That said, how sad is it that NVIDIA had to go and push this press info out there 3 weeks before availability just to try and slow AMD's momentum during the holiday season.

A Quick Look Under The Hood
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  • Goty - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    Sure, SLI scales across a few more games than crossfire does, but the scaling is nearly identical, so I'd probably stay away from comments about the level of scaling.

    If you look here (http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/2008/12/17/xmas-2...">http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/2008/1...008-grap..., bit-tech just ran a test over eight of the newest popular games out there and the HD4870 gained an average of 67.5% when adding a second card while the GTX260 gained 70% (and the 280 gained less than either). I'd call that pretty even.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    that's not the real issue.

    i've said before that though sli seems to scale with more games, crossfire seems to scale better when it does work. we've seen this in past articles.

    yes part of the issue is that AMD's highest end part doesn't perform like a highest end part should in some games. but ...

    the problem is when catalyst drivers break crossfire support for existing titles (like they did for bioshock and a couple others in the past 8 months or so) and when it takes 2+ months to get proper working crossfire driver support on a new platform or on a new game (like core i7 or far cry2 ... the combination about made me want to kill myself).

    crossfire is not as desirable a solution because, while performance is great when it works, it really doesn't "just work" as often as it should. and in those cases where either crossfire or sli don't work out of the box, nvidia gives you a way to force sli while amd doesn't offer any sane way to force a crossfire mode.

    i have no problem recommending sli over crossfire until AMD fixes the way catalyst is developed and deployed.

    i hate to sound like a broken record, but after years of this nonsense, it is just time for things to change.
    Reply
  • TantrumusMaximus - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    Agreed on the comments regarding paper vs. hard launch however nVidia can usually back their performance claims etc. I'm sure this will trounce a 4870x2 when released as from what I've seen SLI scales better across more games than ATI Crossfire.

    Can't wait to see some benchmarks and more details. I am building a new system in early Feb. and was tentatively doing SLI GTX260 216 boards.
    Reply
  • Xietsu - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    "That said, how pathetic is that NVIDIA had to go and push this press info out there 3 weeks before availability just to try and slow AMD's momentum during the holiday season."

    Well, it's doubtful that such a niche piece of information will affect sales that much, but I'd replace pathetic with prudent (and then add "it" after "is")! Hehe.
    Reply
  • smlforever - Friday, December 26, 2008 - link

    ????????,HD4850?GTX9800GTX+????
    ATI???NIVIDA?,??????,?NFS12??COD5?
    ?????
    Reply
  • Demne - Friday, December 26, 2008 - link

    Xietsu is obviously an ATI fanboy. Who cares if Nvidia pushes there latest graphics card to stall momentum of ATI cards. It is called Business and that is what drives sales towards each platform and creates interest in a product.

    Supposedly.. AMD/ATI are not the kings on the block they once were and any Nvidia card that will beat out a ATI card, I want to hear about it and how it will perform against its competition. Intel has the smoking processors, and if Nvidia has the king of the cards and wants to announce it to hault sales against ATI.. Good for them.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    while it may not affect volume sales, it absolutely will impact those looking to buy at the high end ... read: it will impact those looking to spend the most money on the part that provides the highest profit margin.

    i'm a big believer in looking at the landscape right now and making decisions based on current reality. we can't know what the future will bring. sometimes this means i'll err on the cautious side and miss out on a deal. and sometimes people willing to sacrifice time for the possibility of a deal will be rewarded.

    it could be that those who wait for the GTX 295 are making a good decision. it could be that the only thing they end up doing is wasting a month they could have spent enjoying their 4870 X2 or something. we won't really know until January.

    it certainly is prudent from a marketing perspective. but we aren't interested in marketing, we are interested in the consumer and our readers. hard launches are good for those buying the cards because they know they can get their hands on what is being talked about. this kind of thing is good for NVIDIA because it stirs up interest and anticipation and people will have expectations.

    but as another commenter pointed out, it is entirely possible that nvidia, like they have done in the past, could decide to not actually release any product called a GTX 295 ever or anything remotely similar to this part we are reporting on. that is the major danger of something that is not a hard launch. it has happened before and it does negatively impact consumers, the competition, and ultimately the company that did it in the first place (though this impact takes longer to materialize).

    ati isn't innocent either ... they've done the same thing in the past. and we absolutely are not being biased here -- if amd were to do the same thing we would react the same way: grateful for the information but warning against the dangers of releasing this info to press before availability for the sake of our readers.


    Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    Wow Derek, hypocrite much? I don't remember reading similar protest when AMD paper-launched the 4870X2. The difference is you actually had hard numbers accompanying text in that print space! Did Nvidia not send you an ES this time around? Didn't feel as special being one of only 10 in the world like with the 4870X2 paper launch so you felt it wasn't worth putting up preview numbers? How quickly we forget.....
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Saturday, December 20, 2008 - link

    Chizow, wouldn't it be great if someone held off on Santa splurging since they heard about the 3 week friendly heads up announcement ? Guess what else ?
    Wouldn't it be great if it drove 4780x2 prices down for that Tiny Tim that wanted one for xmas but just couldn't squeeze the last few bucks - but now maybe can ?
    How about the rest of the merry, who, thank their lucky stars, now don't run out and buy 2 full version card X, because they know they have a single slot solution coming (wouldn't that include a lot of sli board owners ? I guess it's just TERRIBLE for them *dripping sarcasm*)
    Yes, well thank you for posting your points.
    For a minute there I thought the whole idea stated in the article of being "for our readers and the end user enthusiasts" and therefore against this early HEADS UP was just some sort of corporate doublespeak...( how the reviewer would be paid or compensated, I do not know...)
    Then I almost dropped dead when I read that this 295 "might just not even come out" (OMG - talk about freakish wishful thinking)...
    So thanks to those who posted links to others WHO GOT THE CARD and already posted actual results.
    So let me see, I'm supposed to believe that Nvidia hasn't been running a STREAM of these cards already at their contracted facilities ? Supposedly on Jan 8th, that's the date they finally "mass produce" ?
    NO, SORRY ! It's so INSANE at this point to even suggest this card won't hit the stores for end users - I mean WTH is going on...
    Ok, well if it's a few words this way or that - trying to recall past occurences and add depth to the storyline, and a phrase here or there gets a bit out of hand... well ok... it's just that it is absolutely clear it is more than just that. Maybe the order from on high or from pressure was to scramble the other direction after the ATI driver demands for special end user configs and the demand for more quality releases instead of monthly "somewaht brokens".
    ___________________________

    Ok, so whatever the pressures, let me just finish by saying this early announcement is WONDERFUL for end users, for readers, for ALL OF US.
    It can help drive down the price for 4870x2 "want to purchasers" - and is a FAIR and REASONABLE thing for NVidia to do considering the season and the certain hit they'ed take if they did not.
    This helps ALL OF US.
    PS - I've already seen the red fanboys screaming the 295 reviews are not correct and at some point in time soon someone will post one with reasonable numbers that don't stomp the 4870x2 so badly - in other words, the review numbers must be lies - so that of course absolutely indicates - that NVidia would have to be LOONS not to have this card out on the market soon.
    It also means it was VERY NICE of them to point out what they *didn't have ready in time for Xmas!!shame shame!!{valid criticism)* so that people, we people, wanting to upgrade, fan readers of anandtech and the like, can make a wise choice holding off a bit.
    From the actual hands on reviews I've seen thanks to helpful fellow readers here and elsewhere, it is well worth the 3 week wait if one was thinking of 4870x2. NOT being a fantaic of either company makes that is easily understandable, and I reckon it gets harder, if other conditions exist.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    You have a terrific point about the fact that we didn't do the same thing with R700. I actually didn't think of it that way, but I definitely see the merit of your assertion and I apologize.

    I can tell you it's not because AMD sent us hardware (NVIDIA sends us hardware too -- that's not an issue at all), and it's not because we are biased for or against one or the other. I just honestly thought these were different circumstances.

    I don't mean to sound like I'm making excuses -- I'm not: I accept responsibility, and I'm sorry.

    To clarify, R700 was a package deal with RV770. We learned about both at the same time and shared information on the direction AMD was going with our first 3 articles that talked about the RV770/R700 architecture and performance. Neglecting a single monolithic high end chip and going with single-card multi-GPU as the sole ultra high end solution was a corporate direction more than a promise of a product. This wasn't some unexpected part, and we were very focused on whether this would be a good direction for the company even more so than would this be a good product.

    Had AMD slipped on R700 and not released it or released it at poor performance, it would have been much bigger and different than missing a part in the lineup -- it would have been a disaster of epic proportions leaving no competition with NVIDIA's high end solutions and proving that AMD's future direction was fundamentally flawed. The success or failure of AMD's RV770 gamble and possibly even the future direction of GPU architecture at AMD rested on whether the strategy paid off top to bottom.

    The GeForce GTX 295 isn't something we knew about or expected before this month, and it honestly doesn't seem vital to NVIDIA's strategy. It is well timed in marketing terms, but sometimes that's just coincidence. The point is though, that you don't know what you are getting until you are able to buy it (and I did, at least, mention that at the end of the R700 preview). Hard launches are better for consumers.

    Honestly, I still feel that these circumstances are different, but if I had it to do over again, I would have emphasized the point that the R700 preview was bigger than a product, that the preview was much more about corporate direction and design philosophy, and that we want to see companies stick to hard launches. I do apologize for not coming through on that in the R700 preview.
    Reply

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