Zotac GTX 260² Page: 1
Introduction

ZotacThe current graphics market leaves consumers with quite a lot to think about. There seems to be no end of cards placed in the £100-£200 price bracket, which seems to be where all the action is. All this makes it incredibly difficult to know which card to buy, and today we will be looking at the upper end of this scale, hoping to resolve a few things.

Zotac are a fairly new name 'on the scene', and as such we have never reviewed a Zotac product before. Here is a little bit more about the company:

ZOTAC International (MCO) Limited was established in 2006 with a mission to deliver superb quality of NVIDIA graphic solutions to the industry. It has strong backup from parent group, PC Partner Ltd. Headquartered in Hong Kong, factory in Mainland China and regional sales offices in Europe, Asia Pacific and North America. The support ZOTAC provides is currently the largest of its kind around the world.
With 40 SMT lines, 6,000 workers and 100,000 square-feet meter, ZOTAC features a full array of state-of-the-art facilities and machineries. In addition, ZOTAC has over 130 R&D professionals in Hong Kong, China and warranty and service center in strategic countries to enable effective and efficient worldwide as well as localized sales and marketing supports.

As you can see, they clearly mean business. Whilst they may be the new kids on the block, they're certainly not small or feeble, with a vast range of staff and a large headquarters.

So, what about the card itself? Today we will be looking at the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 260² card, which uses the newer 216 'Core' Nvidia GPU technology. Here are the full specifications:

Bus Type: PCI Express 2.0 (Backwards compatible with PCI Express)
Memory: 896MB GDDR3
Core Clock: 576MHz
Shader Clock: 1242MHz
Memory Data Rate: 1998MHz
Processor Cores: 216
Shader Model: 4.0
Texture Fill Rate: 36.9 Billion/sec.
Memory Interface: 448-bit
Memory Bandwidth: 111.9GB/sec.
Display Connectors: 2 Dual-Link DVI-I, HDTV + TV Out
Card Dimensions: 266.7mm x 95.3mm x 38.1mm
Warranty: 2 Year

Although the card isn't pre-overclocked, it does come with a 2 year warranty as opposed to the standard one year. Now lets take a look at the card itself...


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Packaging and Bundle

Although we've have had no previous experiences with Zotac's packaging skills, upon first inspection they seem to be rather good. Unfortunately it would appear some Christmas elves had slapped a large label on the back of the packaging, covering most of it. For that reason we only photographed the front of the packaging.

Zotac GTX260 Packaging

As you can see, Zotac have decided to cover a large amount of the box with a graphic, then have the company logo in the top left and product name down the bottom. The key specs are listed down the right, and a small, almost triangular sticker has been placed on the left informing you of the bundled Far Cry 2 Game.
 
Zotac GTX260 Packaging Zotac GTX260 Packaging

Inside the outer box we have an inner white box. This is filled with some foam padding that hugs the card. There is a cut out in the padding which encloses all the bundled leads and cables with all the leaflets and disks laid on top of the card itself. Included in the box we have the usual bits and pieces; HDTV adaptors, 2x Molex to 6-Pin PCI-E adaptors, A users guide, driver disk, warranty slip and a DVI to HDMI adaptor.
 
Zotac GTX260 Zotac GTX260 Graphic

As you can see Zotac have chosen the replicate the graphic from the front of the box onto the top of the card. The card itself uses the stock Nvidia cooling, however this is very weighty and feels of good quality, so should keep the card well within acceptable operating temperatures. From a connection point of view, we have the standard dual link DVI connections along with a TV-Out port.
 
Zotac GTX 260 Power Connectors. GTX 260 SLI headers

At the back of the card we have two 6-pin PCI-E connectors an audio connector. This means the card can act as a pass-through for audio when connected using HDMI, cutting down on cable clutter. At the front we have two SLI bridge connectors, meaning this card can be used in Tri-Sli configuration with supported motherboards.


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Test Setup

A selection of games and benchmark suites has been chosen to test each of the graphics cards used in today's review on several different game engines. Each graphics card configuration will be run at both low and high resolutions with varying levels of texture filtering to represent 17", 20" and 24" screen sizes.

3DMark05
1024x768 / 0xAA
1680x1050 / 4xAA
1920x1200 / 4xAA

3DMark06
1280x1024 / 0xAA
1680x1050 / 4xAA
1920x1200 / 4xAA

3DMark Vantage

Performance Mode
High Mode
Extreme Mode

ET:Quake Wars
1440x900 / High / 4xAA
1680x1050 / High / 4xAA
1920x1200 / High / 4xAA

Unreal Tournament III
1440x900 / DX10
1680x1050 / DX10
1920x1200 / DX10

Call of Duty 4
1440x900 / Max / 4xAA
1680x1050 / Max / 4xAA
1920x1200 / Max / 4xAA

Farcry 2
1440x900 / Max / 4xAA
1680x1050 / Max / 4xAA
1920x1200 / Max / 4xAA

Racedriver GRID
1440x900 / High / 4xAA
1680x1050 / High / 4xAA
1920x1200 / High / 4xAA

Crysis
1440x900 / DX10 / High / 4xAA
1680x1050 / DX10 / High / 4xAA
1920x1200 / DX10 / High / 4xAA

To ensure that the test system is powerful enough to test each GPU to its limits, the configuration chosen below has been specially selected to give the GTX260 plenty of headroom to produce the best results.

CPU
Intel Core2Quad Q6600 2.4Ghz @ 3.6 Ghz

Motherboard
ASUS P5Q Deluxe (P45)

Memory
Cellshock DDR2 PC-2 6400 5-5-5-18 @ 800mhz

Power Supply
Tuniq Ensemble 1200w

Graphics Drivers
NVidia Forceware 180.48
ATI Catalyst 8.12.72276

Operating System
Windows Vista 64bit SP1

For testing we decided to put the GTX260 against its closest rival; The 4870. We chose our favourite 4870 tested so far, the 4870 IceQ4+ Turbo by HIS. This comes with a hefty overclock, and gave the GTX260 quite a battering at stock speeds. Therefore, to even things up, we decided to give the GTX260 a bit of a tweak. The final lineup is as follows:

HIS 4870 1GB IceQ4+ Turbo,
Zotac GTX 260 @ 576/1242/1998 Core/Stream/Mem,
Zotac GTX260 @ 650/1242/2200 Core/Stream/Mem,
Gigabyte 4850 1GB.

Find out how they fared in the first round of testing...



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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.

Zotac GTX260 3D05

Zotac GTX260 3D06

Zotac GTX260 3DVantage

 
Results Observation

The stock speed GTX260 really struggles to keep pace with the overclocked 4870 in 3DMark 05 & 06, however once the overclock is applied, the GTX260 manages to eek out quite a lead. The story changes completely in Vantage, where the GTX260 takes the lead even at stock, increasing the lead even more once overclocked. The 4850 meanwhile trails the leaders by quite a margin, but for a card costing £50 less, it doesn't do too badly.



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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.

Zotac GTX260 COD4



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.
 
Zotac GTX260 Crysis



ET:Quake Wars is a follow-up game to Wolfenstein:Enemy Territory developed by Splash Technology. Using a modified version of id Software's Doom 3 engine along with Mega rendering technology, the game promises high resolution textures, fast gameplay and plenty of explosions. Using the built-in recordNetDemo and timeNetDemo commands, we recorded a 5 minute online gaming session and played it back a total of 5 times at each resolution, calculating the average FPS from the median three results.
 
Zotac GTX260 ET:QW

Results Observations

Once again the GTX260 and 4870 exchange blows, however once overclocked the GTX260 manages to pull out a clear lead in most games. Crysis bucks the trend a little, with the overclocked GTX260 and 4870 returning almost identical results across all resolutions. The 4850 once again tags along nicely, still within a few frames, but not really close enough to threaten the other cards.


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FarCry 2 is based upon the Dunai engine developed by Ubisoft and takes advantage of multi-core processors along with support for the DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 API. 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.

GTX260 FC2




Unreal Tournament 3
the latest game in the long running Unreal series from Epic Games and Midway. The game uses the latest UE3, 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.





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.
 

Results Observation

The ATI cards take a bit of a pounding in Far Cry 2. However, they respond well in Unreal Tournament 3 with the 4870 pretty much matching the overclocked GTX260.  As we move onto GRID it becomes a two horse race. Both the pre-overclocked HIS 4870 and OC'd GTX260 get almost identical framerates, with the GTX260 taking it by the smallest margin. The 4850 as usual, was close, but not close enough.



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Conclusion

Zotac GTX260Nvidia's second revision 260 core and ATI's 1gb 4870 really couldn't get much closer. In some games, the frame rate difference was simply too close to call, with tenths of a frame in it. Unfortunately for ATI, the card we tested came pre-overclocked, so squeezing any extra juice out of that will be pretty fruitless. The GTX260 on the other hand had quite a lot of headroom, and the extra clocks enabled it to beat the 4870 hands down in most of the games tested.

Based on the card alone, it seems Nvidia/Zotac have won this round. To better this, if you're not satisfied by the gaming results, there is also CUDA and PhysX to consider. This may be of particular interest to folders. Although we didn't have a chance to get any meaningful data comparison, a quick search on the web will show you just how powerful and fast these things are at folding, especially compared the the 4870 and other ATI cards. All in all, we are very impressed with todays results, and the card is avaliable for £222.39 from Yoyotech, making it a very tempting upgrade for avid gamers and folders alike.


The Good
+ Very fast in all our test games.
+ Responds well to overclocking
+ Matches or out-paces an overclocked 4870 in our test games
+ Far Cry 2 Included in the Box
+ Extended Warranty

The Mediocre

* Fairly hot running

The Bad
- Zilch

Overclock3D Editors Choice

Overclock3D would like to thank Zotac for supplying todays review sample.
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