Nvidia was caught somewhat off-guard last year when ATI came up with a rather impressive line of graphics processors that not only were fast but were also priced very competitively.
Nvidia was then forced to heavily slash the pricing of their debuting GeForce GTX products at the time. But it didn't stop there, throughout the rest of year the name of the game was undercutting each other's prices, a game that I must add was very beneficial to consumers.
And that's how last year ended, Nvidia used their older GeForce 9 series to compete at the mainstream level, leaving the newer GTX technology for high performance graphics. Meanwhile, ATI launched a number of interesting products that belonged to their Radeon 4800 line. That included the Radeon HD 4870 X2, a dual GPU graphics card that snatched the performance crown from Nvidia's hands, though ATI didn't ask peanuts for this board at $550+ a piece.
By sticking two Radeon HD 4870 1GB cards together, ATI created a graphics processing monster that, when supported with proper drivers, was by far the fastest single card solution gamers could get their hands on. Since its release in August of last year the Radeon HD 4870 X2 has run virtually unopposed. Now some 5 months later, it looks like this is about to change.
The Nvidia GeForce GTX 295 dual-GPU graphics card features 1792MB of memory which corresponds to the memory capacity of two GeForce GTX 260 boards. However, unlike the Radeon HD 4870 X2 which is literally two Radeon HD 4870 products stuck together, the GeForce GTX 295 seems to be more of a hybrid, sharing specs of both GeForce GTX 260 and 280 products.
The GeForce GTX 295 gets the same core, memory, and shader clock speeds as the GeForce GTX 260. Yet its core configuration is more similar to that of a GeForce GTX 280, with each of the two GPUs featuring 240 SPUs, 80 TAUs (Texture Address Units) and 28 ROPs (Rasterization Operator Units).
Therefore, what we have here is an insanely fast graphics card that should be more than capable of taking on the Radeon HD 4870 X2.
Discussing prices is going to get tricky for the next few weeks considering GeForce GTX 295 boards have started to appear on retailers immediately at ~$500 and price drops from competing products have followed accordingly. The Radeon HD 4870 X2 seems to be selling for ~$450, making it roughly the same as buying a pair of Radeon HD 4870 1GB cards. GeForce GTX 280 pricing, on the other hand, has dropped dramatically from the $450-500 range a few weeks ago to less than $350, making for quite a bargain.
This heavy drop may be in light of its replacement, the slightly speed bumped GeForce GTX 285, which will use a 55nm process and hence is expected to run cooler and overclock better. These cards have yet to become available though, and the discounts for GTX 280 cards may be a strategy to deplete inventory as quickly as possible.
But back to the cream of the crop, how fast is GeForce GTX 295 exactly? We will be exploring that next.