Closing Thoughts & What to Buy
Balance has now been restored with the introduction of the GeForce GTX 295, giving Nvidia a weapon to compete for the performance crown.
Probably the biggest plus for Nvidia right now is that they seem to be offering better support for the major games released last year. Games such as Call of Duty 5, Dead Space, and Left 4 Dead, for example, all play better on Nvidia hardware and this is what helped to give the GeForce GTX 295 the edge over the Radeon HD 4870 X2.
Still, current owners of the Radeon HD 4870 X2 can hardly hang their heads in shame as this graphics card has proven to be extremely powerful and competitive with only a few select games where it got trounced by this newly released GeForce.
Like all multi-GPU graphics cards, the GeForce GTX 295 relies heavily on proper driver support to perform as intended. Every time a new game is released, it is likely that the GeForce GTX 295 will not correctly support it (in strict performance terms) until Nvidia updates its ForceWare drivers. That said, Nvidia proved throughout last year that their driver team is up to the task, releasing new drivers that coincided with major game releases.
Without full SLI support the GeForce GTX 295 is only a bit faster than a single GeForce GTX 260 graphics card. And while that is no slouch, it does constitute a massive reduction in performance.
The latest Nvidia ForceWare release (181.20 WHQL-certified) came on January 8th, adding support for the GeForce GTX 295 and GeForce GTX 285 graphics cards. While these new drivers worked very well for the most part, we did run into a few issues here and there that caused some games to crash.
Left 4 Dead would often crash to the desktop when using Vista 64-bit, and this was also the case when testing the GeForce GTX 260 graphics cards in SLI, so this appeared to be an SLI related issue. Grand Theft Auto IV had a similar problem, though the crashes were not nearly as common. Then we World in Conflict and Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts crashing a couple of times when changing the game resolution. In other words, it wasn't all smooth sailing with the GeForce GTX 295 and we will keep an eye on these stability issues with future driver releases.
Overall we are very pleased with the numbers produced by the GeForce GTX 295 and we are even happy about its price. At $500 this is not exactly an affordable product, but given the level of performance the price is fitting. At the other side of the fence you have AMD/ATI who have become increasingly aggressive at slashing prices. So far the Radeon HD 4870 X2 has been reduced to $450, with certain rebates taking it closer to $400. At that point you may want to seriously consider what to buy.
As we discussed when introducing the GTX 295, prices have yet to settle though, and the good news is that it's barely taken a week for the initial correction to take place.
All that said, if price is no object and you want the most powerful single card solution money can buy, then the GeForce GTX 295 is your poison.