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As things stand today, the Radeon HD 4870 1GB is the ultimate bargain part, while the GeForce GTX 285 offers added performance for about $100 more. The shy 10% performance improvement over the original GTX 280 doesn't excite us much, but it's also true that this card is more energy efficient and will run a little cooler and quieter, which is nice.
Having tested so many SLI and Crossfire enabled graphics cards over the past few months, it is nice to focus on a fast single-GPU solution for a change. While dual GPU setups may look appealing when they are fully working, delivering those high frames per second ratings that we showed before sometimes take frustrating headaches due to driver and stability issues that continue to plague the breed.
The Radeon HD 4870 X2 suffered from the odd crash here and there, while the GeForce GTX 295 was even more difficult. The Asus Extreme NGTX285 on the other hand ran each test over and over again without a single hiccup. Not one crash or glitch was encountered while benchmarking and stress testing this graphics card.
Asus has done a nice job with their factory overclocked GTX 285, even though it's basically an Nvidia reference card with a few tweaks and a new label. When we tried squeezing a few extra MHz out of this already overclocked card we saw a stop at 710/1600/2690MHz for maximum core, shader and memory frequencies. That is not a bad result given we were using the standard cooler, though actual performance increases out of it should be minimal.
Currently Asus is selling its standard GeForce GTX 285 card for $380, while the overclocked TOP version is fetching $400. This makes Asus cards considerably more expensive than its competitors, and we are not exactly sure why. With remaining GeForce GTX 285 cards selling for ~$350, we cannot wholeheartedly recommend buying an Asus version without taking a look at other manufacturers' offerings first.
Moreover, both Nvidia and ATI are expected to release new cards in the $250 range as soon as this week, which means GTX 285 cards will hardly drop in price in the coming few months. So if you are looking for hassle-free high gaming performance, the GTX 285 is a good choice but try to stay as close as possible to the reference $350 mark.
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