Around mid last year Nvidia unveiled their most complex graphics processor yet in the form of the GeForce GTX 280. Despite of its impeccable design, the original $600 price caused many gamers to steer clear of it, leaving the much cheaper Radeon HD 4870 as the more desirable option despite of being slower.
The more mainstream GTX 260 fared much better in terms of sales compared to its big brother thanks to an aggressive pricing strategy and a core update later on that put it head to head with the Radeon HD 4870 (1GB). Today both of these cards can be had for just $200, which is about half of its introductory price, effectively becoming mid-range graphics cards.
At those prices it's hard to imagine anyone would be interested to pick up the original GTX 280. That's why Nvidia decided to phase it out making way for the GTX 285, which is an updated 55nm version that features higher memory and core operating frequencies.
Priced at around $350, the new GeForce GTX 285 is in a league of its own, meaning that ATI has no direct competitor for it. That doesn't guarantee a good value, so it will be interesting to see if the extra performance offered by the GTX 285 justifies the $150 premium you will have to pay over a GTX 260 or Radeon HD 4870, or perhaps if it's worth spending even more on a dual-GPU 4870 X2 or GTX 295 that sell for an additional $100 and $150, respectively.
The particular Asus card that we are reviewing (referred to as ENGTX285 TOP by the manufacturer) should deliver a little more performance than your typical GeForce GTX 285 considering it's a factory overclocked model. This may also translate in a higher retail price, likely in the $400 ballpark.
Our performance comparison will put this Asus GTX 285 graphics card against ATI's top offerings, the original GeForce GTX 280, the GTX 260 and the dual-GPU GTX 295.