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GTX 280 vs 8800 GTX - 18 Months of Innovation

Nvidia's PhysX Driver & Overclocking

Nvidia’s PhysX Driver

You may have noticed that people have been talking about the effect that Nvidia’s PhysX driver has on the Vantage Physics Test. Some dude even got his Radeon HD 3870 to run the Nvidia PhysX layer in Vantage. Well I installed the PhysX driver and ran the Vantage Physics test. Before I installed the driver I earned 13.08 OP/sec and after I installed it I got 117.17 OP/sec! The GTX 280 churned out almost 9 times as many operations per second than my quad core CPU. That may seem like “cheating” but when you watch the test you can see the difference. After installing the driver, the GPU is used to render all the physics and because the GPU is so much more powerful more planes (the test shows planes emitting colored smoke flying around and crashing into objects and each other) are flying around the screen than before.

Now to find out how much better the GTX 280 is at rendering PhysX than my Quad Core Intel CPU in a real game! There are currently 3 maps in Unreal Tournament 3 that are designed to use the PhysX physics system. They come bundled together in a mod pack brought to you by Nvidia. Here are the results of my UT3 PhysX testing:


Unreal Tournament 3 PhysX graph

Heat Ray is the map with probably the fewest physics type things built into it. Hail stones pour from the sky, bounce around then “melt” (disappear) and there are several breakable pieces of the landscape that crumble very nicely. The GTX 280 allowed me to play the map with a FPS that was 86% faster than when I turned off the GTX’s physics computing.

CTF Lighthouse was the middle of the road map of the 3. There are many, many breakable walls, windows and floors that allow you to confuse your pursuers when you are carrying their flag. Most of the breakable walls have an exploding barrel next to them to facilitate the redecorating process. As the match progresses it seems like it becomes more difficult for my CPU to render the ever increasing amount of broken things. Using the GTX 280, I was unable to notice the same slowdown. As you can see, with the GTX 280 behind the PhysX “wheel” my frame rate was 3.7 times faster than my CPU.

The centerpiece of CTF Tornado is of course, the freaking tornado. It picks up large and small objects, damages or kills players that get too close and peels back the tin roofs of the Red and Blue bases. There are also many destructible walls and pipes in the maps as well that open additional routes between the bases. Letting the GTX 280 run the PhysX show gave me more than 4 times the frames than the CPU could muster. This is the ultimate PhysX map of the three in my opinion. I have even recorded some video of the tornado in action for you all!



I hate reviews that do not overclock their cards so now that I am in charge of this review I knew that I had to include my overclocking results.


Overclocking Pic


For those of you without an encyclopedic knowledge of reference card speeds, the stock speeds for the GTX 280 are 602/1,296/1,107. I was able to increase the core by 100MHz (16.6%), the shader clock by 162MHz (12.5%) and the memory by 162MHz (14.6%). For simplicity’s sake, let’s say that the card is clocked about 15% higher than it was. Will I get 15% more performance?

3DMark Vantage OC graph


Here we have all 8 GPU tests from 3DMark Vantage. Four of these tests did see an improvement of 15% or higher and the other four improved between 10 and 14 percent.

  •     Texture Fill 16.5%
  •          GPU Particles 16%
  •          POM 15.2%
  •          Color Fill 15.1%
  •          New Calico 13.7%
  •          Perlin Noise 12.4%
  •          GPU Cloth 10.9%
  •          Jane Nash 10.5%

The benchmark data is showing that there is indeed a benefit to be had from overclocking the GTX 280. Will we see the same result from a PC game? 

Crysis OC graph


Well I’ll be darned! The average FPS in Crysis has increased a full 20.4%! Crysis proved that I did indeed find the highest overclock possible on my particular card because if I clocked my card any higher I started getting artifacts. So class, what have we learned? If you have the stones to overclock a $649 video card you will be rewarded.


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