There is no doubt about the fact that the GeForce GTX 280 is currently the fastest single GPU on the planet. The real problem though is that that a 300 USD Radeon HD 4870 in many occasions can get pretty close to this product's performance, at a far better price. So thanks them that NVIDIA adapted to the situation by lowering it's prices significantly. The HC16 version from EVGA does make a difference, it stands out loud in that crowd man.
First let's address the essentials, the overclock will boost your overall performance with another 10% maybe 15% and that gives this product a good lead over the single-gpu competition. Yet it's still a little too expensive, now when you slap the water-cooler on there the price will go up again and end at $629.99
So let me get this out of the way first, I can do nothing other than be honest here, bang for bucks wise, the red colored products just offer more value. If I take it even a step further, with so many shader cores the new X2 4870 product, though a dual-GPU based solution, eats the GTX 280 in raw performance. But that's a dual-GPU product, it's a bit noisy and in the winter it'll seriously heat up your room. So if we take performance out of the equation, that is a completely different product and segment as to what we are testing today.
NVIDIA's products do have a few tricks up their sleeves though. You'll get more value thanks to NVIDIA CUDA implementation of the product. It allows you to use 3rd party software like Badaboom to transcode videos. And next to that you obviously can not forget about the nice PhysX implementation NVIDIA gives you for free.
Some minor negatives. The bundled package is missing stuff. If I chip out over 600 USD, I expect everything to be inside that box. I want to see a HDMI adapter included and an SPDIF lead cable at the minimum. EVGA, please throw out that dumb analog 3-way HDTV RCA cable and start including the Digital DVI HDMI adapter.
Secondly, and this is just silly, EVGA drills two extra wholes into the copper block for people that like to go SLI with this kit. They however will not include the two extra needed fittings (two per card). See in-between the two cards you need to place the in and out flow tubing, these need to be connected to fittings (bridge-barbs). And EVGA doesn't include them. That's impractical as you'll need to purchase them at the EVGA site at 5.99 USD each, and you'll need four of them.
EVGA hardware itself obviously ran fine as always. Even more value can to be found in after-sales. You'll receive an extensive life-time warranty in the USA, and 10 years outside the USA. Very few manufacturers offer you this kind of support. And especially with an expensive high-end part like tested today, it's good to know you back is covered should god forbid something happen to the product. Though not very likely applicable to you if you purchase this high-end product, EVGA has a step-up program, and though really interesting, it's doubtful that you'd step-up to something else. I mean what else is there to be found after the GeForce GTX 280 -- well maybe a 55nm spin-off product, who knows.
No-matter how you look at it or compare yourself blind to the team red, the GeForce GTX 280 remains the fastest single GPU based product on this planet. But the next step for AMD is to release a Radeon 4850 X2, and that product is going to be an undeviating problem to the GTX 280 price and performance wise. It's just the reality of today's 3D gaming arena.
Why drop all that cash on a graphic card you ask ? Well, you are a Guru3D reader, you understand the passion right ? Now if we compare the water cooled version with the regular fan cooled version then we'll see that overclocking wise there hardly is a difference. Granted, you'll have wayhaaaay better temperatures though.
No, the most positive key features remaining for water-cooling are sound versus performance versus temperatures, yeah the temperatures are extremely nice. And then the inevitable the brag factor, the x-factor, the pimp stuff, the bling edition PC .. ehm you name it, is what it is really all about. I mean you have seen the photo's, how cool does that look. It's the stuff that glorifies your PC with pride.
Hey, if you can choose between a Mazda and a Ferrari .. you'd choose the Ferrari. That's my point. So if you do this right, get the UV reflective coolant, some black lighting in the PC as we have shown you today .. then this is really cool stuff to do and own. I mean compare it with the cars from fast and the furious, yet this is the fast and the chilled.
And sure, realistically speaking though the price however will hardly justify that uberlasting cool factor. Very few will be able to build such a rig purely based on the sheer amount of cash that you will need to do so. And is that much money really worth playing games ? But hey .. in the end that's your prerogative and your decision to make. It's relatively easy to setup, will fit in any compatible mainboard, will offer you excellent cooling with seriously nice overclocking potential and though I hate using this word, it's just l33t stuff to own.
The EVGA GeForce GTX 280 HC16 is a top-notch product. We had a breathtaking gaming experience and very cool looking nicely chilled GeForce GTX 280, from A to Z this product is a pleasure to own.
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