Core Clock: 621MHz Shader Clock: 1,350 MHz Memory Clock: 2,268MHz (effective) Warranty: Ten year limited warranty
This summer has been the most active in recent memory for the graphics card industry, with both Nvidia and ATI having launched their new flagship GPUs, resulting in some lengthy late night benchmarking sessions here at bit-tech HQ, as well as some heated debates over the benefits of the competing architectures. However, as we found in our summer graphics round-up, the undisputed king of single card performance was the mighty GeForce GTX 280 even if its cost was frankly extortionate at launch, in comparison with ATI's Radeon HD 4870.
However, now the cards have been on the market for a few months, prices have stabilised to a degree and a stock GeForce GTX 280 can now be had for around £300 - certainly more agreeable than the £500+ price tag that the card launched at!
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Today's GTX 280 comes from one of Nvidia's largest board partners, EVGA, a company renowned for great support of their products and an industry leading 90 day step up program. Given Nvidia’s recent reputation for dropping products without a shadow of notice, this could be very tempting. EVGA claims to be the largest Nvidia partner in the USA, with an incredible sixty percent of the market for Nvidia retail products State side. While they don't have quite the same dominant presence in Europe, EVGA still have the muscle to back up their warranty and step up program.
We've seen plenty of GeForce GTX 280's before, but as always, while the cards might physically be the same there are always key differences in bundles, warranties, and of course, core clocks that can make one card stand out from the crowd.
Bundle wise, the EVGA GeForce GTX 280 Superclocked is pretty minimalist, with just a few bits of equipment included to get you started and as usual from EVGA, no extra software or games. Included are the mandatory dual PCI-Express 6-pin to PCI-Experss 8-pin connectors and dual Molex to PCI-E six pin connectors to make sure any PSU can power the card, two DVI to VGA adapters and a driver disk/quick start guide. To get a DVI to HDMI adapter you'll need to warranty register the card, and then EVGA will send one out to you, although we had to ask EVGA directly about this - there's nothing on the box to indicate this service. There's no S/PDIF connector included either whether you register the card or not.
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However, there’s a strong argument for some to have a solid warranty and after sales support than a box of wires and connectors that'll only further clutter our rooms even further, and unlike other board partners like XFX, which offers lifetime warranties in the USA but only two years in Europe, EVGA offers parity between USA and Europe markets with a ten year warranty (technically “lifetime” in the US) in both regions.
The card and included bundle were both well packaged in a pre-cut foam tray to protect them during shipping, and uniquely, the box and graphics card both carry unique identification stickers to bind them together - although we're not quite sure of the threat of knock off graphics cards - do let us know if you spot someone trying to pass off a GeForce 2 MX as a GeForce GTX 280 won't you?
As with all current Nvidia partner cards, this EVGA card uses the reference design Nvidia cooler, with branding stickers to denote the board partner. The design EVGA has used is certainly one of the best looking and uncluttered of any GTX card we've yet seen, and it certainly seems a shame to have to hide the funky orange sparks away inside your PC. For those with a case window, EVGA has, unlike any other board partner, included a sticker on the card's back plate - a nice little touch to help you show off your purchase. However, we noticed that while the card clearly shows it's an EVGA GeForce GTX 280, the superclocked nature goes unmentioned, a disappointment considering the price premium involved in buying pre-overclocked.
However, while the card design might be the same the superclocked nature of the card means that EVGA have pre-overclocked the card to squeeze some extra performance out. The core is running at 621MHz, up from 602MHz on the stock, the 1GB of GDDR3 runs at 2,268MHz up from 2,214MHz stock, and the shaders are running at 1,350MHz compared to 1,298MHz. These increases represent roughly a three percent overclock, which while not as much as the ten or eleven percent you can get from the very top end of the pre-overclocked GTX 280s, should still produce a noticeable performance advantage over the stock card.
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Warranty & Support:
In the UK, EVGA offers a 10 year warranty (equivalent to lifetime) and it follows the same terms as the US lifetime warranty. You can find full details of the warranty programme on the EVGA home page, although it's important to remember that the 10 year warranty only applies if you register the card within thirty days of purchase, but this is pretty much standard practise amongst the board partners that offer extra extended warranties. In addition, EVGA also has a lively message board, where you can ask EVGA representatives about anything you'd like to know before or after purchasing an EVGA product.
One thing that sets EVGA above other NVIDIA partners is its support programme. When you purchase an EVGA video card, the company gives you the chance to step up to something better should Nvidia release a new line of graphics card, in the first 90 days after the initial purchase. In order to qualify for this, you must purchase your EVGA video card from an authorised reseller – purchasing a card from eBay or another auction site does not qualify you for the Step-Up programme. You can read the full terms and conditions on EVGA's website.
Providing you meet EVGA's very reasonable terms and conditions, you will get the full amount you paid knocked off the cost of the card you're upgrading to. Obviously, you can't keep stepping up to something faster – EVGA allows you to complete one Step-up on each video card purchase; the Step-up doesn't count as a purchase.