NVIDIA unveils the GeForce GTX 200 series

Today NVIDIA unveil their next-generation high-performance GPUs aimed at power-hungry enthusiasts - the GeForce GTX 200. All the graphical power you'll ever need (for now) for $650!
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributor on

Today NVIDIA unveil their next-generation high-performance GPUs aimed at power-hungry enthusiasts - the GeForce GTX 200.

Full GeForce GTX 200 gallery here.

Beyond Gaming/Gaming Beyond

NVIDIA wants to move high-performance graphics card and make them relevant to a wider market than gamers, hence the "Beyond Gaming" part of the tag-line for the GTX 200. One way to do this was to incorporate CUDA support. With over 70 million CUDA-enabled GeForce 8 and 9 Series GPUs shipped to market, numerous rich-media and visual-computing applications are becoming CUDA-enabled. These applications are joining the ever-growing trend of apps that are enjoying phenomenal performance speedups that started with high-end professional and scientific applications upon the initial release of CUDA.

Examples of two areas that will benefit from CUDA are:

  • Video transcoding - projects that would take hours are reduced to minutes!
  • Folding@Home - Get much more folding done in less time!

But let's not forget the gamers. For NVIDIA "Gaming Beyond" refers to taking games beyond static realism and into dynamic realism. The GTX 200 helps achieve dynamic realism through:

  • Convincing facial animation
  • Multiple ultra-high polygon characters in complex environments
  • Advanced volumetric effects like smoke, fog, and mist
  • Fluid and cloth simulation
  • Fully simulated physical effects such as live debris, explosions, and fires.
  • Physical weather effects such as accumulating snow and water, sand storms, soaking, drying, dampening, overheating, and freezing
  • Better lighting for dramatic and spectacular effect, including ambient occlusion, global illumination, soft shadows, color bleeding, indirect lighting, and accurate reflections.

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Quick Menu Page 2: The GPUs Page 3: Architectural changes Page 4: PhysX and SLI Page 5: Specification Page 6: Performance

The GPUs -->

Making use of more than 1.4 billion transistors, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 200 series GPUs are the largest and most complex GPUs currently available. The current line-up of GTX 200 series is make up of two GPUs:

  • GTX 260
  • GTX 280

Implementing NVIDIA’s second-generation unified visual computing architecture, the new GeForce GTX 280 and GeForce GTX 260 graphics boards are built around the new GT200 GPU. Numerous application areas are greatly enhanced and accelerated by the GeForce GTX 200 GPUs, including gaming, physics, rich media encoding, HD video playback, image processing, and High-Performance Computation to name a few.

GeForce GTX 200 GPUs include a number of very significant architectural enhancements over the prior generation, and they continue NVIDIA’s trend of continuous improvement of architectural efficiency, for example, Increased performance per watt and performance per square millimeter of GPU die area.

The GT200 GPU is manufactured using TSMC’s 65 nm fabrication process.

GeForce GTX 280

With its 240 processing cores and 1GB of frame buffer memory at a suggested retail pricing of $649, a stock-clocked GeForce GTX 280 board will deliver 1.5x performance improvement on average over high-end GeForce 8 and GeForce 9 series single-GPU graphics boards. 

GeForce GTX 260

The $449-based GeForce GTX 260 targets price/performance conscious enthusiasts and includes a reduced number of processing cores (192) and lower frame buffer size (896MB).  

GeForce GTX 200 architectural improvements -->

GeForce GTX 200 series architectural improvements

The GeForce GTX 200 series GPUs implement a number of key architectural improvements over previous generations of NVIDIA silicon. These changes improve performance by 1.5× on average over the prior generation, while simultaneously improving architectural efficiency, measured in performance/square millimeter and performance/watt. 

Here are some numbers:

  • Idle/2D power mode  - approx 25W
  • Blu-ray DVD playback mode - approx 35W
  • Full 3D performance mode - worst case TDP 236W
  • HybridPower mode - 0W

The GeForce GTX 200 GPUs significantly reduce idle power to around 25 watts, while HybridPower technology allows the GPU may be turned off when used in nForce chipset-based motherboards that support HybridPower and have integrated motherboard GPUs (for example, the nForce 780a and 790i enthusiast motherboards). 

The GeForce 8 and GeForce 9 Series implemented the first version of NVIDIA’s unified visual computing architecture. The new GeForce GTX 200 GPUs implement a second generation of this architecture. While the foundation of both architectures is a scalar/unified/DirectX 10 processing core, GeForce GTX 200 GPUs also provide many more architectural enhancements than simply a dramatic increase in the number of functional and processing units.

Here are some of the key advances found in GeForce GTX 200 GPUs versus GeForce 8 and 9 Series architecture GPUs: 

  • Support for three times the number of threads in flight at a given time
  • New scheduler design for 20% more texturing efficiency
  • 512-bit memory interface
  • Improved z-cull and compression technology for better performance at high resolution
  • Architectural enhancements for geometry shading and stream out performance
  • Full-speed, raster-operation (ROP) frame buffer blending (vs. half speed on 8800 GTX)
  • Improved dual issue for more efficient and higher performance computation
  • Twice the number of registers for longer and more complex shaders
  • IEEE 754R double precision for improved floating-point computational accuracy
  • Hardware support for 10-bit color scan out (DisplayPort only)

PhysX and SLI -->

PhysX support

GeForce GTX 200 GPUs, like the GeForce 9 and GeForce 8 Series, are CUDA-enabled and will support PhysX, a technology that provides an exponential increase in physics processing power that takes gaming to a new level, delivering rich, immersive physical gaming environments with features such as: 

  • Explosions that cause dust and collateral debris 
  • Characters with complex, jointed geometries for more life-like motion and interaction 
  • Spectacular new weapons with incredible effects 
  • Cloth that drapes and tears naturally 
  • Dense smoke and fog that billow around objects in motion 


The GeForce GTX 200 GPUs offers 50-100% more performance over prior-generation GPUs, permitting increased frame rates and higher visual quality settings at extreme resolutions, capable of cinematic gaming experience. 

Support for the new DisplayPort interface allows resolutions beyond 2560 × 1600, and 10-bit color support permits up to a billion different colors on screen (driver, display, and application support is also required).

Note - Prior-generation GPUs included internal 10-bit processing, but could only output 8-bit component colors (RGB). GeForce 200 GPUs permit both 10-bit internal processing and 10-bit color output. 

Specification and features -->



  • Second Generation NVIDIA Unified Architecture: Second-generation architecture delivers 50% more gaming performance over the first generation through 240 enhanced processing cores that provide incredible shading horsepower (The number of processing cores varies by model. GeForce GTX 280 has 240 processing cores. GeForce GTX 260 has 192 processing cores.). 
  • NVIDIA PhysX-Ready: GeForce GPU support for NVIDIA PhysX technology enables a totally new class of physical gaming interaction for a more dynamic and realistic experience with GeForce.
  • NVIDIA SLI and 3-way SLI Technology: Industry-leading, 3-way SLI technology offers amazing performance scaling by implementing 3-way alternate frame rendering (AFR) for the world’s fastest gaming solution under Windows Vista. 
  • Microsoft DirectX 10 Support: DirectX 10 with full Shader Model 4.0 support delivers unparalleled levels of graphics realism and film-quality effects for today’s hottest games.
  • NVIDIA CUDA Technology: CUDA technology unlocks the power of the GPU’s processing cores to accelerate the most demanding system tasks—such as video transcoding—delivering up to 18× the performance of traditional CPUs.
  • PCI Express 2.0 Support: Designed for the PCI Express 2.0 bus architecture offering the highest data transfer speeds for the most bandwidth-hungry games and 3D applications, while maintaining backwards compatibility with existing PCI Express motherboards for the broadest support.
  • GigaThread Technology: Massively multi-threaded architecture supports thousands of independent, simultaneous threads, providing extreme processing efficiency in advanced, next-generation shader programs.
  • NVIDIA Lumenex Engine: Delivers stunning image quality and floating-point accuracy at ultra-fast frame rates.
  • 16× Antialiasing Technology: Lightning fast, high-quality antialiasing at up to 16× sample rates obliterates jagged edges. 
  • 128-bit Floating Point High Dynamic-Range (HDR) Lighting: Twice the precision of prior generations for incredibly realistic lighting effects—now with support for anti-aliasing.
  • OpenGL 2.1 Optimization and Support: Provides top-notch compatibility and performance for OpenGL applications.
  • Dual Dual-link DVI Support: Able to drive the industry’s largest and highest resolution flat-panel displays up to 2560 x 1600 and with support for High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP).
  • NVIDIA PureVideo HD Technology: The combination of high-definition video decode acceleration and post-processing that delivers unprecedented picture clarity, smooth video, accurate color, and precise image scaling for movies and video.
  • Discrete, Programmable Video Processor: NVIDIA PureVideo is a discrete programmable processing core in NVIDIA GPUs that provides superb picture quality and ultra-smooth movies with 100% offload of H.264 video decoding from the CPU and significantly reduced power consumption.
  • Dual-Stream Hardware Acceleration: Supports picture-in-picture content for the ultimate interactive Blu-ray movie experience.
  • Dynamic Contrast Enhancement & Color Stretch: Dynamically provides post-processing and optimization of high definition movies for spectacular picture clarity.
  • NVIDIA HybridPower Technology: Lets you switch from the GeForce GTX 280/260 graphics card to the motherboard GeForce GPU when running non graphically-intensive applications for a quiet, low-power, PC experience.

Performance -->


Here's some performance information compared to ATI's Radeon HD 3870 X2:

  • 3DMark Vantage: GeForce GTX 260 - x 1.7 GeForce GTX 280 - x 2.2
  • Crysis: GeForce GTX 260 - x 1.5 GeForce GTX 280 - x 1.6
  • Oblivion: GeForce GTX 260 - x 1.5 GeForce GTX 280 - x 1.8
  • CoD 4: GeForce GTX 260 - x 1.2 GeForce GTX 280 - x 1.5
  • Call of Juarez: GeForce GTX 260 - x 2.5 GeForce GTX 280 - x 2.5
  • CoH: GeForce GTX 260 - x 1.6 GeForce GTX 280 - x 2.1

Clearly, the GTX 200 series outperforms ATI's most powerful GPU.

DirectX 10.1 Not Supported

DirectX 10.1 is not supported in GeForce GTX 200 GPUs. NVIDIA considered DirectX 10.1 support during the initial GPU design phase and consulted with key software development partners. Feedback indicated DirectX 10.1 was not important, so the company chose to focus on delivering better performance and architectural efficiency.


There's little doubt that the GeForce GTX 200 once again puts NVIDIA way ahead of ATI and the Radeon series. In fact, the lead that the GTX 200 has over ATI's flagship 3870 X2 is unbelievable, considering that the GTX 200 is a single GPU solution while the 3870 X2 is a dual GPU unit.

What I like about the GTX 200 is the steps that NVIDIA has taken to reign in GPU power consumption. This has been long in coming but NVIDIA has now thrown down the gauntlet and I expect ATI to (try) to follow suite with future Radeon products.


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