AMD Phenom II X3 720
ASRock M3A785GMH/128M AMD 785G AM3 mATX motherboard
Kingston HyperX DDR3-1600 4GB Dual Channel kit
Spire TherMax CPU Cooler
NZXT Tempest extended midtower
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit
The GTX 260 is a powerful video card. It gives high numbers indeed coupled with an i7, but I feel the magic of this card is that it will give respectable numbers with a much lesser processor, such as the Phenom II X3 processor I will be using in the test rig. Take this card, put it in a budget rig, and you will still have a formidable gaming rig.
If this is a replacement card, I highly recommend that you uninstall all current graphics drivers and utilities (such as ATI Catalyst Control Center or nVidia System Tools) prior to installation of this card. Yeah, I know, if it is replacing another geForce card, everything will probably work ok, but it is just better to start from scratch. Vista will try to load the drivers for you, as it did during this installation, but for some reason it didn’t load the latest drivers as it normally does. I later used the included driver disk.
Pop the card into your PCI-E x 16 slot and connect two 6-pin PCI-E power connectors. I have to admit the white shroud looks a little odd after being accustomed to black ones.
The stock fan speed is set at 44%. The fan was silent at this speed, and wasn’t audible until I raised the percentage to 62%. It was in no way annoying, just audible. Raising the fan speed to 100% made it very audible, but really still not annoying, I could live with it there when needed.
Normally, increasing fan speed doesn’t make a lot of difference, it may decrease the GPU temp a degree or two, but that’s about it. Raising the fan speed to 60% decreased the idle temp from 48C to 42C, and the load temp from 74C to 68C.
The real significance of increasing the fan speed was the rate of the GPU cooling down from load to idle temperature. It took 8 minutes for the temperature to get back to idle temp with the fan at 44%, about 2 minutes with the fan at 62%, and about 40 seconds with the fan at 100%.
As I mentioned, Vista loaded the drivers. I then downloaded and installed the latest version of “nVidia System Tools with ESA Support”. Though I was given overclocking options and fan speed control, I was unable to control the GPU voltage. My earlier experience with a GTX 260 showed that you need to bump up the GPU voltage a little to get a decent overclock. I uninstalled the drivers and System Tools, and reinstalled the drivers with the included driver disk, which happened to have the latest geForce drivers. I received the same result.
Without being able to control the GPU voltage, I was able to attain an overclock of 6.18mHz, which is just over a 7% increase. Though it did affect the Futuremark numbers some, I didn’t get a full FPS increase on any of the games I tested with. I opted not to use any third party utilities to increase the GPU voltage.
My other experience with a GTX 260, with increasing the GPU voltage I was able to attain a 20% overclock, which gave the card a very noticeable performance boost. I see no reason that this card would not do the same.